Rae of Light
Went to Rae Restaurant in the Cira Center tonight for the first time. Four stars.
The service is exquisite. The staff was cordial and solicitous. At one point, one guy brushed the crumbs off our table into another guy's waiting plate.
The hosts were very friendly. The first impression upon entering the Cira Center is of light. Rae is behind the escalators in the lobby. There are white floodlights set into the floor of the entry area. The bar is made of a white stone amalgam with flecks of silver. It is a large curved bar and tonight the fashionable and beautiful congregated for Manhattans and the Rae signature cocktail (vodka, blood orange juice, fresh tarragon). Most of the seating options feel public, both in that they are situated in the lobby of an office building, and that the exterior walls are all glass. That turned out to be no problem once we sat down. The chairs are very comfortable. The linens and plates are of course white, as are the walls and floors.
The food descriptions adhere to the theory that simple = complex, so there is a minimum of writing. Onion soup, for example, turned out to be a deconstructed version of the classic. The other cool thing about the menu is that there are many price points and options for casual versus formal plates. Potato skins looked appealing and showed up at several tables.
I had the beet, goat cheese and romaine salad. Very interesting, almost dry rub dressing. For my main dish I had beef tenderloin, short rib and marrow ravioli. Excellent. A pile of sweet short rib meat, and large piece of silky smooth tenderloin, and a meaty ravioli were covered with a mushroom reduction sauce that had many layers of flavor. On the side I had garlic potato puree. A comfort food dream.
For dessert I had the chocolate plate, with five chocolicious mini desserts, including a white chocolate pudding, chocolate rice krispie treats, a chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream, a coffee/chocolate layer cake, and a graham cracker with chocolate ganache.
Every minute of the experience felt pampered. Definitely lessons picked up from Le Bec Fin: the easygoing, highly attentive staff that never ever looks down on anyone...the presentations (all plates were set at table at the same time)...the quality of ingredients and the French roots.
The highest priced entree was the veal chop which was in the mid fifties. Yet, you can order pizza and sandwiches from the menu. This is a chef's restaurant and it is clear that other food professionals will appreciate all the thought and detail that went into Rae. BTW, one of our local food critics was holding court at the end of the bar tonight, which happens to be right next to the open kitchen. Daniel Stern was in the house as well, cooking and later circulating. Rae is a good thing.
Rae is adjacent to the 30th Street rail station in Philadelphia, so it is exceedingly convenient for travelers near and far. The official address is 2929 Arch Street. The website is www.raerestaurant.com.
The veal wasn't the entree I ordered. While most of the entrees fall between the 15 and 35 dollar price range, the veal stood out in the fifties. I can't imagine many people ordering it just based on the cost. But really, I have to tell you that the service and food was pretty close to Le Bec Fin standards and I know people are paying much more serious money to go to LBF.
There was a very efficient valet for $10, plus you can self park in the cira center lot. We happened to get there right at our reservation time and used the valet. Our car was there for us immediately upon leaving the building.
I would say that the restaurant is tucked away, but not hard to get to. If you are driving, you just have to wrap around 30th street station and the entrance for cars is well marked.
Had dinner there when it first opened, absolutely incredible. The rabbit nachos were one of the best dishes I have ever had, very inventive and full of flavor. Plus the presentation was totally different from anything you would expect. The foie gras was incredible, delicious with many differnt accents in the dish, each presented in there own way on the plate. Had the same short rib dish, which was exceptional. The ravioli was the perfect addtion to the flavorful plate. One of the sides we had was onion fondue, they were little fried balls filled with an onion puree, excellent! Overall I would rate this one of my favorite dishes, meals and experiences. Daniel Stern was interacting with all of the patrons and the staff did everything they could to help us out, with explainations, details and lots of knowledge, would highly recomend this to anyone interested.......there is valet, for $10, whihc was quick and easy to access.
I'll chime in about their happy hour. I found myself in the Cira Center last night and popped into Rae for a drink around 6. Wow! Best happy hour deals I've found in the city. $2 lagers, $5 wines, a table full of cheeses/meats/fruits, a guy cooking $2 quesadillas. All this from a fine-dining restaurant, I was quite impressed. I definitely want to explore the actual menu but the happy hour was a pleasant surprise.
I wish I worked in the building!
"All this from a fine-dining restaurant" but it didn't help the dining experience - much noise from the bar crowd, which took up the heart of this strangely-laid-out restaurant, where we did have a fine meal with fine service.
I have attached photos of half the menu; they also have regular food and sandwiches. Our waitress, Lauren, took plenty of time to explain the menu items - it wasn't clear from the menu what they were.
We had the potato skins first I liked the skins around the outside, which didn't get soft from melted cheese. Also "Veal Kreplach, Artichoke" which were delicious raviolis, much more impressive than the potato skins.
Mains were a big rack of lamb; "Rabbit, Brussels Sprouts, White Beans" from the Renditions side; and a huge piece of short ribs (of beef), half of which is in our refrigerator for tomorrow night's dinner. The lamb was fine, the short ribs were delicious - meaty and flavorful. The rabbit included the tiny ribs (like those I had some time ago at sister restaurant Gayle), nice pieces of white meat, and a cassoulet-like side dish; it was quite good. We had creamed spinach, which strangely was whole leaves, not chopped, and multicolored beets. Desert was 3 scoops of ice cream, of which much the best was pomegranate sherbert. And then white-chocolate chip cookies. Food was just over $50 per person, plus a $60 bottle of Rae Buehler Zinfandel, plus tip, plus parking. Parking in the garage is $12; Central Parking charged us $10 for the valet parking, though this morning the restaurant told us it would have been free if we had them stamp our ticket.
About the photos:
* Note that "Veal Stew, Roasted Veal Chop" is $52. We didn't have it.
* The photo is my rabbit; behind it the beets, and to the right the potato skins with their sauce, I think of flavored cream,
It was a very good meal!
(Apparently I don't know how to add photos. Could somebody tell me where to look for instructions?)