Raincity Grill – Brunch

Restaurant: Raincity Grill
Cuisine: Seafood/West Coast/Fine Dining/Pacific Northwest/Organic
Last visited: October 1, 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: 4.5 – 5 (for brunch)
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 4.5
Additional comments:

  • 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
  • Brunch/Lunch/Dinner
  • Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm
  • Sat & Sun 10am-2:30pm brunch, 5pm-10pm

**Recommendations: ‘Helmers’ Potatoes & Ham Hock Hash, Fraser Valley Smoked Ham Hock & Parsley Terrine, ‘Rossdown Farm’ Crispy Fried Chicken and Market Monday (special dinner last Monday of every month)!

Raincity Grill. It’s not a hidden gem at all. In fact, it’s fully exposed at a major intersection right by Vancouver’s busiest beach. However, I almost consider it a hidden gem because it’s often a forgotten choice, but the food makes it a worthy gem.

It is located in a very touristy part of Vancouver since it’s right by the beach, but it also has a neighbourhood feel. I admit, the ambiance needs an upgrade and it feels a bit dated, but the food delivers beyond the atmosphere, even taking into consideration the ocean view. You do pay for the location, but so far the food I’ve tried hasn’t been disappointing.

On this occasion I was invited for the new Autumn Harvest brunch menu. I love brunch and find it at times more appealing than dinner. It takes more effort to go to and usually only happens on the weekends which makes it somewhat of a special occasion. I don’t need my brunch to be fancy since brunch ingredients are not fancy, but I do appreciate innovative and I also don’t want it to be something I could make at home. This was a perfect combination of what I like.

The philosophy of the restaurant is again farm to table with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients. That seems to be the theme of every restaurant nowadays so the appeal isn’t as “oh la la” anymore. On the other hand they really commit to the concept here and all ingredients are sourced within 100 miles. 100 MILES. That’s not far at all and not many restaurants can say they do this even if they’re local. The only ones that come to mind that source this close to home are Seasonal 56 in Langley and Jean-Georges new restaurant ABC Kitchen in New York.

Anyways this local “phenomenon” can be interpreted in many ways. The way it’s showcased here feels like the restaurant should be located on a farm instead of by the beach. The brunch was rustic, hearty and yet refined with presentation and respect to the ingredients.

The whole “let the ingredients speak for themselves” is often too simply said than delivered, but here it was the reverse. It sounded straight forward on the menu and on the plate, but the flavours were even more impressive. Don’t be fooled by the exterior, the “Raincity” name is true to Vancouver in more than one way, it embraces our ingredients right from home.

On the table:

Complimentary Scone & Warm Apple Cider

  • Not only do they source within a 100 mile radius, but they also go the extra mile to do this!
  • I love it when fancier restaurants provide an amuse bouche for brunch. It’s memorable.
  • The scone was a cranberry scone and I found it more like a soft cookie meets a fluffy biscuit than a scone.
  • It wasn’t that sweet or crispy, but it was quite cakey and somewhat flakey and likely made with buttermilk and of course butter.
  • I actually really like the complimentary scones from Giraffe (see here) and O’Doul’s Restaurant & Bar (see here).
  • The warm apple cider was sweeter than expected, but it had a nice tartness at the end. Personally it was a bit too sweet for me, but I liked the addition of warm spices which made it seem like mulled apple cider wine.
  • I think it was cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and perhaps star anise used in the cider. I always like mine with a little bit of lime rind to brighten it up. Ginger is nice as well, but that’s changing the flavour profile entirely.

