Last month, the new W Hotel opened its doors in Taipei. The hotel is located in the bustling downtown XinYi district where many of the high-end retail stores and restaurants are located. XinYi is also the financial district and home to Taipei 101, now the second tallest building in the world.
The 31st floor of the W Hotel houses the stylish Yen Restaurant and Bar. Prior to our dinner reservations, we showed up at the bar to check out the signature cocktails and perhaps one of their tapas we had read about in T+L Southeast Asia.
Initially, we were told the restaurant featured coveted views of Taipei 101, but as it turns out, only the bar and several private dining rooms have a view. The bar was dark and swanky, highlighted by abstract pendants and other modern fixtures. Behind the bar are large-scale art pieces featuring different angles and shots of a human eye. One corner features a direct view of Taipei 101, while the other side is a massive floor to ceiling wine cellar. The wine cellar is quite dramatic and essentially is the wall separating the bar from the open kitchen and entrance to the restaurant.
Yen has a pretty interesting bar menu of drinks. Two instantly caught our eye and the server said these were the house specialties. The oolong fizz is w-infused oolong gin with fresh lemon and sugarcane and is slightly carbonated. A nice touch with a garnish — a few dried tea leaves.
The other drink is the green tea mojito, which is crushed fresh lime, mint, and sugarcane served with w-infused green tea vodka and is also slightly carbonated. Like the oolong fizz, there was far too much ice in the glass that made it pretty much impossible to really mix the mint leaves into the drink.
Yen also has two other interesting sounding signature drinks — the lychee sling and the plum sour. The lychee sling has crushed lychees, lychee liqueur, fresh lemon, cherry brandy, and tonic water. The plum sour is Taiwanese plum wine shaken and served with fresh lemon and sugarcane. These four drinks are NT $340 each — not cheap as far as drinks go, but given it’s a hotel bar, not bad.
The bar menu also had three Bloody Mary concoctions that sounded interesting, just not before a fancy dinner — I am a Bloody Mary Sunday Brunch kinda girl. Interestingly, the menu claims they have the best Bloody Mary drinks in Taipei — may have to test that claim out! The three varieties available are:
- Bloody — “a garden in a glass – the best in taipei”
- Taipei Mary — “made with our own w-made chili infused vodka-a bit on the spicy side and the other best in taipei”
- Tokyo Mary — “spiced up with our own w-infused ginger vodka-for sure, another best in taipei”
Other drinks on the Yen bar menu include other mixed drinks, many featuring an Asian flair, various liquors, and high-end Whisky — including ones made in India and Taiwan. There is a list of non-alcoholic beverages (several of which are repeated multiple times on the menu for some reason).
According to the interview Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia did with Jereme Leung (consulting chef on Yen) the bar was supposed to feature some rather unique Chinese tapas. The interview talked about “caramelized char-siu, with a caramelized crust” served on skewers with roasted pineapples. Guess what? No char-siu on the menu and the server had no idea what we were talking about.
Wanting to at least try one menu item, we ordered the barbecue wagyu beef skewers that were supposed to be served with assorted dips for NT $600 (about $20 US). The two wagyu skewers came on a cool display with hot coals. No “assorted dips” only a small spoonful of a hoisin/plum type sauce.
The wagyu was cooked perfectly and had a nice mix of rich fatty goodness — I was still pretty sad there was no char-siu on the menu though. Other menu items include
- grilled king crab legs with rock salt (NT $680)
- sauteed taro with sugar (NT $180)
- seared salted sword fish belly (NT $240)
- smoked mackerel with pickled vegetable and sun-dried apricot on skewers ( NT $300)
- plum marinated cherry tomatoes, candied kumquat (NT $220)
- golden sesame seafood cigars (NT $280)
- fresh mushroom skewers with two types of cheese (NT $220)
- crispy chicken boxer wings with dips (NT $320)
- selection of Taiwan sun-dried and pickled fruits (NT $220)
- chocolate fondue, seasonal fresh fruits with fruit candy jelly (NT $380)
Tapas are available daily from noon until midnight. I’d be interested in trying the chocolate fondue, crab legs, taro, and the swordfish belly.
A couple things to note about the Yen Bar. The lounge is somewhat small and as word gets out that it’s now open, I’d expect it will be pretty busy on weekends. Service is fairly slow — it took about 15 minutes to get our two drinks. With only one bartender (at least while we were there) and a large number of fresh ingredients in many of the drinks, I was not all that surprised it took quite a bit of time. We arrived an hour before dinner and ended up with only five minutes to spare before our reservations. As with any new hotel opening, things will probably smooth out and improve a month or two down the line.
Overall, the Yen Bar is a nice spot to check out the city views — and if you “luck out” like us, you may even get treated to a bird’s eye view of someone in their hotel room bed! Yikes! The vibe is definitely trendy chic and since it’s the W Hotel’s signature bar, the recommended dress code is smart casual. Most of the other people there were in suits and dresses with heels. Unlike many places in Taipei where very casual works, I definitely would’ve felt uncomfortable in jeans and sneakers.
Yen Bar at the W Hotel in Taipei
10 Zhongziao East Road Sec 5
Open: 11:30am – 12:00am
Website: Starwood Hotels W Hotel in Taipei