Three Ravens Restaurant & Wine Bar

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People: 2

Type: A La Carte

Price: $227.38 (average of 2 visits, tip included)

Verdict: Obsess

                 Three Ravens is a semi out-of-the-way fine dining establishment in Banff, Alberta offering up spectacular views while you wine and dine for any conceivable occasion. Getting to the actual restaurant is a journey in itself and, once you manage to actually find the place, the dining experience does not disappoint. The restaurant aims to deliver a very specific experience, which shows in the way they approach their reservations (something I will be talking about in a later portion of the review). Also unique to three ravens is their selection of Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, Vegan, ETC options on the menu which you don’t normally find with fine dining.

Service

                 Three Ravens prides itself on exceptional food and service packaged together to provide a unique experience in an unlikely place. As mentioned earlier, the reservations they take aren’t to fill the tables they have, but instead to ensure exceptional service from A to Z. With 4 servers on any given night, they aim to have only 2 tables per server. This results in a very personalized experience from an extremely attentive server. Walking in, we were immediately seated with my date having her chair pulled out for her as we sat down. The second we sat down, somebody was already over with water and a drink menu. Our server gave us a few minutes to look at the menu and eventually got our drink order as well. Both times we went, were almost identical to each other. Throughout the night we felt extremely looked after and any of the stupid questions I asked were answered immediately or the answer was found within seconds and relayed back to me. I loved this dedication to service and it really enhanced my overall experience as I felt the servers cared about us having a good dinner.

The Amuse-Bouche for one of the nights; Mussel marinated in pistou, topped with crème fraîche and radish

                 The first night went so well that we even tried getting a second reservation the next night. Unfortunately for us they were booked up but after some very minor pleading, they were able to accomodate us later in the evening for the night we requested. The second time we received the same type of service and with the same type of stupid questions being answered just as enthusiastically. Ultimately, we ended up meeting the chef to express our love for this fine establishment and he could not have been more humble. I’ve been to a few michelin starred restaurants and I would argue the service we received here was on-par with anything I’ve gotten elsewhere.

Appetizers/Soups

Local Duck and B.C. Mushroom Consommé ($18.00)

Smoked Alberta Duck Breast, Pickled B.C. Morels, Seared King Oyster, Mushrooms, Mushroom Pureé, Soft Boiled Quails Eggs

                 Let’s get one thing clear right out of the gate: the presentation of the food was stunning across the board. The consommé came separate from the rest of the dish and was added at the table in a bit of showmanship by the server as he explained what was on the dish. The attention to detail here was fantastic as he pointed out the bits breaking off and swimming in the consommé was part of the mushroom pureé.

                 As he pours and talks about the dish, I found my anticipation rising. Simply looking at it, before diving in, was a visual feast. The contrast of the dark broth to the colorful ingredients really highlighted the presence of each and every part of the dish. The seared oysters were firm, but not chewy and the duck was beautifully cooked medium rare. The duck breast was cut really thin but still retained it’s shape magnificently but at the same time still had a satisfying mouth-feel. It didn’t feel like I was shorted any meat and on the contrary, for an appetizer, it was quite filling.

Salad of Local Baby Romaine with Bear and the Flower Farm Pork Cheek ($19.00)

Sous Vide Alberta Free-Range Egg, Grizzly Gouda and Pine Nut Butter, Alberta Roasted Garlic Purée, Oscar’s Breadstick, Herb Emulsion

                 Another fantastically plated appetizer with the only detraction being the breadstick. With it rolling all over the place, the breadstick felt like an afterthought. I would have preferred a smaller portion or two smaller breadsticks that fit inside the plate so it actually looked like a part of the dish. The sous-vide egg was understandably pale but the chili strips sprinkled on top really popped as a result. The butter adds some much needed contrast to the otherwise colorfully diverse presentation and the romaine looked wonderfully fresh.

                 The star here was the pork cheek; soft as ever, slightly salty, and tender enough to not require a knife to cut. Even though the breadstick looked and felt hard and crumbly, it was in actuality soft and chewy. I ended up breaking it up into chunks and eating them like croutons, which added a great texture. While it may not have looked like it belonged, when incorporated into the salad it definitely compliments. The yolk of the sous-vide egg was not runny but still had this half done/undone consistency which I loved, as it made it easy to eat with everything else. The romaine was fresh and elevated by the pine nut butter and gouda. I was really impressed by the gouda and wish there had been more but the slight sweetness it had might have ended up being overpowering in larger portions so I understand why there was so little. This was a really light appetizer compared to the duck and helped prepare me for the mains to come.

