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.
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:
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:
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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 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 third wine was brought out after the monkfish was finished.
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 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.
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 potatoes were extremely cheesy by the time the waiter was done with them:
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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 first dessert was an adorable porcupine of four kinds of chocolate.
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.
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).
After the two main desserts was brought a trio, which included “Clafoutis aux griottes,” “Callison d’Aix,” and “Carambar” (caramel).
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.
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.
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:
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.