Despite the warnings about bad service and poor organization, I ended up there for lunch today. It was actually kind of a spur of the moment decision since I already decided not to go there for a while, due to the said reviews. But I was in the area at around 2:30 PM, popped my head in and the place was half empty so my companion and I decided it was probably a good time to go in.
We had a great time. We sat at the kitchen bar (Jamie Kennedy was there but was basically chatting the whole time with someone at the wine bar, so all of our dishes were prepared by his very able sous-chefs and other kitchen staff). Sitting at the kitchen side is fun, and I think helps to get your food faster (but about that later).
We had: Poutine with Duck, Pate with Jardiniere Vegetables and Celery Root Salad, the Braised Oxtail with Marrow Toast, and the haselnut semifreddo with meringue crust and seville organge glaze. The food, and the matched wine, was pure pleasure. First, we were served an amuse of a grilled and shrimp on a sugar cane. The poutine was delish, excellent fries and gravy, although I would have liked more cheese curds, and could go either way on the duck (the duck pieces were very moist and flavourful and worked well with the gravy, I just like traditional poutine).
The pate was simply the best pate I ever had. Its consistency was very smooth, the richness of the pate enhanced by a decadent layer of fat, and it contrasted beautifully with the crunchy and slightly sour celery root strips and the other vegetables. Pate was served with thin toasted wafers.
The oxtail stew was great. The meat was very tender, stewed with little cubes of veggies, and served with a little toast with slices of marrow - gooey slivers of fatty goodness. All three dishes were well matched with wine.
For desert, we shared the semifreddo, and I must say that I will not make the mistake of sharing a desert there again! The semifreddo had an intense hazelnut flavour and a bit grainy texture, and was surrounded by flakes of meringue and laced with bits of orange preserve. Excellent, and only $5!
We paid $100 with tax and tip (but $36 of it was for wine). Pricy for lunch, but I do think you get very good value for the quality of the food.
So, we enjoyed ourselves immensely and left wanting to come back again. That does not mean that there were no problems. Even though the place was pretty dead, the service was not most attentive. The server forgot about our water order for about 45 minutes, and was nowhere to be found since our dishes were served by the kitchen stuff. When we ordered the desert with half glasses of Gewurtz, he brought the wine immediately but neglected to tell us that the desert will take 20 minutes (or perhaps that was not supposed to happen). He never apologized for or acknowledged either of his/the kitchen's mishaps.