Rasa, the new bricks and mortar restaurant from The Food Dudes, strives to be complete in every sense. Cerebrally conceptualized and meticulously executed, their leadership team focuses on a tactful approach to perception, product, and service.
Originally titled Tabula Rasa, the Latin phrase for “blank slate,” Rasa’s creative director, Brent McClenahan, would like diners to feel enlightened at each stage of the evening’s experience.
“We’re trying to complete the cycle of entertaining, incorporating as many details as can stimulate the human senses,” he says. “Our goal is to be memorable. It’s a never ending battle, but in a triumphant way.”
From space to service and on to food, Rasa has a man for the job. McClenahan was in charge of designing the space (though he may never be done), Food Dude’s partner Adrian Niman built the menu, and Adam Minster runs the front of house. Each has a unique skill-set that offsets one another and complements the overall restaurant machine.
The dining room has been designed a bit like a mine shaft, but one you’d very much like to hang out in. Concrete floors, wood walls, water pipe light fixtures complete with knobs and pressure gauges, as well as metal accents that will show their rust and wear over time.
To fit with the constantly maturing space, Rasa’s menu will be in perpetual evolution. While changes are to be expected every 3 months, highlights from the current offerings will give interested diners a sense of the hybrid tones. There will always be a fish board (their take on the charcuterie trend), a cabbage roll, and something meat and potatoes.
Niman’s menu is not defined by any one culture. Like his creations with The Food Dudes, he takes classic dishes and brings them out of context. It’s food that you know and understand but have never thought of before. And if you don’t want to think very hard, leave that up to Mr. Minster and ask about a tasting menu.
Goat cheddar stuffed jalapeño poppers get their crispy exterior from a Serrano ham wrapping. They’re served over lime crema and topped with pico de gallo. Uh huh. Spicy tuna bites come in a fluffy squid ink brioche. Into it.
The current fish board features torched scallop with peach, a caprese salad with tuna as the base, cherry tomatoes, pesto and parmesan crisps, and “lox and bagels” comprised of cold smoked salmon over crème fraiche, everything bagel crumble, and orange slices. I’m sold before I leave the small plates.
As you dive into the larger portions, like the truffle gnudi with local mushrooms, portobello soil, pickled shimenji and pesto, or the whopping soft shell crab sandwich, you might also need to re-up on your cocktails. Chanel Wood uses a host of house infusions, tinctures, and syrups to craft her beverages. She’s definitely bringing her own appreciable flare to the table.
Finish off with the sticky bun – walnut prailine, cream cheese anglaise, and candied bacon – because, like Rasa’s new presence on Harbord Street, this should not be going anywhere soon.
What have been your favourite dishes at Rasa so far? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.