Monday, February 13, 2012

Still Around: 100-Mile Menu at the RainCity Grill

Raincity Grill on Urbanspoon
The 100-Mile Diet idea may have fallen off the radar, but it's still feasible and the 100-Mile Menu is still available at Raincity Grill. I knew I was handicapping the restaurant from the start, but I was too curious not to try it when I went to the restaurant Saturday night with the Vancouver Fine Dining Club.

Once upon a time, before refrigeration and importing made everything available everywhere, people had to make do with what they could harvest and what they could preserve. If you try out some of the older "traditional" recipes, you may discover that everything you need for the recipe will be in-season at the same time: Precisely because the recipe was based on what was available to kitchens, without the benefit of shipping something over from the antipodes.

Before evaluating the 100-Mile Menu at the Raincity Grill (or anywhere else), you have to give some leeway for what they can't use because it's not locally available. If something is on the bland side or if the veggies look boring, well, it's not like they can toss in just anything to pretty it up. Even something as simple as sugar can require a substitute. In some ways, it's like vegan cooking. When you can't use eggs or cream, you have to get creative and use flax or avocado. The result isn't exactly the same, but sometimes it's darn close, and if the chef knows what they're doing, no one will care about what they're missing.

The bread tray here was four ping-pong ball sized chewy white bread buns, plain butter, and a light violet coloured salt. It was a bit tricky to get at the salt in its small dish. What worked for me was to have some butter on the tip of my knife, and use that to press into the salt, thus picking it up ready to spread on your tiny bun.
It was a room temperature bun. Which seems to be the norm now. I don't exactly expect fresh-baked bread, but could it at least be toasty-warm? Heck, why don't restaurants just give out toast? At least it's be nice and hot.

Raincity Grill 100-Mile Tasting Menu ($73, +$9 optional cheese course, +$34 with wine accompaniment)
  • North Arm Farm Beetroot Salad - farmhouse goat's cheese cannelloni, hazelnut mulch
    • North Arm Farm  is a certified organic farm in Pemberton.
    • The cannelloni looked like a tiny piece of sushi. It's smaller than even your standard piece of small sushi. Goat cheese inside, but not very strong. Really just a token piece.
    • The "mulch" was more like crushed nuts or crumbs, which is how it is described on the à la carte menu version of this salad.
    • The rest of the plate was a sweet salad of large chunks of root vegetables. Overall, the sweetness made the experience almost like eating a fruit salad.
  • Vancouver Island Manila Clams - gin & tomato broth, garlic, celery & chard, tuscan toast
    • I think someone swiped my toast because I didn't get any. Neither did the other person at our table who ordered the tasting menu. By this time, the four small, chewy, not-warmed buns that had been brought to our table as the usual bread starter was more or less gone, and in any case a ping-pong ball sized bun wasn't going to help a lot here.
      • That said, the tasting menu as a whole while not substantial and heavy with grain or potatoes; and although each plate has a smallish looking portion; adds up to a fair-sized meal, so toast here might have made it too much.
    • I didn't think there was anything too special here. Tasty enough, so there's nothing bad per se. Broth a tad on the salty side so I could really have used the toast. Watch out for shell shards. I had a little bit in the soup.
    • Something you can try here is to systematically scrape out all the clams. They more or less fall right off when you use the little fork provided, and once that chore is done you can have clams in still-hot soup. Instead of clams, then soup that has gone cold.
  • Fraser Valley Duck Proscuitto - endive salad, averill creek blackberry gastrique
    • If you're thinking papery-thin slices of salty duck, you would be wrong. Duck is a different animal from pig, so duck proscuitto is different.
    • On the plate there's the slices of duck proscuitto -- about 4mm thick, and so rare that it looked more like pork -- as well as a thick triangle of what looked like dark grey-brown pulled duck meat pressed together and seared.
      • The triangle of duck was very salty! Try it straight away and decide on your strategy here: Eat less of it, get more water, or have it with the meat and/or salad together. It's really that salty.
    • Other than that, duck is duck. Next!
  • Fraser Valley Roast Pork - smoked potato fondant, ‘north arm farm’ carrots, braised red cabbage, apple-chardonnay jus
    • The roast pork here was a very fatty chunk with hard and very crispy skin on. Instead of trying to cut it from the top, if you flip this slightly-more-than 1 cubic inch slab onto its side, you will find you can just take your fork and knife and pull it apart. It comes off cleanly in layers, possibly because of all that fat!
    • Fat. Urgh.
    • I'm tempted to also take points off for the menu wording as a whole as it feels misleading. This is just one example. When it says "roast pork", I really didn't expect to get so much fat. Maybe it came from a particularly porky pig?
  • Optional Farmhouse Cheese course - I skipped this.
  • Cranberry Semifreddo - elderflower broth.
    • This looked like a chunk of ice cream sitting in saskatoon berry sauce. Very sweet sauce, so definitely have it with the ice cream.
    • It's OK. The sauce definitely gives you a sweet finish to your meal. But at the same time, like the clams, there's nothing special here.
I give them points for putting together a decent 100-Mile Diet concept menu, but sadly have to take points away for the boring clams, and disappointing duck and pork. Dessert was OK, but not a particularly great finish. Best part was the salad, which is a slightly smaller portion than on their vegetarian Regional Menu.

That Saturday night, the restaurant didn't really get busy till closer to 7pm when it was full. Best bet for just walking in would be around 5.30pm, or after maybe 8.30pm.


The bill, including one pot of peppermint tea and 12% tax, came out to just over $85 before tip.

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