“I bet it’s about food, isn’t it?”
Whenever the topic of my blog is brought up with a new acquaintance, this is the most common assumption people make. It’s a very reasonable assumption given that I am just a bit obsessed with food. Anyone who has been dining companion will no doubt have had to endure my very audible ooohs and ahhhs as I’m eating. My purrs of appreciation may just be where the term food porn was inspired from…
Considering this, perhaps it’s quite surprising that my blog barely mentions food. I’ve purposefully not written about it as I feared I’d write about it too much. But after mulling it over, I have decided to start injecting a bit of my love of food on here, from time to time. Enter: Tummy to Taipei. A new category of TTT that will feature reviews of restaurants and dishes that left a particularly strong impression on me.
What better place to start than RAW?
For this first review, I’d like to give you an insight of the memorable night I went by conveying an overall impression of the dining experience, rather than writing a blow-by-blow recount of each dish. I hope you enjoy it!
RAW is the brainchild of ludicrously talented chef Andre Chiang. Chiang is a man who has racked up a lengthy list of overseas accomplishments- including, but not limited to heading a three star Michelin restaurant in France, and winning a number of important industry awards. He left a highly successful career abroad to take charge of RAW- a move back to his homeland in Taiwan that was met with due excitement.
A purveyor of ‘bistronomy’ cuisine, RAW mission is “to bring ‘the New Interpretation of Taiwanese Flavor’ to your table by highlighting beautiful Taiwanese seasonal produce through innovative food and drink” (RAW).
It is precisely this abidance to bistronomy philosophy, that is, “a new wave of cooking style born in Paris, offering experimental haute cuisine at a reasonable price”, that sees RAW time and time again defined as a highly innovative, yet relatively accessible fine dining establishment. The cuisine is progressive, managing to toe the fine line between the new and familiar by creating exciting- but not overly confronting fusions of flavour and texture.
I think this is an important point to rest on, as for many restaurants, efforts to “push the boundaries” too much is their undoing. Rather than impress the diner with a feeling of being thrilled, they leave them somewhat alienated by the pompousness of its endeavours. This is not the case with RAW- a triumph that sets it apart from the flock.
At least that was the impression I was left with after my mother and I had the pleasure of dining there one evening in January this year.
After securing a ridiculously difficult reservation*, my mother and I approached the night to dine at RAW with giddy anticipation. Having already read a hefty amount of reviews, I had my expectations set high. And I think, justifiably so. Especially living in a city like Taipei that has no shortage of cheap and scrumptious eats, it takes some tempting to stray from the lower price bracket when dining out. I think it’s reasonable if you’re going to spend a small fortune on a meal to expect brilliance across the board- the food, service, atmosphere. Fortunately, RAW delivered on all three fronts.
Upon entering RAW, the first thing diners are sure to immediately take notice of are the sublime interiors. A wide, open plan dining room tastefully decorated with striking wooden structures and modern light fixtures. It was a vision of modern, minimalist chic to compliment the tantilising 8-course meal which awaited. A light chatter filled the room, spotted with occasional exclamations at the sight of yet another grandiosely formed dish.
The menu- one in Mandarin and one in English- stated only bluntly the name and key ingredients of each dish. A mechanism of using simplicity to tempt our curiosity perhaps.
It certainly did- as we waited between dishes to arrive, we couldn’t help but share our thoughts of what the next concoction could possibly be. We quickly discovered that any assumptions we had would quickly be dispelled- we simply could not have imagined the level of innovation each dish encompassed. That ability was reserved only from the likes of a chef like Chiang.
Fine dining in Taipei
The meticulous attention to detail RAW’s chefs accomplished with each and every dish was apparent not only in presentation, but more importantly, in taste. Whilst some may argue that to call food ‘art’ is rather obnoxious, I feel that dishes of this nature could only be fairly recognised as such.
The squid, kombu and lovage course pictured below is a fitting example. Presented to the diner as a sprinkling of seaweed and garnish on a bed of sliced squid, the dish sprang to life with a pouring of steaming dashi soup. Dancing and curling in reaction, seeing the dish playfully transform from its static state was really quite mesmerising.
Some of the flavour combinations were daring- take the sweet potato and “bottarga” (dense cured fish roe) as a case in point, a dish which combined salty and sweet flavours to great success.
Others toyed with textures to create an alluring palette, such as the white fungus, soursop and bergamont dessert. In many dishes, an ensemble of crunchy, smooth, dry and liquid elements combined to add new depth.
Our night at RAW could not be described as anything short of wonderful. It is with that that I make my strong recommendation that if you are seeking a dining experience that attends to both food, service and atmosphere to the highest degree, you will be well served by RAW. That is, if you can get yourself a reservation…!*
Do you like fine dining? What is a meal that to this day, you can’t forget? Let me know in the comments below!
Set 8 course meal: Lunch and dinner both $1,850 per pax + 10% Service Charge
Address: No.301, Le Qun 3rd Road, Taipei City, Taiwan
Nearest MRT: Jinnan Rd Station
Opening Hours: Wednesday- Sunday
Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm
Dinner: 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Interested in dining at RAW?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a reservation at RAW is notoriously hard to get. I wish I were kidding- if you take a peek at the reviews on their Facebook page, among those singing highest praise of the restaurant, are complaints claiming the booking system is the devil spawn (that’s putting it lightly- these people don’t hold back at expressing their discontent). Based on these posts, it seems people wait for months with no avail.
So how did I get a booking?
As per RAW’s instructions, after checking their website to see if there was any availability, I messaged them using the contact form on their website. As requested, I gave my contact details and wrote when I was available to visit. I politely wrote my request and expressed my strong desire to dine there. I later received an email thanking me for my interest, and letting me know they’d be in touch if a spot opened up. I messaged on a Tuesday, and by the grace of the Food Gods I received an email just two days later saying a spot had opened up for that Saturday. Of course I quickly emailed back thanking them for their trouble, and that was that.
My suggestions for how to secure a spot are as follows: Book well in advance, be as flexible as possible- give a number of days when you are available to dine, be polite in your correspondence and be patient.