Restaurant: Raincity Grill
Cuisine: Seafood/West Coast/Fine Dining/Pacific Northwest/Organic
Last visited: May 30, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Denman/West End/Downtown)
Address: 1193 Denman St
Price Range: $30-50, 50+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: n/a (I only came for Market Monday, which are items not on the menu)
- From Kambolis Restaurant Group
- Since 1992
- Chef Jennifer Peters
- Pacific Northwest cuisine
- Casual fine dining
- Seasonal menus
- Focus on local ingredients
- 100 mile menu
- Mostly organic
- Popular to locals/tourists
- Ocean view
- Patio seating
- Award winning restaurant/wine list
- Popular $10 Fish n’ Chips take out window
- Ocean Wise
- Limited complimentary parking upon request
- Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm
- Sat & Sun 10am-2:30pm brunch, 5pm-10pm
**Recommendations: Market Monday! I’ve only been here once for Market Monday (last Monday of every month), so it’s the only thing I can recommend, and I really would recommend it if you’re a food and wine enthusiast.
In a strip of endless kebab shops, dessert shops and casual quick eateries lays a not so hidden gem, but local favourite, which is Raincity Grill. It has a prime location in downtown Vancouver, BC and it’s popular to locals and tourists. Raincity Grill is a casual fine dining restaurant that overlooks the ocean and beautiful scenery Vancouver has to offer. God I love this city.
Raincity Grill is part of the Kambolis Restaurant Group family. Compared to its sister restaurants C Restaurant and Nu Restaurant, it’s more understated with a neighbouhood feel. The view from the patio is of English Bay beach and in terms of ambiance, it showcases Vancouver at its best.
The location is no secret, but what they offer is. I was invited to “Market Monday”, which I didn’t even know existed. It’s one of their best kept secrets and I was excited to get in on it early. It’s a really good secret that I’m happy to reveal!
Market Monday happens on the last Monday of every month. It’s a 4 course dinner with wine pairings for $65! Let me repeat that. It’s a 4 course dinner with wine pairings for $65, and the whole experience is very enjoyable with greetings from the chef and featured producer. The portions are quite reasonable for casual fine dining and the ingredients represent the highest of quality. I mean that in the greatest sense possible too because the ingredients are the reason for why Market Monday even exists.
The purpose of Market Monday is to support local producers, pickers and farmers in the area. For the last few years Raincity Grill has really built a reputation showing their support for local produce, seafood and meats. It’s basically the philosophy of all their restaurants, but it tends to be most associated with this one. Part of the reason is Raincity Grill’s emphasis on seasonal organic ingredients and the 100 mile diet (sourcing locally grown food from producers within 100 miles).
I attended the Market Monday dinner in May featuring local producer “Mikuni Wild Harvest”. The theme was mushrooms, which I love, so I decided to go the extra mile and dress up as one too! I wore a blue tutu skirt that puffed out like a Portobello mushroom and then a red cap sleeve with white polka dots. Little did I know that the red mushrooms with white polka dots (like the ones from Super Mario Brothers) are the poisonous mushrooms! I dressed up as a poisonous mushroom 🙁
On the bright side, the dinner was well executed and the ingredients were well highlighted. Chef Jennifer Peters prepared a 4 course meal featuring the local ingredients provided by Mikuni Wild Harvest. The wines were paired beautifully (nothing really vintage, but solid choices given the price point), and if it wasn’t for my Asian genes I would have downed all my glasses. I can honestly say the dinner is pretty much at cost ($65) because the ingredients are sponsored by the producer being featured, which allows them to charge this price. It’s a pretty intimate yet casual dinner with limited seating, so reservations are highly recommended.
Note: These menu items are not offered on the regular menu. They were only featured on the Market Monday Menu, so I’m not sure what the menu is like on a regular night.
On the table:
Orofino Riesling 2009: This was a beautiful Riesling and it was much more acidic than sweet. It was summery, bright, refreshing and tart with grapefruit and hints of lime. I can’t wait to try their 2010 version.
- Wine pairing: Orofino Riesling 2009
- So it didn’t actually begin with mushrooms, but instead it was a light, summery and aromatic soup that started dinner.
- Nettle is a rare ingredient and my first time trying it was at La Quercia in their risotto – see here.
- The nettle was pureed into the soup and it has a very mild flavour that’s slightly minty, but you can only taste it in the background.
- Nettle does help with the texture since it’s a thicker furry herb, so it did enhance a natural creaminess.
- Although creamy, it wasn’t rich or thick, and it was almost like a smooth garden herb puree thickened with some pureed potato.
- It was actually quite subtle with a faint celery flavour in the background and it almost mimicked broccoli soup.
- It was thickened with vegetables and not dairy or flour, so it was lighter than it looks.
- I did find it slightly under seasoned, but with the wine pairing it brightened up the dish and ended up being quite good.
- There was a drizzle of tangy creme fraiche to add a little richness and it made the flavours come alive.
- With celery fettuccini
- Wine pairing: Blasted Church Pinot Gris 2010
- The celery fettuccine shined as much as the abundant amount of oyster mushrooms.
