And then there are the city's legendary night markets to conquer. Shilin Street Night Market (Dadong Rd, Shilin District) is always a good bet, though it's common to hear locals complain about the declining quality of the food. Their suggestion? try the Raohe Street Night Market (Raohe Street, Songshan District). It's one of the oldest thoroughfares of sights, sounds and not-always-pleasant smells, where you'll find innovation in grub and cheap prices on the deep fried breaded chicken patties, smelly tofu, and the street's must-try: hu jiao bing (pepper meat buns) that hides a steaming glob of minced meat and spring onions in a tandoori-baked doughly shell.
The bizarrely named Addiction Aquatic Development (18 Alley 2, Lane 410, Minzu East Rd, Zhongshan District, +886 2 2508 1268, www.addiction.com.tw) might sound like a research lab, but it's actually a gourmet fish market with huge tanks full of edible sea life. If you don't quite like your meat hacked up before your eyes, there's also a small sashimi bar where you can buy gleaming takeaway packs of both fresh slices and pre-prepared sushi. Oppositethe market, in Addiction's equally mystifyingly named Area 4, is a restaurant where a flat price gets you seafood that the chefs will boil, fry and stew to perfection.
While the speakeasy bar movement hasn't really taken off in Taipei, the city is still home to a couple of good bars, Ounce Taipei (No.40, Lane 63, Section 2, 2 Dunhua South Rd, Da'an District, +886 2 2708 6885, www.ouncetaipei.com) requires an act of faith and a keen eye to enter. To find it, step into Relax: The Espresso Place – trust us – and look at the wall of box frames in the left corner of the oddly shaped room. You'll need to find a buzzer and ask for permission to enter. Inside, the well-hidden and dimly lit bar is fronted by American expat Liam Baer, who makes a mean cigar-infused Old Fashioned.
Across town, in a residential development by Taipei 101, Alchemy Bar (2F, No.16-1, Section 5, Xinyi Rd, Xinyi District, +886 9 5358 5759) is another spot that requires a bit of work to find. To gain entry, muster your best Mandarin and make a reservation before heading down. Enter through the posh Marquee Restaurant and lounge and wait for the servers guarding the second floor to whisk you upstairs to yet another dark room, this time headed by Taiwan's Diageo World Class 2010 champ. Angus Zou. His bar stocks some of the more premium pours in town, some of which he hand-carries in.