If there’s one thing I adore, it’s good food. As a Calgarian, it’s easy to see why- we have a vibrant food scene! Nothing beats the feeling of entering an establishment packed to the brim with tasty eats you hadn’t tried before. As a new parent living in a city without family I, regrettably, haven’t done a lot of dining out in the last year. And I miss it. The sights, sounds, and smells of a packed restaurant. The people-watching. The flowing wine. I miss it all!
So, when my sister was visiting last weekend, I took the opportunity to get gussied up and head out on the town. We chose a restaurant carefully, ensuring it was one neither of us had visited before. Raw Bar, located in the trendy Hotel Arts downtown, won our vote. We went in with high expectations, hoping for something to wow us. We were not disappointed!
Offering a wide array of Vietnamese fusion dishes, Raw Bar’s menu is scintillating. Their food is a culinary experience, and I can say so with authority as my sister and I ordered about 1/4th of the menu! We settled in with a charmingly funny waitress, who made a superb wine recommendation and started our feast.
We ordered four appetisers. Yes, four! The salt and pepper cauliflower and crispy sweet potato roll were ordered first and were amazing. We only set out to have two appies but couldn’t stop after we had eaten them! I was so impressed with the cauliflower that I wanted to order a second helping but my sister, in her infinite wisdom, suggested we order some new items instead.
Cue the taro and papaya slaw, which we ordered as it walked by en route to another table, and the pork belly steam buns. That slaw was the biggest surprise of the night for me as I generally don’t enjoy slaw of any kind. But it looked just stunning as it passed our table, and my sister loves salads, so I took the risk. It paid off! Light, fragrant, and fruity- it was a revelation. I highly recommend it.
While we were practically licking the slaw’s citrus dressing from the plate, our one entrée, to split, arrived. The lemongrass roasted half duck, excuse my drool, was fantastic. With sliced breast and chunked dark meat on the plate, we were not left wanting more. This was exactly what I was after when we booked our reservation. This entrée was the reason we chose Raw Bar over the many other acclaimed restaurants in town. The dish was like a high-end, trendy Peking duck. Hoisin sauce on rice crepes, add greens and a healthy helping of duck, all wrapped up in a mini roll. I believe the phrase “om, nom, nom” was created specifically for dishes like this. We cleaned the plate.
And, lastly, our dessert arrived- The tamarind curd. We didn’t know what it was when we ordered it. Truthfully, we still don’t know what it was now that we’d devoured it, but we would order and inhale it again. Which is all you need to know! It was either a gel or firm pudding. At any rate, it was creamy and spiced and had a scrumptious red coulis to accompany it. It left a perfectly light final note on our evening.
At the end of our nearly 3-hour dinner date, my sister and I were stuffed, satisfied, and happy as could be with our choice of Raw Bar. We tipped our server well, for her perfect demeanour and fabulous wine suggestion, and headed out to the car.
As we were walking out of Hotel Arts, we almost fell into another restaurant, Yellow Door, located in the same hallway. It had an enchantingly quirky décor that the host, who had one of the craziest moustaches I’ve ever seen, allowed us in to examine. I don’t know if it was the lingering good mood from our feast at Raw Bar, but we were smitten beyond belief. It appears we will pay Hotel Arts another visit in the near future. Yellow Door, we are coming for you! www.rawbaryyc.ca.
Written by Kaeleigh MacDonald
Kaeleigh MacDonald runs the popular infertility blog Unpregnant Chicken where she writes her musings on the wild world that is “trying to conceive”. She holds a B.Ed. in Educational Psychology as well as an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology although nowadays she spends most of her time entertaining her toddler and exploring Calgary. Follow Kaeleigh on Facebook and Twitter.