By IAN DOIG
Soon after opening in 2008, Rush was declared one of the country’s top restaurants, and according to Wine Spectator, the contemporary, upscale eatery also maintains one of its best wine lists. It was also certainly one of the city’s most beautiful rooms, featuring lux seating, glass dividers and a visible wine cellar. Despite its glowing critical reputation, the trend-setting eatery has undergone a major reinvention that even includes a new name: Rush Ocean Prime.
Pat Soul, vice president, premium brands, of Vintage Group, which owns Rush, says the critical acclaim didn’t always resonate with patrons. Two and a half years in the planning, it has been given a major renovation as well as new lunch and dinner menus. This carefully planned evolution, Soul says, retains its fine-dining ambitions but is simply more approachable.
“You can expect a less pretentious, more relaxed vibe,” he says. “An open, upbeat atmosphere in the lounge and that same luxurious dining room. Like the new model year of a great car, it’s just a revised, better version.”
This reinvention of the Rush model parallels the constant forward motion of the city’s full-throttle dining scene. The well-considered body of any cuisine vehicle is nothing without a powerful menu under the hood.
Soul followed extensive customer feedback in creating the restaurant’s new dishes. He found restaurant patrons often feel they need a cuisine education to negotiate the high-minded terms and techniques that come with contemporary upscale dining. Restaurant staff—including three sommeliers—are happy to answer questions and offer recommendations, but at the patron’s request.
The new Rush menu reflects the leading edge of this backlash trend, featuring a concise selection of premium fish, beef and lamb cuts that are well and simply prepared. “We’re a great fine dining restaurant with an emphasis on steak and seafood,” says Soul.
The Proper Way
There’s no mistaking this straightforward ethic when a bone-in Angus beef Canadian Prime tomahawk chop arrives at the table accompanied by olive oil green beans and scalloped potatoes. Ditto, the ahi tuna with quinoa and Swiss chard salad and the luscious half-pound lobster pot pie.
The lunch menu is equally pretense-free, featuring dishes such as a Brant Lake wagyu beef burger, buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with slaw and shellfish Cobb salad on charred romaine lettuce.
Appetizers include caramelized bacon with steak sauce, Dungeness crab claws and sushi snacks such as a smoked beef tartare roll. For desert, rich, decadent butter cake is made for two. As well, Soul says the “proper” red velvet cake encapsulated the spirit of the new room. It owes its delicious, velvet texture and colour to a traditional recipe that incorporates beets.
It’s simply looks and tastes right, he says. “It’s done the way it should be and it always should have been done.”