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Joe Beef,,,is it for real? or is it a joke!

I finely went to Joe Beef after hearing and reading some pretty good reviews about the place. I don't want to get into the decor of the joint, because there is none, but just have a few remarks about the food. For starters we had oysters, fresh and good, no complaints here. Second, parfait of foie gras and clams casino. Foie gras was OK but the texture was more like a chicken liver pate and was surely not worth $20, especially when it is advertised as PARFAIT of foie gras! Clams Casino were full of grit and sand, burned bread like crust and the clams so badly overcooked that it was hard to even find a clam in the shell. Crab Bake came in a small round baking dish full of a creamy sauce and lump crab meat that resembled the texture of dried out card board. Halibut was properly cooked but the presentation was in a oval casserole dish (as in, it just came out of the oven!) but the dish was stone cold. The fish was sitting on top of a minestrone (soup), 34 bucks? A nondescript dessert and, that was the first and last visit for me to Joe Beef. The best thing about the evening was one of the partners (chef's) sitting at one table with a couple of other guys talking real laud about all the lousy restaurants in Toronto. Maybe he should go eat at Garcon! fairly close to his restaurant and get an idea what is happening in Montreal. Or Ferreira's Cafe! I loved both of those places.

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  1. Wheres the BEEF? You go to a place called Joe Beef and only order fish? Just kiddin- I've heard in the past the place was good, maybe not.

    1. Congratulations, this is the first negative review of Joe Beef I've seen. It had to happen some time.

      1. Was there couples of weeks ago and it was a memorable dinner.
        O.K. the "Parfait de foie gras" is good but not exceptional, but...

        We have some Crab (generous in Crab) Cake crispy on the outside and marrovy on the inside; Aspargus with a huge portion of mozarella (a real one); Absolutely fantastic "Breakfeast scallops" (5 bigs scallops with egg, bacon and "sauce hollandaise"); Juicy beef "onglet"; A whole fish (a "sole", dont remember the variety) and some fresh vegetables.

        All very very good, fresh, hot (if have to be)in a great ambiance place.

        The bill was a little pricy but it worth the cost.

        I surely return to taste the ribs...

        1. My experience mirrored that of the original post. I found the oysters well shucked, the fois gras parfait very dissapointing and the main dishes, in my case the lobster with linguini, uninspired. As an aside the wine suggestions I elicited from the server were awful. None the less, I can't say that it was bad and maybe if I lived in the area it might very well become a regular haunt. However, to my mind it is not a top restaurant in Montreal although it charges like one.

          1. What I want to know is how's the service from the servers? Last I heard, when chefs David McMillan & Frederic Morin opened Joe Beef, they brought over the 'model' waitresses from Rosalie & Globe(the restaurants from the Buona Notte Group). From my experience at those restaurants, the waitresses were clueless(regarding much of menu).

            1. As another data point, http://www.montrealfood.com/ gave Joe Beef a pretty terrible review.

              1 Reply
              1. re: eoj

                Hrm, went back and read the review and obviously I was thinking of a different one. Angus Beef Steakhouse is the one I remembered. Obviously the "beef" in the name got me mixed up.

              2. My best steak exeperiences are
                Moshes and La Biftheque but they are expensive.

                For a very good charcoal steak for 15$ I go to Main Restaurant on St-Laurent.

                1. I'll put in my Joe Beef vote: for real.

                  I don't doubt that some people have had less than stellar experiences; any place can slip up. But my first visit was a memorable one, featuring much delightful food. I also thought the décor and the restaurant's whole vibe were very appealing.

                  The grilled coho salmon over grits w/ smoked lardon was an inspired dish, as was the lobster stew. The Alaska King crab leg was top-notch (though the garlic butter was a bit too intense for the crab). Desserts were terrific.

                  I found the servers to be knowledgeable about both the menu and wine list. Although they are attractive young women, they're conservatively dressed, are not "model" types, and are clearly well versed in providing good restaurant service. The "eye candy" factor is almost nil at this place (just like Leméac, for example, where nobody complains that the servers are too good-looking, even though they're all young and attractive).

                  Of the half-dozen restaurants in this price range I've been to in the past few months, it's the one I'm most eager to revisit. And yes, it is pricy, but a worthwhile splurge IMO.

                  1. To add my unworthy 2 cents. I am undecided.

                    I wasn't crazy about the decor. somthing about pulling out the entire table so that you can go to the bathroom really doesn't sit well with me.

                    The staff was friendly and I found our waitress to be charming and very helpful about the menu (of which I knew absolutely nothing about).

