author: quinn bell | a&c writer
Delicious / Pixabay
Pricy food may turn you off, but don’t be discouraged.
Regina has a bad habit of not keeping around new and exciting restaurants that move in downtown. It’s no secret. Recently, Dale MacKay’s Avenue restaurant seems to be challenging that trend: you still have to call ahead to make sure you get a seat there, months after it’s opened. While many locals complain about the price, it looks like Avenue is going to be a more permanent fixture in YQR.
I’m a little worried about another newer downtown addition, however: Rù Soju Bar and Lounge. Rù is located on Hamilton Street where Flip Eatery was, across the street from Vic’s and attached to Atlantis. It’s location is great, and apart from (maybe) Sakura Sushi on Scarth, there’s nothing remotely like it nearby.
My worry is out of love, not spite, so it should become clear that I’m a fan of the place. My concern comes from the fact that I’ve never seen the place busy. Like, at all. The couple times I’ve been for dinner with family since it opened in March, we felt strange sitting alone in the place – there were maybe two other tables full each time. It’s also a little weird that the otherwise amazing servers just sort of stood around chatting about their weekend plans, three of them there to serve the same number of tables. Maybe that means they expected more diners later in the evening? Still, I’ve walked by late at night and peeked in and have never noticed much action.
I realize that I’m not there every night – and seldom after 9 p.m. – so it is possible the lounge gets bumpin’ after dark on the weekend. Or it might just be a kickin’ lunch spot for downtown Regina’s business folks. I hope it does fill up, because the place is great. More people should check it out.
Price might the issue – it is another pretty expensive restaurant downtown. It does make some sense, though: the soju bar specializes in Korean and Japanese cuisine done right and done fancy. Definitely good for special occasions (that’s how I found myself there) or business lunches – but a lot tougher on a student budget.
Tourism Regina praises Rù’s vegetable gyoza as something worth going for on their own. Who doesn’t love gyoza? Easy to share and scrumptious party food. This is something we did when we went as well: share a few different plates rather than each order a pricy entree. It was all very tasty and wonderfully plated, and I’ll admit I snuck some photos.
We started with an order of tempura – Japanese battered vegetables, quickly deep-fried and served piping hot. It was a lovely surprise to get tempura that wasn’t 98 per cent batter; Rù used large vegetables and only a light batter, so you could actually taste the veggies. There was a good mix of squash, broccoli, and sweet potatoes, and the sauce was nice complement.
Next up was an order of okonomyaki – Japanese seafood pancakes. A cute little dish, the okonomyaki was not going to fill any of us up. Still, it was a tasty, salty appetizer. The agedashi tofu was similar in that it was delicious but not filling – just a teaser in the shape of fried tofu with green onions.
Of course, we had to try the sushi. It’s expensive, but it’s also beautiful. We ordered a really neat roll with shredded beet on it: the beet was crispy, which gave the roll a fun texture, and it was super colourful and pretty. Rù is good at doing things pretty. Their specialty sushi tower – pretty much a vertical sushi roll – is really easy on the eyes. It probably isn’t worth the price, but keep an eye out for other tables ordering it, just to take it in.
Rù also has a sick bibimbap (“mixed rice”)! This is definitely something worth going there for; it’s a stand-alone meal. The price is also better for what you’re getting: it was heavy and super filling. This was a huge contrast to the minimal Japanese appetizers. This was the last thing we ordered last time: we picked the kimchi bibimbap and thought it was amazing. It’s cool because it’s also pretty healthy – tons of veggies in there, an egg, some kimchi, and a bunch of crispy rice. Just to pretend I knew anything about the dish, I checked the crispiness of the rice on the bottom of the bowl. I’ve heard that Korean cooks are sometimes tested on the quality of their crispy rice. True or not, Rù’s rice seemed all right to me!
I’m looking forward to trying more at Rù someday. There’s a big selection of soju (Korean rice liquor) and, if you look at the videos on their Facebook page, endless fun ways to drink it. One video shows a happy group of friends balancing soju shots on chopsticks, only to bang on the table and knock the shots into glasses of beer. Anyone wanna go?