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Sep 28, 2012 09:15 AM


I know it might seem crazy to post about a place without responding to a tourist query around here...but I know you folks can handle it. We love ya tourists, we really do, but somehow this board has turned into a visitor's bureau instead of a discussion board...which is why I usually save these kind of posts for another food board.

I had an absoulutely amazing experience at Racion last week. It was so good, that my GF made a reservation for tomorrow night (this time her treat!)...while we were still eating dinner there last Friday.

It is a pop-up, only Fri and Sat. dinner, multi-course, molecular gastronomy bent (but focused on flavor/texture/etc. of the food itself - no foams for the sake of foams or just to be cool - it all makes sense and it is all delicious), wine pairings/hors d'oeuvres/cocktail included (gratuity not included) - all for $75pp. Only 20 seats per night. They prepare it all in front of you and explain each dish and technique.

Last week we had about 3 types of snacks with a cocktail at the bar before being seated and then a 9-course (with about 5 or so wines paired over the courses) progression of small plates. They do acknowledge special needs so let them know when you make the reservation. The courses were small enough so that I did not feel like I was going to explode at the end, but I definitely was slowing down a bit by course 7... ;o)

The chef is Anthony Cafiero (who recently left Tabla to do just this) and he is awesome - he's trying out dishes for the real version of this restaurant and having a ball doing it. It is in a restaurant space that had a high profile place not make it after only about 2 months (Corazon), so the setting is a bit odd, but who cares. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

P.S. - These dinners are only going to happen through Oct. 6th - so make a reservation now...or wait for the 'real' restaurant version of this pop-up to open...

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  1. Awesome. Thanks Jill!

    (Not sure how Chowhound has resisted the urge to put in a +1 / thumbs up button... such a neat little trick to let people know what they've posted is appreciated)

    I'm going to raise you one and post a 'prompt' on the board... looking forward to your response!

    1. Thanks for the heads up....I look forward to the opening!

      1. Woot, we're in for our trip later this week! Thanks for the heads up. Will report back for sure.

        1. DInner last Saturday was awesome.

          We started in the bar with two delicious drinks. The first was an annatto infused rum mojito, where mint water was carbonated as it was added. Delicious, refreshing, and a gorgeous shade of orange. The second was a margarita where the tequila was infused with chorizo and there was a salted foam topping (instead of a salted rim). It was also delicious - it was savory without being meaty, and I loved the foam, it was a much more delicate way of adding salt, and I liked how I could control how much of it I got as I GF, who likes salt a lot more than I (I think she considers it a food group ;o), didn't like the foam as much, it didn't provide as salty a kick as salting the rim. DIfferent strokes...

          The snacks with the cocktails were great start: fried chickpeas with curry (I love snack-y chickpea things!), mustard crepe/rabbit/caper relish (rolled up, sliced, and skewered on long picks), and porcini pudding with lamb confit, tarragon powder and preserved lemon. I liked the salty/pickly caper flavors which complement the very rich rabbit. And the porocini pudding was awesome - earthy and silky pudding (which I am guessing was helped along by a bit of truffle), crunchy lamb confit bits, bright lemony accent...yum.

          Dinner was a 9-course extravaganza with a palate cleanser and four different wines.

          The "bread course" were crackers (two kinds, one made from blue potatoes and another made from, I think, chickpeas) along with an awesome "umami" butter - butter that Anthony had churned himself (yes, churn/bonnet jokes were made...but he used a food processor, OK? ;o), rolled in seaweed. I loved that butter/seaweed combo.

          Next was bacalao chicharron with salmon pil-pil and paprika. Yes, he made chicharron out of bacalao (salt cod) by soaking it several times and processing it fine and adding who knows what and then frying it up into airy, crispy, and greaseless perfection. It was slightly fishy in flavor, but texture-wise it was as perfect a chicharron as I have ever had. I am guessing that shrimp chips aspire to be something like this, as opposed to the kind of packing material they mimic. This was a wow.

