The walk-in visitor is unlikely to get a table at Greater Kaohsiung’s Duplex Reminiscent Restaurant (壹貳樓古蹟餐廳), since there are only five on the ground floor. The upstairs dining hall is entirely reserved for large groups — usually the Chinese tourists who stop by en route to Sizihwan Bay. Over the years, Duplex has transitioned itself into a restaurant that is, above all, ready to serve tourists, as the local population has drained out to larger cities.
If you do manage to get a table, you’d see why this place clicks with tourists. Named a top ten specialty eatery by the Kaohsiung City Bureau of Construction (建設局) in 2007, Duplex offers affordable savory dishes hard to find outside its bayside neighborhood. Items can be ordered a la carte (average cost: NT$200) or in banquet sets that range from NT$599 (two to four diners) to NT$1,999 for ten.
The house specialty is the Taiwan-style Hainan Chicken (台式海南雞, NT$180), a local twist on the ubiquitous dish. This is a large portion of deboned dark meat served skin-on, laid on a bed of crunchy Taiwanese kimchee made fresh daily. The house dip is unusual, apparently a mixture of dark soy sauce, shacha sauce (沙茶醬) and sugar gilded with creamy chicken fat. It’s strong and even overpowering when paired with the meat, but it’s fragrant when added sparingly to rice.
Another top seller is the Tomato and Tofu Soup (蕃茄豆腐湯, NT$180), which uses a handful of whole snap peas to balance out the acidity. This is a summery soup that doesn’t mask the natural wateriness of tomato with cream or thickener, but it eats like a meal anyway because of the giant chunks of steamed vegetable left in.
Golden Fried Tofu (黃金炸豆腐, NT$150) arrives at the table just as it sounds. The tofu is cubed and then washed in hot oil for a few moments to come up crunchy at first bite and buttery soft inside. The dish comes with a tangy chili dip that provides a lift, though the tofu is aromatic enough on its own.
Address: 14 Linhai 3rd Rd, Greater Kaohsiung (高雄市鼓山區臨海三路14號)
Telephone: (07) 532-1233
Open: Daily from 11am to 2pm, 5pm to 9pm
Average meal: NT$200
Details: Menu in Chinese; credit cards not accepted
On the net: www.duplex.menet.com.tw
Service is friendly and very speedy. The first dish arrived within five minutes of placing an order, and all the others arrived within ten. Efficiency is probably what keeps the bus tours coming, and efficiency also gives this family-style restaurant a forward-moving fast-food vibe.
It’s an atmosphere that contradicts almost everything you see: Everywhere in the restaurant, there are old things. Upstairs and downstairs, there are dozens of household objects you can’t find in most homes today, such as a working vinyl record player and water thermoses from the martial law era. These things are piled in corners, not so much like valued museum pieces, but like things somebody once lost and has stopped looking for.
Completed under Japanese occupation in 1920, the building that houses Duplex had once been Kaohsiung’s first bookstore. When the Japanese left, the shop shuttered up and later reopened as a cafe, then as a nightclub and finally as its present form. Along the way, the building went through cycle after cycle of repairs, though it retains the original brick walls and slatted entrance.