Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rae's Bistro: 4.6/5

Big Kildonan Burger: 4.6
$15 (platter)

Not So Classic Burger: 4.5
$13 (platter)

Rae’s Bistro takes silver! Similar to Clementine, last month’s new number one, Rae’s creates a variety of delectable dishes. You can chow down on a fantastic burger with beet chips and Lousy Beatnik beer while your dining partner has rack of lamb, a glass of wine and raspberry planter for desert.

Rae’s Bistro opened the doors in December after owners Zack Clarke and Matt Swirsky met Chef Mike Ozero in the parking lot and the ideas started flowing. Mike already knew his way around the kitchen at 925 Headmaster Row: “I try to learn something new all the time and research trends and flavors, but my favourite food is burgers. 95% of the time when I go out to eat, I get a burger.

Everything about the stack was delicious, but the bacon and Bistro Sauce put it over the top. When asked about the bacon Chef Ozero waxed poetic: “Bacon......lovely bacon. When I first met Matt, I said too bad we didn’t get the smoker from the meat shop so we could do bacon; maybe we should buy one. He had a box so we built a smoker. We do a dry rub with brown sugar, curing salt, maple and pepper, rub down a few bellies and let them sit for a time. After smoking a few hours with a wood chip blend, we put the bellies into the oven to bring them up to temperature, chill and slice. It took a few tries but I think we got it down.”

The 6.5 oz. beef patty is good ‘ol medium ground chuck. “We form into balls and drop a big heavy can on them” said Mike. “We let the meat do the talking and season with just salt and pepper. They are cooked on the flat top then the broiler.”

The Bistro Sauce added some complex flavours that some of us were mistakenly trying to identify in the patty. It raised questions and it was good. Mike joked about the Bistro sauce: “The first chef at 925 left the recipe; I changed the mustard and type of pickle to something more to my liking. I can drink the stuff. I suggest getting a side of it with fries.

Where Chef Ozero took a chance was with the bun – but it paid off. While many burger herders go with a softer Brioche style bun, Mike opted for a pretzel bun. “I wanted a bun that held up to grilling with a good dense chew, but small enough for the rest of the burger.” His design was sound. Geoff wrote “The pretzel bun held up with aplomb, wasn't dry like I find most.” Jeff added “I’m a huge fan of pretzel buns, and toasting this one made a great thing even better!” The pretzel bun isn’t for everybody though, and may be all that separated this burger from perfection for some.

April critiqued: “I ordered the Kildonan with extra mushrooms and it was heavenly. It's been a while since I had a nice flavourful burger and this one hit the spot! The bacon was amazing and the meat and sauce balanced well with the rest of the burger. Nom Nom. Burger!” Sandy added: “The patty was charbroiled perfectly and held together. Not well seasoned, but the Bistro Sauce and Arugula added plenty. The mushrooms on their own were amazing, but got lost on the burger.” Brian was succinct: “This was a great burger. The patty was flavourful with nice grill marks. The tomato and lettuce were fresh. The bacon was perfect.

Geoff threw down the gauntlet with “The Big Kildonan burger has surpassed the Big Khanuja as my favourite Jalapeno topped burger.” I see a Kings Head vs. Rae’s Bistro burger-off in our future.

The sides were good too. Tina wrote “I loved the fries - tasty & shoestring - no need for gravy or Ketchup.” Jeff added “I had the roasted vegetable bisque on the side – delicious, and thick. You could eat it with a fork.” Dani commented “The beet chips looked like a side of bacon! They were very yummy.

The soups and deserts are really something. Chef Ozero cooked his way across the country since graduating from Red River in 2002 and was at the MTS Centre under Roger Wilton when he passed his Red Seal exam. “I spent a few years at Desert Sinsations as Barbara O'Hara's sous chef. I didn't work on deserts, but you'd be surprised how much you learn from observation. I have a good day cook that is learning soups and surprising me with his creations.”

You can’t beat the service either. None of us went thirsty and the line of local craft beers was impressive. Two servers took great care of us, and it wasn't long before the parade of burgers came out of the kitchen in the sequence they were ordered. Brett commented “Tanika offered to drive us home to Charleswood even though she lives in Selkirk.” Rae’s Bistro is a bit of a trek for some – but totally worth it!

We came for the burger and stayed for the characters. Esther hasn’t burgered for a while and commented “Had a great conversation about visiting grave sites of famous people and where they met their demise. Burger Club is always entertaining.”
Rae's Bistro + Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato