toronto restaurant closings rasa

Restaurant Review: The Food Dudes’ Rasa

I would follow chef Matt Blondin pretty much anywhere. When he was at Acadia (RIP), his cooking was sublime beyond words. I was sad when he decamped for Momofuko Daishō but I knew it wouldn’t last because an artiste like him doesn’t do corporate. At least not for long. And he didn’t. Chef landed at the Food Dudes, which seems more his style. They have a large catering arm, a food truck and Food Dudes Pantry shop on Carlaw.

And now they have Rasa, a charming room (ex Momo) with much dark wood and clever dark scarred wooden tables. Chef’s relationship with the Dudes is interesting. Of the soon-to-open Junk resto on Dundas West, Blondin says: “That’s all me. I’ll be there every day.” On their site, the Dudes claim Junk. Of Rasa, which the Dudes opened in the summer, Blondin says: “I gave some help at the beginning for two months.” He says he now has nothing to do with Rasa.

Too bad. Because Rasa went from supernal at its inception to just kinda pleasant now. The menu is global and some of the food is still superb: On arrival they bring adorable warm pumpkin mini-muffins with a sizable dollop of salted caramel butter.

Image: CJ Baek

This sets the tone for dinner. It’s a high-fat experience. Which is fun — in the manner of very good bar food — but one feels somewhat … clogged. As in the po’ boy bites, which are a big fat deep-fried battered shrimp atop a buttery eggy squid ink brioche with artsy squiggles of yuzu aïoli and sweet ponzu sauce. And cheese steak — yes a Philly remake: This is a focaccia sandwich with thin-sliced beef tongue, provolone cheese, iceberg lettuce and a lot of garlicky aïoli. If it were one’s only meal of the day.…

I am a butterfat addict and a lifelong carnivore. If they had a 12-step program for foie gras I’d need it. But my feeling about fat is you better justify it with great taste. Which is not quite happening here. The sous-vide octopus, which is grilled to order, has mealy texture and its accompanying glazed pork belly is mostly fat. Goes good with the house-made potato chips. Apple and kale salad helps cut the grease, sort of.

When they’re on, it works like a charm. Truffle gnudi — potato-less gnocchi strewn with Portobello “soil” are utterly charming. The soil is tiny dots of intense Portobello. The gnudi are feathery. The mushrooms are beefy. And rich pesto knits it all together. This is cooking a la Matt Blondin.

Maybe they’re channeling his time with Momofuku with the cereal dessert. It’s like their milk bar. Crunchy chocolate, cookie-infused ice cream, macadamia “milk.” Not enough taste. Like the place: Good bones, needs focus.

Rasa, 196 Robert St., 647-350-8221
$85 dinner for two

Clarification: Adrian Niman is the executive chef at Rasa and Tyson Porcellato is their head chef. Chef Matt Blondin worked in the kitchen at Rasa for several weeks, soon after it opened last summer.  

Junk is scheduled to open in late 2015 with Blondin as executive chef. It is co-owned by Blondin, Niman, and Food Dudes partner, Brent McClenahan. 

Article exclusive to TRNTO