We’re told if you repeat “Rabbit!” three times when you wake up on the first morning of the month, you’ll have good luck all month long. I say, if you just get a table here, you’ll have a fabulous evening. We arrive early and yet, apparently, the word is out that there’s a new hot spot in town, because this rabbit’s already hopping by 6pm.
Sugar and spice make everything nice, and so too does my Broken Neon Hearts cocktail of chipotle-infused vodka, blended with passion fruit. It packs pep like applying a defibrillator to my palate. The stage is set for unabashed bold flavours.
There is a youthful, hip, even celebratory vibe within the smart, minimalist décor. It opens up the spacious room and allows for a light, airy ambience. Our server is attentive. She guides us through the menu, and shortly returns with our first courses.
The corn ribs are addictive. At first bite I taste lime, then the heat of spice and the sweetness of the charred corn. They’re easily devour-able and the perfect accompaniment to my cocktail. The grilled octopus looks so colourful and enticing, but I’ve never in my life ordered kohlrabi, so today is the day.
It is poached in leche de tigre and served as a ceviche with a spring sprinkling of sprouts, cilantro and radish. The delicate and thinly sliced kohlrabi is disarmingly delicious. Its marinade is subtle and yet vibrant, sweet with a balanced citric acidity. I want to scoop it all up. I cannot get over how much I’m enjoying this.
This kitchen takes care to list each menu item as vegan, gluten free or lactose free. If ever I was going to be seduced into becoming vegetarian, it would be here.
Our next course is a cast iron skillet brimming with a bounty of mushrooms, accompanied by soft corn tortilla shells and a selection of salsa crudo, salsa negra and herb crema. The woodsy medley of oyster, portobello and hen of the woods is deftly prepared to maintain the integrity of each for a harmonious mouth-feel. One could be very happy ordering just this dish of mushroom fajitas, and pairing it with an earthy red wine. The palette of flavours to choose from the mushrooms to the salsas distinguish each satisfying tortilla. I keep saying, “Okay I swear this is my last bite,” and yet I can’t help but take another!
The chef has a velvet touch with this beef short rib, slow cooked for twenty-four hours. It is subtly reminiscent of a Peking duck in its spicing, its tender meat and thin crisp edges, and at the same time, the poblano peppers and tomatillo chili evoke a south western flare. The plating is a contrast of textures that includes the crunch of crushed hazelnuts. Each ingredient supports an ensemble that, as with the other dishes, enables different flavour profiles with each new bite.
The grilled adobo chicken is so cluckin’ good! Sous vide, it is ridiculously tender. Its rub is a tight chorus of smoked paprika, ancho, pasilla, orange, cumin and more, all gently brushed with a honey glaze. Along with heirloom carrots and a charred lemon, the chicken luxuriates in a rich and smooth sesame garlic sauce. There is so much flavour packed into this one generously portioned dish.
Each course builds on the one before, like a good story, and is effortlessly compatible with the cocktail menu and the selection of mezcal and tequila. It’s like a culinary “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. It may look simple, but the pairing options can take us in so many fun directions.
Our dessert of chocolate pot de crème is a playful symphony of chocolate from each smooth spoonful of creamy chocolatey goodness to the dusting of nuts and the crunch of a cocoa nib tuile.
Great things come in threes. Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! is fresh, bold and inventive. It leads us along a rewarding culinary adventure.
Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!, 461 King Street West, Toronto, 416-365-5314
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.