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JK at the Gardiner - Eastern European night review

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JK at the Gardiner - Eastern European night review

georgebell11 | Jun 14, 2008 08:03 AM

Went to JK @ the Gardiner for the Friday fixed price menu - $60/head, 3 courses. In a word - fabulous. Menu was Eastern European, focussed on three countries - Germany, Austria and Hungary, with one option for each course from each of the countries.

Started with an amuse bouche of a delicious cabbage roll, and delicious, classic-JK organic butter and red-pepper spread for the breads.

Starters - i) shortribs, de-boned, absolutely top-notch, moist, flavourful, paired with perfectly seasoned asparagus and a fried basil leaf ii) poppyseed spaetzle - excellent.

Mains - i) Berkshire pork schnitzel - served with apple/bacon compote and arugula on top - a very healthy-sized portion, again absolutely perfectly cooked and fabulous flavours - subtle. as good as the schnitzel I had a few years ago in one of Berlin's best restaurants. ii) Smoked black cod, with potato pancake and heirloom carrots - again, terrific dish, beautiful presentation on the classic wedgewood china.

Worth mentioning here that the atmosphere at the Gardiner is sublime - minimalist decor, incredible views of the city (ROM, UofT), and sufficient space around the tables that one feels comfortable having a conversation without neighbours overhearing. The high ceilings and fully-glass exterior make the room feel incredibly airy, and almost zen-like. Noise is not a problem, despite a 75% full-room. And service is terrific, friendly - unobtrusive, however our waitress was more than happy to engage in longer conversations when warranted.

Dessert - i) Deconstructed black forest cake - two lovely slices of dark, moist chocolate served with whipped cream and an incredible fresh strawberry sorbet, apparently made from the first Ontario strawberry crop of the season. Delightful. ii) Rhubarb Linzer torte - with a sheep's milk yoghurt ice cream. Perfection again, perhaps even better than the black forest cake.....

Finished with some complimentary petit-fours (one plate each, despite apparently intention that one plate per couple) - a pair of chocolate biscuits and mini-apple streudel.

Total with wine pairings for the 2 first courses (3 6oz and 1 3oz glass), and a tea, was approximately $180 prior to tip. Service - 9/10, Food - 9.5/10. It's amazing that they were only cooking this for one night, and all of the dishes could have easily been in regular rotation at a top-level restaurant for years, in terms of quality of execution. Several diners were commenting that the dishes were better than the food they'd eaten in Hungary/Austria etc. Definitely one of the best meals I've had in recent years, and as a frequent visitor to the wine bar, I'd have to say this was actually a better experience - the dishes were, seemingly, more well-thought out and had more care put into them. Not the harried rush waiting for tables. I think it depends on the menu on a particular night, and it's only open for dinner on Fridays, but I'll definitely be back at the Gardiner next time the menu strikes my fancy.

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