Joanna's take on... The Food Dudes
[Rasa, Caffe Doria]
The night started out a little differently than most nights that I go out to eat. Then again, I probably don’t eat like most people. I love to restaurant rove. What does this mean? Exactly what it sounds like. If I can find a few places that are close to each other I will have a cocktail and a nibble at the first restaurant then move on to the next for a main and wine and then if I am really lucky dessert at the next. Here are a few Toronto examples that I love; Chantecler for one of the best cocktails around and their killer Calamari with caramelized peanuts and tamarind sauce. Onto Porzia for a great bottle and Chicken liver agnolotti plus best ever Bone marrow with snails.
Another fun one is El Catrin for a Tromba Tequila shot with an orange slice dipped in cinnamon sugar and a wicked guacamole made tableside. Go a few doors down to sister restaurant Cluny for a great French red and steak frites. Best part about this dish is the side order of shaved foie gras served by the ounce to melt onto the steak. Head to Maisonette, a tiny little shop by artisan chocolatier Laura Slack for a few killer seasonal truffles.
Now, back to my evening. It started out a little rocky but quickly righted itself. A re group on a perfectly sunny night at the downstairs patio of Le Societe for a glass of Muscadet and a hunt through my favourite go to restaurant site TasteToronto.ca for a few ideas to jog my mind. We landed on Rasa, which is a place I have been dying to try for quite some time. A quick call to see if there was room in 20 minutes had us on with an incredibly welcoming lady who instantly said we will make it work. The place was hopping which it is every night. The Food Dudes own this joint as well as a phenomenal catering company and they have their hands in many pies around the city which are all rocking it including one of my old time favourites that is back better than before; Caffe Doria.
Rasa GM and partner Adam Minster is the very personable meet and greet host and runner of many things delicious. A good GM in my books works a room but is also on hand to clear plates, serve drinks and present food. Adam is very very good at his job.
We were luckily seated at a table for 4 beside the window, which was perfect for taking pictures. Judy Donnelly is the master behind the drink menu and let me tell you it is my happy place. The Last Word is a gin-based cocktail from the prohibition era created at The Detroit Athletic Club. You know, run a little, drink a little.
Good drinks always have measurements but there is still a very fine balance and made perfectly they are a joy to ingest. The Last Word is a difficult cocktail to make well as it has very strange components such as; green chartreuse and maraschino liquor. Blended wrong and it is quite sickly and medicinal but not here. I also had a sip of the Charlie Chaplin, with Sloe gin, apricot brandy and lemon, also a killer beverage.
We then chatted with Adam about dinner. Clearly the name of the game is to try as much as possible in order to make for an interesting read for you and to really get in depth with the menu in order to make a really great review. Adam suggested the Rasa Experience, which is the chef’s choice minus any allergies or dislikes. We had a shellfish allergy so that is why a few great shellfish items will not appear but do give them a try as will I next time, and there will be a next time.
We started off with lovely little corn muffins filled with cheddar, poblanos and lime butter to smear. The muffins were perfect but I would have liked a zip more lime and a little more poblano heat as every other dish really had wicked zing.
Next up was the Chopped Salad, this is Adam’s daily eat, and I can see why, local veggies galore, crispy Harissa chickpeas, jalapeno feta and quinoa. The heat came through from the jalapeno feta here and was wonderful.
A definite must is the Smoked Steelhead Trout with spicy remoulade, tomatillo relish, pickled watermelon radish and nori crackers. This dish is stunningly beautiful and I would grab it every time I go.
The only dish that did not sound like something I wanted to order was the Truffle Gnudi. I am only a fan of truffles shaved, not in the oil form, as I find it musty and overwhelming, not here. Executive chef Adrian Niman has a very delicate hand and has clearly instructed the kitchen well. Served with local mushrooms, Portobello “soil”, pickled shimenji mushrooms and walnut pesto this is a joyful dish of pillowy light yet crisp jumbo gnudi. The mushrooms prepared in different cooking techniques really stood out for me as the flavours really shone.
For all you octopus fans and I know there are many this is exactly the way you want it. Meltingly tender with crispy chorizo, ‘nduja puree, poblano salsa verde, peperonata and crispy lentils. I personally found the ‘nduja unnecessary with all the other bombs on the plate. It to my taste over whelmed the perfection of the other components but please, judge for your self. The sausage is just like Nonno makes it, a little overcooked, which is really perfect, taste it and you will see. The peperonata needs to be in a jar.
We ate a bunch more dishes but suffice it to say this is a place you must visit.
Let me tell you that dessert did not disappoint. This was a special on that night which was Adam’s Bubby’s Blueberry streusel cake with Thai basil tuile and the creamiest avocado ice cream. It was funny because before Adam told me it was his Bubby’s I said it looked and tasted like a good Jewish coffee cake.
This is a fun yet very serious, hard working partnership between Adrian Niman and Brent McClenahan in The Food Dudes and now Adam Minster is partnered in Rasa.
Adrian is killing it with the food, Adam with service and Brent making magic behind the scenes. Originally the Food Dudes came to be because like all good mothers Adrian’s was looking to get her kid a job and hopefully get him out of the house. Maybe a little poetic license from me another mother always looking at doing this to my kids. Adrian was hired for a summer job in Muskoka cooking for a family who entertained a ton. The world loved what he was about and this was the beginning of The Food Dudes Catering arm.
Adrian didn’t particularly find his partner Brent as Brent helped Adrian out of a big mambo squabble at a bar one evening. And the story goes; a guy wanted to pick a fight and Adrian was the lucky target and he didn’t back down. Brent stepped in to defend Adrian and the 2 became best buds. Where Adrian’s great judgement of character comes in was in asking Brent, a kinesiology grad to partner in a food company. Brent handles all branding and tech. and is clearly doing a superlative job.
How Adam came to be is a story of sheer laziness! He was at George Brown and needed to intern for the summer in order to graduate. His good friend and old school pal, Head of The Food Dudes Catering Lindsay Klein took him on to do free events for an intern sign off. I love this group. They are a bunch of fun loving crazies with wicked heads on all their shoulders.
The photos are really great so enjoy them. If you drop by Rasa do let them know I sent you.
The Food Dudes
24 Carlaw Ave Toronto, ON
RASA by the Food Dudes
196 Robert St.
Doria by the Food Dudes
1094 Yonge St.