The dining scene in Vancouver has changed. There is a higher appreciation and demand for mid-range, casual to casual-fine dining restaurants. I liked C Restaurant a lot when I visited a few times but it’s just too expensive for frequent visits. Same for its sister restaurant, Raincity Grill located by English Bay. Fine dining calls for special occasions so for Mr.‘s birthday, I chose to go to Raincity Grill for dinner. Raincity Grill is famous for its 100-mile approach so I was quite excited to see what they would offer using fresh local ingredients.
Even so I didn’t pay for the full price. I bought a deal voucher for a 7-course tasting menu. First course, Surf & Turf, included a seared scallop and confit pork belly. Scallop was cooked right with a nice crust; pork belly was tender although not having a crispy skin. We thought it was off to a good start.
Next, the North Arm Farm Beetroots was a fancy beet salad. Instead of serving the beets fresh with its natural sweetness, it’s lightly pickled so it’s a bit acidic. The different preparations of beets — raw, pickled and fried — added different textures to the dish. It’s taken beet salad to the next level, but it’s still a beet salad.
The Berkshire Pork Terrine was quite good, meaty with good seasoning. What was missing was some toast points to eat the terrine with. The pickled vegetables replaced the usual cornichon, which added some freshness to the plate.
The next course was a pleasant surprise to us. Clam Linguini frankly didn’t sound all that interesting, but it started out pretty good when the server brought over a little jug of clam consomme and poured it in right in front of our eyes. The consomme was clear, with a light clam flavour. But as we took bite after bite of the linguini, the broth began to get milky and creamy. Turns out there’s egg yolk coated on the pasta and as we stirred it in, it added creaminess and colour to the broth. It became richer and more flavourful. I think I’d want to try making pasta with this technique next time.
Our last meat entree is the Steelhead Salmon. Very nicely seared with crispy skin while the meat remained moist, soft and flaky. One of the best ones we’ve had. On the menu it said we’re getting pearl barley risotto, but we ended up having white bean cassoulet. The beans were cooked to the right softness, but personally not a huge fan of beans so didn’t do much for me.
Before getting our dessert, we had a Cheese Course. It’s white cheddar sourced from Agassiz, which paired well with honey, cracker and candied hazelnuts. What I didn’t like on the plate was the stewed fennel, which was a bit too savoury and peppery for me.
Lastly, the day’s dessert special was a Deconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake. It had all the components of a strawberry cheesecake: graham crumbs, strawberries and cheesecake foam. It’s whimsical, it’s fun, and it tasted great. The white chocolate sauce made it even richer and more decadent.
I was reading Urbanspoon’s reviews and many people were complaining about the service. If you have been following the blog, you know I’m picky about service quality and restaurants often fall short in this area for me. But in this case, I didn’t have as big of an issue as most others did. The restaurant wasn’t very busy on a Friday night, which really surprised us, but the server didn’t ignore us just because we were voucher user. He wasn’t overly enthusiastic but he checked on us once in awhile. He explained all but one plate; luckily I had the menu with us so it was fine. What he didn’t do was to inform us of any menu changes, which I thought was standard at any restaurant. It did take awhile for certain plates to be served (especially on a quiet night), but then we were also taking our time with the food so it didn’t bother us. It took us 2 hours in total to finish the 7 courses.
Even though the service may not be up to par, you have to admit that it’s at a premium location. Looking out you can see English Bay, tourists walking by and taking photos, and for Mr., watching expensive super cars cruising by.
This was a tasting menu, so each course was quite small. That being said, the 7 courses do add up, and the clam linguini does fill you up quite a bit. Overall, the food was very tasty and we fully enjoyed it. Is it worth the full price? Debatable. But at a discounted rate, I think Raincity Grill is a good option for fine dining in Vancouver.
1193 Denman Street, Vancouver