My friend Tiffany miraculously got us a reservation at Raw, a two Michelin star restaurant from Chef André Chiang. We’ve spent a year and a half trying to get a reservation there, turns out the trick is to book an 8 person table. Luckily for us, that table was the kitchen table, right next to where food was coming out with clear view in on what the kitchen was up to. Literally a dream.

Jessie and Jaime chatting in front of the kitchen
Jessie and Jaime chatting in front of the kitchen

The reservation process was intense: we had to pay for basically the entire bill, coming in around 250$ USD per person, beforehand. We also get stern warnings about arriving exactly on time, which is pretty normal for fancy tasting menus. I’m guessing it has to do with sometimes having two services per evening, or in our case just because the whole meal takes literally the entire night.

True to their timeliness warning, they didn’t open the doors until the exact minute of our reservation, leaving us standing around in the rain for a bit, which was a bummer because the first thing you see when you walk in is the most fantastic bar I’ve ever encountered:

View from our table across the restaurant towards the front entrance, featuring the massive bar
The restaurant as seen from our table. The bar is on the left in the back of the picture.
The bar
The ridiculous bar at the front of the restaurant

They had a couple of these wood structures, all humongous, all smelling like tea trees. One wrapped around the two group tables and sort of separated us from the rest of the restaurant:

The wraparound secondary bar thing.

We sat at an enormous slab of wood and were given pretty little menus, as well as a French flag pin thing that we were required to put on our clothes somewhere visible. When asked, we were told it’s “the dress code.” Never got much more explanation than that, though the impression is that Raw’s style switches around, so if we were really lucky and had come in a Taiwan based season, we might have gotten Taiwan flag pins.

We also got menus for a wine pairing, as well as something I’ve never heard of before: a bread pairing. At 400NTD extra we started to get a little worried: was this two michelin star restaurant with a celebrity chef nickle and dimeing us? Charging extra for bread on top of a 250 USD dinner? 250 USD in Taiwan, mind, where a good lunch can be had for 3 USD. When I visited Pierre Gagnaire, a 3 michelin star restaurant in Paris and by some counts one of the best restaurants in the world, dinner went for about 300$ USD per person, without wine. So, before the food came, we spent a lot of time speculating on wtf was going on with the prices here.

The front of the RAW menu.
RAW menu, front, with the left side being the Chef, staff, and consulting chefs that contributed to the seasonal menu, and the right being historical figures to whom various dishes were I guess 'honoring.'
Back of the RAW menu
Back of the RAW menu, featuring the dishes for the night. The cursive text in blue and brackets is to what or whom the dish is an homage, the red text below is the actual name of the dish, and the black text under that is some of the ingredients. I didn't get an explanation for black italicized text above the blue bracket text.
RAW's bread and wine pairing menu
Bread and wine pairing menu. The waiter recommended two people share one bread pairing.

Turns out to have been totally worth it, whole kit. Later Tammy read more into the restaurant and chef, including finding an interview he did with Taiwan’s Digital Minister, Audrey Tang. Prices may be so high at least partially because the staff are getting paid huge wages for Taiwan, in which case, I’m all for it. The kind of people eating at the restaurant are all probably already making high-for-USA salaries, so might as well charge USA rates and bump the local workforce a bit.

So, Tammy and I go doubles on the bread pairing (waiter recommendation due to size of the pairing) as well as wine pairing (because wine pairings are usually WAY too much alcohol for us lightweights). We had a wee drama with a late member of our table, and then the waiter launched into an introduction of the restaurant, all in English luckily. What we gleaned was that we were nearing the end of the Autumn seasonal menu, which was focusing on historic French dishes, including one from what is apparently the oldest cookbook in the world.

The full bread pairing at RAW.
Before we started, they brought out the full bread pairing. Very tempted to just snag a bun off the plank, which they left on our table a good while.

The first dish was just the starting bread, with the first wine. Those without a bread pairing got nothing, lol, get dunked on you bread fearing fools.

The plank of wood upon which the first bread pairing was served
The least fancy piece of wood in the whole restaurant: the plank upon which the first bread pairing was plopped
A glass of the first wine pairing.
The first wine pairing.
The bottle of the first wine pairing.
Un Grain de Folie
The first bread pairing
The first bread pairing
The butter that came with the first bread pairing
The butter and nutty crumble included with all the bread pairings.

