A Shining Rae

Unlike the night before, I had made reservations for graduation dinner months in advance. The location: Rae, a chic, contemporary new restaurant in the chic, contemporary new Cira Centre.

Occupying about a third of the ground floor of this busy skyscraper, Rae seems to be designed for the hip, rich after-work crowd.

Though not exactly a parental utopia in terms of atmosphere, our group was more than pleasantly surprised by Rae’s quality of food. In short, dinner was spectacular.

After ordering a bottle of wine for the table (a duty that somehow fell to me, though I wasn’t paying and my sommelier skills are somewhat questionable), we looked over the sparse but intriguing menu.

A full two-thirds of our party ordered the Caesar Salad to start and were quite happy with their selection. I took a different route, straying as far away from vegetables as possible with the Risotto Fingers. These little bundles of fun resembled mozzarella sticks in their shape and tater tots in their consistency. They were the perfect match of crispy, crunchy outside and tender but creamy inside. Rich enough by themselves, they were also served with a truffle/soy sauce that was richer still.

As good as the apps were, this place is all about the entrees. Again, half of the table overlapped each other with the Salmon (asparagus and dill). I heard several compliments of the dish, which I managed to verify through a small taste of my dad’s fish.

Although I initially ordered the Spring Chicken (fava and chanterelle), I went back to the drawing board after the waitress informed us that the chickens had flown the coop. As a remplacement, I chose the Beef Tenderloin (Rae bearnaise and red wine). It was a medium-rare masterpiece of meat, which I almost finished despite my stomach’s signals to stop halfway through.

More adventurous (and more representative of the playful inventiveness that chef Daniel Stern’s honed at Gayle) was my wife’s dish: Horseradish Tuna. Its preparation was undeniably unique. First, the tuna was just barely seared on the outside, leaving the vast majority of the fish raw and cold. The tuna was then wrapped in what looked to be phyllo dough, heated to brown the crust and fuse it to the meat, and then chilled again.

The tuna was then sliced into geometric sections and served cold alongside a cup of horseradish ice cream. Yes, horseradish ice cream.

I managed to coax a taste from my wife’s dish and the “hot” cold sensation was one of the weirdest I’ve ever experienced. It was certainly the winning dish in terms of adventure.

Buoyed by good wine, good conversation and good food, the whole table continued to dessert. The popular choice for this course was the Caramel Apple Walnut Pie. The ‘rents raved about every aspect of this sweet fruit treat, from the crispy crust, to the chunky, gooey innards. My mom and I, chocoholics to the core, went with Variations of Chocolate, which is exactly what it sounds like: a cornucopia of petite chocolate desserts. Coming off the high from the last night’s simple chocolate mousse, however, I was a little disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, any chocolate is good chocolate, but the cookies, pastries and beverage that made up this plate didn’t seem to gel in the flavor department. It was a bit too complex and overwhelming.

Despite this minor setback, we exited our celebration happier than we entered… which is saying a lot considering the smiles of relief, pride and joy that we walked in with.

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