Raw is a very appropriate name for the restaurant in Modesto that serves food in that very state — raw, as in sushi. However, that is not the only reason people frequent the establishment, as they also pull up a seat at the bar. The restaurant has gained popularity for its Japanese-inspired menu over the years and the bar for its vast selection of wine, sake, beer and cocktails. The restaurant, owned by Alex Phongsavat, was opened about six years ago to the delight of sushi lovers and beverage enthusiasts throughout the 209.
Bar Manager and bartender Briana Jane Ngo has only been behind the bar at Raw for about a year and half but has cultivated her skills and broadened her horizons in the bar world. Working in an environment where she has free range to create and an amazing boss has been a phenomenal experience so far.
“It is very amazing,” added Ngo about working at Raw. “I actually went from a corporate franchise restaurant and when I came here it was a different environment. I can make up my own drinks and be creative. He (Alex) allows me to expand. I think it is just a different vibe compared to where I was at. Overall being a bartender here, it has taught me so much.”
The customers are a favorite part of her job and the big connections she has made mean a lot to her. She said that there are customers that return just to see her and many are on a first name basis.
The full bar offers a large selection of wines by the glass and the bottle like the Justin Cabernet Sauvignon or the Frank Family Chardonnay that are paired with some of the offerings on the menu. They offer five beers on tap including some Japanese selections like Kirin or Sapporo and bottles as well. Then there is the long list of cocktails that can be ordered as well as sake, a multitude of whiskeys, scotch, vodka and tequila.
A couple crowd pleasers that are on the cocktail menu year-round at Raw and requested on a regular basis are the Coconut Pearl and the Cucumber Martini.
The Coconut Pearl is made with a premium Tyku Coconut Nigori Sake crafted from Junmai sake and infused with coconut, pineapple vodka, Malibu rum, shaken with a little simple syrup and poured in a martini glass with a cherry at the bottom. This tasty little concoction has some sweetness and creaminess that is a chilled cloudy delight.
The Cucumber Martini is made with muddled fresh cucumbers, Effen Cucumber Vodka, lemon juice shaken with a splash of St-Germain, chilled and served in a martini glass that is garnished with fresh cucumber slices. A fan favorite for sure, this refreshing and light libation is a definite treat that almost makes you feel like you are drinking something healthy.
“My knowledge about alcohol and being a bartender has expanded so much in a year and a half,” expressed Ngo. “It is crazy. It brings joy to me to serve our customers. The atmosphere and also the customer service is 10 out of 10 here. When you step in you will feel the vibe.”
They also have a restaurant in Stockton that has been open for about 16 years.
For more information call 209-566-9560 or visit Raw on Facebook. ■