The first wine was “Grain de Folie,” 2020 by Domaine Mamaruta. A sparkling rosé that I described in my notes as “smelling dry, super dry taste, and not strong flavor.” I don’t know shit about wine though.

The bread was croissant vibes, chewy / crunchy mix. Butter was great, had a cream cheese smell but was really whipped and soft. I wrote “strong goat butter taste” in my notes, but I have no idea what that means, and at one drink in I can’t blame being drunk yet, so, who knows. Came with a nutty cocoa-powdery sesame seedish mix that added a lot of savory to the salty butter.

Right on the tails of first wine came the first dish.

The first dish
The first dish, with the spherical glass orb opened.

The first dish was titled “Aspic de Macedoine de legumes aux Ecrevisses,” on the top left in the picture above, and is a cognac consomme with a crayfish inside. “Rillettes de Sardines fumees aux fleurs de thym” is the Sardine cracker in the white sphere dish, and “Cuisse de Nymphe et Escargot en Persillade,” the two cakepop lookin things on the bottom. One is snail, the other, frog leg. We were told that the sardine cracker is apparently monk food from back when monks were hanging out, and that the dishes were based on / inspired by some 13th century first recipe book.

The consome crayfish orb was super olive oily, and smelled like cilantro. The orb itself kinda tasted like meat fat, super jelly-like. The whole thing had a really nutty tomato vibe, very wholesome autumnal flavor. The crayfish just tasted like a really good shrimp lol.

Selfie of all of us at the table
Jaime snapped a selfie just as we're about to tuck in. Absolutely starving at this point, I hadn't eaten anything all day in preparation :)

The sardine cracker had a rich salmon smell. It was really light and crunchy and came in with a deep I guess umami flavor? I never know if something is umami or not. Towards the end of it was a sort of tiny fish bone texture that I always hated, but it was still good.

The frog cakepop thing, on the left, smelled like Hainan chicken oil, and tasted basically like chicken, with a strong veggie base. The green sauce under the cakepops was really good, everyone at our table loved it. The snail, the green ball on the right, had a fun outer texture, like cheese almost.

Jesse demanded I write down the ingredients of the green sauce, which we were told are “extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parsley, and dijon mustard.”

The second wine bottle
Le Gam Cab' du Bled, 2013
Glass of the second wine
French, very flowery smell, but also almost menthol / medicine smell. Not very strong flavor.

After the cakepop monk food plate came the second wine and a ridiculously perfect pâté. Undecorated plate except for a bit of salt/pepper I didn’t bother with. I thought the addition of pickles was a bit weird but whatever.

Pastry edge of the Pâté
The pastry of the Pâté was perfectly crunchy
Jelly edge of the Pâté
The jelly was so salty and good!
Side view of the loaf of Pâté
They brought out an uncut loaf of the Pâté for us to ooh and aah over. Desperately wanted to just take a bite out of it like it was a baguette.
Top down view of the loaf of Pâté
We were told that the large circles are where tubes were inserted to allow for more even cooking of the Pâté, and then later filled with jelly.

The pâté was pork, deer, duck, and chicken liver. Smelled like hella meaty pâté, but also light and fruity. Taste was light as well, not that kinda heavy oily taste you get sometimes from pâtés. It was a bit chewy, occasionally getting hit with onion or pickle, and some tang. The side was of course perfectly crunchy and incredible. The menu calls the dish “Pâté en croute du Chaseur,” with “cepes mushroom, game, deer, partridge, wild board, and cornichon,” and it was apparently worked on with Frederic Jullien, sous-chef at l’atelier de Joel Robuchon in Taipei. Obviously Andre Chiang is buddies with the entire food scene in Taiwan.

When we got to chat with Chef Chiang, he said he felt somewhat dismayed that many of his dishes, including the pâté, are difficult if not impossible to find anymore in the world, done in the fashion that he does them. More on that to follow, but he was proud to point out the tube technique as well as the perfect right angles of the pastry exterior, the lack of the gap between the crust and the main dish, and the shape holding, indicative of a sort of combination traditionalist and perfectionist attitude for the menu.

The second bread
The second bread was all THYME, right in the face

We were all excited for the next dish, genuine ratatouille, well, “Ratatouille Revisitée” in this case. When it came out, yup, looks just like from the movie lol:

Top down shot of the ratatouille
Macro shot of the ratatouille

With “aubergine, zucchini, bay leaf, capsicums, and basil,” it smelled strongly of roasted vegetable. The included soup smelled of tomatoes and onions, almost like a very tomato-y french onion soup, with a hint of nut. The soup is apparently roasting juices from the ratatouille with chicken broth. The paste is of zucchini. The eggplant came out strong int he dish, as did the basil. The texture was mostly soft with some crunch, I felt maybe from the zucchini mostly.

