The new hotel with the most buzz this year is S Hotel (No. 150, DunHua N. Rd. Tel: +886-2-2712-1777. www.shotel.com/en), created by actress Barbie Hsu (nicknamed Big S) and designed by Philippe Starck. The 103 rooms each aim to create an “atmosphere of love and happiness.” Big S initially became famous with her sister as a singing duo called SOS. She has joked that if the hotel business doesn’t go well, she’ll say it was mismanaged by her sister. Rooms start at $134/night for the “S Double” and $1,750/night for the “S Premier,” a two-bedroom suite with a six-seater dining table and skyline view.
CitizenM (No. 3, Section 1, Zhonghua Road. Tel: +886-70-1016-1061. www.citizenm.com), the Netherlands-based hotel chain, opened its first hotel in Taipei last summer. The 267 rooms are designed to be sleek and efficient, in northern European fashion. Floor-to-ceiling wall-to-wall windows with blackout blinds, plus a full-length mirror. Rooms start at $86.
Keep a lookout for new hotels scheduled to launch in Taipei in the coming year. Kimpton will be opening its first hotel in Taipei with 129 rooms and a 12th floor restaurant and rooftop deck near the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT at the crossroads of the blue and brown lines. Park Hyatt and Andaz have also announced that they will be opening at Taipei Sky Tower in 2020. You can also find clean, simple, and conveniently located Airbnb apartments for as low as $40/night, or a modern exclusive 4-bedroom loft for $3,000/night.
This is the first year that Michelin reviewed restaurants in Taipei. Hottest on that list is Taipei’s first-and-only three-star Michelin restaurant: Le Palais (No. 3, Section 1, Chengde Road. Tel: +886-2-2181-9999. www.palaisdechinehotel.com). Their “Michelin 3-Star” Prixe Fixe starts at $285/person. Other prix fixe options start at $87/person, and go up to the $415/person for the Cantonese feast with lobster, Wagyu beef, abalone, and bird’s nest.
For something more traditionally Taiwanese try Golden Formosa (No. 101, Tianmu East Road. Tel: +886-2-2871-1517. www.goldenformosa. com.tw), which was awarded one Star by Michelin. Started in the 1960s, the family has continued to make Taiwanese dishes like Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, a rich soup that smelled so tasty that a Buddhist monk broke from his meditation and jumped over the wall to get a bite. Try a sophisticated version of the Taiwanese street foods “Scallop and Oyster Omelets” or “Deep-Fried Sweet Taro.” See the full list of 20 Michelin recognized restaurants on the Michelin website. (www.guide.michelin.com)
One of my favorite new restaurants is An He 65 (No. 65, Sec.1 Anhe Rd. www.facebook.com/ANHE65), opened in January of 2018. The simple concept of An He 65 is to make fresh seafood available after 9 P.M. when most other restaurants with high-quality ingredients would most likely have closed. An He 65 is busiest between 9 P.M. and Midnight. They do a refreshingly simple seafood hotpot with beef broth, stone crab, shrimp, rockfish, lobster, and a variety of clams. They also do a fish fried rice with fresh fish and “thousand year” eggs, for a high quality late-night snack.
Under the new leadership of Executive Pastry Chef, Yam Lok Hin, the Mandarin Oriental, Taipei (No. 158 Dunhua North Road. Tel: +886-2-2715-6888. www.mandarinoriental.com/taipe) has completely re imagined its afternoon tea and dessert experience. His pastries take you on a personal and a global journey, borrowing and adapting flavors and expertise collected from over two decades at some of the world’s top restaurants, including Michelin three-star L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in
Hong Kong and the Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel in Silicon Valley. He has created a new and aptly named “Parfait Afternoon Tea” that incorporates seasonal local fruits and flowers from Taiwan, not just as embellishments, but as delectable adaptations of traditional European pastries.
When I think about why Taipei is worth visiting today, it’s the same that it’s always been. I find Taiwanese positivity infectious. My Taiwanese friends look at the good things in life as gifts, rather than as expectations. People are generally humble and don’t expect any special treatments, no matter how brilliant, wealthy, or well connected they are.
My friend Jonathan Kaufman, from New York who is now living in Singapore, tells me that he visits Taiwan because it’s “the closest thing that I’ve found to a condensed microcosm of the best things about East Asia…Buddhas tucked seamlessly into verdant hillsides, squat temples wedged among office buildings, Japan-quality sushi bars hidden between living room-like cafés, and late-night dumpling hangouts.”