So, apparently Leonardo DiCaprio ate here the last time he was in town. And, apparently he drank 10 of these lovely drinks – The Derelict. Although the name of the drink made me think of Zoolander (at least our server and my friends caught my sad impersonation), it was a good dinner drink – not too sweet and just a tad tart. The menu says it’s spiced plum and clove jelly, balanced with the delicate flavours of Skyy Vodka, Soho Lychee liqueur, fresh lemon and pineapple juice.
My two friends and I eat out often – it’s our opportunity to catch up and to experience what Calgary has to offer. I checked out Raw Bar when I ate at the Yellow Door Bistro this summer and it looked cool, so I put it on our list of places to try. Raw Bar did not let us down! The restaurant is kind of hidden inside Hotel Arts, and it’s linked to the Yellow Door with a short hallway. If you were to come here on a nice summer day, the patio surrounding the hotels outdoor pool is served by Raw Bar, and it’s a pretty awesome location. Raw Bar is modern, clean, and open (and if you hate having another table 6 inches from yours, you’re in luck – they are nicely spread out here). We went on a Thursday evening – the night they have live music – so, at times it was a bit loud to talk, but it wasn’t too bad most of the time. The music was quite enjoyable, so it was nice. Service was really quite good. At the beginning of the evening a few people were involved with our table, but once we placed our orders we had a very polite and knowledgeable young gent serving us. He was pretty impressive.
The food was delicious. We really didn’t know what to expect, so we went for the Chef’s Family Collection of shared plates to try a bit of everything. For $35 a person, we were initially concerned it may not be enough food for the 3 of us big eaters. However, we were each full by the time we were done, and it was super enjoyable.
The 7 dishes were served in 3 courses – appies, main and dessert. For the appies we got the Spicy Pork Belly Steamed Buns and the Marinated Prawn Noodle Salad. Yum! The pork belly was definitely spicy! They were relatively simple steamed buns, but they were delicious. I’m not a fan of how steamed buns stick to my teeth, but man, they are damn good. My only comment was (as to be expected with pork belly), one of the pieces of meat on my bun was 3/4 fat with a tiny bit of meat on the end. Perhaps if it hadn’t fallen out of my bun I would have ate it and not even noticed… but it did and I did.
The prawn noodle salad was very similar in flavour to a good (but cold) pad thai, but it seemed lighter and fresher (if that’s possible). I truly enjoyed this dish, and the prawns were large, and we each got 2. I would totally recommend you try this dish if you like pad thai.
Next came the main course with Chargrilled Flat Iron Steak, Confit Wild Mushroom Hot Plate, Stir Fried Shanghai Bok Choy with homemade XO sauce and Kaffir Lime Coconut Rice. Before I go any further, if you get the Chef’s Family Collection, you may want to ask for larger plates before being served the main course. We were given tiny little appie sized plates; I made a mess! There certainly wasn’t enough room on the plate to put a little bit of everything, and once it was full it was too hard to cut the steak and the bok choy without flinging bits of noodles and rice all over the table.
The steak was flavoured well, served with a fresh apple slaw that was really quite pleasant. I wasn’t impressed with the steak – it had a delicious flavour, but between the combination of the cut and the fact it was cooked rare, it was too chewy and sinewy. The mushroom hot plate was way better than I expected. It kind of just looked like a pile of glassy noodles with brown sauce and funny looking mushrooms, but the flavours were awesome and I was the lucky one to get to finish off the dish. I’d recommend this noodle dish for sure. The bok choy was cooked perfectly, with a nice crunch and a little bit of salt. It was topped with a number of things that I can’t remember… but they added flavour and texture to the dish to make it that much better. The rice was perfectly cooked and subtly flavoured. I wish I could make rice like that at home!
Dessert was a moist Organic Dark Chocolate Torte with Vietnamese Citrus and Passionfruit Ice Cream. The cake was very moist and tasty, but honestly I’ve never been a fan of mixing fruit with chocolate in baking. So, I took a couple bites to give it a fair chance and stopped. My friends thought it was great though. I just ate more of the passionfruit ice cream – OMG – bring me a tub of that stuff and I’d be in heaven!
All in all, I can’t wait to go back. Raw Bar has good food and provides a good experience, and for $35 the Chef’s Family Collection gave us really good bang for the buck. OH – street parking can be hard to find around here. If you park in the small lot to the east of Hotel Arts, bring your parking ticket inside with you and after dinner show the hotel reception your restaurant bill and parking ticket to get your parking validated. Save yourself $7.50!