SETS IN THE CITY: The highlight of an on-location filming in Taipei each month, introducing the wonders of the modern yet traditionally well-preserved Taipei, a city of rising magnificents and endless possibilities.
Fortress Café and Tsai Ming-liang’s Café Corridor: two treasures hidden in Zhongshan Hall
Written /Hermia Lin，Translation/Whisky, Photograph/Darwinnis Lo & Whisky
We all have done some daft but harmless stuff in our youth in Ximending which makes for unique memories in later life. Walking on the bustling streets of Ximending, you immediately find yourself struggling to reconcile the vibrancy and youth you feel inside, and out. Teenagers encircled in their own kingdoms of defiance and ecstasy, the interweaved drumbeats and music crossed from each trendy store as to declare fashion and attitude, and the gritty tattoo lane that stirs the rebellious compulsion from deep inside one’s suppression… When age becomes an issue of irrevocable figure that leaves visible traces, those wild days of relentless energy seem to get a little paranoid and repulsive. If you do not wish to concede to the biological law of retiring plan and insist to be friends with the hype, why not turn to a corner and check out the two hidden paradise—Fortress Café and Tsai Ming-liang’s Café Corridor, located right inside Zhongshan Hall, which promised to provide a decent view of the vigorous adolescence at a comforting distance.
Graceful and cozy decorative interior of Fortress Café used to be a diplomatic reception room for former President Chiang Kai-shek and First Lady, Soong May-ling of the Republic of China, where famous people have visited occasionally for its elegance.
Built in 1936, Zhongshan Hall is a four-floor, spacious open design with Spanish Islamic influenced architecture. Fortress Café is located on the second floor of the building where the interior used to be a diplomatic reception room for former President Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China. The gigantic vintage wooden entrance reveals the memory of its glorious past. The wood floor, the classic Chinese red wood pillars, the gold and red ceilings with intricate detailing, coupled with soft music flowing in the air would make you feel like you are a spoiled guest in the formerly presidential reception room. You can almost imagine the gatherings and the chatters of ladies and gentlemen of prestigious politicians, businessmen and celebrities stand vividly like the ones in the movie. But the great dining experience actually begins when the food is brought to the table, for Fortress Café serves top quality Mediterranean cuisines in the capital city.
Food critics give high remarks to Fortress Café’s Mediterranean dishes. From top left: risotto with pumpkin sauce and pine nuts, Seafood Paella, Spaghetti with truffle sauce and scallop, and Steamed snapper, scallop, and vegetables and pommery mustard.
Fortress Café was opened eight years ago in this historical building of 75 years. It preserved the original infrastructure and decoration of the former diplomatic reception room and installed special electronic stove instead of the gas-pipe in order to prevent any fire accident. The young executive chef is only 26, but his cooking is exquisite and rich in flavors that the famous writer Li Ang signed “Happy Devourer” on the porcelain plate placed at the bar counter. After the appetite is fulfilled in romantic lighting, take a fresh air on the open balcony and linger on conversations is not a bad idea either. In recent years, Fortress Café manager has invited artists to stage exhibitions and dances to add a little more artistic flair into the café. A feverish hour of Flamenco dance is performed on the first Saturday of every month from 8 to 9.
Regular customers often visit Fortress Café on the first Saturday of every month for the Flamenco performance.
Tsai Ming-liang’s Café Corridor
In contrast to Fortress Café’s offering diners a chance to indulge in fine food, Tsai Ming-liang’s Café Corridor, which just opened at the end of last November on the fourth floor of the same building, is another good choice for movie fans to catch a glimpse of the artist. As its name suggests, one needs to go through a long corridor to reach the café table, and you will see vintage red couch on one side and round tables with bamboo chairs on the other side. You see sunlight coming through the window from your left side. The subtle change of light and shadow on the corridor illuminates each poster of director Tsai Ming-liang’s films including, The River (1997), Vive L'Amour (1994), The Skywalk Is Gone (2002) and Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), etc, that already imprinted on the peculiar memories of each movie fan. At the entrance of the corridor is a corner space that Tsai Ming-liang calls it “Theater 18” for its literal capacity where Tsai’s previous video installation works are currently playing.
Tsai Ming-laing ‘s Café Corridor is where movie fans can catch a glimpse of the artist.
All of the furniture and decorations are from Tsai’s private collection and arranged by his hands.
Every piece of furniture and ornament is from Tsai’s private collection and arranged by him personally. From classic table lamp, tea set, leather suitcase, wood cabinet, makeup table, phonograph, paintings to dry persimmons are all thoroughly placed and revealed an intimate history with the artist. Open those obediently scattered books on the table and chair and you will further understand the inner world of Tsai Ming-liang’s art.
Stay a little while in Café Corridor and you may get lucky to meet the film director in person. Tsai hopes to offer an experimental and friendly space in Zhongshan Hall of this historical building that is full of intriguing memories.
The view from Café Corridor.
Like Fortress Café is connected to an exterior balcony, Café Corridor has an access to an outer space where the crowd of Ximen District can be seen from a distance or finding the shadow of your old self bustling among the rush of people. Linger on, you may be lucky enough to meet Tsai Ming-liang in person, hear and take a glimpse of his next film project. Otherwise, you can still zone out in this creative space with your own filmmaking dream.
Address: 2F of Zhongshan Hall, No .98 Yanping S. Rd. Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C. TEL: 886-2-2381-9551
Tsai Ming-liang’s Café Corridor
Address: 4F of Zhongshan Hall , No .98 Yanping S. Rd., Taipei .Taiwan, R.O.C. TEL: 886-2-2331-2727