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In Taiwan, food is serious business. So serious, in fact, that earlier this month CNNGo.com named Taipei Asia's center of gluttony.
It’s a fitting moniker: The city boasts 18 streets of night markets where food stalls are seemingly as numerous as plant species in the Amazon rainforest. Although food is plentiful there, the Taiwanese still have high standards when it comes to what they'll eat (though you'd be hard pressed to believe that after sampling stinky tofu, a pungent favorite of Taiwanese cuisine).
So when the five-star hotel Le Meridien Taipei (www.lemeridien-taipei.com) opened its doors in December 2010, it wasn't surprising that it
s buffet restaurant, Latest Recipe, was a hit. It became so popular with the locals, though that getting a reservation for lunch or dinner became impossible, even for hotel guests. Well, rejoice foodie travelers – the restaurant finally has availability and is taking reservations for seatings after May 8th.
The Latest Recipe offers an impressive array of food stations, ranging from Western fare (such as pizza, its most popular station) to indigenous chow. If you have a sweet tooth, choose a dessert (or two) from three triple-level displays.
Beyond eating well, the Le Meridien Taipei is a terrific place to call home during your travels. It offers 160 chic and minimalistic rooms and suites, modern spa and gym facilities, and groovy spaces like the Quube bar and Latitude 25 (denoting its location relative to the equator) lounge to relax. For business travelers, its location in central Xinyi can't be beat, and best of all – the hotel provides complimentary Internet access.
Being a Le Meridien, there is also a strong emphasis on art at the hotel. A huge chandelier with more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals dominates the lobby, and original artwork created exclusively for the hotel (including some pieces by local artists) decorates the first two levels. The elevator banks on the odd-numbered floors also boast Fred Eerdekens’ "Shadow Art," copper wires illuminated by light to convey poignant messages, which were
created specifically for the hotel. Lastly, the Le Meridien Taipei participates in the parent brand's "Unlock Art" program, which means guests can show their key card at MOCA Taipei (www.mocataipei.org.tw) as well as My Humble House Art Gallery (www.myhumblehouse.com) for free admission.
We recommend booking a Junior Suite, which offers twice the space of the basic-level Deluxe Room, but at much less than twice the cost (regular room rates start at about $215 per night). For those willing to splurge, check out the Le Meridien Suite, which counts Asian superstars such as Carina Lau as a past guest.