Have you ever woken up the day after a birthday party, with its accompanying revery and libations, only to realize you forgot you had a cocktail brunch to attend early the next day? I have and the beautiful Raw Bar at the Lobby Lounge in Fairmont's Pacific Rim did not disappoint! The old saying 'hair of the dog that bit you' or just 'hair of the dog' stems from the belief that if you drank a gallon, or ten, of a particular alcoholic beverage the night before a glass of it will help cure your hangover the next day. The Germans call it a 'counter-beer', Austrians a 'relief beer' while the Spanish and Italians believe 'a nail pulls out another nail.' There can be no other reason for a cocktail brunch and there need not be! This was the best, the absolute best, brunch I have ever had!
The first of our five courses, yes five, was the Red Tuna Tataki. It was served with a yuzu kosho vinaigrette, soy gelée, daikon and micro greens. The mouth watering tuna has a distinct soy taste and was melt in your mouth fresh. It was paired marvellously with their LIght-Zaiten cocktail. A mixture of gin, organic green tea, dry vermouth, rosemary, cucumber, lime. The subtle cucumber taste accented well by the rosemary and it washed the tuna down as though they'd been preordained from birth to do so! We also ordered the Torched Wagyu Beef Salad because not only do we need to be thorough in our culinary reviews, but also because we are gluttonous hedonists. No excuses. The wagyu beef was served with red onion, sake-beet purée, scallion-ginger emulsion, nori chips and miso crème fraîche. Wagyu beef is the best beef on earth, move over Kobe, so tender and flavourful! Miso crème fraîche is also one of my new favourite thing! If they made a flavoured toothpaste I'd buy it. Heck if they made a miso crème fraîche shampoo I'd use it. They paired the beef salad with an amazing Bloody Mary: vodka, lemon, tomato juice, sriracha, horseradish, salt and pepper. Americans don't believe clams and tomatoes belong together, they just don't. Call it forbidden love, but they don't see the correlation and I can't blame them. I can't even fathom who first thought they ought to be combined, but I ain't mad at cha, got nothing, but fo ya! Hence the Bloody Mary instead of the Canadian treasure, the Caesar. Add Sriracha to anything and I'm in, it was simply delicious. So much so I had to order another just to make sure their mixologists were being consistent. Ya, that's what it was.
Starting to feel human again I salivated as the next course, a steaming bowl of their Signature Bacon and Sable Miso soup, was laid in front of me. Hands down the best miso soup I have ever had!! Two exclamation points. Bacon dashi, house-cured sable, ginger and scallion in a magnificent miso broth. Bacon, bacon, bacon! As an aside, In 2013 65% of Americans polled would gladly have named bacon as their national food. I started with the broth and, wow, it is amazing. Miso with a touch of sweetness. The bacon dashi may have been the best bacon I've ever tasted! Even the tofu, renowned as the world's blandest food, was delicious as it took in the flavour of the divine broth. They served it with their Beer Makes Miso Happy: Grand Marnier, wheat beer, ginger, lemon. I chortled when I first read the name. Apparently I'm not the only one who tries to let their personality shine through their writing, hats off! It was tangy, well balanced and refreshing! Again, for consistency's sake, I had to order another and the second was even better than the first.
The next course came and I was excited; this was what I'd been waiting for! The Wild Salmon Motoyaki “Benny”. I love eggs Benedict and I always have. I still think back, at least once a month, fondly to one time when I ordered a king crab Benny and my date had a lobster Benny and we each traded one... And it's been 3-4 years... Raw Bar's offering featured a poached egg, sweet milk bread, ikura, miso hollandaise and avocado. I frequently judge a Benny by its muffin. Fresh and airy English muffin and you've got yourself a good Benny. Deliciously fluffy sweet milk bread as the base is my new gold standard, excellent! Farmed versus wild salmon really makes a difference. Google all the health benefits, and they are myriad, but the taste benefit cannot be overlooked. Adding a touch of miso into the hollandaise is a stroke of genius and the ikura was fresh and flavourful. It paired well with the Pepe Le Pew, a meeting of Lillet rosé, sherry and sparkling brut. The sherry really mutes the sweetness of the brut and balances the cocktail perfectly, but the name of the cocktail had me in stitches. Chris Rock brilliantly satirizes Pepe in one of his standup acts. Give it a Google!
Jenn ordered the Kurobuta Pork Kakuni, a braised pork belly, 62°c egg, sweet soy broth, daikon, carrot, potato with tamanishiki rice. The pork belly was very tender and breaks apart easily, no knife necessary! They perfectly made the 62 degree egg, very gooey. Bite size potato, carrot and daikon. Dip the rice in the sweet soy broth and include a mouthful of pork and it's worth the trip on its own. It came with the Pork ‘N’ Cider which consists of Lonetree cider, sweet vermouth and sherry. It was sweet and tasty and Jenn liked it the most of all the selections to that point.
Now for what Raw Bar is famous for, sushi! The Sushi Omakase featured maki, nigiri, hako and temari and was paired with a delicious Sparkling Junmai Sake. That's right champagne sake and it is good as it sounds! The rolls were as close to perfection as one can get: incredibly fresh sashimi, you'd expect nothing less in the lobby of Vancouver's premiere hotel, inventive flavours and even the sardine sushi was really good. These aren't those pickled, smelly sardines from a can, you could tell immediately this guy (or girl) was swimming only days or weeks earlier!
The dessert was equally as inventive. The Yakult Shooter came out on an actual oyster shell, cleaned of course, and featured plum gelée, pear, matcha green tea, black sesame powder and yuzu pearl. It disappeared in an instant and was sweet and delicious. Just the right size for a fifth course. You wouldn't want to try and dig through a 1,000 calorie piece of cake after all that! It came with the Wakayama Beach: gin, yuzu, basil, coconut water and ginger. The yuzu flavours really shined through from each and they went together like peas in a pod, very, very good! Leaning back in our chairs and enjoying the soulful pianist tickle the ivories we couldn't help, but wonder what else the menu might have in store for us. We requested one from our lovely server and oooo'ed and awed over Raw Bar's regular selection and vowed to be back with a fortnight. And we will!