I feel as though I’ve been waiting forever for Revel to open, though that’s not the fault of husband and wife team Seif Chirchi and Rachel Yang, who from everything I’ve read seem to have delivered this new addition to Fremont right on time. Rather I think my impatience is directly proportional to how much I love their other restaurant, Joule. And more recently, the result of reviews that appeared on Yelp in the couple of day’s after the restaurant’s official opening on Friday, as well as the gorgeous photos on Nancy Leson’s All You Can Eat.
I can only imagine that the buzz hasn’t hit yet the streets, because we were able to walk right in on Sunday night and score seats at the wide butcher block counter that runs the length of the room and offers a view straight into the long open kitchen. The food preparation space feels very pared down, reflecting the overall aesthetic of the restaurant and its adjoining bar, Quoin. Grey is the dominant tone, with cement floors and similarly-hued walls and bench seating. The horizontal wood of the counter is echoed in the vertical wood of several small sections of wall, and given all of these neutral tones the huge brightly colored portraits around the room really pop.
I can picture stopping by Quoin on another occasion when there is time for a drink only, as we had two excellent cocktails and there were several others I’m eyeing for future visits. The Evo Manhattan offered an interesting twist on the classic, adding rhubarb bitters to the bourbon and Punt y Mes. The Adirondack was a touch on the sweet side, though I’m always pleased to see my hometown distillery on the menu: Dryfly gin, Anticas, lavender bitters, cucumber, and lime juice. Next time I suspect I’ll have the Fremont Abbey: Plymouth gin, Lillet, Yellow Chartreuse, orange bitters, and orange juice.
The menu at Revel is divided into multiple sections, and we aimed to try a representative sample from as many sections as we could, missing only something from the noodle food group. We started with what may have been my favorite item of the night, the salad of corned lamb, arugula, and nuoc cham. The salt of the lamb contrasting with the lightly sweet of the dressing, along with quite a kick of spice, made for an extraordinarily delicious salad.
Next on to the pancake – made entirely from pureed mung bean, we were told – with pork belly, kimchi, and bean sprout. Crisp along the edges, with a nicely soft center and surprisingly not too rich given the usual character of pork belly. Then the chorizo dumplings, which I thought had the perfect wrapper-to-filling ratio. They were well seared but still chewy, and in texture contrasted beautifully with the jicama and cilantro.
For the rice bowl we chose shitake, wintergreen, and seven spiced walnut, again a wonderful blend of texture and flavor, particularly between the fat, sweet shitake mushrooms and the slightly bitter chard. The egg yolk perched atop the whole affair was one of the best parts of the dish, and reminded me of one of my favorite Japanese comfort foods, oyako donburi. The ice cream sandwich of coconut macaroon and Kaffir lime ice cream with a petite side of huckleberry compote was the perfect end to the meal, light and sweet and complementary rather than overwhelming.
It’s that blending of Asian and western flavors, all wrapped up in a blanket of comfort food and excellent service, that made Revel an absolute home run for me. Congratulations, Rachel and Seif, on another fantastic restaurant!