**Fraser Valley Smoked Ham Hock & Parsley Terrine – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Dijon crème fraiche, house-made pickles $12
  • The presentation and colours on this was beautiful. It pretty much had all the colours of the rainbow.
  • The crunchy crostini were similar to Melba toasts and I loved the Dijon crème fraiche. It was an upgrade from the traditional British piccalilli (a mustard based relish made with pickled vegetables and spices) which is normally served with ham hock terrine.
  • In a way, the piccalilli was almost deconstructed with the mustard being a smear and then the pickled vegetables being whole and separate.
  • The Dijon crème fraiche actually tasted like cream cheese mixed with whole grain mustard and I did want more of it as well as more of a Dijon kick. It went amazingly well as a spread on the toast with ham hock terrine on top.
  • The pickled pink rhubarb was unexpected, but they were as sour as sour pickles. I enjoyed them in between bites of ham hock, but the vinegar from it was quite dominating.
  • It showcased a variety of crunchy shaved beets including the yellow beet, watermelon beet and a red beet puree, all from North Arm Farms.
  • I also wanted a lot more of the red beet puree drizzle (you can see in the back). Visually it played its role, but since it was almost the only sweet component next to the blueberries, I needed more of it to thoroughly enjoy the plate.

  • It had all the components it needed to make for a well balanced appetizer.
  • The tartness of pickled vegetables, sweetness of fresh blueberries and red beet puree helped to balance the saltier and richer ham hock terrine.
  • It was a substantial amount and well worth the price, and with some cheese on the side this appetizer could have been lunch.
  • I’d recommend doing a wine pairing for this. If it weren’t for the pickled vegetables I’d go for a Pinot Gris, but otherwise a Riesling would have worked. I’m not a sommelier though, so I’d ask their in house sommelier to recommend something.

  • I loved this house made chilled ham hock terrine.
  • It’s a very tricky dish to pull off because ham hock is one of the cheapest meats and if not executed correctly it can be very gelatinous, sticky, fatty, and very salty. This was none of that.
  • It seemed so simple, but the flavours went beyond the “Smoked Ham Hock & Parsley Terrine” menu description.
  • The flavours were built very subtly in the terrine, but it takes a lot of time to get it this good since ham hock requires a bit of work.
  • The meat is almost like shredded ham meets corned beef and it kind of tastes like Spam because of the curing. We called it “gourmet Spam”. It’s delicious.
  • I’m not really a fan of terrines that have a lot of gelatin to hold it together. The gelatin is usually made from pork stock, but I’m still not a fan of the texture it brings, especially to ham hock. It almost reminds me of head cheese.
  • This terrine was very loosely packed together and it hardly had any gelatin, yet it still maintained its shape.
  • It shredded beautifully and I think chef allowed it to come to room temperature which could have thawed the minimal gelatin holding it together.
  • The aromatics were really developed in the ham hock and it was likely brined in carrots, celery and onions and also soaked a few times to remove some of the sodium it contains.
  • Although it was smoked, it wasn’t smoky and it was very heavy on the parsley.
  • I think it was cooked in some vinegar too because it had a nice tang to it which helped cut the natural greasiness of it.
  • A lot of the fat was removed, which is great because ham hocks can get very slimy and sticky when there’s too much fat.
  • Although the fat was removed the flavour wasn’t. It was incredibly moist and still carried a beautiful cured pork flavour and I think there may have been some pickled onions or radish in it to keep the flavours balanced.
  • The parsley is a classic herb to use for ham hock terrines and the flavour of it combined with the tang of perhaps vinegar made it taste a bit lemony and almost reminiscent of dill.

