In the Belly of a Dragon

Slow indulgent evenings abound in Taipei, a city of 7 million +. Taipei is an urban experience of controlled chaos, manicured canines, smoky incense filled alleys and surprises around every corner, but amongst all the bustle of the evenings and endless food markets, little pockets of calm can be yours. On such an evening, my partner in crime and I wandered up a dark, slightly bending street. Our destination, Indulge Experimental Bistro, a winner in the William Reed, This is a tall order, and it was our personal goal to determine for ourselves the veracity of such a bold statement. I am here to tell you- it is well deserved.

A fascinating element of Taipei is the very new mixed with the very old. You smell the incense first in the warm humid air, then round the corner to a temple.

Located in the Da-an District, in what feels to be a quiet residential neighborhood you’ll find yourself standing in front of a large frosted glass wall and blonde wood door of similar height. You are not lost. Keep going. Inside is a welcoming buzzy room of modern hued light and creamy tones. We grabbed the last two seats at the end of the bar, our preferred post to better observe the orchestration of the mysterious goings on behind the scene. As we watched as our bartender perfectly shape a sphere of crystal clear ice with no more than a pitchfork ice pick we sent our telepathic happy dance. 

and the gardens…

The bistro does offer a beautiful dinner specializing in the 4 distinct culinary regions of Taiwan, and we did eat, however this article is about Stanley, the barkeep, mixologist and voodoo maestro manning the helm of the Indulge bar. He is indeed master of his domain. If you’re wondering why his name is Stanley and not a Chinese name, we’ll save this curious topic for another story. Suffice it to say for those tongue tied westerners, this courtesy is a saving grace. Back to Stanley.

Stanley effuses calm, cool precision. From his crisp attire to his perfectly poised hair, he is decidedly put together. He commands his team with calm detailed instruction and delivers one masterful tipple after another. However, as often as not we chose to order off menu. It had been a full day and I needed to set my calm with something familiar and warming. I wanted brown liquor, possibly a Manhattan or Boulevardier- classic and fulfilling. My feet hurt. And he delivered, a perfect Man. Not particularly extraordinary as in unique, but you don’t want extraordinary with a Man—you want perfection. It’s not complicated yet many don’t deliver. The Manhattan delivered, the Boulevardier delivered and the world was rosy and round once again.

Thus lubed and somewhat fed, I was emboldened and wanted to know what they would do with a Sazerac. I hear you now, unfair unfair you holler, you’re in Taiwan not New Orleans, but oh ye of little faith, this lady of the south desired a Sazerac, and what an exquisite one it was. 

…these felt like wishes blowing in the breeze, but I honestly don’t know.

Did I mention they won a spot in the Here is where Stanley stole the show. He spoke to us for a while about our tastes and would we consider something with a decidedly Asian twist on a classic. Why yes please. He set down in front of me pure art; a paper-thin crystal orb, with that same perfectly clear sphere of ice and a subtly sublime Sazerac. Hints of anise, a face of Rye, a touch of citrus all sweet-hot a coiling dragon and love all in one. He then presented a small smoking cedar box in front of my beloved. Inside was a cocktail of a different type of beauty, and mystery. A personal spa steeped in cedar smoke performing reflexology on your feet all while you sipped Oolong tea in a garden of lush greens. It was whiskey and an infused tea bitters with a hint of the orient. Mic drop. We are forever loyal Stanley, and will Indulge every time we visit Taipei.

Should you find yourself fortunate enough to be wandering the streets of Taipei, do yourself a solid and go see Stanley at Indulge Experimental Bistro. He will make your world a better place. Indulge Bistro. Da’an District, Lane 219, Section 1, Fuxing South Road

Written from the comfy bed of our room at the Eclat Hotel, Taipei.