Mains

Grilled Alberta Angus Reserve Beef Tenderloin ($48.00)

Three Ravens Spice Rub, Wagyu Beef Cheek Ragoût, Maple-Yam Purée, Local Oyster Mushroom Salad with Black Truffle Vinaigrette, Broccolini, Bone Marrow Jus

                 The contrasting colors was a sight to behold; dark meat, bright purée, perfect amount of jus. All the elements were clearly visible and just heightens the anticipation felt while the server is walking you through the entire dish. There was one slight issue however, I’ll leave that for the end. I’m not a giant fan of yams in general but man, I fell in love with the purée! The maple infusion added even more sweetness to the point that by itself, the purée was TOO sweet. That being said, it’s offset beautifully by the slight bitterness of the jus and brings the yams down to a level which is jaw-dropping. The earthiness of the mushroom salad also paired well with the sweetness of the yams and contributed to bringing down the sweetness level just enough to produce the same results.

                 They had fried bone marrow on top of the steak which was absolutely beautiful, and fantastically crispy. It’s also obviously airy but loses some of its flavour and instead provides a texture that can’t be found on any other part of the dish. It was a nice bonus to have but apart from the presentation, I wouldn’t have been missing anything if they hadn’t included it. I forgot to ask what the spice rub consisted of but the steak burst with flavour every time I bit into it. When asked how I wanted to steak done I let the server know that it was up to the chef. Let me preface this by saying, I can eat pretty much any cook of steak imaginable; from blue to well-done. The steak was supposed to be medium-rare but ended up being rare/medium-rare throughout. On a basic level I don’t mind this for flavour, but presentation wise I would expect one cook throughout; either rare or medium-rare, not both. This was the only fault I could find with the dish, the oysters were even firm and well-cooked (an easy to mess-up ingredient).

Oven Roasted Organic B.C. Chicken Breast ($37.00)

Lemon-Sage Local Baby Potatoes, B.C. Morel Mushrooms, Black Truffle Butter, Sunchoke and Chestnut Cream, Asparagus, Thyme Jus

                 My first thought when this was put in front of me was “Wow, that’s a lot!” This was prevalent with almost all the dishes that were ordered. For a fine dining restaurant, the serving sizes are large and this one is no exception. The chicken had a nice sear and beautiful colours with the jus looking like an extension of it. The colours felt a little one-dimensional to me but other than that, the plating was fantastic.

                 The star here was once again the protein; crispy skin, tender, juicy and the jus packing so much flavour with the chicken. Quite possibly, this was the favourite non-dessert of the night. The crispy chicken skin was extremely savoury and made me wish the entire thing was made of just skin. Hands down, this was the best jus I’ve had anywhere. It had a ton of body to it, to the point that it could be mistaken for a gravy. The bed of cream was sweet and nutty with a very smooth consistency that paired well with the crispy on the outside, soft on the inside potatoes. The morels were new to me and I’m confident given enough exposure, I will come to love them. However, this time I was not a fan of the cell-like texture and was not prepared for how spongy it would be. Ultimately I get why they’re so prized and will continue to “train” myself to love them but for now I wasn’t really a fan. In smaller quantities, I thought the morels were fantastic but it’s kind of like eating ice-cream. Tastes great at the start and before you know it, you’ve eaten an entire gallon and are regretting every decision you made in your life that lead to that moment. Lastly, the asparagus had a decent sear and were still snappy. It was nice to find a restaurant that doesn’t overcook the asparagus for once!

Desserts

Vital Green Farms Organic Milk Crème Brûlée ($13.00)

Hammersley Farms Blueberry Jelly, Summer Berries, Sundried Blueberry Biscotti

                 Beautiful, elegant, sophisticated, elevated. Forget everything you thought you knew about a crème brûlée and embrace this modern reimagining of a classic. The absence of a container is visually striking and gives you a moment of “wait, isn’t this supposed to be a crème brûlée?” They’ve managed to achieve this by giving the cream the consistency of a panna cotta. This is the perfect example of why I order “classics” at high-end restaurants, to hopefully see something I haven’t seen before, and Three Ravens delivers spectacularly.

