When André Chiang revealed he was opening RAW, many celebrated the announcement as a long-awaited homecoming, the Taiwan-born celebrity chef returning from his success abroad to establish a restaurant in Taipei. They rhapsodized about the merger of French cuisine and Taiwanese ingredients, fanning the flames of hype and hysteria, so that when the first seating was made public, the booking system was choked with requests. To this day, reservations are hard to come by.
My time dining there was, in other ways, another anticipated homecoming: my mother was in Taipei for a few weeks. I still view it as fate, how I managed to snag three seats—on a Saturday night, no less—to celebrate her birthday.
Mom has spent most of her adult life living away from the city and the country where she grew up. She forfeited a promising career in business to raise my brother and me in America, and in my moments of self-doubt, I believe she would have been far better off had she not. To combat the empty-nest syndrome that set in when my brother and I left home, she started to teach Chinese, and she does it with as much passion and patience as she put forth when raising us. She is now a naturalized citizen of the United States.
One day she will return to Taiwan; she talks about it frequently. America has been good, has opened up tremendous opportunities for us, but that chapter is closing. It is only a matter of time.
There is a fear in Taiwan that all the talent is flowing away. That, like a bucket riddled with holes, the country is being drained of its best and brightest as they pursue their futures elsewhere.
I do not subscribe to that cynicism. I think of my mother, and of Chef Andre, and of RAW, the cavernous space with the undulating woodwork where we dined. And I think what it means to have made it—to have won acclaim as the best chef in Singapore, or to have put two children through the Ivy League—and to have returned, in the end, to the inevitable draw of home.
Ceiling-to-floor windows, an exposed kitchen, and a massive wooden sculpture that doubles as a cocktail bar remind you that RAW is the restaurant where everyone hopes to be seen. Reservations, which are online-only, require fast fingers, as seats are sold out within seconds after release. The eight-course set menu changes seasonally but always features creative uses of local ingredients; highlights might include squid and sago pearls or sangria sorbet with lychees. Be sure to opt for bread to accompany your meal.
No. 301, Lequn 3rd Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City
Wed-Sun: 11:30-14:30, 18:00-22:00
02 8501 5800
About 2,035 TWD per person (excluding drinks)