Next up was caviar and monkfish.

The sauce being added to the monkfish
The sauce was added to the monkfish after it was brought to the table.
The caviar and monkfish

The menu calls the dish “Medaillon de Baudrioe a la mousseline au Champagne,” with “PERSEUS Superior Oscietra a la royale, monkfish, and leek compote.” As soon as it was brought out, there was a strong smell of fish, which kind of worried us for a second, but the taste itself was not very strongly fishy, more buttery. The sauce we were told is egg, baked butter, and champagne. It was all very herby with a good, not too soft texture. There were hints of fruit in the fish, even without the champagne sauce.

The caviar in the tin
Inevitably they brought the caviar tin out on an ice block. Intense discussions as to what Superior Oscietra No. 1 would be like.
The kitchen staff plating on the monkfish dish
Friends sitting across the table from us were able to turn around to get great shots of the plating and finishing table, which jutted from the kitchen into the dining area.
Another image of the kitchen staff plating the monkfish

The third wine was brought out after the monkfish was finished.

The bottle of the third wine
Montagny Le May, 2020
The third wine, in a glass
I wrote down that it was "flat and creamy," I can't imagine what I meant by "flat," but I don't remember any negative feelings about it, so perhaps just a non dynamic flavor?

The next dish consumed a huge portion of time, mostly because Chef Andre came out and talked with us for ages, fortunate table that we were! In fact I think we delayed service for our table, which we joked may be causing some kind of panic in the kitchen, staff screaming under their breath, “Chef’s doing it again, what do we do, what the fuck do we do? We’re 20 minutes behind!”

The menu calls it “Poussin en Vessie au Beurre d’Estragon aux Raisins blancs. I was excited about it because I’m one of apparently only three people on earth that like raisins, and putting raisins in food.

The chicken, still bagged
The dish is brought out in a very thin sort of plastic bag
The chicken dish bag being cut
The bag is then cut with a very heavy and fancy pair of scissors, letting out extremely fragrant mist. Cinnamon, butter, sugar
The chicken dish, served in its bag
The dish is served still-in-bag, and I believe a sauce is added after, based on my notes, which I described as smelling strongly of dill and olive oil
Closeup shot of the chicken

The flavor was incredibly sweet, especially if you grabbed a grape in a bite. The sauce was strongly cinnamon and sugary, and I wrote that the grapes “taste like Christmas.” The fennel was not oniony at all, just mildly sharp. The chicken was hearty, and as written, “fucking good.” The soup was fantastic with the bread, though I failed to record which bread we were on at that point (wine kicking in), I believe it was some kind of truffle bread. The soup stayed fragrant throughout.

Chef Andre came out around now to talk to us at length, and demonstrate what the dish was in reference to: a process of sort of sous-vide, using a pig bladder. He went into great detail about the rarity of the technique, owing to the high risk. The bladder is opaque and can’t be opened throughout cooking, and it takes several hours to finish. The chicken sits in the middle, and because the bladder inflates, there’s no way to test the chicken doneness through feel, meaning doneness must be checked periodically through simply poking the bag with a finger. The bladders themselves can’t be gotten from butchers, but instead must be purchased from laboratories. He says maybe one or two restaurants in France are serving the dish at any time, and he worries the technique may be completely lost after his generation of chefs retire. The high labor cost is usually passed onto a junior chef as a sort of training exercise, and he said of the example bladder he brought out, it won’t be served to guests, but instead just to the kitchen.

The chicken dish, but in a pig bladder, resting on the finishing table
They brought out the same dish, but prepared in a pig bladder, to demonstrate the true traditional process.
Us poking the pig bladder
We were invited to poke the pig bladder lol
Chef Andre talking to us
Chef Andre explaining the tediousness of the pig bladder chicken process
Chef André still talking to us
We got so much time with the Chef!
The opened chicken bag
The chicken bag, when cut, poofed out a fantastic smelling steam, exposing just a whole chicken, apparently cooked perfectly according to the Chef.

Basically the second Chef Andre peaced out, the mashed potato presentation was begun. I believe we were a dish behind the rest of the restaurant at this point. Tammy and I were pretty sauced up at this point, and things were getting silly. Tammy’s also completely obsessed with mashed potatoes, which this menu called “Aligot a la truffe, jus deglacage,” having “aged comte cheese, black truffle, egg yolk confit, and sel de guerande.”