Ricotta Crepen/a

  • ‘Hanna Brook Farm’ greens (Appetizer from brunch prefix menu – 2 course for $20)
  • This wasn’t my order so I didn’t get to try this.
French Toastn/a
  • Berry compote, chantilly, maple butter (Appetizer from brunch prefix menu – 2 course for $20)
  • I didn’t try this particular one, but I did try a plum version of it for dessert. See my comments on it below.
Dungeness Crab & Chive Omelette4/6 (Very good)
  • Butter-braised dungeness crab, ‘hannah brooke farm’ greens, herbed nugget potatoes $18
  • I was impressed with this because it was Dungeness crab, but otherwise it wouldn’t be something I would re order again although it was good.
  • The omelette was quite large, but I found it slightly bland.
  • I really appreciated the apricot and apple puree, which was the smear on the side, and I could have used more of that since it played a role in giving sweetness and flavour to the omelette. It tasted like a pureed apple pie filling.
  • Sweet and savoury doesn’t work with everyone, so I can understand why it was put on the side. However I think it went lovely with the buttery crab meat and even the salad and potatoes.
  • The omelette was very fluffy and likely made with buttermilk or cream. It wasn’t tangy, and I did miss some of the yolk flavour, but to get it so fluffy and layered was a talent.
  • It was stuffed with a decent amount of juicy, flaky butter braised crab meat, but the flavours were so simple that I felt like it was a bit too simple. Some garlic or lemon juice or browned butter might have done it.
  • The butter was there, but for “butter-braised” I thought it would be more intense. Perhaps it just absorbed into the omelette.
  • I’m guessing they wanted the natural flavours of the crab to come through, but it was still more egg than crab and I found them both a bit shy with seasoning.
  • I actually would have loved if the omelette was drizzled with tomalley sauce, or if the crab meat was braised in it. That would have given it that seafood flavour I missed.
  • Avocados would have been great as well, but too bad California isn’t within 100 miles.
**’Helemers’ Potatoes & Ham Hock Hash – 5/6 (Excellent)
  • Caramelized onions, poached free-range eggs, hollandaise $13
  • This was a very generous portion of ham hock hash and finishing this would require a nap afterward.
  • This was heavy and substantial, but very very good. It was more than good, it was excellent!
  • It was pretty much last night’s dinner made into a delicious melt in your mouth hash.
  • It was creamy, moist and perfectly seasoned with stringy caramelized onions and salty shredded ham hock which I felt was the the same one from the terrine appetizer, but broken up.
  • It had a rich, buttery, ultra creamy hollandaise that was almost like mayo and that just made the hash even more indulgent.
  • The hash didn’t need the hollandaise for flavour, but it was still great together.
  • Again, ham hock is one of the least expensive kinds of meat so it takes a lot of work to make well and this was done well.
  • Similar to the Ham Hock Terrine appetizer, it wasn’t too salty and a lot of the fat had been removed so it wasn’t sticky, gelatinous or overly greasy, but still quite buttery and moist. I’m almost sure it was from the terrine.
  • The meat is like shredded ham meets corned beef and it kind of tastes like Spam because of the curing.
  • The skin on smashed potatoes were divine and they too had a creamy buttery texture with a slight sweetness, so all the ingredients played right into each other.
  • It was bordering a mashed potato mixture rather than a hash because all the ingredients were so creamy and just melting into each other.
  • The hash just absorbed all the natural juices from the onions and ham hock, so it was almost saucy or at least coated in a natural gravy.
  • Some crispy bacon, fresh corn or even sweet green peas would have been great in this, although peas are out of season, and corn is almost too.
  • I did want something crispy in this though, even if it was just a sprinkle of fried onions or chives on top for texture.
  • There was a smear of apricot and apple puree on the edge of the plate (same one from the Dungeness Crab Omelette) which I would have wanted more of.
  • It almost tasted like a caramelized spiced apple pie filling, and apples always play beautifully with pork, so I did want more of it with the hash.
  • The eggs were well done upon request :(, but I would have ordered them soft. I could just imagine the yolk acting as an additional sauce for that hash. Drool worthy.
  • The juicy, plump, tangy, sweet and roasted tomato was very much appreciated and a nice break from the indulgent hash.
English Bay Breakfastn/a
  • Your choice of eggs, maple pork sausage, smoked bacon, mushrooms, herbed potatoes, tomatoes $16
  • I only got to try the scrambled eggs, but they were delicious.
