Interest in raw food is heating up. We’re talking about the slippery freshwater variety, not vegan burgers. Watch for a wave of raw-seafood-obsessed bars to wash over territory once reserved for meaty bites of charcuterie. These trendy joints will see to it that various sea creatures and swimmers can be nibbled au naturel and as fresh as the ocean. Get ready for new raw experiences courtesy of two notable names: Chefs Matthew Carmichael and Steve Wall. Carmichael, who’s restaurant is set to open in early 2013, likes to pair fish with Asian flavours such as lime leaf and ponzu. Wall, who’s eatery Supply and Demand opens January 21, avoids cultural association and plays with all kinds of acidic elements — anything from pickle juice and buttermilk to vinegar and verjus (the juice of unripened grapes). Just don’t call it ceviche. To help prepare us for the hot new hangouts featuring bivalves and beds of shaved ice, we offer some quick pointers on a few of the most popular items found at raw bars.
Matthew Carmichael: El Camino, 380 Elgin St.
Steve Wall: Supply and Demand Foods & Raw Bar, 1335 Wellington St. W., 613-680-2949.
1. Sea Scallops: We’re definitely a seared scallop kind of town; at some restaurants, you’ll see them on almost every table. But when thinly sliced, raw, and naked, with just a sprinkle of sea salt or a squirt of citrus juice, these silky discs are a whole different story.
2. Razor Clams: Sure, you can batter and fry them, grill them with garlic butter, or toss them into clam chowder, but when shucked and pulled from their thin, brittle shell, the long, white, meaty clams can also be marinated with citrus, chili, and scallions and served raw to better appreciate the meat’s fresh, clean, sweet taste.
3. Crudo: Often seen on menus featuring tuna, crudo is the Mediterranean version of sashimi. Rather than wasabi and soy sauce, raw fish is simply dressed with olive oil, sea salt, or citrus juices.
4. Oysters: Thanks to The Whalesbone, Ottawa is home to a steady supply of top-notch sustainable oysters from both coasts, often with a menu of options when it comes to origins. The sexy delicacies go down like comfort food for the city’s Maritimers and wannabes — including a good number of the new guard of chefs and plenty of passionate shuckers.
5. Sea Urchin: Not everyone who first tastes the edible part of a spiky shellfish falls in love with its signature rich, metallic brininess. Uni, urchin’s Japanese name, is an acquired taste that transports urchin lovers to the ocean in a state of wave-lapping, lusty bliss. The bright orange tongue-shaped “roe” is actually the organ that produces the eggs rather than the eggs themselves. That makes these trembling delicacies the creature’s gonads. Glad you asked.