Taipei's Ambassador Hotel actually has a pair of exceptional restaurants; one upstairs specializing in Sichuan cuisine and another on its lobby level with an Aboriginal theme called the Ahmi Cafe.
They're both exceptional restaurants in one way or another, something you might expect from a hotel with an international reputation, but recently they have both been made slightly more exceptional by offering home delivery for patrons too afraid of catching SARS to leave the house.
Home delivery is something many local restaurants are trying to offer,since their dining halls are nearly empty, but not many establishments have the manpower of a major hotel to be able to offer it.
The Ambassador initially planned a home delivery trial period from May 10 to the end of this month, with the possibility of continuing it past then, but management claim that the service has not been popular with patrons and so are not continuing it. Another reason might be the NT$3,600 price tag.
For that amount you receive a six-course set meal that feeds four to five people, delivered to your doorstep presumably by a bellhop who lately hasn't had many bags to tote. And, no, there's no 30-minute guarantee.
But the loss of home delivery could well be considered a good thing. After all, the two main reasons we go out to eat are for good food in a good atmosphere. Good food can be delivered to your door, good atmosphere cannot; and atmosphere is something the Ambassador's Ahmi Cafe has plenty of.
As you walk in the front entrance, the first thing you notice of the cafe's interior decor is its exterior. A long glass wall opposite the entrance looks out onto a terrarium with a carp pond and waterfall cascading from two stories above. There is no access to the area, but sitting alongside the glass wall more than fulfills the restaurant's required amount of atmosphere.
Address: 63, Chungshan N Rd, Sec 3 (台北市中山北路二段63號)
Telephone: (02) 2370 2376
Open: 6am to 1am
Average meal: NT$500 per person
Details: Credit cards accepted, menu in both Chinese and English
As to the food's presentation, the Ju-Ju steak is a prime rib cut of meat served on a bed of rocks (yes, rocks). A hotplate is first topped with several dozen small black stones and the steak is set on top. The whole thing is broiled together and batter-fried slices of aubergine and asparagus are added afterward. It's as much a conversation piece as it is a meal.
In lieu of having your meal brought to your home, the Ambassador has begun offering lunchboxes in the afternoon and early evening and it's quite a site to behold. Hotel staffers dressed in black coats and white gloves stand on the sidewalk of Chungshan North Road. Two varieties of lunchboxes are displayed on sterling silver under glass and the boxes themselves are wrapped in purple with a pink ribbon.
At NT$100 for the pork and NT$120 for the fish they're twice the price of a regular lunchbox, but much less than the home-delivery option.