Monday, December 03, 2007

Not Rare Enough

Without recharging the batteries, no pictures are forthcoming from the little camera I brought along. I'd read such good reviews of this place. Brussel Sprout Soup? I'd had fantastic cabbage soup in frozen plastic bags, an excellent choice in many American grocery stores. Broccoli soup I'd made and enjoyed as take out. Kale soup was a regular part of my diet. So the sprouts should shine, right? Wrong.
The restaurant is called Rare and it was raved about.I was so cold from my two-block walk from bus stop, I immeditaely ordered a pot of tea. It did keep me from freezing, but it was hardly worth $3.50, unlike the spectacular vanilla tea I'd had recently at the Aurora Bistro. And I'm not used to ordering tea as a preliminary beverage before dinner.
The Amuse Bouche was a like a micro-lasagna, a layer-cake of root vegetables in a puree of parsnips. I didn't have to search for the essence of the vegetables, but nor was it overwhelming. There was an enchanting subtlety to the way their flavours appeared on my tongue. All my half century memories of turnips, and then something floating above them, a turnip diety I can follow. And this is just the amuse. The real would be fantastic, right? I tell the excellent server that this isn't amusing so much as thought-provoking.
So the brussel sprout soup appeared. Its brussels sproutness never did. I tasted the bacon, hard and flavourfull. The pickeled chanterelles too appeared as a pleasent texture and no unpleasent taste. But no brussels epiphany. No real flavour at all. I froze my nose off to walk two blocks for this? I sought to expand my consciousness of things to do with vegetables, but the vegetability of the soup was beyond my perception. It warmed me, but it was hardly worth a journey for. i try a piece of bread, of which the sever had spoken so highly. Sourdough, and special salt. I find it adequate to test chain saws, but hardly a match for my teeth. I soak a chunk in the soup, and eventually it is edible. Well, where is the brussel sprout flavour? It still eludes me.
I awaited the trout. Now, when was the last time you went to a good restauarant and had fish that tasted fishy? I didn't know that was possible any more, at least in Vancouver. Accross from Rare, one of my favourite Vancouver restaurants, A Kettle of Fish, where I've dined superbly in years gone by. Never a fishy piece of fish. Yet this was hideous! The accompanying potato-caper-lentil concoction was delicious, and the little smear of granulated mustard and carrot that should have cancelled whatever fishiness the trout had did not kick in until the glass of beujolais the server reccommended (vastly over-priced, though the trout would have been unedible without it). Their flavours blended slowly but naturally. The fish was never not fishy. In a restaurant in this league, I didn't know they could do this.
Several days later, today, I baked a piece of trout from the President's Choice freezers at my local, vast Superstore. It was completely devoid of fishiness. It was also a small fraction the price of the trout at Rare. Frozen supermarket fish tasting vastly better than expensive restaurant fare? What's wrong with that sentence?
Apparently, somebody has good food here as Rare continues to exist, so I won't argue with those who have dined well here. The amuse bouche was wondrous and the lentil potato thingie showed real potential. The fish, however; it seemed more likely to kill me with its sheer fishiness than I to enjoy a morsel of its reeking mortality.
Before it's chefs can speer and undercook you, flee!