The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar
We have been hearing quite a bit of excitement around town about The Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar in Midtown Sacramento, so we decided to go see what this hot new restaurant has to offer vegetarians. We made an appointment and headed down to interview Chef/Owner John Bays, Barman/Owner Matt Nurge, “Super Connector” Sonny Mayugba and two investors Larry Barrows and Laurie Rich. We were also given a sampling of the food and drink.
From the moment we walked in, it was apparent that the team at The Red Rabbit are clearly committed to serving vegetarian and vegan guests. Larry and Laurie were brought into the project early and began talking to the team about menu options so that the restaurant could be all inclusive. As vegetarians, they felt it was a smart business decision and they were met with zero hesitation.
Chef/Owner John Bays who is responsible for developing the entire menu has taken on the challenge to provide high quality options. The carefully worded menu is designed to answer your dietary questions by including important language such as “served on egg bread” instead of simply stating toast, etc. I was impressed by the level of information the menu provided me about vegan options without being intrusive.
Chef John also pointed out the intentional lack of icons which encourages dietary specific guests to explore the menu. By simply noting that guests should ask for substitutions, the diner engages with menu items that would ordinarily be skimmed over. Guests are encouraged to simply ask for what they want. John said, “If you want a piece of tofu, I’ll rub it down with spices and throw it on the grill, I’ll do it.”
Personally, I found no reason to modify the menu items. We started out with the roasted beet carpaccio made with local beets that were perfectly roasted just past al dente and sliced super thin with a warm lightly crusted cube of goat cheese, drizzled with a reduction of blood orange and white balsamic vinegar. The sweet and tartness of the sauce, and sweet of the beets were cut nicely by the creaminess in the cheese that had been lightly peppered.
When we returned unannounced for brunch this Saturday, we enjoyed an entirely different and equally impressive spread. Feeling adventurous, I ordered the “Scotty’s green eggs and yams.” Two poached eggs were nestled atop toast covered in a light and creamy hollandaise sauce that showcased a vibrant green due to the last minute blending in of spinach.
The side was no ordinary yam. The shredded yam was par boiled sealing in the flavor, then whipped up into a gratin and baked to order with a parmesan crust and sprinkled with fresh herbs. No vegetable is ever over or undercooked here as far as I can tell! I haven’t yet mentioned that the majority of the brunch menu is $10 or under.
The joint ownership between Chef John and Barman Matt, is rooted in a shared interest in quality and unprocessed ingredients. While the two components of kitchen and bar function pretty seamlessly as one cohesive restaurant, I found that each owner has brought very high level knowledge of their crafts in each distinctly different medium.
Barman Matt is also very excited about the attention to all customers. With 3 years previous experience as a vegetarian, he joked that he is proud of his entirely vegetarian menu.
More importantly, his artisan cocktails are made with unique spirits and bitters, fresh juices and homemade simple syrups. His knowledge of the history and use of the ingredients he pours is quite impressive and clearly is the foundation of his creations.
During our earlier visit with him, he brought us his “Vieux carre” made with rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, benedictine, angostura bitters, and peychaud’s bitters. According to Matt, the drink is named after the “Old Square” in the French Quarter of New Orleans and inspired by the drinks that people made there during the 1930′s. This phenomenal drink has herbaceous smooth tones and knocked me off my feet after only half was consumed.
We also sipped on the “Polish hammer” made with Zubrowka, fresh apple cider, fresh lemon and ginger juice. According to Matt, the hints of minerals and cinnamon come from the Polish Zubrowka vodka that is bottled with a single blade of bison grass. This drink went beautifully with the roasted beet carpaccio.
These decadent, generously poured drinks are only $6 for happy hour and regularly $7.
The attention to detail, from the quality of ingredients at the bar and in the kitchen, to the playful and experimental menu items made for an incredibly inviting environment that will keep us coming back for more.
I truly hope that the commitment the team has made to all guests at the restaurant becomes a trend in the Sacramento food scene.
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