Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Rare (March 10, 2007)


Two reviewers: ts and js

It's a good idea to read these reviews for Rare and La Buca (review here) side by side or to go to both restaurants within the week. Just because you really couldn't go to two restaurants with diametrically-opposed philosophies when it comes to food.

I forgot if I already mentioned: In December, the Rare website stated that they were open for lunch that whole month. So I made a reservation, but when I arrived, they were closed!

Anyway, yada-yada-yada, I got a $50 Rare gift card out of it. So, thought we'd use it.

My father & I had the Seasonal Tasting Menu.
My mother & js had a la carte items.

AMUSE: liquid caesar salad

When we sat down, our amuse was a "liquid" version of a caesar salad.

Basically it was romaine/lettuce juice with a crouton and bacon in a shot glass. The lettuce juice is definitely something one must get used to. It tasted just like how it sounds. Perhaps if they added more acid or something, it would be more palatable.

I drank 3 of the 4, though, coz i felt bad having them untouched on the table. Besides, I considered getting to the crouton & bacon my "reward" for downing the juice.

Lettuce juice amuse-bouche: this was kind of yucky.

The thing with these "innovative"/"cutting edge" restaurants is sometimes they hyper-intellectualize the food. Yeah, I get it that a liquid caesar salad is interesting as a concept but in practice it is kind of yucky. To top it off they added the crouton and the bacon in the shot glass -- I would drink the liquified lettuce juice but I couldn't down it with the crouton and the bacon. It was just plain yucky to me.

a la carte items:
Unilateral Mahi Mahi — rice paper- $25
enoki mushroom ~ winter fruit ~ pomegranate

Ravioli – forest mushrooms — $12
red wine foam ~ shallot purée

Whole Quail – Okanagan valley – $17†
savoy ~ honey glaze ~ lardon ~ quail egg

Berkshire Pork – seared – $28
wilted romaine ~ apple ~ espelette broth

The mahi-mahi. I have no idea what "unilateral" means. ts kind of explained it to me but I still don't get it. First of all, why would a unilateral mahi-mahi be better than a -- what? I suppose a bilateral? -- bilateral mahi-mahi? I just don't get it.

Anyways, the mahi-mahi was just okay, not that good but not that bad either. It really was nothing special. I didn't like the fish being wrapped in the rice paper either. The rice paper was kind of slimy, as in sticky and stretchy. I must have totally missed the point of this dish at all.

I also had the cauliflower soup with a little bit of truffle oil. This was probably the best of my dishes. The small piece of lobster was okay, as is the salmon or steelhead roe. But I didn't really taste the truffle oil and I couldn't really taste the cauliflower either. The soup was just salty for me and there was no hint of sweetness or creaminess from the cauliflower.

Dare I say it? The cauliflower was "rare" in this soup. LOL

[added Feb 2008: I'm not sure where this cauliflower soup menu item fits in within the menu. Maybe another a la carte item?]

Tasted the ravioli: the flavors were good. A tad overseasoned, though.

As for the quail dish, I didn't actually get to taste the quail. There was roasted apples in the dish, I believe, and some sort of slaw-like item. That (slaw) was very good.

The Berkshire pork. It says "seared" on the menu but I don't recall it being seared at all. It was just very evenly cooked, just slightly pink at the center. It was too smooth for me. That is, a lot of flavour comes from caramelization of sugars in the meat etc etc etc and this didn't have any of those. It was just a very smooth pork and not that interesting to me. The broth and the vegetables were also just okay. I don't like the idea of the pork being in some kind of broth actually: it just didn't enhance the experience of the pork for me. It was very tender though.

March 2007 Seasonal Tasting Menu, $45 per person

Cured Winter Beets — Evergreen Farm
iced ~ clotted 55% b.f. cream ~ tarragon ~ pinenut oil

Pickled Winter Mussels — Salt Spring Island
sherry vinegar ~ smoked apple ~ spring garlic spatzle

Corvina Black Bass — Catalina Island
green tomato broth ~ smoked chayote ~ polenta

Honey & Arugula Seltzer

Seared Angus Striploin — Rare
truffled fingerling potatoes ~ melted leeks ~ carrot
Wild Side Stripe Prawns — Birch Syrup
lingot bean ragout ~ saskatoon berry ~ pork hock

Balsamic Ice & Candied Almonds

Deconstructed Key Lime Pie
lemon curd ~ butter crust ~ lemon ice

\end of tasting menu

The beets were not bad. They were pickled, basically. The cream was nice.

The mussels were also pickled! Of this dish, I liked the spatzle.

The bass dish was nice enough.

Honey & arugula seltzer: I was fearing that this may be like the liquid caesar salad, but this was actually pretty pleasant. I guess the honey saves it. It tasted like honeydew, actually.

The honey and arugula seltzer -- kind of yucky as well but less yucky than the liquid caesar salad. Again, I don't get the point of liquifying vegetables. What is the point?

[ts] I chose the striploin. The steak was nicely cooked. Leeks are always good.

The balsamic ice was actually balsamic ice cream. It was floating on fizzy water (a float!). It was all right. That is, I don't know if I like it or not. It definitely tasted like balsamic. The candied almonds were actually in the form of a brittle.

js and Mama received a pre-dessert amuse, but I forgot what it was. Some sort of cookie-type item with a sauce?

Dessert: I guess it "was" lemon curd, not key lime curd. Just seems weird to call it key lime pie.

The crust was a tad too thick and hard to cut through. Oh, it was "deconstructed" in that the curd was at the bottom of the bowl, then a cut-out circle of crust was on top. On top was a buttermilk ice cream (not lemon flavor). This was nice enough, again. I liked the buttermilk ice cream.

Probably the best thing about this meal was the dessert.

I had the chocolate many ways: hot chocolate, chocolate ganache, chocolate torte, and a brownie. This was very good chocolate. The chocolate was the best part of the meal.

General notes: I ordered tea. They just had "regular" tea, not fancy-schmancy ones. No biggie, except they do say that they adhere to the philosophy of attaining "rare" things. There was a variety of brands of teas, but they also had Stash Organic -- available in regular supermarkets.

They kept re-folding the napkins when someone leaves the table (to go the bathroom or something). Teehee.

The menus they gave us actually were personalized menus! It said "Welcome to Rare" and our name on them!

The servings were not that big. Even having the 6-course menu, I wasn't that full. (Well, I wasn't hungry, either.) I guess it's a good amount for "normal" people, haha. I don't know about just ordering the a la carte items, though. I think JS was still hungry. The mahi mahi was categorized as "half" and the pork, a "full." I guess JS can add to this.

I was still hungry after the meal. I think I had potato chips after this meal, because it wasn't really very filling at all.

I probably would rate this as a 4 out of 10. It just wasn't that good. Granted, they are new so maybe it'll take them a couple more months to settle in with a menu that would be spectacular.

Rating: maybe 6-ish out of 10. It wasn't bad or anything, but just "OK". Nothing spectacular. Won't be in too big a rush to return.

As the name implies, and as ts has already pointed out, Rare seeks to be unique, to be that one-of-a-kind experience. . .but for me it just doesn't live up to its name. It's trying too hard to be _rare_ that sometimes it has forgotten how to be good.

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