          Cauliflower soup with Italian plums and candied pistachio was next. Nice sweet notes that were juicy and crunchy in a rich, creamy, silky cauliflower soup. Nicely done.

          Poured with the above was Avinyo Cava Riserva, a nice light sparkler.

          Smoked Sea Scallop with nameko mushroom, almond and anise hyssop came covered with a glass that was holding smoke (from a smoke gun) around the scallops. I like that it gave the sliced scallop a bit of smoke without that flavor overpowering it. I had never had nameko mushrooms, and these were yummy - meaty and earthy, perfectly cooked to bring out those flavors. A very nice dish...

          One of the best dishes of the night was the Citrus-cured albacore tuna with heirloom melon, pickled cucumber and both truffle pearls and OJ pearls. It was gorgeous to behold, for sure, but the flavors and textures were so interesting (sweet/salty/fishy/crunchy/juicy/rich/soft) and the whole plate so tasty. It was really one of those plates where you get how talented Anthony is, and how awesome it is to have him be able to do dishes that excite him (c'mon, I loved the pastas at Tabla, but how many orders of tajarin can a man plate before losing his mind?!).

          The next dish was a variation on one we had the previous week - sous-vide egg. This week it was served with a shredded chicken chorizo, broccoli buds and crispy guanciale. LOVE eggs prepared is reason enough to get an immersion circulator...seriously. Perfect fluffy white surrounding a creamy soft yet barely runny The crispy shard of salty guanciale was great, I liked the broccoli buds too (just the very tops of broccoli, dressed)...but the chicken chorizo was so salty and unpleasant, it was kind of inedible. That's OK, this isn't about perfection, especially at this stage of the game, it's about experimentation. I forgive it. ;o) (Last week the egg was served with pork cheek, arugula and tangerine/clove vinegar and crumbs - a tastier prep, IMO, but YMMV.)

          The previous three courses had Punta Crena Pettirosso poured along with them - a frizzante of a rose' - 50% Sangiovese/50% Rossese. Not my thing, nor Sue's, and we were glad we brought a bottle of a fabulous Alsatian dry Gewurztraminer. It was stellar with the tuna, and darn good with everything else.

          Another stand-out of the night, not surprisingly, was Spanish octopus (pulpo) with potato sald, sherry gelee, fennel and dill. It was another amazing looking plate: a nice pile of cubed/composed potato salad surrounded by jewels of sherry and topped with a couple of the most tender tentacles of octopus in a paprika-y coating...and then all of this was topped with a mat of fennel and dill fronds - this mat of fronds was fried and crispy and green and was an awesome turf-y topper. Very cool.

          I think that here (or maybe I am off a course?) is where we had a lovely spoon of a pomegranate ice as a palate refreshing!

          Next was another great course: Tails &Trotters pork cheek with a 'salad' of pickled mustard seeds, farro and kale in an anchovy dressing. OMG, the pork cheek was pork-strami like, tender and so freaking good. The toothsome farro salad had the wonderful crunch of the mustard seeds, whose flavor cut through some of the richness, backed by the subtle anchovy flavor...This was the 8th course and I don't think anyone left any of it behind on their plate. I know I didn't.

          These last 2 courses had pours of Tami' Frappato 2011. I really liked this wine. It was so velvety and easy to drink...and very reasonable if you wish to make it an everyday wine at home. Liner & Elsen is selling it for around $15/bottle...or you can pay $9/glass at Woodsman, I suppose.

          Dessert was great. A not too sweet but rich lemon curd cheesecake with sesame crumble and burnt sugar instead of a crust and mint/grapes...and I can't for the life of me remember how it all came together, other than it being a great ending to a fabulous meal. All that wine takes a bit of a toll, ya know?

          Speaking of wine, the dessert pour was a Hidalgo Cream Sherry...mmmmmm....