- The fettucine was al dente with minced wild celery (which I know as Chinese Celery) incorporated into the dough of the house made noodle.
- Chinese celery is quite aromatic and stronger in flavour than regular celery, so even the little bit that was used, was quite strong. It added another layer of flavour to the pasta.
- It was a very simple and light pasta dish with fragrant fettuccine noodles, sweet juicy oyster mushrooms and caramelized wild ramps.
- Wild Ramps is a wild garlic that tastes like a garlicky shallot and a green onion.
- It was a very earthy dish with sweet onion and garlic flavours and a heavy celery flavour.
- It was actually quite delicate, but the oyster mushrooms played a meaty roll.
- It was almost a sauceless pasta, without even much olive oil and maybe just a bit of butter.
- It really showcased the oyster mushrooms considering how many there were; but they seemed simply sauteed in butter, when they were actually roasted in Wild Ramp butter.
- It was slightly under seasoned and I did end up using some salt though, and I could have used more Parmesan cheese.
- Blasted Church Pinot Gris 2010 – I really like this wine and it was actually a bit sweeter than the Riesling. It wasn’t as tangy either but still cirtrusy and it played well with the mushrooms.
- Fiddleheads & Morel mushrooms
- Wine pairing: Joie Reserve Chardonnay 2008
- This was my favourite of the evening. It’s BC Spot Prawn season, so the dish was most appropriate and incredibly well executed.
- When the main ingredient is Spot Prawn and you want to highlight the produce, it’s an incredibly tough challenge. Chef did an excellent job in this case.
- The BC Spot Prawns seemed deep fried and perhaps lightly sauteed afterward.
- The legs were crispy and edible, but the meat cooked up mushy, which can easily happen when cooking Spot Prawns.
- The meat was incredibly sweet and juicy and the heads were just bursting with natural rich and buttery tomalley sauce, it was just the prawn texture that was off.
- The sauce these prawns were sauteed in was delicious. I poured the juices from the heads into the sauce and it just added that extra bit of richness.
- It was a slightly creamy prawn and morel sauce made with natural juices from the two ingredients with perhaps a hint of white wine and butter.
- The morel mushrooms gave the seafood dish a meaty characteristic and they were a bit tangy and well seasoned.
- Best of all, they were completely clean. It’s surprisingly hard to find a restaurant that cleans their morels well.
- The fiddleheads were wonderful and that’s another ingredient that doesn’t come up often.
- They were tender and still firm with a nice crunch and they taste like asparagus stems.
- They were actually blanched twice to retain colour and texture so it was treated like asparagus as well.
- This was all served over a bed of wilted spinach and tender diced buttery and creamy Yukon Gold potatoes.
- It was a gourmet hash and little bits of bottarga (salted Italian fish roe) would have sent this dish over the top.
- There was also a swipe of carrot puree which gave it a little sweetness and it seemed scented with nutmeg and cinnamon.
- It had great flavour and I actually wanted more of it on the plate because I think it did wonders for for the sweet prawns. It was a very innovative touch and accent.
- The colours were beautiful and I didn’t lose the flavour of any ingredients and everything was well highlighted.
- Joie Reserve Chardonnay 2008 – This was the fanciest the wine got. I really like Joie wines and this one was crisp, a bit tropical and citrusy again, but it had some sweeter notes to complement the prawns.
Of course the sauce was not to go to waste. These freshly baked mini buns are their complimentary buns. They’re actually quite soft and fluffy with a semi crusty exterior and they were perfect squeegees for my saucy plate.
- Ligonberry white chocolate ice cream
- Wine pairing: King Estate Vin Glace
- So no mushrooms in dessert either, although I have had a candy cap mushroom ice cream from Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in San Francisco – see here.
- This dessert showcased the Mikuni Wild Harvest Lingonberry and Huckleberries.
- I loved the play on textures but I wish the ratio was a bit shifted with perhaps less terrine.
- It was a relatively small dessert that packed a punch and could be easily treated as almost a palate cleanser.
- The ligonberry white chocolate ice cream was sweetened only with the chocolate and it was sweet and tart, ultra creamy, smooth and more like a gelato than an ice cream.
- It was served on a bed of crispy meringue pieces which added nice texture.
- The lingonberry and huckleberry terrine was very bold and quite tart with a floral scent of elderflower honey.
- The terrine was like a jelly and I found a little was enough because at times I felt like I was eating jam. It got your saliva glands going.
- The last component was a brown sugar shortbread and it was almost like a soft and tender almondy rich pie crust. It wasn’t too sweet and a nice switch up from all the tart flavours.
- I would have liked some fresh berries on the plate or even some Chantilly cream to break up the very sweet and very tart notes.
- When things are really tart they tend to taste equally sweet and that’s what happened here.
- King Estate Vin Glace: They call this a cheat on a dessert wine. I actually liked the flavour, but the texture is not rich and it lacks that syrupy body of a real dessert wine. It smells just like honey and it’s bursting with apricot and peach flavour. This was actually sweeter than the dessert.