Monday, April 27, 2015

gastronomy/fusion: i strongly recommend RAW

No. 301, Lequn 3rd Road, Zhongshan District
(02) 8501-5800

MRT: Jianan Road


hours: Lunch: Wed- Sun / 11:30 AM - 2:30 PM
Dinner: Tues - Sat  / 6 PM - 10 PM
Closed Mondays
$$$$ (NT$1850/per person plus 10% service)

Kid friendliness: only set menus available so only probably only foodie kids will appreciate

Visit reviewed: 4/7/2015 & 3/4/2015

Extremely happy and fortunate to have gotten to try RAW a few times since its opening late last year. It pays to have a group of friends that love food as much as I do to snag reservations and invite you along. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to see or meet Chef Andre Chiang since I had heard he greeted diners and explained some of the dishes in the first few months after RAW's opening (as I saw photos on my Facebook feed). It would have been nice to hear directly from him about the food on my visits, but it's understandable that he's busy running his other restaurants in Singapore and Paris.  Taiwanvore has a great write up about Chef Andre Chiang and his recently published autobiography, which helped explain to me how RAW became one of the hottest reservations in Taipei and the cult of Chef Andre. 

Love the secret drawer in the table at each seat. It's where you'll find the menu, all the utensils for the meal and way in the back of the drawer, a napkin.

The menus come in English and Chinese and alternate between each seat, so if you get one you can't read, try trading with your dinner date. The 8 course menu is like a word puzzle to decipher at first glance- it's read across each row, and describes the main ingredients in that dish.

The bread (NT$150) is not part of the set, but I ended up getting it each time after I first tried it. Spread the whipped butter and buckwheat generously on it and devour. I probably ate half a loaf while waiting for my dinner date.

Toasted cauliflower / chicken masala / couscous 
on a crispy chicken skin chip. Like a fancied up gastronomic chip and dip. A lot of crunch and flavor and a great start.

Rose champagne/ Tomatoes / Ohba sansho
So many flavors at once from this dish- sweet, sour, shiso, the sea, floral, fruity.. Green, yellow and red tomato salad and an icy shiso sorbet to pair with the kanpachi sashimi hiding under the cucumbers cut so thin they are nearly translucent.

Perfect Egg / Praline / Wild Veg

The fun part of this dish was they brought a wreath of herbs for each person to pick and adorn and season your dish yourself. The pralines added a nice crunch to the slow cooked egg as did the zucchini and wild vegetables.

Always love an oozing slow cooked egg that melts in your mouth. 

Cappellini / Sakura ebi / CCC

Paired with a mushroom broth tea, the umami flavor (and smaller portion since it's part of a set course) of the capellini left you wanting more. 

Clam / Corn / Kelp Jus

The ingredients on the menu sound like a strange combination, but I loved the sweetness of the corn steamed egg along with the briny clams. Loved the crunch of the corn crackers too, like those fried shrimp chips mom used to make. Creamy, crunchy, sweet- hard to imagine the layers of flavors from the bowl of algae green seaweed purée. This dish might be too sweet for some, but I liked it. 

Burnt Cabbage / Cod / Soubise

Perfectly cooked cod, this dish was one of my favorites both visits. The cabbage was less burnt this time around and I found the soubise (onion béchamel sauce) a tad too sweet for me this time.

Mushroom Salad / Pork / Chinese Olive
On the menu, the mushroom salad and pork look like two separate courses, but they are actually one. While I enjoyed the crispy pork belly skin, I cut out all the fat in the pork belly 

Strawberry / Pink Guava / Roast Apple
There are inevitable comparisons between RAW and Mume, and even more in my mind with this strawberry dessert since I really enjoyed Mume's deconstructed strawberry cheesecake. I liked it more than this, since this tastes like something you could do at home yourself. Sliced strawberries, pink guava sorbet, a pouring of cranberry juice and the odd partner of a piece of roasted apple which at first glance I thought was a banana. I liked the sorbet and the strawberries were less sour this time than my last visit, but I haven't been crazy about RAW's desserts yet.

Pineapple Cake
More cake-like than the typical Taiwanese pineapple cake which is more of a shortbread, it's a playful interpretation that doesn't quite work for me.

Note that the tea and coffee is not part of the set and is an extra charge (NT$220), as is the still or sparkling water by the bottle. I'd skip the tea and coffee and get a lychee bubble drink instead if you have to order one drink.

It was odd to me that I liked many of the dishes more tonight than my previous visit, but a pleasant surprise. It goes to show that there are always so many elements that happen with a meal- the ingredients, the chef, the dining companions, the mood, the level of hunger- even eating the exact same dishes you can have different experiences. 

The following are photos from my previous visit with this menu, my second visit to RAW. They had just switched to this new menu in March which will go until the end of May 2015. Some of the dishes had subtle changes from one month to the next, such as more tomatoes and cucumbers in the second dish, or the cabbage not being as burnt in the cod dish.

Peeking inside the kitchen.