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JKWB – What happened? A mediocre experience (review + pics)


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JKWB – What happened? A mediocre experience (review + pics)

BokChoi | Sep 20, 2008 07:25 AM

Having had very pleasurable experiences in the past at JK winebar, I decided to head back for a special dinner to expose my dining companions to a Toronto-‘tapas’ style meal. Being a fan of all things fish, I had noted that JKWB produced some of the best fish dishes in the city. Their fish was not overdone, they were always well flavoured, moist, and well textured due to exceptional freshness. That was, until my last visit made me do a double–take: what happened to JKWB?

Because of my experiences in the past, I was excited and expecting much more than was delivered. Even though I was aware that the chef Tobey had left, other CHers had attested the quality had not suffered and that it was still a solid restaurant. A close dining companion also stated that their last experience was a strong one. I had a hard time finding ANY negative comments about JKWB, so I thought it was a 'safe choice' once again for my risk-adverse dining companions. This is the follow-up review I promised from a couple of weeks back on my less-than-stellar experience at JKWB.

We started with ordering almost every fish dish on the menu due to our affinity towards that type of meat. We also added a dish I remember enjoying from the past – the entrecote of beef with sweet potatoes, as well as a dish that I have highly enjoyed in the past elsewhere – the butter bread pudding and the pork belly. I also added a highly regarded dish on CH – the poutine. Since there were only 3 of dining together, we were limited to about 8 dishes, including dessert.

Overall, I found the dishes to be a tad oversalted. The fish dishes were overdone this time and did not deliver the delicate flavour I was accustomed to. We started with the disappointing lake trout, which was over cooked to the point of being flaky and lifeless – and strangely, it was way too salty. Not sure why someone would choose to oversalt this fish as it is so delicate, but alas. Photo:

The striped bass, however, was a refreshing breath of fresh air – it was almost as good as the first time I ordered it. It was moist, rich, and sweet – just as the fish was meant to be. This dish attained its potential, IMO. Photo:

The poutine, overall, was slightly disappointing for me as well, just because my expectations were a bit raised – having had gourmet poutines elsewhere, I was of course going to compare. After tasting this version, it did not make me think ‘gourmet’ at all – the taste was heavy, way too salty, and that saltiness masked any of the other flavours that I may have gotten out of the pulled pork. Of course, I probably should have expected as much from a pulled pork dish. The fries were exceptional though, IMO. Very light, crisp and tasty. They were definitely the highlight of the dish and some of the best taters I have had. Photo:

Next, we had the scallops – I try to never order scallops at a restaurant, just because most restaurants tend to overcook it for my preferences. And when done improperly, they were ‘just scallops’ and very boring for me. I had an exceptional scallop dish prepared two ways (one was a ‘carpaccio’) at Canoe once, which was my only recent (being 4 years ago) memorable experience of scallops in Canada. My dining companions enjoy scallops, and the waiter highly recommended them – so we went ahead and ordered them. However, they met my expectations of being just scallops – overdone and bland. Photo:

A highlight of the meal was the roast beef sandwich with a goat’s milk cheese – amazing. The meat was sweet and full of flavour. The goat cheddar cheese was subtle in taste, not overpowering as many other goat cheeses tend to be for many people. My dining companion, who tends to absolutely abhor goat’s cheese, gobbled this one up and did not even notice the goat cheese when I probed him about the cheese. It was a very sweet dish and a welcome contrast to the disappointing meal we were having thus far. I would definitely order this dish again (if I ever venture back to JKWB – it would have to be on the ol’ corporate card). Photo:

The entrecote was nice – very full-bodied and nicely prepared a medium rare. This is one of the few places that understands what medium rare actually means. Since I tend to prefer slightly rarer than medium rare, I have had to order rare at many restaurants because it is simply overdone most of the time. At times, I have even resorted to ordering blue. Many times, I just get a nicely seared piece of raw meat when I order blue, so it’s been quite risky to order my steak that way. However, the pieces were quite tough and too grainy, even considering the cut of beef. Photo:

The pork belly was also tasty, but was not as great as some other pork bellies I have had. The fat was quite rich, smooth and full of flavour though. It was contrasted by an extremely tough polenta though, which took away from the dish, IMO. Photo:

Then to the disastrous close to the meal – the butter bread pudding. Having had the most amazing bread pudding just recently (two times) at Nota Bene, I was excited to relive that experience at JKWB. Sure enough, with such high expectations, I was bound to be disappointed. However, not only was it not as good, it was actually almost inedible. It was bland, mushy and completely a waste of ingredients. I could have mashed up something quick and called it ‘bread pudding’ myself – it was just that bad. Typing this up is bringing back bad memories, so I will stop. Photo:

Do not get me wrong, JKWB is on par with many other higher-end restaurants in Toronto. Unfortunately, that means it was a bit of a disappointment in my eyes. I do not think it is terrible in any way, just disappointing because it used to be so much more (IMO). Things were just "okay" and nothing should be just "okay" at those prices. It used to stand a head and shoulders above its competition, and now it is just a dreary mess of oversalted flavours. (Could it be that Jamie Kennedy is expanding his empire too fast and losing focus on what made him famous in the first place? I do not know enough at this point to make that judgement, but I would like to hear what others think) Would I go back? On someone else’s dime I probably would, just because of a lack of other choices in the financial district. Would I go back on my own accord? No, but just because there are so many other restaurants in Toronto that I have still yet to try and life is just too short for mediocrity.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

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