The waiter presenting the mashed potatoes
Another presentation for us!
The mashed potato and its constituent dishes laid out
The tools of mashed potato finishing

The potatoes were extremely cheesy by the time the waiter was done with them:

The waiter stretching out the mashed potato cheese

I wrote that it “smelled bready,” and that it was “so, so creamy.” Not too powerful flavor, egg added a ton of extra creaminess on top of the comte cheese. It wasn’t a very powerfully flavorful dish but it was very heavy with protein and cheese flavor and texture, in its own way kinda nuking our palates.

The mashed potatoes, served with egg
The mashed potatoes were served very warm, with an egg yolk
Tammy with her mashed potatoes
Tammy was thrilled to receive a massive portion from the demonstration table

At some point during all this, the next and final wine was brought out, “Fluer Cardinale Grand Cru Classe,” of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, 2017, though I don’t have a picture or notes, as we were completely overwhelmed by now.

In preparation for the final main, we got to choose a steak knife, with the handles all of different materials I believe from different restaurants.

The knife selection box
Top down, Concrete from Chef Andre Chiang's Raw, G10 from Hotel Plaza Athenee with Alain Ducasse, SKA from Mirazure of Mauro Calagreco, G10 Copper from Maison Pic of Anne Sophie Pic, and Charcoal of A Sadro Etxebarri of Victor Arguinzoniz
RAW's concrete knife, with Taiwan engraving on the blade
I went with Raw's Concrete because it had a little laser engraving of Taiwan on the blade

The next dish was “Canard Apicius aux peches roties,” with duck, apicius spice, wild honey, tunisia dates, and saffron. The plate was so satiny, I couldn’t stop touching it lol. It smelled of sweet potatoes when sat in front of us, and had a sweetness. After, there was a strong beefiness and pepper. The peach was, quoting from my increasingly difficult to read notes, “thicc and juicy,” with a good salty aftertaste.

Top down image of the duck dish
That plate had a satiny texture I couldn't keep my hands off of
Macro shot of the duck
Obviously it was cooked perfectly
The duck before as it's cooked
The duck as it's cooked, of course brought out to show off.

Pants were getting tight, which is good, because we were nearing the end of the meal. They calmed us down with a cheese plate that I basically ate all of, being the biggest cheese fanatic for our section of the table. It was many kinds of cheese, the menu calling it “Chariot de Fromages, ‘Tour de France,'” having epoisses, fourme d’Ambert, morbier, comte (the same as went on the potatoes), mimolette, pouligny St. Pierre, crottin de Chavignol, ossau-iraty, St. Nectaire, and brie de Meaux. They ran the gamut from very mild to extraordinarily powerful. Lucky me, nobody really liked the intense stuff, so I got most of it. It also came with a really wonderful honeycomb, that we got extra of because we all fought over it.

The cheese plate
Starting in the top left, the cheeses increased in strength counter clockwise.
The blocks of cheese from which the plate was made
As always, they brought out a show stopper of a demo cart.

We were basically entirely out of sorts at this point, stuffed full and well drunk, so Chef Andre came out to do some pictures while we tried to recover in time for dessert

Us with Chef Andre
Note me, barely keeping it together

I had lost track of the breads at this point, but with dessert came the final bread, a spice sort of ginger bread. Considering all the breads were paired with the sauce of the given dish, this one was perfect, as it would be dipped in the chocolate sauce of the dessert, a perfect pairing.

The final bread pairing
The bread was very spiced, but in a good way

The first dessert was an adorable porcupine of four kinds of chocolate.

Chocolate sauce being added to the first dessert
Of course, the dessert was finished at the table, with rich chocolate sauce.

The chocolate dessert was my favorite dish the whole night, which is to be expected considering my sweet tooth and chocolate obsession. The menu calls it “Le Concorde de Gaston Lenotre,” with chocolate, meringue, and cardamom (which paired very well with the bread). It was incredibly rich, but smelled of spice when sat down. There was a solid chocolaty crunch at fist bite, with a salt kick. The mousse was cold and thick, and very spiced. It finished feeling like pudding in the mouth, with the meringue dissolving on top.

