Here is a restaurant where you can have an NT$200 meal in an NT$1,000 setting. Open for a little over a year across the street from the Taipei Westin hotel, the establishment's chic interior still glistens -- much like the defrosted meals brought to your table.
That's not to say that Here isn't worth visiting. Anywhere there is an inexpensive meal with expensive-looking atmosphere is prime real estate for a quick business lunch. But if you're looking to close the deal, better to go to any of the restaurants in the Westin across the way.
Here's menu lists a lot of different cuisines, surprisingly all priced at either NT$168 or NT$268. This is your first indication that something is amiss. Lavender roast chicken leg, pork chop with orange sauce or vegetables and fresh fish in sweet and sour sauce all arrive looking astonishingly similar. Each are served with six raw green beans, one raw piece of corn on the cob and a raw corrugated carrot slice. The vegetables are fresh, the same cannot be said of the entrees, which all taste like they were recently removed from the freezer. Their respective sauces don't seem any fresher.
The colorfully translated menu also lists "pig sparerib in honey sauce," "beef on iron plate," "three sauce with chicken" and "fish to fry in oil" (actually, it's already fried when it arrives at the table). Several items are prepared "the Chinese way" in case you are curious about what happened.
Not whetting your appetite? Not to worry, the best part about Here is its buffet salad bar, where Romain lettuce, sprouts, carrots and a variety of other veggies and fruits are laid out fresh daily. Make as many trips back as you'd like; the salad bar and an after-meal coffee or tea are included in the price of your meal.
Address: 168 Nanking E. Rd., Sec. 3, Taipei (台北市南京東路三段168號)
Telephone: (02) 8771-5252
Open: 11am to 10pm
Average meal: NT$200
Details: Credit cards accepted. English and Chinese menu
A VIP room is available if you call in advance, although it cannot comfortably fit more than six as it's not much larger than a walk-in closet. And truth be told, Here is rarely bustling enough for anyone to want a private space. Except for during peak hours, you're likely to have the place to yourself. If you are the only one there, you can ask to change the music selection. After hearing the same cover of Killing Me Softly a third time, Kenny G was a surprisingly pleasant change.
For all its emphasis on atmosphere, the management misses the mark in a few important ways: The luxurious glass-topped dark wood tables and chic vaulted ceiling are unattractive when the florescent lights come on at night; squat-style toilets can also be off-putting; and someone should tell the kitchen help to take a nap in the back, rather than stretching out in one of the booths.
Oh, and, if you're curious about the name that's too bad. When I told her that I didn't understand what "multiple restaurant" meant, my waitress told me she didn't understand either.