  • They were softly scrambled and almost silky and creamy.
  • If I ordered them I would have requested them even less cooked, but these were fine as is.
English Bay Breakfast n/a
  • Your choice of eggs, maple pork sausage, smoked bacon, mushrooms, herbed potatoes, tomatoes $16
  • I didn’t get to try anything from this one either.
‘Sloping Hills’ Bacon Benedict4/6 (Very good)
  • Free range berkshire pork, toasted english muffin, poached eggs, hollandaise, herbed nugget potatoes $13
  • This picture is obviously in the middle of destruction, but it still looks delicious to me!
  • The house made bacon was much more like ham than bacon. It reminded me of ham from Christmas dinner. I was almost looking for the pineapple.
  • Part of me did miss the crispiness of bacon, but the ham was still very good and quite thick in slice.
  • The English muffin was very buttery and almost crispy all the way though. For extra decadence it could be made confit.
  • The hollandise was very rich and extremely creamy.
  • The texture was almost thick like mayo and it had a bit of a lemony tang, but it was a bit too mayo like for me.
  • I also prefer hollandaise to have a bit of a kick, so some Worcestershire would be nice, but that’s personal.
Skillet of Vegetables & Alpine Gold Cheese 4/6 (Very good)
  • $10
  • This was a very simple side dish and you could share it between 2-4 people, but probably more like 2.
  • It had carrots, turnips, zucchini, celeriac, green and yellow beans.
  • Everything was well seasoned and the vegetables were whole, fresh, juicy and tender with rich melted buttery cheese over top.
  • It wasn’t really something I couldn’t make at home, but the dish really showcased the philosophy of the restaurant and pride it takes on using local ingredients.
Brioche or Tuscan Toast4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
  • Served with honey butter & apple/stone-fruit preserves $3.50
  • I ordered this as a side because it’s hard for me to deny anything with “brioche”.
  • The toast was airy light and fluffy, but of course rich in buttery flavour.
  • If this was executed as a bun rather than a loaf it could have been even better.
  • I like the shiny gloss on the outside and almost stretchy and soft inside, and you don’t get that texture in a slice.
  • It actually wasn’t that sweet at all and it didn’t need to be because of the condiments it was served with.
  • The condiments are meant to be eaten together with the brioche.
  • The honey butter is amazing. It was sweet and creamy and almost a bit translucent. It was sweeter than the apple and nectarine preserve and the honey quality was high, but not grainy.
  • The apple and nectarine preserve was very tart, so together with the honey butter it balanced out nicely.
**Rossdown Farm’s Crispy Fried Chicken (Gluten Free) – 4/6 (Very good)
  • Potato salad, ‘hannah brook farm’ greens $18
  • I ordered my main from the lunch menu and it wasn’t a bad decision. It’s hard to deny fried chicken. So I didn’t.
  • It came with 2 pieces of chicken thigh, so obviously it was already going to be juicy since it was dark meat.
  • The technique for the chicken reminded me of the Chinese “Crispy Chicken” and even the flavour was a bit reminiscent. The style was different though.
  • The chicken was not only moist, but incredibly juicy (being dark meat), however the batter was very thick.
  • It’s wasn’t “crispy chicken”, but crunchy chicken. It had a very thick batter made with rice flour so it’s actually gluten free.
  • I do like crunchy chicken, but the batter was uneven, so some parts were a bit too batter heavy with heavily packed on rice flour.
  • The meat was very tender though and it must have been bathing overnight in buttermilk.
  • It didn’t have an apparent tang or spice, but it was well seasoned and obviously a bit greasy.
  • The flavour was more than just salt, but it was hard to pinpoint everything that went into it.
  • I would have loved if this chicken was coated with a bit of honey before it was deep fried for a little extra Southern sweetness and candied crunch.
  • Someday I’d like to compare Rossdown Farm, Polderside Farm, and Maple Hill Farm chickens side by side.
  • It was served with”potato salad” which was actually potatoes and salad, not potato salad.
  • It was a bit unexpected and it had some butternut squash and/or carrot puree, but again there wasn’t enough for it to make an impact on the dish.
  • I do appreciate the salad and greens since fried chicken isn’t exactly the healthiest thing, but I would have liked it more as an addition to potato salad.
  • I was hoping for a warm potato salad with perhaps a buttermilk and Dijon mustard dressing or even a French style vinaigrette, but instead it was 4 nugget herb potatoes underneath the fried chicken.
  • The potatoes were amazing though. They used them for almost every single brunch dish and they served them in big chunks.
