Rain City Grill, Vancouver.

April 2014.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to this place since it opened in 1992. It’s down the street from our West End apartment so very handy. In the early days it was wonderfully avant-garde and part of the cutting-edge Harry Kambolis locavore food and wine ideology that probably peaked at his C seafood restaurant. There are three other Greek restaurants rounding out the empire.

In the 1990s the food was delicious and creative. I had a lot of fun with the restriction to North American West Coast wines, and a very knowledgeable staff who introduced us to some unusual relatively local products that were terrific. The side patio provided for us some really lovely summer evenings and great treats. More recently, the food has been only fair, the service likewise, in the physical plant a bit run down.

On this occasion we found Espagna, our first choice in the neighborhood, closed, and so fought our way against a southeast gale down to the English Bay Cactus Club. We were seated after being asked how our day had been, moved our table once because of a solipsist moron shouting his head off adjacent, and then got up and left because of the pounding rock music, noisy clientele, and serving staff’s sickeningly vacant patronizing attitude. So we wound up here.

The Grill was 80% empty at six on an Easter Monday night, and the waiter was friendly but nervous, seating us and having trouble describing the special. The menu was abbreviated but looked pleasant, and the wine list covered the West Coast down to California but hadn’t I thought changed in years, looking pretty attenuated and printed on pages covered by greasy plastic. Certainly there was nothing interesting from central California, a region that we have recently visited. The open kitchen was noisy with rough-sounding shouting young cooks and some sort of very loud grinding machine operating intermittently, and the room had a slight musty smell.

The bread was crisp and delicious with salted butter. We started with three little oysters that were served with sharp accompaniments and were nicely shucked and very satisfying. A beef carpaccio was tasty and professionally produced and served, and my “Surf Tastes Better With Turf” was a plate of four seared scallops with some beautifully toasted but tiny pork belly slices, softened scallions, slices of radish, and a bit of risotto. This main course tasted good, was of insufficient quantity, and while competently prepared and prettily plated wasn’t especially creative. $160 with a $55 wine and my generous tip.

Too bad.  Somebody my age can’t avoid a metaphoric shudder seeing this veteran Vancouver hotspot quietly crumpling. It needs a culinary and interior design refit to bring it up to its former glory and to do justice to its very nice location. I guess we’ve learned our lesson and will try to remember to steer clear in future. Food 7.1, service 6.4, ambience 5.8, value 7.1.

NOTE: RCG closed in 2014. See Beach Bay Café.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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