I am still trying to figure this place out.I checked it out a few months ago with friends as a late night stop for an expensive (as it turned out) drink and a bite: nice enough atmosphere at the Hotel Arts, not too crowded, stupid big chairs. They have subsequently replaced the stupid big chairs with slightly less stupid smaller chairs, which I was happy to see when I tried it tonight for dinner.
Had the Thai Lobster Bisque which was very very tasty, although at $9 I would have liked to have found even the smallest morsel of lobster in it, paired with a nice Alsatian Cremant by the glass. Then the slow-cooked pork and scallops, strong tastes but nicely done, with a glass of French Burgundy that unfortunately didn't have a lot of life in it.
I skipped the raw bar items themselves, decided tonight that I wanted something cooked. They specialise here in dishes prepared with the sous vide technique, where meat is cooked very slowly at low temperatures in vacuum-packed plastic. My pork dish was very tasty, and I overheard a gentleman who apparently tried their steak prepared in the same manner and was impressed: the steak is cooked very very slowly in plastic and then flash-grilled at the last moment if I understood correctly. Not sure how many other places in Calgary are into this, I have tried food prepared this way in a couple of places in New York and it can be enjoyable, meat dishes are rich, tender and juicy.
Finished up with a delicious dark chocolate torte with lychee ice cream, well presented, with a nice XO Armagnac.
OK quite good food, pricey but tasty and well presented and the service was attentive and polite, which was to be expected given that it was a Wednesday night and the place was definitely not busy. The quality of the dining experience however contrasts with the half-realised lounge atmosphere: not quite a hip, happening bar, not quite a classy, fusion bistro. A strange hybrid, and the crowd (or lack of it) reflected this. People walking next door to St. Germain seemed to know what to expect, but my fellow diners at Raw Bar tonight were mostly singles staying at the hotel thinking they were going to get a steak sandwiwch or chicken wings and then found themselves in a something of a Twilight Zone, and a group of 30-something ladies on a girls night out who were enjoying the expensive martinis and appetizers.
I really want to like this place, in Manhattan it would be packed with beautiful people most every night. But not sure how it fits in "Cowtown".
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