2718 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95816. (916) 706-2275.

You know when you hear about a new place that's going to open up in town and there's hype for months and months? You start to anticipate something pretty fabulous and formulate some lofty expectations, then you go visit and that bubble gets burst? Well, fortunately Red Rabbit lived up to the hype and sure didn't burst my bubble last Thursday night. I had plans to get together with my friend, Michelle, for a bite to eat and some girltalk- I suggested checking out Red Rabbit. Since it was a Thursday night and Red Rabbit's located in the Grid, I figured I better make a reservation just in case it was busy. When I checked out their webpage, their reservation system caught my eye- there was no OpenTable or any other fancy-schmancy system in place, it was just an old school "send us an email and we'll get back to you" or call. So I dropped them an email and within a few minutes, I received an email back from Matt Nurge at the Red Rabbit with the words, "Done!" For me, there was something refreshing in the simplicity of their system.

Our reservations were for 6pm, so it was still relatively quiet when I got there. I was greeted immediately by a friendly gentleman upon walking through the door and directed to where my friend was sitting. Michelle had already ordered the Krakow, one of their hand-crafted cocktails (made with Zubrowka, apple butter, lemon and ginger beer). I perused the drink list- there were some great California brews on draft and local wines (like Berryessa Gap) on there...but after chatting with our waiter, James, I decided to try a cocktail first- an Army Navy. Made with gin, lemon and orgeat...this cocktail was delicious, a great choice if you like citrus. Michelle was kind enough to allow me to take a sip of her drink which was amazing- it tasted like a baked apple with a hint of ginger and cinnamon (in fact it was so tasty, I too ordered a Krakow on our next round). Whoever was bartending that night did a great job on our cocktails, they tasted smooth and sweet yet were strong as hell. Perfect. My only suggestion would be- those drinks need to come a little faster, there was some serious lag time on our beverages. Our server was wonderful on keeping us posted on their progress (without us asking), but the long wait was noticeable each time we ordered.

For our eats, we started with the "farm-animal lollipops" which consisted of three meatballs (beef, lamb and one of chicken wrapped in bacon) paired with a sauce- a rich marinara, a spicy mint chimichurri and an onion aioli. All three meatballs were perfectly cooked and the sauces were flavorful. I did think they could have done without the gimmicky wooden sticks and perhaps added another meatball (or two) to make it worth the $8 price tag.

For our dinners, Michelle went with the ramen and I, after much hemming and hawing, opted for the lamb bocadillas. I was a bit curious on what Michelle's take on the ramen would be; after all, ramen in a non-Asian restaurant? I was a bit skeptical. Turned out she loved it. She commented that the broth was quite flavorful and the shiitakes, fried shrimp and green onions were the perfect accompaniment to the steamy noodle dish. For my main course, I ordered the lamb bocadillos...(how can you resist saying bocadillos? It's such a cute word- bocadillos-bocadillos-bocadillos!) The dish came with two perfectly cooked mini-lamb sliders topped with some lip-smacking chimichurri and gooey Manchego cheese. I quickly laid waste to both sliders; however, the limp fries that came with them didn't do much for me. Someone in the cocina needs to learn how to crisp those suckers up- a pretty easy thing to fix.

You'd think the top button on my jeans would be ready to pop by now, but I had consumed something sour, something spicy and something savory...and now I was craving something sweet. Michelle and I decided to go all out and order TWO desserts. We ordered the mini-brioche doughnuts and a plate of the croquettes. The  former were served in a set of three, warm and on a plate sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. They were nice...but the latter- the croquettes. Holy balls! They were good. The croquettes were three crispy deep-fried little balls filled with a luscious melted dark chocolate ganache, served with a scoop of ice cream mixed with pralines. Talk about a sexy dessert, your eyes'll roll back in your head once you taste these.

The owners of Red Rabbit have done a terrific job of revitalizing the old Red Lotus location. They've created a restaurant that looks modern yet not overly trendy. The exposed brickwork, intimate lighting and cushy booths create a comfortable environment that works well for both the dining and the bar crowd and I'm sure the two patios- in the front and the back- will be a big hit in the spring (we Sacramentans love our outdoor dining). The randomness of the menu choices ensures that there's something that appeals to everyone and the prices are actually reasonable. Service throughout our meal was attentive and pleasant, I liked that the manager would stop by and check on tables periodically. It seemed like they were really trying to put forth the effort to make sure guests were happy and any hiccups were quickly addressed.

When I looked around during dinner, I saw an array of diners- the after work business suits, the local Midtown tatted bar crowd, families with children, hipsters, couples on dates...all happily eating under the same roof. It looks like in the short time that it's been open, Red Rabbit has perhaps stumbled on the perfect recipe for creating a friendly neighborhood gathering place. I hope they hold fast to that particular recipe as they continue to evolve their menu and restaurant.
2 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Just found your blog and relish the style of writing!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Sounds amazing! Great to know it was as good as the hype!

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