                 I could gush about this dessert all day but at some point we need to talk about the taste. The burnt sugar cracks as you would expect from a regular crème brûlée and the panna cotta quickly melts in your mouth to give you that familiar taste you expect. The biscotti is surprisingly sweet and crumbles easily and my dislike for blueberries is softened with the subtle taste. The fresh berries were tart and the blueberry jelly complimented the rich dessert with much-needed acidity. I love everything about this dessert and while I love the classic Crème Brûlée, this reimagination is my new golden standard.

Fairwinds Farm Organic Goat Cheese and Pecan Tart ($14.00)

Strawberry Curd, Rhubarb Sorbet

                 A light dessert, whimsically plated, highlights the freshness of various berries and brings goat cheese to the forefront of usage. The color distribution is smart and again highlights every element of the plate. The tart itself crumbles without difficulty and has a rich very familiar taste of goat cheese. Everything would be TOO sweet if not for the cool and bitter rhubarb sorbet. I still can’t deal with the texture of rhubarb but this is the best form it’s taken yet. If it wasn’t for the pecan crumbles, the tart would be too creamy, so I was extremely satisfied with the choice to add the pecan on the top instead of mixing it into the goat cheese. If you’re a fan of berries and have a sweet tooth, I can’t think of a better choice than this.

Ocoa Dark Chocolate and Tonka Bean Mousse Cake ($14.00)

Haskap Berry Jam, White Chocolate-Cilantro Sauce, Crunchy Meringue

                 I’ve spoken a lot about the draw that a variety of colors has on one’s palette but nothing exemplifies that more than this cake. I want you to take a moment, sit back, and look at the picture above and just take it all in. Nothing I say here will do justice to how this was plated and if you ever go to Three Ravens, I would suggest getting this dessert if only to look at. That being said, let’s just dive right into how it was.

                 Cilantro might sound weird for a dessert, and the sauce might look TOO green for one too, but holy smokes does it ever work. The sauce largely tastes of white chocolate but you can definitely taste just a hint of cilantro in it. I would go so far as to say this is the best dessert sauce I’ve ever had. Those of you with a cilantro aversion should most likely stay away from eating any of this. It’s an odd combination but when combined with the cake, just makes sense on your tongue. The cake itself was thick and rich and a layer of haskap berry jelly forces your mouth to chew an otherwise melt-in-your-mouth concoction.

                 There is a separate serving of the haskap berries but I found them to have an odd texture and slightly sour on their own. I wasn’t able to eat them all alone but the ones that were in the cake were absolutely demolished. Lastly, the meringue is reminiscent of candy as a kid — I don’t know what it was called but it was hard, brittle once you start breaking into it and dissolved immediately when put in your mouth. I loved them as a kid and here I am at 31 years old, still raving about their inclusion here.

Final Thoughts

                 Three Ravens is the quintessential experience on offer in Alberta which highlights local delicacies and elevates classic favourites. This is one restaurant that I will gladly make the 4 hour drive to try everything on the menu, then rinse and repeat when the menu changes. From the views, to the service, to the presentation, to the taste, nothing is lacking here. My only complaint would be that the portion sizes are too large; which honestly seems like a ridiculous complaint but if you’re expecting your diners to have an appetizer, main, dessert AND offering an amuse-bouche at the start and an after-dinner snack, something needs to give. I wasn’t able to finish my plate on a couple of occasions, despite my willingness to and my anguish at all that good food going to waste.

                 All that being said, if you’re a heavy eater and don’t mind spending a little more on your dinner for a unique experience, you can’t go wrong with Three Ravens. They are the closest in Alberta I’ve come to a true fine dining experience and am really excited to keep track of what they come up with in the future. With an ever-changing seasonal menu that reflects their aim to serve fresh local food, even the pickiest diner is sure to find something to love.

For pictures of food that I’m eating or sneak peeks into reviews I will be doing in the future, check out my instagram and don’t forget to follow for all future updates!

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