I was invited to the highly anticipated media launch for “Rise Eatery”, a new and modern restaurant joining the South Granville neighbourhood.
When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
The space is simple and clean, the kind of locale you would want to linger in, well after your dinner; and with a bevy of unique drinks you can. Raised criss crossing lines on white walls, grey booths with irregular wood shaped tables and black linear chairs. A few pops of colour found a way to animate the place within whimsical works of canvas art. And they even have a patio at the back to enjoy some sun as you dine. However, overlooking their parking lot and its alley, doesn’t make the best of views.
Given their well dressed bar, it would be a shame not to try any of their cocktails. One led to another, each a twist on a famed classic; much like the rest of our tasting menu to come.
Their soon to be signature drink is the “Geisha-rita”, a visual drink pretty in pink, and as fun as it is tasty. It is a mix of sake and pink lemonade, poured over a canned lychee fruit skewered by a strawberry Pocky stick. It is rimmed with togarashi for a salty and savoury finish. The flavour of the lychee was gentle as an accent, best highlighted by the bold and spicy rim.
The “Old Timer. Newly Fashioned” is their fun play on a classic favourite. It is a drink that changes as it melts. It begins with prep: their blend of sour cherry juice is chilled until frozen at the bottom of a tumbler. To this frosty glass a shaken mix of maple, orange bourbon, thyme, and bitters are poured in. And what you get us a more palatable version of an old fashion, accented by the slow to melt cherry juice, that also helps to keep the glass chilled. This makes a great option for those who rather not the sting of sharp liquor.
And lastly we had the option of trying their “Rain City Ricky”, another playful and fun twist on a classic cocktail. Made with gin, cucumber, mint, lime, and soda. The twist is the inclusion of lemon grass to the line up. The result is a very refreshing drink with the zing of some smooth citrus notes. This was the easiest to sip and down.
Now when it comes to their food, I feel a disclaimer must be declared. I went into this meal all wrong. For the best results follow my tips. First, forget what you know about any one cuisine; and second, forget trying to figure what kind of fusion they are. They identify themselves as being global fusion, pulling from many different types of international influences. You can’t compare it to any one cuisine, and if you did you would be left with a lasting taste of confusion. However, of you sit down with an open mind and enjoy what is before you for what it is assembled on the plate, it gives you a better experience. Each dish we tried below is different, each is unlike any other you have had, and each a recreation all its own.
We began with some canapés. And like all their cocktails, each of their dishes came with a fun name. The “creme de la creme” centred around what they called a “duck liver creme burlee”, with a goji berry chutney over a toasted slice of baguette. The cream was a smooth pâté, delicious and flavourful. I assumed the “creme burlee” in the name derived from the fact that it was torched slightly, but I didn’t get any of that.
The “Tuna mole” was a play on chips and dip. A spicy albacore tuna tartare mix, sitting over a roasted corn guacamole. A heavy dip, unfortunately served with frail lotus chips for dipping with. If they were thicker cuts of lotus root, this would have worked better. Instead you were left wanting a stronger base like the one below to pair with such a punchy appetizer. Plus the chips were additionally soften, with an acrid taste from its burnt edges.
The “Routine”, was anything but routine. It took the idea of layering a carb with gravy and cheese, but other than that, this could not be defined as a poutine. Fried ramen cubes covered in cheese curds, miso gravy, kewpie mayo, and furikake. I liked the imagination but lost out on the execution. The texture of the raw ramen cubes left you with a grainy finish, and the more cooked ones gave you a chalky sand to swallow. I would have preferred the noodles prepared normally, with the same ingredients on top. There were tasty bites from the bonito, tanginess from the mayo, and melted cheese that went with everything. I just wanted some freshness to finish it off with. Some bean sprouts or pickled cucumber to help brighten up the dense dish.
Their “Loy Hay Salad” is similar to the traditional Chinese new year salad. A dish with all its ingredients laid out before you, and diners mix them all together at the table. This is done by lifting noodle and vegetables high above the plate and dropping it back down, repeating the motion. This process is thought to usher luck to those dining. And at “Rise”, they did the celebratory dish justice. Theirs is well balanced with the creamy fish and tangy vegetables playing well off one another. Smoked salmon, julienne cucumber, daikon carrot, pickled ginger, onions, tomatoes, taro, pea shoots, crispy vermicelli, toasted sesame, and peanuts; all in an apricot and beer vinaigrette.
Another one that I liked the idea of, but could have used more finesse in its execution is the French fry stir fry for the “Steak your claim” entree. Served in a cast iron skillet the side of kennebec potatoes fries were over salted with the balsamic Demi glaze that coated them. The cherry tomato halves, shishito peppers, and onions helped to cut into this, but not enough so. The twist was the inclusion of chewy pieces of Chinese donut. Although I didn’t find that they added anything to the dish, flavour or texture wise. The grilled 8oz rib eye steak main was much better. Cooked perfectly with an easy to take chew, and tasty as is. Here, I could have done with the chimichurri sauce, although its bold hue did tie the dish together visually.
I liked the “Shio Koko”: salted rice, malt roasted maple hills chicken thighs skewered and standing tall over a creamy helping of their Japanese potato salad. The chicken was cooked juicy with a great char from an even grill. A sweeter flavour to contrast the more vinegar based salad. The tangy pickles gave the side the freshness it needed and therefore I wished they were chopped up and mixed it with the other colourful vegetables hiding under the mayo.
I found the “Heart attack rice” a hearty bowl, but not necessary the main as they intended. This would have been better as a side as it felt like it was missing a dominant flavour to pull all the minced ingredients together. Schmaltz stir fried rice pilaf, chicken confit, and a soft-boiled egg to crown it all. The pulled chicken was nice, there just wasn’t enough of it. The airy pork skin added some crunch and the soft boiled egg gave the rice some moisture. As a whole, the dish was on the sweeter side, where here I wanted it saltier, more savoury. So the colourful peppers felt out of place. This would have paired nicely with the dish below.
There were no complaints over the “Long n Green”. Crispy pan fried green beans prepared with wok’ed haricot very, butter, soya, and their house XO sauce. The beans had a nice flavour, I just could have used more of it. There was not enough of the lumpy clump of sauce that topped the dish.
The one that surprised me was the “Shroom”. A vegan udon that used silken tofu cream and cashew Parmesan to achieve its luscious white sauce. A great pairing with the earthy mushrooms. I could have used more of the crispy onion for depth and maybe some peas for freshness. But it was the texture of this that won me over. I could have sat here slurping each noodle strand by strand.
For dessert we had their “Mean n’ green”. A matcha molten lava cake served with a side of adzuki bean ice cream from new and local ice creamery: “Innocent ice cream”. They may have rushed the cake. It was a runny batter at its centre, and fairly bitter. The sides that were cooked were wonderful, I just wish I had it as they intended it. By comparison the red bean was tasteless and icy. I found them best together for balance. The mix of melted cream and runny green was like a matcha latte of sorts.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I like their concept and their space, I just wish that I liked their food more. The menu almost feels like they are trying to hard to be different and as a result each dish doesn’t have focus. Great ideas, just not well conceived. And this is coming from a girl who loves novelty and doing something for the sake of being different. But here the flavours were everywhere, and you were either left having too much or feeling like you needed more. Although having said that, I will still recommend them for upscale and dressy cocktails in the area. And I myself will be back, to see how their menu evolves as this new restaurant finds it ground. Don’t deny your cravings.