Restaurant Review: Raw Bar

>> Thursday, March 20, 2014

It’s always sad when restaurants close because it’s shocking and unexpected. This was especially the case for me regarding Raw Bar because my husband and I got married at Hotel Arts a couple years ago and our reception was catered by Chef Duncan Ly of Raw Bar. Luckily they weren’t closing their doors forever but renovating the space and reopening with a new concept of ‘Viet Modern Cuisine’ and I couldn’t wait to check it out.
Atmosphere: A vast contrast to the old Raw Bar, the new room features bright interiors with blue and white accents. The colors really open up the room and give it a modernistic feel.
Price Range:  Mid $10s - $20s

Food and Wine: We decided to try a couple items off of their rolls, small and big sections of the menu (they also have a selection of raw items). Starting with the smaller plates we ordered the Beef Short Rib Steamed Buns. It came deconstructed so you could build it yourself. The beef was nicely marinated and tender with lots of sautéed onions and peppers. The buns were soft and warm, a perfect vessel for beef short ribs. It also came with a side of chili aioli for those who like a bit of a kick.
Our Crispy Sweet and Sour Prawns were served in a classic dim sum steamer with each being individually skewered. The tangy sauce was a nice compliment to the fried shrimp. It reminded me of tempura shrimp but without the extra batter, therefore making it slightly less crunchy. We also ordered the Whole Grilled Squid topped with a pineapple soy glaze and served with a lemon black pepper sauce. The squid was a good sized portion and nicely charred, providing that smokiness without it being chewy or tough.

From the Rolls section of the menu we tried the Pork Imperial Spring Rolls, which was served platter style. It came with pork spring rolls, glass noodles, herbs and nouc mam (the traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce made from fermented fish). Most Vietnamese dishes customarily require the diners to use their hands so I liked the idea of keeping it authentic and having the patrons construct their own wraps from all the various ingredients on the platter. Since this is one of the dishes I’ve eaten many times while growing up, I was extremely picky and did find the spring rolls to be a bit dry. The pork needed something extra to help it retain the moistness after frying. Wrapping it with the herbs, noodles and dipping it in the nouc mam helped, but the texture was a bit off for me, but again I was very very picky.
Our last dish that evening was the Pad Thai. Raw Bar’s version is not your conventional pad thai.  The dish was broth based comprised of beef and prawns, some vegetables, topped with lots of green onions and served in a coconut cream broth. It reminded me more of a thai yellow curry than a pad thai. The broth itself was fragrant and light and would be nice over rice. The dish itself did come with some noodles interspersed throughout but they weren’t meant to be the focus of Raw Bar’s take on this thai dish.

The wine list isn’t extensive, but does contain some of my favorites. We ordered a bottle of 19 Crimes, which has been a winner of various wine shows. It has a shiraz base, but isn’t as bold as your typical shiraz and is quite a bit sweeter. Due to it being a blend, it makes for a nice sipping wine, perfect for those venturing in to red wines.
My Pick: Beef Short Rib Steamed Buns
Overall: I didn’t know quite what to expect when I first heard Viet Modern, so for those in the same boat, the dishes are essentially an elevated version of what you’d find in a typical Asian restaurant and it’s not just limited to Vietnamese cuisine. The chef tries not to stray too far away from tradition but yet puts a unique spin on each of the dishes making them his own. Be prepared to sample items from multiple SE Asian countries in a beautifully new renovated space.
Raw Bar
119 12 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 206-9565

Raw Bar on Urbanspoon


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