I was intrigued by the reviews I had read of Rare, which used adjectives like seasonal and innovative. We felt that dinner at Rare was a good value, compared to other restaurants of the same caliber. With a little more experience and some tweaking of the tasting menu, the overall experience could be improved. Regardless, it was a nice evening out, with well chosen ingredients and attentive service.
The menu itself is a bit problematic. It was “explained” a bit too much at the beginning of the evening which automatically denotes a flaw. The menu is far too complicated , to no advantage. Basically there are five ways to eat at Rare: à la cart (sizes of the choices vary from tapas-size “quarters” to entrée), the $45 seasonal tasting menu, the chef’s seasonal tasting menu, six courses built to order by the chef ($65) or six courses you choose from the ala cart offerings ($85). When the waiter has to break the menu down into “ounces of protein” there is something wrong.
The great surprise, of course, was the enjoyable meal that enfolded and the check at the end. On the occaison of our visit to Rare we were traveling with our young diner who is four. The chef was very open to minor changes with the menu to make the tasting menu more accessible to him. It was obvious though that young diners are a rarity at Rare, but there was no issue made and the service was attentive and helpful.
The sourdough bread looked house made – and while it was fine, it would have been improved by a weekend or two of intensive bread baking practice. The loaf was small and the bread to crust ratio was slim. It was served with an lemon and herb butter which I though had a touch of heat (cayenne?). Sparking Water was Pellegrino and while two bottles were poured we were only charged for one.
We chose the Seasonal Tasting Menu.
What we had:
The first amuse: Caramelized onions on puff pastry round with a sardine and kalamata olive on a small bed of creamy whole mustard sauce.
The elements did’t go together that well but were all really good on their own.
Chilled Sweet Pea and Mint — evergreen farm - crème fraîche ~ lemon zest ~ buttermilk cracker
A quenelle of pea and mint purée with a cracker on top and a dab of crème fraîche. Too much puree for the cracker – should have been about half as much or a cracker twice as big. The purée on it’s own didn’t have a lot of character.
Baja Scallop — Seared
fiddlehead ~ cauliflower ~ caper-raisin vinaigrette
One perfect scallop cooked rare. The fiddleheads were nice and crunchy. I loved the cauliflower puree enough to steal Jack’s with a piece of bread. The caper raisin vinaigrette was daubed on the plate in spots resembling the capers it came from. A nice dish!
Sous Vide Rabbit Saddle — Fraser Valley
prosciutto ~ green olives ~ baby carrots
The rabbit was very tender, almost falling off the bone. The proscuitto was on the thicker side and hard to cut as well as very salty. The green olives were marvelous – I wished for more than the two slivers we had. The carrots were surprisingly tasteless. The sauce was well made with a definite hint of thyme. All-in-all it was hard to remember that I wasn’t eating chicken, at times.
Hibiscus and Citrus Seltzer
Nicely done. A bright note to cleanse our palate and enliven our taste buds. A good balance of hibiscus and citrus.
Aldergrove Duck Breast — rare
orange poached rhubarb ~ ramps ~ stinging nettle risotto
The duck was a bit chewier than I like but had good flavor. One ramp resembled more a green onion. The stinging nettle risotto was well made but more cheese than nettle yet creamy and perfectly cooked. Risotto, to my surprise, is a great vehicle for stinging nettle! The rhubarb was a nice foil.
Queen Charlotte Halibut —Unilaterally seared - pickled morels ~ fava beans ~ parsnip puree
The halibut was fresh and well cooked. The presentation was nice. The morels were little pieces in the sauce underneath the fish which also included with fava beans. The purée was a smear across the plate and was quite intense.
Earl Grey Tea Sabayon with Fennel Biscotti
The Sabayon was lovely. Very fluffy and light. The biscotti was not too hard and had a nice fennel flavor. The infusion of Earl Grey could have been stronger as it a little too subtle to stand up to the fennel but it was a very pleasant dish to eat.
Deconstructed Lemon Pie - lemon curd ~ butter crust ~ buttermilk ice cream
The elements here were all well-crafted but this deconstruction should have been served on a plate rather than piled in bowl. The butter crust was shortbread which was on the heavy side. The lemon curd was meyer and bright and tart and lovely. The quenelle of buttermilk ice cream was nice. The piled elements seemed to lose the idea of deconstruction and the heavy shortbread did not make the grade.
2004 Sandhill Sangiovese "Small Lots Program" Sandhill Estate Vyd Okanagan Valley V.Q.A.
Jack: A wonderful nose! Yet that nose doesn't hint it's sangiovese. The taste is very interesting - i.e., you haven't tasted this wine before. Nothing like a Chianti or Brunello. It's a bit weird and ultimately unsatisfying. The finish is short with the acids just too dominating. It scores a 95 pt nose and 87-88 pts for the rest. Another bottle in 6-8 years appeals to me.
You may notice that we do not give out a lot of praise. Having been to so many high-quality restaurants, it's pretty tough to impress us.
Most of our reviews are based on just one visit. We neither have the time nor the money (or often, the inclination) to visit most restaurants multiple times. So, please keep in mind that a single-visit review is a snapshot - the restaurant may be "on it" that day - or not. If the meal has a calamity involved (foreign objects in the food, wine poured on us, etc.) we try not to let it shade the overall review.
We pay for the food and beverages; restaurants never comp us. We try to be discreet about taking photos so that the staff doesn't notice/get an idea we're going to do a review. We rarely take notes in the restaurant.
Like the rest of our website, we update our restaurant review pages based upon subsequent visits.