Raj Palace ex­pands its flavours across town

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life -

2011 and just a few weeks ago, a third lo­ca­tion in Mid­lake Plaza (15425 Ban­is­ter Road S.E., 403454-3345). In ad­di­tion, a fourth lo­ca­tion is set to open in Royal Oak in March.

The new­est lo­ca­tion — Mid­lake Plaza — is a small, 30-seat room, done in sim­ple browns and whites. A ban­quette wraps around the room, al­low­ing ta­bles to be shifted for larger and smaller groups. It’s the small­est of the three cur­rent lo­ca­tions, but the menu is lengthy and iden­ti­cal to the oth­ers, the one ex­cep­tion be­ing that the down­town Raj Palace of­fers a buf­fet which in­cludes many north­ern In­dian dishes. There are no buf­fets at the other lo­ca­tions.

Chef Tamil, who hails from Tamil Nadu, where he trained at and worked in many ho­tels, has de­vel­oped a menu that runs from achari fish tikka of yo­gurt, chili and garam masala-mar­i­nated fish to goat vin­daloo. Many dishes come with a warn­ing that the food is very spicy, so be­ware. (Note: It’s not all spicy, and there are many dishes for those who pre­fer a milder palate.) The most pop­u­lar item on the menu is chicken vepedu, a fried chicken dish rolled in south­ern In­dian spices and topped with cashews and co­rian­der leaves. (It may change your per­cep­tion of KFC.)

And if there isn’t a Raj Palace near you yet, just wait a bit. At this rate, there may be one com­ing to your neigh­bour­hood soon. en­joy the out­doors with a re­lax­ing bev­er­age. Spe­cialty cock­tails have been cre­ated for the lounge and wine and hot bev­er­ages are avail­able, too. Cre­ated by Frozen Mem­o­ries Ice Stu­dio, the lounge is also a fine place to cool off af­ter a dip in Deer Lodge’s hot tub. (Or vice versa.)

And if you like to take a dip into other things, The Post Ho­tel has opened Fon­due Stubli, a 24-seat fon­due restau­rant. (Stubli means a small, cosy room.) In what was for­merly a cigar room at The Post, the com­fort­able space sits ad­ja­cent to the main din­ing room. It of­fers a full range of fon­dues: cheese, bour­guignon (beef in broth) and Chi­nese, more broth but filled with Asian flavours. To fin­ish, Fon­due Stubli of­fers a Swiss choco­late fon­due. The restau­rant is open daily for din­ner.

The Post has long been the only Re­lais & Chateau prop­erty in our neck of the woods. Re­lais & Chateau is an in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion that rec­og­nizes ex­cel­lence in restau­rants and ho­tels. To be in­vited to join their ranks is a ma­jor ac­co­lade.

Now the Kens­ing­ton River­side Inn has been in­cluded into the Re­lais & Chateau fel­low­ship. The 19-room bou­tique ho­tel be­comes one of only 13 prop­er­ties across Canada to be iden­ti­fied at such a high level. Con­grats to the KRI team.

The vibe in­side the Bour­bon Room is fairly sub­dued on a Thurs­day night con­sid­er­ing the rau­cous party rag­ing on the main floor of the beer hall in which this bour­bon bar re­sides. Cou­ples sip craft cock­tails and re­con­nect while larger groups share laughs over flights of Ken­tucky’s finest. The room is charged with a quiet en­ergy that makes you want to linger.

“We’re try­ing to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that’s unique in Cal­gary,” ex­plains Stephen Phipps of the Con­corde Group, the com­pany be­hind the Bour­bon Room and such gas­tro-hits as Model Milk and Na­tional on 17th.

“At first it’s a lit­tle bit of a cul­ture shock.”

