Sunday, December 14, 2014

RAW - Chef Andre Chiang's new restaurant

No.301, Le Qun 3rd Road, Taipei City, Taiwan

On Saturday, I was lucky to snag a reservation for Andre Chiang's new restaurant RAW in Taipei. In order to get a reservation, you need to reserve 2 weeks in advance online at Using some computer magic, I got a reservation for Saturday's.

Service and Ambiance: 8.0/10 - very good, but some things can be worked on

Going into the restaurant, I had very high expectations, and I was not disappointed. The restaurant had a nice atmosphere that felt homey and cozy. The wooden tables, open kitchen, and the lack of white linen and set tableware made the place a no fuss restaurant. In Taiwan, I really don't like the overly polite service and bowing, and RAW had none of that.

One of the greatest things about Chef Andre is he greets all the guests and personally explains some of the dishes. It's like having friends cook and serve food from their home.

The only thing I had problems with is the service is that the waiters and waitresses served food too fast. I would still be working on a dish, then another dish would appear in front of me. I felt a bit rushed in the beginning because dishes kept coming one after another without a gap in between.

Food: 8.2/10
 Menu:  1850 NT 

Bread. 9.0/10

Bread made from buckwheat - 150 NT

Buckwheat butter

When the waitress come by and explained the menu, she asked us if we wanted to add bread to our meal. I would definitely recommend getting the bread.

The bread has a nice crust, aroma, and soft fluffy interior, though I do prefer my bread to be higher hydration, but that's just my personal preference. The butter is whipped French butter with toasted buckwheat and cocoa on top. The nice crunch from the buckwheat definitely made the bread memorable.

Asparagus, Broccoli, and Burnt Miso - 9.0/10 Brings back childhood memories. Yum

This was a great way to start the meal. This was a cold dish that was served immediately just a few minutes after we sat down. The flavors were quite refreshing. It kind of tasted like broccoli casserole that I'd get at those holiday parties back in America, which brought back a few memories of going to so and so's xmas party, and there would always be a casserole dish with breadcrumbs.

The proportion of broccoli, asparagus, and miso was quite perfect as there was a perfect amount with each bite. The asparagus was perfectly cooked, fresh, and did not have that bad asparagus aftertaste that I would usually get from eating it. There are very few restaurants that I've been to in Taiwan that can make asparagus feel like it was alive.

Carbonated Grapes with Mint 8.0/10 Fizzy poppy goodness! Too much mint :(.

Chef Andre came around our table at this point and explained that the grapes were like the marble soda that you would get at the convenient stores or night market in Taiwan. It was quite delicious and refreshing, but I wish they had served us four grapes instead of three that way my girlfriend and I would both get two grapes. I did have a problem with there being too many springs of mint since I don't like excess garnish on the plate.

Cobia, Citrus, Daikon - 8.0/10 Pretty good and refreshing

Another refreshing dish to start the meal. This fish is definitely Taiwanese, as 80% of marine cages in the country are dedicated to raising Cobia. The citrus and individual fruit pulp blended nicely with the fish, though I thought there could be more citrus flavor. There was also a nice texture from the daikon and sago (西米露), which is mainly used for dessert in Taiwan. Using sago added another enjoyable and interesting dimension to this dish.

Ajo Blanco, Cauliflower, Squid - 6.5 Above average but a bit meh.

For this dish, it was a nice play on Ajo Blanco. They had liquid nitrogen milk and thinly sliced cauliflower with squid. There was also almond milk and coconut flakes. It was a nice hot and cold balance and acted as a transition point from the cold to the hot dishes. Even though the squid was perfectly cooked, it did not go well with the other components. I could either taste squid or almond, but never both together. The squid seemed to overpower the almond flavor and because the squid was hot and almond was cold, the squid would have a stronger flavor.

