As you enter the sleek, minimalistic room, located inside Hotel Arts, your eyes are drawn to soothing, sensual lines, striking columns, warm blue tones and Bisazza mosaics adorning the walls. You get the feeling something special is about to happen.
We visited the Raw Bar this spring to sample the Vietmodern cuisine prepared by Peter Paiva, Chef de Cuisine, and his team. Unlike the name sake, most of the dishes on the menu are not, in fact, raw. The name derives from its inception when the bar was divided into two sections: with the bartenders on one side collaborating with the chefs on the other as they prepared chilled appetizers like raw oysters and tuna tataki. The name stuck and so did the cool tunes that play in the background as a shoutout to when the venue was the popular Westward Club in the 80s and 90s.
Before and during dinner delve into the extensive list of wine and spirits, as they love to pair the drinks and wine with their dishes. GM Franz Swinton, who is also a Master Bartender and booster of Calgary’s cocktail scene, is the inspiration for many of the craft cocktails with unique titles, twists on old favourites and new inventions. Popular drinks include his “Gin & Timber” featuring Bombay Sapphire Gin, fresh sage, lime juice, old-fashioned bitters, honey and tonic water; and the “New Standard Mule” a ‘Moscow Mule’ with a kick, vodka, Grand Marnier, jalapeño, coriander, Angostura bitters and ginger beer.
The Vietmodern concept of Raw Bar celebrates Vietnamese heritage with some contemporary influences.Chef Paiva’s summer menu will feature an array of dishes that are OceanWise certified as well as tailored to gluten sensitivities. Moreover, he’s designed a menu that encourages shared plates. We took the opportunity to indulge in a few.
119 12th Avenue SW
Tu-Sat 4 pm – 11 pm
Patio open 11 am daily in summer
Starting with the Crispy Taro & Papaya Slaw, textural layers of deep-fried taro root spun into a noodle “nest”, julienne carrots, vacuum compressed green papaya with apple juice for sweetness and crunchy peanuts are complimented by a fresh, citrus vinaigrette of lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange and a hint of ginger. Each bite growing more complex and more rewarding.
Another great sharing choice the Lo Soi Pork Belly Steamed Buns is pork belly braised to tender in a sweet-savoury Vietnamese caramel sauce. Fold the meat into the soft, pillowy, Chinese steamed buns and add a little chili aioli for some heat.
We all dug the Spicy Salmon Tartare Tacos of fresh Atlantic Salmon tossed in Korean chili sauce, shredded Romaine, mint and Thai basil, sliced red pear and avocado and topped with Wasabi aioli loaded in crunchy wonton shells. Served resting on a lime wedge, give it a squeeze.
Next up were the Crab and Mango Salad Rolls, this lovely mixture of Dungeness crab tossed in a preserved lime aioli with shredded and compressed green papaya, fresh mango, pickled julienned carrots and Thai basil all wrapped up and sliced in bite sized pieces. Topped with mango salsa and sided with Hoisin peanut sauce for dipping.
From the large plate selection we chose the amazingly tender Soy Braised Beef Short Ribs. Braised “low and slow” in a sweet ginger, lemongrass and Kaffir lime sauce, charred shallots cooked sous vide, pickled Thai chilies and topped with crunchy peanuts. This dish rounded our meals (and bellies) and left us lavishing in epicurean delight.
Raw Bar is also known for their poolside service in the summer months. Where else can you sit and enjoy full service cuisine in a setting adorned with original art décor and an Italian Bisazza glass-tile pool. On Saturdays and Sundays, enjoy live DJ entertainment on the poolside patio. This is the place to be in downtown Calgary.
• Sugar snap peas
• Marinated seaweed, compressed apple, edamame bean, preserved lemon aioli
• King oyster mushroom, chili marinated cippolini, pickled apple, spiced jus
• Kaffir lime curry, Chinese doughnut
• Coconut crumbs and cremeux