Went to Rae Restaurant in the Cira Center tonight for the first time. Four stars.
The service is exquisite. The staff was cordial and solicitous. At one point, one guy brushed the crumbs off our table into another guy's waiting plate.
The hosts were very friendly. The first impression upon entering the Cira Center is of light. Rae is behind the escalators in the lobby. There are white floodlights set into the floor of the entry area. The bar is made of a white stone amalgam with flecks of silver. It is a large curved bar and tonight the fashionable and beautiful congregated for Manhattans and the Rae signature cocktail (vodka, blood orange juice, fresh tarragon). Most of the seating options feel public, both in that they are situated in the lobby of an office building, and that the exterior walls are all glass. That turned out to be no problem once we sat down. The chairs are very comfortable. The linens and plates are of course white, as are the walls and floors.
The food descriptions adhere to the theory that simple = complex, so there is a minimum of writing. Onion soup, for example, turned out to be a deconstructed version of the classic. The other cool thing about the menu is that there are many price points and options for casual versus formal plates. Potato skins looked appealing and showed up at several tables.
I had the beet, goat cheese and romaine salad. Very interesting, almost dry rub dressing. For my main dish I had beef tenderloin, short rib and marrow ravioli. Excellent. A pile of sweet short rib meat, and large piece of silky smooth tenderloin, and a meaty ravioli were covered with a mushroom reduction sauce that had many layers of flavor. On the side I had garlic potato puree. A comfort food dream.
For dessert I had the chocolate plate, with five chocolicious mini desserts, including a white chocolate pudding, chocolate rice krispie treats, a chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream, a coffee/chocolate layer cake, and a graham cracker with chocolate ganache.
Every minute of the experience felt pampered. Definitely lessons picked up from Le Bec Fin: the easygoing, highly attentive staff that never ever looks down on anyone...the presentations (all plates were set at table at the same time)...the quality of ingredients and the French roots.
The highest priced entree was the veal chop which was in the mid fifties. Yet, you can order pizza and sandwiches from the menu. This is a chef's restaurant and it is clear that other food professionals will appreciate all the thought and detail that went into Rae. BTW, one of our local food critics was holding court at the end of the bar tonight, which happens to be right next to the open kitchen. Daniel Stern was in the house as well, cooking and later circulating. Rae is a good thing.
Rae is adjacent to the 30th Street rail station in Philadelphia, so it is exceedingly convenient for travelers near and far. The official address is 2929 Arch Street. The website is www.raerestaurant.com.