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.

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