rain - special event (very... very... long....)
due to a wrangling of background eaters for their made to order tv show, i was at rain for a taping last night and enjoyed a 5 course meal. now mind you, this was a special tasting selection for $55, which to my understanding is far from their usual pricing (essentially the reason i went and have never gone before). in the past they were hyped and with the growing crop of new restaurants, their asian flair is no longer the trendy fusion of de jour. i went in slightly skeptical, a tad excited and full of expectations. so let's begin. (sorry outside cameras were not allowed but the presentation was beautiful, although typical, with the tower concept they're rather well known for)
we arrived early and after signing the proper disclaimer (which only took away my rights of what they taped of me... i think...) we sat at the glowing bar to wait for two others and were given fibrous japanese menus with the wine and drink list. the glowing top was perfect at illuminating the list for us, the tables for eating less so. anyhow, i got the rising star (pear infused japanese vodka, sparkling wine, yuzu and starfuit juice) and my friend got a berry mojito (mixed berried muddled with raw brown sugar, lime juice and mint). my drink was perfectly mixed and the aromas were fantastic, garnished with a lovely slice of starfruit. the mojito was a bit disappointing with a serious lack of mint flavour but the berry was well pronounced and the raw sugar a nice texture. the thin straw did get clogged up with muddled bits.
course 1 - shitake miso with mussels and fresh oyster with yuzu mayo(?)
we weren't described our first dish and so i'm a little unclear as to what graced the top of our raw oyster, but the flavour was mildly salty, meaty oyster and a lovely sweet finish. delicous. the miso wasn't dense in the salty nearly musky flavours i'm used to be still well done. nice pieces of shitake, tiny mussels but cooked to be perfectly supple.
course 2 - escarole over a yellow beet draped with a lobster monkfish liver terrine and smidge of coconut foam plus coconut mango and... something salad
the salad was served in a spoon with slivers of the mango and a green item i can't recall with jellied coconut milk pieces. the textures did little to please my palate as i found the jellied pieces melted away far too quickly. the slaw itself was interesting but the play on richness and tart mango didn't make me want to order it on its own. the escarole was nicely done and had a crispy sweet top that i can't account for. the terrine was so rich, flavourful and supremely melt in your moth that i nearly doubted my love for foie. coconut foam did well to match the escarole flavour and was a perfect example of sauce enhancing a dish.
course 3 - bison tasting: tenderloin encrusted with peanut, dumpling with braised bison garnished with... some red/orange slivers and roasted salted peanuts, braised bison in a mildly spicy coconut
tenderloin was cooked medium rare, leaning on rare, matched with a salty savoury sauce typical of most asian cuisine but i can't recall specific flavours. there was a small dab of mint sauce barely discerable at the corner of the dish that brightened the flavours right up in the gamey meat. the braised bison was heavenly and i'd eat it any day. i was terribly disappointed with the dumpling. skin was thick and chewy with zero discernable flavour and the ratio of the dough to filling was so high that i could barely taste the meat. the peanuts also tasted stale... or is this the roasting process perhaps? each section of the dish was dotted with sauces but the dumpling one was the most odd. it was definitely some sort of fruit concoction with it's orange colour but nearly seemed glued onto my plate.
course 4 - wagyu beef with chili hay over a radish stuffed with braised meat and some roll with a taro chip and corn flower
let's start with this little roll. it was the size of end of my pinkie finger and resembled a piece of salmon rolled up. i was too immersed in some conversation to pay attention to it. the taro chip was light, salty but otherwise immemorable as well. i LOVE cornflowers. super sweet and wonderful i ate everyone else's. the wagyu beef... seared to be essentially rare, the chili hay did nothing to it, but the feel of this fairly tender beef as the meaty sweetness and fat just melted into my mouth to form a puddle on my tongue as i was chewing, was fantastic. if that disgusts you, good. more wagyu (north american kobe style) for me. it was atop a turnip hollowed out and filled with a smidge of braised meat, not particularly exciting and the turnip lacked it's lovely bitter qualities to have been replaced with a heavy sweetness (my dining companions didn't think it was too sweet...). all this was sitting in a sour and mildly spicy sauce with a stroke of parsley sauce.
course 5 - chocolate tasting: white chocolate ganache with popped corn/rice(?), peanut butter chocolate cookie, panna cotta in a shooter glass with thick coconut foam
chocolate ganache wasn't too sweet and absolutely delicious. the texture was nearly mousse like but the popped corn/rice wasn't a good mix. on it's own it was a carmalized and salty delight but the soft with even softer didn't go. the cookie was chewy wonderful peanutty goodness and over a gelled item that was masked in flavour. i was disappointed in the panna cotta because it was a bit of a gooey mess with slightly bitter tones that didn't fare well with it's traditionally creamy origins. it did gel over a little, just a layer at the top which wasn't all that nice to be honest. the foam though, was lovely and dense and suspect that it's possible it was meringue.
the wine list starts with one bottle at 45 and goes up, we ended up with a nice $75 amarone that we quite enjoyed. the dessert chef at rain is rated in toronto life as one of the best. service was truly lovely with explanations about food coming after the first course. timing of the food was well done. the space is large and set up in a way that even with all the noise and chatter it nearly makes you feel enclosed in your own space, even if the tables side by side are only a foot apart. the restaurant had nearly filled up and emptied out without our notice.
so i guess here it goes... my experience was well worth it for the reduced cost. has anyone been lately? what do you think of their quality with respect to their regular cost? other thoughts? no one ever brings it up as a suggestion anymore and i'd like to throw out a line and some bait for opinions.
My SO and I went with another couple during New Year's this year. The service and presentation was, as you had mentioned, absolutely wonderful. However, the food itself did not really impress us very much. The asian flavours reminded us of things we'd eaten at family dinners before.
We paid over $300 a person, including taxes and tip, when we went, and that was supposed to be a special price.
I would definitely go again if it were $55. I think that's definitely well worth it. As for full price, I probably would not go again even though they have wonderful service and staff.
the means by which i got my particular meal seems to be fairly random as we were emailed from a special subscribers list for the globe and mail.
if you want to ask how you might be included in the next taping you could email them off of the website as there's a blurb about the show there.
but i wouldn't expect opportunities like this to be offered on a platter as they don't do too many episodes. it's sad that hype and pricing seem to have done them in. i can only assume that some of the patrons left now are visitors from the hotel st. germaine.
I went to Rain twice... once a few days after the opening, and once about 6 months ago. The first time, the food was superb ( even though I am not really into Rubino's work) and the ambiance amazing. People really felt lucky to be there, to be part of a special thing.
Then I went back six months ago... and the room was empty. The food was still very good, but there were about 10 people in the restaurant. We ended up spending a lot (too much) of money for good food and no ambiance. I think the hype has just gone...and that people are really not into spending fortunes to be seen at Rain anymore.