Paella, Prawns, Piquillos - 6.0 Almost average, some things did not belong

At first, this dish looks pretty with a nice contrast of colors, but the flavors were not there. I understand that the paella is from the crispy rice on the shrimp's head, and there's a light spice from the sauce underneath the shrimp, but the dish lacked balance and depth. The shrimp lacked sweetness and saffron sauce was overpowered by the spiciness from the sauce underneath the shrimp. There was also black olive powder, which did I could not taste and felt that it did not contribute to the dish. Also, some of the vegetable components were all over the place.

Mushroom, Mushroom, Mushroom 8.5/10 Noms, very mushroomy, full umami!

There are so many mushroom flavors in this dish. Along with the flavorful mushroom broth, there's a low temperature poached egg hidden underneath the watercress and mushrooms. It has been awhile since I have had good mushroom soup. There was a right amount of saltiness to bring out the earthiness of the mushrooms.  I just think the egg could be a little bit more runny. The texture of the egg yolk left a weird feeling on my mouth and teeth. Other than that, the dish was quite delicious.

Short Rib, XO, Baguette - 10/10 - Perfect (A rare rating I give out)

This is one of those dishes that is stuck in my memory. I rarely give 10/10 on reviews, and I can't find anything wrong with this dish. The beef was cooked perfectly (also my favorite cut of meat done sous vide). It had a nice crust from the sear. The sauce was unique and had a slight miso, umami component to it. There's also a parsley puree that played nicely with the baguette puree and was a nice play on garlic bread. The slight acidity from the pickled onion (or some vegetable from the allum family?). The proportion of beef to sauce to leek was perfect. I could finish everything without any excess puree, sauce, or side component left over. I could eat this over and over again without getting tired of it.

Chocolate, Mochi, Burnt Butter - 8.5/10  Like a Snicker's Bar!

This is definitely a deconstructed Snicker's bar. There was a nuttiness from the brown butter, some toffee component, nogurt that was imitated by the mochi, and chocolate. If there had bad been more chocolate, I would have picked up the bowl and drank it. The only thing that I wish was done better was the mochi. The texture was slightly odd and left a weird grittiness in my mouth.

Coffee - 10/10 Aeropress 220NT

The coffee was brewed to my liking, but I don't drink much coffee so I can't really judge good coffee aside from this tasted very good.

Gingerbeer, Mint, Cucumber - 8.0/10 Refreshing and cool 320 NT

This was quite refreshing after such a nice meal. I was quite disappointed that there wasn't ginger beer in this, which was stated on the menu. Instead, it was ginger ale, which is why I give this a 8.0 instead of a 10/10.

Overall, I will be back here in February and maybe the holiday menu, which is 5200 NT. This is perhaps my favorite restaurant in Taiwan, and the best meal that I've ever had in Taiwan. I'm glad Chef Andre has come to Taiwan and set such a high standard and benchmark for good food. I hope to see many restaurants follow RAW's example in the future. A restaurant does not need foie gras, truffles, caviar, etc. to make great food. You just need technique, good ingredients, and innovation to make great food.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Le Mout, Taichung, Taiwan No.24 2014 Asia's Best Restaurant Part 1

Seems like I haven't posted here in awhile because I have been busy cooking a professional kitchen now. I only post if I encounter something interesting. Today was that interesting encounter. I went to a restaurant that is featured on Asia's Best Restaurants ( From out of the thousands of restaurants (maybe millions), these are the top 50. I expect that No. 24 be top notch, no room for error, and the attention to detail flawless, but unfortunately Chef Chen hasn't reached that perfection.

I'll briefly talk about the service and environment because I mainly focus on the food. The service was just ok. Just ok ... the waiter staff that served us went on a 3 to 4 minute monologue about what is in each dish with some pauses and umms like he or she forgot what each dish had. In addition, everyone looked like zombies. There wasn't liveliness in their service.

As for the table setting, there was an expectation for flawless set linens, but there were a few wrinkles in our table. I found some calcium deposit on the wine glass, which means they didn't properly clean their wine glasses.

Service (5/10) Just average.

