Not being a person of any influence, I've never managed to book a table at RAW on my previous attempts. One is normally forced to book through the restaurant's website for parties of 7 and less, with parties of 8 and above considered as "chef's table" and open to phone booking via a different mechanism. When I've tried to book online exactly 13 days in advance, tables have always been booked out within 20 minutes of the start of the booking window. So while everyone's asked me whether I've been to RAW, my answer has always been negative.
So I had to thank my lucky stars tonight that I got to know Cathy from HaoKouFu (好口福), who gathered the twelve of us and here we were, seated at two tables put together just outside the kitchen. There was a hodgepodge of people tonight, but half the table turned out to be artisan suppliers of foods that manage to meet Cathy's very high standards - honed from her years of living in Paris. We had a chocolatier, a boulanger, and a couple of charcutiers. Shame that I wouldn't have time this trip to pay them a visit.
The chef's table has a slightly better menu than the regular menu - upgrading the protein course and supposedly using better ingredients overall for a roughly 50% premium to the regular price. Of course, I'd prefer an upgraded menu myself anyway... and I don't mind paying for the ability to book in advance.
The restaurant's trying to be cool by presenting a menu listing only the main ingredients - in a manner reminiscent of the grid from Eleven Madison Park. The menu, which comes in either English or Chinese depending on one's seat at the table, is tucked away in a drawer underneath the table top at each seat - along with all of the cutlery and the napkin. The only thing, though, is that I was too dim-witted to figure out why any of the three ingredients for each dish appear in their respective columns.
We brought along a few bottles of our own tonight...
2013 Matthieu Barret Petit Ours Brun - forest notes with cool fruit, with a hint of ripeness.
This was a very enjoyable evening. The food did not disappoint our high expectations, and I am told that the food is steadily improving with time. Chef de cuisine Alain Huang - who has spent time in the kitchens of Justin's Signature, STAY, Maaemo, and Les Crayères - is clearly doing something right. I look forward to coming back.