In­deed. To get up­stairs into the in­ti­mate, 50-seat lounge you’ve got to nav­i­gate through Na­tional on 10th, which thumps nightly with Hoff­brau-Haus in­ten­sity. Be­hind the heavy cur­tains, which muf­fle all the beer hall hoot­ing and hol­ler­ing, the mood is much mel­lower. The small space fea­tures sub­dued light­ing, red leather up­hol­stered booths and deep, com­fort­able chairs that in­vite con­ver­sa­tion. In place of big-screen TVs, the walls are hung with taste­ful, vin­tage black-and-white boudoir photograph­s of beau­ti­ful women. At least my hus­band isn’t watch­ing hockey, right?

With the time-warp decor, the Bour­bon Room feels like an ex­clu­sive, pro­hi­bi­tion-era speakeasy — or else a re­ally cool mod­ern man room — which is ex­actly the am­bi­ence the Con­corde Group was go­ing for. Though the gate­way to bour­bon cock­tails (through a busy beer hall) is un­ortho­dox, Phipps says it works to bring in cus­tomers, even if they some­times ratchet up the party at­mos­phere.

“It gets a lit­tle bit looser, a lit­tle more lively, but we still keep it un­der con­trol,” says Phipps, who cre­ated the cock­tail menu. No keg stands or ta­ble danc­ing, in other words.

It’s a neat con­cept, but why bour­bon, a whiskey from Ken­tucky, in­stead of some­thing Cana­dian, like rye?

Phipps ad­mits he loves bour­bon, but he’s also tap­ping in on a trend: bour­bon is the dar­ling of the spirit world right now and is gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity here and in the United States.

“It’s the hottest spirit. Peo­ple read about it and want to try ob­scure la­bels. We have the best bour­bon list in the city, if not the coun­try,” Phipps says. There are 53 kinds of bour­bon on the menu, from the well known Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek brands to a trio of pricey Old Rip Van Win­kle bour­bons. Ryelovers will be happy to know there are over 10 ryes avail­able, in­clud­ing Al­berta Pre­mium and Al­berta Pre­mium Dark Horse from Al­berta Distillers in Cal­gary.

But I’m here to try the cock­tails and the menu doesn’t dis­ap­point. I sam­ple the sweet bour­bon sour while my hus­band or­ders the savoury ver­sion (see recipe). Mine is smooth and frothy with a flavour I can only de­scribe as Cream­si­cle, which I

2 oz Buf­falo Trace bour­bon 1 oz fresh le­mon juice 1 bar­spoon Di­jon mus­tard

1 egg white 2 dashes An­gos­tura bit­ters Black pep­per to gar­nish

Add all in­gre­di­ents to mix­ing glass (ex­clud­ing pep­per). Dry shake in­gre­di­ents for 10 sec­onds (an aer­a­tion de­vice, such as the metal coil at­tached to the strainer, helps a lot). Add ice and shake again vig­or­ously for 15 sec­onds. Dou­ble strain into a chilled coupe glass. Lightly cover top of cock­tail with freshly cracked black pep­per.

Night Moves

2 oz Comte de Lau­via Im­pe­rial XO 12-year Ar­magnac

3/4 oz Amaro Nonino 1/4 oz Pierre Fer­rand Dry Cu­ra­cao 10 drop of Bit­tered Sling Moon­dog bit­ters

Add all in­gre­di­ents to mix­ing glass. Add ice, then stir con­sis­tently for 15 sec­onds.

Gar­nish with orange skin oils ex­pressed through flame into chilled coupe be­fore strain­ing the drink into a chilled coupe glass.

Stuart Gradon/Cal­gary Her­ald

Raj and Nam­ratha Mo­han flank chef Tamil at Cal­gary’s first Raj Palace restau­rant down­town. A sec­ond eatery is in Coun­try Hills while a third opened re­cently in Mid­lake Plaza. A Royal Oak lo­ca­tion is next.

Cal­gary Her­ald/Files

Bour­bon cock­tails are the or­der of the day in­side the Bour­bon Room, lo­cated in­side the Na­tional on 10th.

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