  • The potatoes are from Helmers Farm in the Pemberton Valley, and holy crap they’re very well raised potatoes. They must have proud parents.
  • The texture of them is ultra buttery, tender, smooth and creamy and they have a bit of a sweetness to them, but it’s not as sweet as a sweet potato.
  • The potatoes had a thicker Russet potato like skin, but it was more pleasant to eat. I’ve always liked potato skins though, and if these were crispy it would be even better.
  • Another great potato would be the Glorious Organics Fingerling Potatoes which have a thinner skin, but similar texture – see here.
French Toast – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
  • Brioche French Toast, plum compote, chantilly, maple butter (Appetizer from brunch prefix menu – 2 course for $20)
  • This was just an appetizer size I wanted to try for dessert.
  • It was good, but it wasn’t really my idea of French toast and it was a bit fancy for me.
  • I like my French toast to be soaked in an egg mixture and this one just seemed like toasted brioche.
  • It was moist, but just very lightly soaked and I couldn’t even really tell if it was or not.
  • I don’t want it soggy, but I do like that custard like centre of French toast.
  • The French toast wasn’t sweet and I couldn’t taste any vanilla or cinnamon if any, but the sweetness came from the chantilly, which is sweetened whipped cream. I actually couldn’t taste the maple butter either.
  • I could have used some actual vanilla bean seeds in the chantilly, or mascarpone would be even better. Yes, I’m indulgent.
  • This was good and well executed, but nothing particularly new and different.
  • I did love that they used brioche for the French toast, but for brioche French toast I have to give it to Market by Jean-Georges and their killer Deep Fried French Toast with roasted apples and crispy bacon.
House Special Assorted Sorbet5/6 (Excellent)
  • Coronation grape and Ortega grape sorbet with crispy meringue and mint jelly.
  • So this was dessert after dessert, except I like to call this a palate cleanser and “healthy” plate of fruit.
  • This was pure and simple and exactly what a true farm to table restaurant should be capable of delivering.
  • The purple sorbet was the Coronation grape which is a Canadian grown grape. It was also the fresh grapes it was served with.
  • The skin of the grape pops off and it’s quite tart, but the flesh is juicy and sweet. I wanted to make wine with them.
  • The Coronation grape sorbet tasted like a creamy fresh fruit puree popsicle and it almost had a raspberry flavour. I did find it a bit too sweet though.
  • The Ortega grape is a green grape used for white wines and it’s not as tart and much sweeter than the standard green grape. I found it had more a of a grape flavour compared to the Coronation grape. It would have been nice to have the actual Ortega grapes to try in its natural form too.
  • The meringue is supposed to add texture, but I find it too sweet so I would prefer something like almond tuille or crystallized mint leaves for crispy texture.
  • The mint jelly was refreshing with the grapes and I just wanted more of it.
  • Although this was a sweet dessert, there was a nice tartness to it and it was suitable as a palate cleanser.
Complimentary Hazelnut & Chocolate Macarons 
  • Well this was certainly better than a Fortune Cookie, on the other hand I’m super picky about Parisian Macarons.
  • I wrote a post called “The Perfect Parisian Macaron“, which shows what I look for.
  • They’ve existed for centuries, and in Vancouver it’s like we’ve just discovered them. We treat them as some highly prized delicacy a notch below caviar. Okay I’m exaggerating, but seriously the hype for these is a bit humourous.
  • If the place isn’t specializing in desserts and macarons, I almost get nervous when I see them.
  • It’s not like a chocolate chip cookie as macarons do require skill and technique to make. There is a right and wrong way.
  • The most popular macarons at the moment seem to be from Thierry’s, but even those I wasn’t keen on – see my post here. I just think it’s popular because the majority of the population still hasn’t tried them.
  • In the end, even a “non-proper macaron” will be good, and that’s kind of what happened here.
  • These were good because it was a sweet sugary cookie filled with Nutella ganache, but the texture wasn’t quite right for a macaron.
  • They don’t have a pastry chef in house so that could explain it, and because they are complimentary there’s not much to complain about, but the composition was very soft and cakey and it should have a crisp shell, and the feet were a bit rough around the edges.
  • I loved the cocoa covered candied hazelnuts though and I’m guessing they’re BC hazelnuts.
  • It was still a nice gesture and it’s not like I didn’t eat mine anyways.

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