Raj Palace expands its flavours across town
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.
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.
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.
Bourbon cocktails are the order of the day inside the Bourbon Room, located inside the National on 10th.