The chocolate dish, unbroken
The chocolate dish, with a bite
I wouldn't let them take this plate away, I kept it for licking purposes the remainder of the night

At just about the same time, the remainder of the desserts were brought out. Sadly Tiffany had to leave us at this time, a literal bitter-sweet moment as she had a flight out of Taiwan the next day.

Right on top of the chocolate, the remainders of the dessert were brought out, starting with an ephemeral ice cream type dessert, called “Galette des rois” I believe (I had lost track of which dish was which at this point).

The galette des rois
We were told to eat this quickly. It was flowery, cold, with light powdered sugar hitting first. A sweet almond taste and lots of crunch. Dissolved almost instantly!

After the two main desserts was brought a trio, which included “Clafoutis aux griottes,” “Callison d’Aix,” and “Carambar” (caramel).

The final dessert trio

The small cake on the top right included a tradition similar to King Cake from Louisiana, wherein a small crown had been included in a single slice out of all served that night, location of which unknown to anybody until it was discovered. Incredibly, it was found at our table. Discovery rewarded with a much bigger crown.

The finding of the crown
A larger crown is delivered

Of the King Cake, the flavor wasn’t too strong, but it had a nice texture, very flakey.

The little cherry orb was very sour, and tasted strongly of cherry, rum, and alcohol. I really liked it.

The caramel came with a paper to wrap and take home if you’d like. I of course ate it immediately. It was very chewy, but in a genuine caramel way, not like a store bought candy that takes years to finish. Very burnt sugar, real caramel flavor. Extremely sticky. Lovely.

A whole king cake
A king cake, before slicing
The bitter cherry dish
The fruity and bitter cherry dish, a great finisher.
The caramel, under its paper
The caramel was simple but perfect. The paper, in my hands, useless.

At the end of the meal, we were left to our own devices for seemingly as long as we’d like. Chef Andre again came out to chat with us at length, being asked by a table member that had passing familiarity with him about the restaurant he left behind in Singapore, and what became of the olive tree had there (donated to the botanical gardens). He talked to us a long while about the difficulties in taking care of a tree like that given the climate of Singapore and the ins and outs of olive tree care as a metaphor for cooking in general. He went on to talk about how young much of his kitchen staff is, and what he’s trying to do for the food scene in Taiwan now that he’s back. He talked about how the menu for this season was extended into what is normally the winter menu season, because of the specialty and rarity of the inclusion of several dishes that simply can never be found together on one menu (the pate and sous vide chicken particularly), if at all. The demand has been apparently extraordinarily high, to the point that he was considering doing in the future special menu seasons or days where the “best of” dishes would be served. If you’re interested in learning more about that journey and what he’s doing back in Taiwan, I highly recommend his interview with Taiwan Digital Minister Audrey Tang.

For a while we just hung out, digested, and chatted with our very energetic waiter, who repeatedly thanked us for “our love of food” lol. I also visited the bathrooms, which were, of course, insane:

All the bathroom pods
The toilets were each contained in these torpedo tube lookin things
View of one of the bathroom pod things
Very private and nice, I suppose!

At the end of the night, only a few tables lingered, which I find sad, but I suppose everyone enjoys experience like this in their own way. We made our way out, being presented with all sorts of posters and bric a brac, given another hearty thanks, and that was that.

In all, in some ways it was my favorite michelin / tasting menu experience, for the company alone. My friend Tiffany pulled a double miracle in booking the table and then finding such a large group of friends equally passionate about the experience (compared to previous times I’ve tried going to a meal like this with people other than Tammy and being frustrated that they weren’t “getting it,” chewing through plates quickly without even noticing them) and spending the entire time discussing each dish in detail, learning about techniques from our waiter and chef André, and taking the entire night as an hours long block of time to be present.

The food was of course incredible. At this level it’s basically impossible, in my opinion, to say some restaurant is better than another on taste alone, because of the strong diversity of dishes and flavors. All I can really say is, it’s worth it, for those that enjoy this kind of tasting menu experience. On top of the fact that we had a passionate waiter that never hesitated to linger with us and answer questions about anything we could conceive - the art (Baroque, by a Taiwanese artist), a big poster of bees (environmentalist), the wood furniture (paneled tea tree, oiled regularly), the cleaning of the kitchen (four times a day). AND, we got to hang out with the Chef himself, multiple times, and pick his brain relentlessly. On reflection, the experience we got was honestly almost a bargain, considering I’m not sure the same could be had, with the kitchen table, in Paris for anywhere near what we paid (if we could even get the reservation!)

It was an amazing night, well worth the wicked hangover the next day.