No. 301, Lequn 3rd Road, Zhongshan District台北市中山區樂群三路301號
MRT: Jianan Road
hours: Lunch: Wed- Sun / 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
Dinner: Tues - Sat / 6 PM - 10 PM
Closed Mondays, and Tues lunch
$$$$ (NT$1850/per person plus 10% service)
Visit reviewed: 5/26/2016
WHEN I WATCHED THE GRANT ACHATZ EPISODE OF CHEF'S TABLE ON NETFLIX, I was reminded of (1) how much I love documentaries (2) how much work goes into a restaurant, each dish, by a team of people who strive to make inspired dining rather than something you could get anywhere else. I thought about my recent visit to RAW which has been featuring the summer menu for a few months now. There's a dish that Grant Achatz made when he was at French Laundry and Thomas Keller told him, "You know, this will be known as a Thomas Keller dish from now on. Are you okay with that?" And as much as we love or hate the dishes at RAW, we can give the credit to Andre Chiang, who is the face of the restaurant, but also acknowledge the partners and teamwork that make it happen. There are two other partners who conceptualize and execute the menu- Zor Tan, who is known as the "brains" coming up with the ideas for the menu and Alain Huang, "the hands," who makes the menu happen and runs RAW's kitchen on a day to day basis, are just as integral to the beef tongue cracker or the 27 vegetables that end up on your plate. The more that I eat at RAW and get to know the behind the scenes (and I'm sure this is true of many restaurants), the more that I appreciate the innovation that these new restaurants in Taipei strive for while making it taste good at the same time. We feed our eyes, our mouths, our stomaches, our minds, our cameras. It is still nearly impossible to get a table at RAW- I have only gone the last few times because of my friends' prowess in snagging a reservation. Thank you M!
Browsing Chef Andre's OCTAPHILOSOPHY while waiting. Was tempted to buy a copy as they had limited copies signed by Chef Andre and all the chefs at Restaurant Andre, but when was I ever going to make any of these dishes? (I'd rather eat there!)
I was drawn to this page "Unique. Pure. Texture. Memory. Salt. South. Artisan. Terroir. These are important words in Restaurant Andre. They are the backbone.. Octaphilosophy is our method of encouraging and managing... and a principle to live by."
The Anatomy of Bistronomy- love, affordable prices, freedom, spirit, sharing, multiple courses, phenomal produce, no bullshit and terroir.
Summer 2016 menu
(instagram @raw_taipei added to the bottom. hehe)
First course: PORRIDGE / FERMENTED TOFU /CONDIMENTS
The star of this dish is the kohlrabi, which is tastes like a crisp daikon, even though it's not listed on the menu. Seaweed powder dusted atop of finely julienne kohlrabi, crab salad hidden underneath, all atop a large piece of kohlrabi. The porridge? Just the water from boiled rice, which is surprisingly sweet, served in a small cup to drink. The fermented tofu is the dot of the sauce.
Second course: SCALLOP/ CAULIFLOWER COUSCOUS / SPICY PONZU
Having just come back from Toba, Japan, this dish reminded me of the freshly caught and grilled scallops that the women divers prepared for us. This was RAW's version, with crunchy grains of cauliflower disguised as couscous, also hiding a sliced scallop, perfectly seared. I didn't care for the sauce, which I found out later was a cauliflower puree. It was thick and a bit gluey and I thought it was housemade mayo.
Third course: BEEF / TONGUE / CRACKER
On the lao jie or old street in Yilan, you can find many shops selling "ox tongue" crackers 牛舌餅, named after their elongated shape, and is crispy and slightly sweet and a favorite local snack. RAW plays with the name, the idea and pushes it a bit further by making their own version of the cracker, then topping it with actual beef tongue, cooked for 36 hours with soy sauce and Japanese vinegar, caramelized onion and pairing it with a gooey slow cooked egg. The pairing is amazing and reminds of when you dip Japanese sukiyaki into raw egg, but 10x better. So brilliant, taking something that is SO Taiwanese and making it into such a modern dish in such a delicious way. If this was a permanent dish, I would order two or three, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (it's odd though on Instagram, some people got it with egg and some without. I wonder why)
Fourth course: BUTTERMILK/ REMOULADE/ GAMBERONI
A table side pour of the buttermilk into the green pool, the vegetable stack hides a plump shrimp underneath. So summery almost like a deconstructed coleslaw.
Fifth course: LEEK OIL/ DAIKON /SUMMER VEGETABLES
Our server said along with the betelnut flower there were 22 kinds of Taiwan spring vegetables in one dish. How many can you identify?
Sixth course: HIRAME SKIRT / PICKLED JUS / MEUNIERE
Personally I thought this was a tad oily, and one of my least favorite dishes of the menu.
Seventh course: RED QUINOA/ OYSTER BEARNAISE / SMOKED CABBAGE
RAW's untraditional version of surf and turf also seemed like an underwater scene to me, with the Taiwnaese red quinoa crusted chicken looking like coral, the smoked lettuce leaf looked like a translucent shell and the wasabi and spinach foam like the ocean. Next the chicken was diced Spanish mackerel mixed in with the cabbage.
8th course/ dessert: THUNDER TEA/ ALMOND MOCHI / SHAVED BEAN CURD
To me, the plates from the summer 2016 menu at RAW felt like they had ocean/acquatic theme with minimalistic strokes..julienned kohlrabi dusted with leek powder masquerading as seaweed underwater. Translucent crispy cabbage could be paper thin shells on quinoa crusted chicken coral and cabbage mixed with diced mackerel, or the betelnut flower with 22 kinds of Taiwan spring vegetables mirrored coral reef. I don't know if it was my subconscious or RAW's very intentional vibe, but put together in a collage, it became even more evident to me.
RAW isn't the only one doing out-of-box thinking when it comes to bistronomy in Taipei, so while I admire RAW and appreciate it, I don't put it on a pedestal and I don't think they would want us to either. But I always look forward to seeing their new menu and summer is almost coming to an end -- what will fall bring us?