Now on to the food.
Rated 5.2/10 Just Average

There were two menus available during lunch. One was the Classic Menu (4500 NT), which consisted of French classical dishes (as so said by the waiter). The other is The Tasting of Le Mout (3500 NT), which uses local Taiwanese ingredients to define Le Mout's cuisine.

I'll start with the classic menu.

Both menus have this aperitif

The first is a mini pizza, which consists of a mini pita filled with some creamy cheese sauce. The other is a tomato water jelly sphere with overcooked crab meat. I quite enjoyed the mini pizza and would eat lots of those for a snack. 6/10 Slightly above average. Would be a 8/10 if the jelly sphere didn't have overcooked crab.

I found it weird that they served the bread while we were eating or amuse bouche. I usually have restaurants serve the bread after they collected the dishes for the amuse. Anyways, this was some pretty good sour dough bread and butter.  7/10 Above Average

This is the second amuse, which was an egg custard with marsala wine, dehydrated lemon and potato (they sandwiched two potatoes in between a lemon). The wine sauce was way too sweet for my taste, which overpowered the egg and dehydrated items.  3/10 Below Average

Oyster and Pearls. I can see that Chef Chen did parody to Thomas Keller's Oyster and Pearls. In Keller's version, he uses tapioca pearls and caviar with a buttery sabayon sauce. In Chen's version, she uses large boba tapioca pearls that's hidden beneath lemon butter sabayon. An interesting dish that was pretty well balanced and uses something Taiwanese (boba). 7/10 Pretty good. Side note ... there was a tiny drop of sauce on the side of the plate, someone hasn't been checking the plates for cleanliness before serving.

(sorry, I finished this dish without taking a picture of the consomme)

Slow Cooked Beef Tongue with corn consomme, almond tofu, and dehydrated beef tongue jerky.
I quite enjoyed this dish. It is perhaps the best thing at that I've eaten at this restaurant. The tongue was cooked sous vide for 12 hours, but I found the consomme to be lacking in depth. 8/10 Good.

Poularde Farcie with Black Truffle, Baby Cabbage "Au Vin Jaune".
Oh god, I don't know where to start on how many things are wrong with this dish. They basically messed up a sous vide chicken by rolling it into a roulade with both dark and white meat and then probably sous vide it for more than an hour and holding it at the pass. By sous viding different cuts of chicken at the same temperature for a long time will cause some of the white meat to turn mushy. Also just taking the chicken out of a sous vide bag and just serving it is not good because the chicken is cold once it gets served to the customer. The truffle sauce was way too overpowering that I could only eat one or two bites of the chicken before becoming tired of the dish. 3/10 Below Average.  

One cool thing is the waitress let us choose knives to use with our next dish.

Angus Cap with Crispy Brisket, Carmaelized Milk Skin, Scallion Cream, and Jus Tranche with a side of foie gras.
My friend got this dish and just thought it was ok and the scallion cream's consistency was too much.

I got Pigeon in Oreintal Fragrance, Black Truffle Ragout and Mustard Green. This dish could have been great, but it was way tooo salty. I couldn't taste anything but salt. Also the foie gras was just foie gras with nothing special. 2.5/10 Below Average to almost not edible.

Eclair de Bleu d'Auvergne, Sweet Bordelaise Sauce and Hazzlenut Butter (yes they misspelled Hazelnut on their menu). I like this dish, but it was a balance between sweet, sour and salty. A bit too salty for me though. 6/10 slightly above average.

Riz au Lait, Citrus Orange Blossom Milk Foam.
This chocolate orange dish looks pretty, but it did not deliver because there were too many components that didn't flow together. Also, they did a bad job making the chocolate spheres. When I tried to crack the top to reveal the orange sherbet inside (I think but there were some tiny ice crystals inside the mixture, which probably shouldn't belong there), the sphere just sheared perfectly in half as if they didn't connect the hemispheres nicely.  5/10 Average

More about the other menu in my next post.