Feature article - restaurant experience - Raymonds, St. John’s, Newfoundland
Closing up on our month of restaurant discoveries, we would like to draw you closer to our small discovery. This restaurant has opened in 2010, and has since acclaimed many compliments and recognition, but is yet to be brought on the bigger, worldly scene. The unusual fine dining concept, created by a local Newfie, Jeremy Charles, represents everything greatest restaurants should have.
Raymonds official website will not show you any menu, this one changes too often. Jeremy Charles is a hunter, forager and a trapper and he relies his own network for ingredients. Although the restaurant is opened all year long, the autumn season is the most interesting here. Ryamond’s is so deeply rooted in the local habitat, that it is the only restaurant we know of, to bravely work with produce some might see as the most sustainable, some as intriguing, and some would not spare words of critique. Jeremy Charles is known for bringing whole moose into the kitchen, after he would have skinned and portioned it himself after a weekend hunt. The past menus have seen beavers, arctic hares, rock ptarmigan, spruce grouse and even the nearly black meat of a seal. We met Peter Burt, the executive sous chef, who makes all the salt used in the restaurant - he processes the oceanic water from the surrounding waters, and then smokes the flakes. The greens served, small roots and berries, are all locally foraged. Seafood, the freshest and best you could possibly imagine - massive cods, snow and king crabs, a rare blue fin tuna, thickest Atlantic scallops, turbots, halibuts, monkfish all in monstrous sizes. All lands on the chef’s work tops only thanks to befriended individuals, local fishermen who can now fish in very small quantities, in most sustainable way, as legally they would be bound only to sell the catch to processors.
Once the ingredients come together, the creativity of Jeremy kicks in. Using the local pottery (Newfoundland is massive on hand crafts too), he creates masterpieces, such as ‘grilled whelk on a skewer of Labrador tea, a fragrant, medicinal plant used by indigenous peoples. The whelk is strewn with grated seal bresaola, made from seals killed by local hunters’. Or another - the famous moose carpaccio. ‘Rosy medallions of moose tenderloin, lightly seared on the outside and sliced paper thin, arrive nestled in a circle of green spruce branches and blue juniper berries, set on a ringed cross-section of an aspen tree. It doesn’t stop there. The moose is garnished with flecks of pickled winter chanterelles, dark bittercress leaves and crisp, celadon-green caribou moss. A dab of aioli, flavored with powdered young pine needles, sits in the middle, and the whole thing is drizzled with sunflower oil and white birch syrup. Amazingly, the result is as stunning to the palate as it is to the eye.’ Although on the day of our dinner, none of those were served, we have raved about the simplest tuna dish we were served with - the small slate plate showed only two slices of a local blue fin tuna loin, one from the incredibly juicy and crunchy lean end, and the other - from the rich, fatty and oily end. We have also had some moose sausages, served with pine and local pheasant ragout.
The wholehearted approach to food and nourishment, the extraordinary connection of the chefs, nature, earth and oceans, has brought acclaimed restaurant critics from the whole of America and there share amazing reviews. To name but a few, check this one posted in New York Times. Perhaps the only downside of Raymond’s is what also makes this restaurant so great - you need to be lucky to get on a great day with many exciting ingredients, as the chef’s choice also highly depends on luck his hunter gatherers have on the day. There are days when there will be no fireworks, but Raymonds definitely marks St John’s as one of world’s most unusual culinary destination, the one we hope to visit soon again.