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August 18, 2009

Taipei's Theme Restaurants

Hello-Kitty-Sweets
Cute cats from Taipei's Hello Kitty Sweets.
Photo: Hello Kitty Sweets

The recent cancellation of a decades-old ban on flights between Taiwan and mainland China has sparked an influx of travelers to Taipei, giving the city a new reason to showcase its oddball sense of humor and long-standing obsession with food. The result? Read below for a taste from Condé Nast Traveler's August issue.

by Jean Tang

Quirky themed restaurants like the turbulence-free A380, where diners sit in airline seats and order from an international menu (foie gras, squid-ink spaghetti, steak, curry), three waiters are former flight attendants, and the bartender dons pilot stripes to pour wine and announce "landing," or closing for the night. A new location opening this summer at 12 Songgao Lu has a first-class cabin where passengers summon servers by pressing the flight attendant button (886-2-2722-6380; entrées, $10-$18).

Nearby, You Mu Bian Jian (Wild West Frontier) displays traditional Uyghur hats and worn canteens along with stucco murals of China's hinterland. Charcoal grills evoke campfires and produce fiery meat skewers, charred squid, and cumin-spiced fish (8 Roosevelt Rd., Alley 6, Lane 136; 886-2-2366-0345; all you can eat, $12-$21).

In the city center, Hello Kitty hasn't grown up, but its fans have: Kids 3 to 83 appease their kitty lust at Hello Kitty Sweets, where kitty-smocked servers hand over kitty-shaped hamburgers and kitty crème brûlée (90 Da-an Rd., Sec. 1; 886-2-2711-1132; prix fixe, $9-$15).

If turning water into wine is a miracle, turning wine into medicine is cause for celebration at DS (as in Doctor Style): "Doctors" and "nurses" hook patients up to beer-, cocktail-, and wine-filled IV tubes that flow into glasses. On weekends, there are syringe shots, and nurses dance atop hospital beds (a.k.a. tables). The crazy-quilt cuisine (Thai prawns, roasted cod, beef stir-fry) is delicious. Relax: The wheelchairs, crutches, and intensive-care equipment are merely props (7 Xinsheng N. Rd., Sec. 3; 886-2-2587-3226; prix fixe, $9-$15).

Bed down at the centrally located San Want Taipei Residences, which has local art and sculpture and superlative service (886-2-2772-2121; doubles, $277-$302).

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