          We brought two bottles of wine, the Gewurztraminer and a rose' and we shared it with folks around us and the kitchen. We were offered several pours of each of the paired wines...and we all drank our fill around the table - there was definitely enough...really no need to bring more.

          There are only two more chances to go here for a meal before the space is renovated and it turns into a 20 chef's bar/table spot (with other tasty options for other parts of the space...sorry, I promised not to post that info...but westsiders will, I am sure, be happy about it). Book a dinner while pairings are included, corkage is $0, and the whole deal is $75 + tip per person.

          There were only 14 people at our dinner, so 6 more folks could have gone, and didn't...if you were one of them, make a damn reservation and go this coming weekend!

          6 Replies
          1. re: JillO

            Thanks for the additional deets on your meal, JillO, even more excited about our upcoming reso which we just got confirmation on. The plates you had sound intriguing and most importantly, tasty.

            Just to clarify, did you mean that you didn't really need the two BYOBs you brought or that they were enough with the included pours? We're not huge wine drinkers and one of us will have to do the DD thing...

            1. re: grayelf

              Yes, that is what I meant. We really didn't need them.

              It was nice that we had them because my GF doesn't like sparkling wine and the cava and frizzante were served back to back...but if she drank sparkling wine, what they served would have been enough.

              The cocktails served before dinner were full sized, not tasters. And the wine pours are not full glass pours, but you get multiple pours - definitely enough.

              1. re: JillO

                Thanks JillO. I am a lightweight so if we get two cocktails beforehand that likely will be it for me :-). Really chuffed about this dinner, and would have missed out entirely had it not been for your post(s) so I owe ya one or twelve.

                  1. re: JillO

                    Will post a trip report, but suffice to say it was lots of fun and we had some very tasty bites, with the standout being the cured tuna just as you described in your post above. That fish is haunting me!

                    1. re: grayelf

                      My full trip report is taking such a long time I thought I'd go ahead and put this up here in the meantime:

                      I learned about this popup from JillO on CH and was able to snag two spots for the last one. It was held in part of the old Corazon space downtown. We started off with snacks and special "mojitos" that were plenty strong and didn't taste like any mojito I've ever had before. Plus they were orange :- ).

                      Bacalao puffs were our second bacalao dish in less than 24 hours. Dinner was cumin crackers with juniper smoked butter, followed by blue potato chips with celery root dip and tarragon powder. The chips were lovely but I wasn't a fan of the seasonings/dips that came with these amuses.

                      Brocolli soup followed which I found overly salty (and I love salt) and devoid of brocolli taste. Things looked up with the smoked halibut cheek with nameko mushrooms, fennel, nori and tamarind powder. The best dish was next, a citrus cured albacore tuna with heirloom melon, pickled cucumber and orange and truffle pearls. That was some mighty fine tuna!

                      I liked the sous vide eggs with duck, roasted piquillo pepitas and crispy kale but the SO wasn't a fan. The T&T pork belly was well executed but I found the apple butter it was served with too sweet so just left that off, the delicata squash providing enough sweetness for me. Next was a successful beef dish with patty pan squash, Brussels sprouts two ways, pickled chanterelles and horseradish. The chanterelles were damn fine pickles. A palate cleanser of coconut foie gras ice was kind of fun, but the lemon curd cheese cake dessert wasn't amazing, and the burnt sugar was too burnt for me.

                      The wines that accompanied included Avinyo Cava Reserva, Pettirosso Allegro 2011, Tami Frappato Sicilia 2011 and Alameda Hidalgo cream sherry. Pours were generous and glasses refilled often. Our server was beyond delightful and since I gather he will be joining chef at the new bricks and mortar, I hope to get a chance to be catered to so beautifully again.

                      After dinner we were given a tour of the rest of the establishment which will house two other restaurants when finished. This type of dinner was pushing the SO's tolerance for food as entertainment but he was a great sport and we sat next to some really lovely diners with whom he conversed at length. In the small-world department, we bumped into two of them at Evoe the next day!