Rainbird, a new dining experience in El Capitan, which is part of the JdV by Hyatt brand, is set to make its opening debut on Feb. 11. The spirited dining destination will bring a thought-provoking five-course tasting menu from Executive Chef Quentin Garcia to downtown Merced.
The restaurant’s name represents the regional bird’s unique migration patterns that signal the coming of rain and a forthcoming, bountiful harvest. Serving prix-fixe dinner on Friday and Saturday nights (expanding to host Thursday dinner and an a-la-carte Sunday brunch to follow in the spring), Rainbird’s intricate menu will be sourced from local and regional farms, emphasizing the vegetable-centric culinary movement within fine dining while encapsulating chef Garcia’s impressive, international culinary training and experimental style.
The Rainbird team will also be led by Director of Food & Beverage Benjamin Bennett, General Manager Daniel Adeh, and consulting Meilleur Ouvrier de France – Sommelier Christophe Tassan.
“It’s been incredibly exciting to help build and define the evolution of the city’s cuisine in an agricultural region that’s like a chef’s playground,” says Chef Garcia. “Our goal with Rainbird is to marry Merced’s hyper seasonal flavors with my background in global cuisine to give our guests a truly unmatched experience. I want people to not only enjoy our food, but also playfully explore the dish and its ingredients, and understand why it is being served.”
After his formal culinary training in Europe, Garcia worked in a variety of upscale restaurants, including The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena and Blue Note in Napa at just 23 years old. Garcia’s love for Central California and the unique beauty of Merced drove him to create a true destination restaurant for the region, while finding ways to give back and support the community.
Considered one of the nation’s most important and diverse agricultural regions — with more than 200 crop varietals — California’s Central Valley presents Chef Garcia with a vast palette of local flavors and ingredients. Rainbird’s menu will benefit from Chef Garcia’s cherished relationships with the surrounding agricultural community and personal relationships with local farmers in Merced and beyond, including J. Marchini Farms, Burroughs Family Farms, Humble Rice Farmer, and Joseph Gallo Farms, to name a few.
Rainbird will be taking advantage of hyper seasonal produce, transforming and utilizing their flavors throughout the year through fermentation techniques incorporated into misos, vinegars, oils, shoyus, and other preservation techniques. This technique requires a team that continually thinks beyond the current served menu, breathing life into one’s summer dish experience while currently offering a winter menu. Certain dishes will also have tableside presentations that accentuate the dining experience and offer further one-on-one interaction and explanation to the guest of how Rainbird’s culinary team works with the ingredients start to finish. Highlights from the opening menu will include:
- White Onion Macaron – pork pâté, chicken skin, lingonberry jam, shiso
- Superfino Carnaroli Risotto – chestnut mushroom, Pinon pine nuts, vintage parmesan, slow cooked garlic, golden shallot oil
- The Rain Bird – coriander-cured squab, truffle jus, melted napa cabbage, white balsamic mustard seeds
- Pistachio Gelato – coffee roasted sweet potato, black apple caramel, preserved blueberries
- Rainbird’s artisan cocktail program will feature beverages curated to complement Chef Quentin’s cuisine. Cocktails will be crafted around a specifically chosen ingredient, inspired by seasonal produce sourced from Central California, with a nod given to the classic cocktail style. Highlights from the opening menu will include:
- Sea Buckthorn – vodka or gin, Aperol, sea buckthorn shrub, soda
- Acorn – bourbon, orgeat, grapefruit bitters, acorn shell
- Drinking Bird – tequila reposado, pomegranate, grapefruit, gentian liqueur, honey
An optional wine pairing to each course draws selections from a curated 60-bottle list from consulting Meilleur Ouvrier de France – Sommelier, Christophe Tassan, including both domestic and international purveyors with inspiration from the region’s vibrant wine history.
Delicately designed by Nicole Hollis to mimic the earth’s natural elements, Rainbird’s interiors will feature rich natural textures and soft pastoral tones like pale greens, creams and light blues. Paired with artwork sourced from California’s Central Valley (such as Margaret Haden’s ceramic clay and Daniel Van Gerpen’s agronomy-inspired canvases), the space will showcase countless odes to the region’s agricultural purpose. A focal point of the restaurant will be the Chef’s Table, made by local woodworker George Pena, from a 90-year-old Deodor cedar tree that was felled by a storm just north of Merced.
Located at 609 West Main Street on the ground floor of El Capitan, Rainbird will be open for dinner Friday-Saturday 5-10 p.m., with the addition of Thursday night dinner and Sunday brunch to come in the spring. For more information, visit online at : www.rainbirdrestaurant.com.