To start, let me admit something to you. Before this week, I wasn’t that big a fan of Rachel Rachel. Read on to find out why and you’ll also learn how they won me over. It all started about a year ago when I left a neighbouring restaurant with a few friends. It was relatively early (1am-ish) and we decided to go for a nightcap. We popped into Rachel Rachel because it was close and a couple of us knew at least one person that could get us B-lined to the bar for drinks. Cut to us twenty minutes later squeezed into a steamy, sweaty mess of people getting down to 90’s white rap (the very, very uncool kind). I guzzled my drink and swore that I’d never darken their doorstep again. I like going to a nightclub as much as the next guy but I wasn’t prepared for that.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an invite to drop by for a tasting of the new menu Rachel Rachel will be serving their guests. When I got the invitation my first thought was – they serve food? During my first visit to the restaurant, I hadn’t gotten much further than the bar so I had no idea they even had a kitchen. I accepted the invitation with slight hesitation but also with a bit of curious optimism. The big night arrived last week just has the northern hemisphere decided winter was finally happening. I stepped into the restaurant after a death-defying walk along the icy Rachel Street sidewalks. Once inside, I walked past the bar and into a space that I was definitely not expecting. Without the crowds, sweat and steam, I could see that Rachel Rachel glowed with warmth and it was infectious; I started to feel the warm tingle of thawing throughout my body and I smiled happily. The honey coloured wooden walls, soft chairs and smooth lighting were a pleasantly surprise. I was greeted by a half dozen smiling faces who were busy carrying trays of glasses and boxes from one place to the next and several groups of people were seated, having a drink and enjoying themselves. It was an impressive start.My arrival coincided with that of a friend and we both took up spots at a high table near the bar (and away from the windows looking out onto winter). We were among the first to arrive and before long we were sipping on a cocktail and waiting for our food to arrive. The sampling came out just as I like it. Small portions of the different foods the restaurant serves from their menu. The food is a fantastic take on snack-able comfort food. We each started with a lovely salmon tartar (prepared with caviar, herbs and Sriracha) before taking different paths towards tasting the food. I followed up with a mini sized buttery, grilled lobster mac-n-cheese. Normally served in a heartier portion, I’m certain that this will be a big hit. Next I went for a Tokyo style beef tartar (a standout tartar) that was just spicy enough to be pleasant. Another delightfully surprise was the pogo style house hotdog. It was served with a dollop of violet mustard that paired perfectly with the sausage. Last but not least, I tried the crunchy rice and cheese arancni that was served with zesty sauce. With their warm atmosphere (the music was the perfect decibel level for having a conversation), good service and a delicious take on comfort food, Rachel Rachel is a great place to stop and grab a snack and enjoy a drink. As I prepared to leave the warmth of the restaurant to step out into harsh reality what felt like minus 600 degrees, I thought to myself about the limited expectations I had set for Rachel Rachel. Although I was ignorant to the fact that they serve up more than drinks, I was willing to write the place off after just one rap filled night without questioning it further. I judged the bar by the cover charge and didn’t look back but I will hesitate before doing that again.
Though sometimes our opinions can be justified after just one visit, every now and then we may be surprised when we decide to give a restaurant or a bar one more shot. There may be more good things than we originally bargained for and that’s the best surprise of all.
Hockey fans take note: games are televised at Rachel Rachel every Tuesday (with sound) and Thursday (with music playing)!
Photo credit: Marie Charest