Last night was opening night at RAW: Almond!
And that’s where I was headed last night, clutching my coveted tickets and skidding along the river trail to make sure I got there in time. No joke, I was running late and started to worry I might lose my space! I was in such a rush it took me a moment to spot the restaurant – an all-white construction, it really does seem to be rising out of the ice, perched just below a bridge covered in lights.
The year, one of the new additions was a tasting bar, so that’s what I decided to try out. The tasting menu is served at a single long table for 10 with shared benches covered in fleecy blankets – it gets you chatting and bonding with your tablemates almost immediately. (we all made a pact as soon as we sat down, that we would not judge each other for instagramming all our food 🙂 )
To celebrate the first night, Chef Scott Bagshaw of Deseo Bistro started us off with a glass of Veuve Cliquot – which quickly got us raising a toast to him. To get something more than a glass, you can order from a list of wines by the glass or bottle – Jaegermeister is also available if you need a little more warmth, and yes, they have credit/debit out on the ice! The waitstaff (in furry hats) isn’t just attentive, they’re fun – they made sure the food and conversation kept flowing and our glasses stayed filled.
And the food? FANTASTIC. Although it’s called a tasting menu, we got enough for a substantial meal over 3 courses, and all of it delicious. To go with the champagne, we started with a miso crab dish with marrow served alongside – I’d never tried marrow before, an d I got a little messy, but it was worth it to get to the wonderfully rich stuff. It was followed by precisely plated foie gras, pork cheek bacon pickled beets and carrots – and a peeled grape or two, to make you feel like a pampered king or queen. The meal finished with a rabbit ragout on brioche, paired with a warming shot of rye whisky to send you on your way.
Speaking of warmth, you might be wondering – just how warm IS a restaurant on the surface of a frozen river? Pretty comfy actually! Warm air is piped in directly at your table, and of course all the cooking going on adds to the warmth. Don’t get me wrong, warm boots are a must and I went with a couple of long-underwear-ish layers, but tuques and gloves were shed immediately, and our table all sat with their jackets open. The kitchen sits directly between the dining room and tasting bar, with large open windows on each side, and we could see that kitchen staff were even working in tshirts! I loved this setup – you can watch your favourite chefs at work and go chat with them after the meal – it was the perfect chance to go say thanks for an amazing experience.
To check if there are still tickets available, call Deer + Almond Restaurant or RAW Gallery – and if you’re out of luck, remember, brunch happens on weekends and is walk-up! Enjoy 🙂