Review: strong cocktails and excellent fusion food at Rasa in Harbord Village

Review: strong cocktails and excellent fusion food at Rasa in Harbord Village

(Image: Megan Leahy)
Introducing: Rasa (Image: Megan Leahy)
 

Rasa ★★
196 Robert St., 647-350-8221

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The owners of Toronto’s Food Dudes catering, known for trendy comfort-fusion food, have overhauled the Harbord Street space formerly occupied by U of T haunt Momo’s. The subterranean room now resembles a civil war–era cabin, with its exposed pipes, stonework and bulbs, plus ruddy wood cladding. The 50-seat wraparound patio is reason enough to visit, looking out onto the restaurant strip’s sidewalk filled with posh couples stepping out of cabs, cyclists locking up and professorial types walking their doodle mixes. The menu is all over the culinary map: the 20 sharing plates range from delicate and fresh, like Asian-inspired yuzu albacore cubes on squid-ink brioche, to stick-to-your-ribs hearty, like a Korean-Ukranian kalbi steak cabbage roll. That diversity, along with touches of exuberance, make ordering fun, even if it’s difficult to put together a harmonious meal. A triple-rum cocktail to start includes a strong dose 90-proof Wray and Nephew that’s softened with honey and ginger. It makes a bracing pair for the daily fish board dotted with orange candied salmon jerky, slices of supple smoked salmon topped with toasted sesame seeds and cuke cubes and slicked with crème fraîche, a Caprese salad with albacore tuna and dried manchego shards instead of mozzarella, plus a lush seafood ceviche of springy calamari, shrimp, scallops, lobster and avocado. Roasted Ontario lamb brings a fan of fat scarlet slices coated in unctuous lamb demi glace and sided by plump, creamy celeriac-filled pieorgies and baby carrots—perfect winter comfort food in the middle of summer. That level of richness goes slightly awry, however, in an unruly fried soft-shell crab sandwich that layers the greasy crustacean on a buttered buttermilk bun with slippery remoulade, bacon jam and tomatillo. The desserts are au courant—cereal milk ice cream, for example—and definitely worth a splurge. The best is a creamy-crunchy-chewy passion fruit–infused chocolate ganache with torched house-made marshmallows and coconut crumble. The service is attentive and apologetic as the food rolls out at a rate of one dish per half-hour.

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