                    The food was good but not extraordinary. I had a half cornish hen, shrimp served over spanish noodles in a caserole dish which was savoury and hearty. The dessert was a chocolate sorbet which was tasty and hit the spot. While good, I think I was expecting more given some of the raving reviews I've heard about this place.

                    I think it is worth a repeat but I won't rush back like I have at other restaurants.

                    1. I go to Joe Beef when I'm looking for excellent food prepared in a straightforward manner, using creativity to bring out the best of the ingredients - not as the best showcase for the chefs' talents for high-tech high-concept cuisine.

                      The ambiance and decor, to me, are precisely right for slightly upscale casual that doesn't take itself too seriously.

                      I've yet to be disappointed.

                      1. I just came back from a meal at Joe Beef, and was extremely disappointed. For someone who has been wanting to try this restaurant forever, the letdown was big, and I can only advise others, "don't believe the hype" - also, for the dent this place puts in your wallent, there is much better eating to be found in Montreal.

                        We started out with a mousseux and 12 oysters, with the squash soup - excellent, although the oysters merit a $40 price tag for 12.

                        The main course was beyond disappointing - a lobster spaghetti with very little taste, the lobster was overcooked, and the noodles were not homemade, priced at $40. My companion ordered a magrit du canard that was very, very chewy, cooked with a heavy sauce that, for all I could tell, could have been made from powdered sauce, and mushy seasonal vegetables with little flavor - again, overpriced.

                        Small details - there is no salt or pepper offered on the tables, a small but condescending touch that I hate in restaurants, but which has apparently become fashionable. I was not offered any parmesean with my spaghetti, although the waitress brought some to me when I asked. The woman next to me sent her foie gras back.

                        My husband and I mentioned it was my birthday, but I did not feel that it was a very special experience - not that we were expecting a bunch of waiters in party hats to come out and present me with a free cake and a ton of blazing roman candles, but even the small touches are always appreciated and indicates good customer service (especially at these prices).

                        The service was excellent at the beginning of the evening, the staff here is very nice and this was probably the standout of the evening, however as the night wore on, they were less visible, and did not often pass by our table. The kitchen staff and barman seemed more interested in chatting with VIPs and each other then making the delicious food the restaurant is so famous for (my outdoor seat looked directly into the kitchen, and I saw every aspect of the food preparation here - how disappointing).

                        Overall, I found the food really uneven, as was the overall experience, and that the restaurant is obscenely overpriced. I admit I did not eat here before, and it is possible that the restaurant has become mediocre since its heyday 3 years ago. But right now I would advise foodies to look elsewhere.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: mtlfoodiegirl

                          Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Mine have been uniformly good or better but I haven't eaten there since Liverpool House opened, and I hope this isn't a sign they've become overextended. FWIW, thomasein, doubting above, later revised his opinion after adopting a more proactive approach: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3707...

                          "I was not offered any parmesean with my spaghetti, although the waitress brought some to me when I asked."
                          You can't knock the restaurant over this. With a very few exceptions, good Italian cooks don't use Parmesan or other cheeses with seafood dishes. The staff at Joe Beef handled it professionally: serve the pasta without cheese but provide cheese if the diner requests it.

                          1. re: carswell

                            "I admit I did not eat here before, and it is possible that the restaurant has become mediocre since its heyday 3 years ago. But right now I would advise foodies to look elsewhere."

                            I will agree with this wholeheartedly.
                            Usually, I'm from 'if you ain't got nuthin good to say, don't say anything at all' school of thought. And I will spell out a disclaimer that if you really enjoy Joe Beef, then so be it, nothing wrong with that.

                            We've been to JB in its 'heyday' and had some fantastic times - food wise, experience wise, and memory wise.

                            To be fair, I think the decor criticisms are a bit out of line. Aben hits it right with "slightly upscale casual that doesn't take itself too seriously. ", I mean they originally set out to create a certain atmosphere and 'decorated' accordingly.
                            High prices don't necessarily require linen, flatware, and mainstream artwork. With that said....

                            In its 'heyday', there was a definite Frederic/David/Allison feel and presence to the place which helped define its character and ambience. As time went on and their other projects expanded, they were simply not there.

                            And it shows.

                            It lost a hell of a lot. So much so that we simply stopped going.

                            As Yogi Berra once said (I'm sure I'm paraphrasing) "Nobody goes there anymore 'cause its always too crowded", but I say "I don't go there anymore 'cause the owners simply let others do the job which is mediocre at best"

                            Just a couple of excerpts from 2005:

                            "And just how did this trio get the party started? In opening Joe Beef, their goal was simple: to rediscover their love of the restaurant business."

                            "I asked McMillan if he would make the restaurant larger, he answered. "No way, 25 seats are all we want. If it gets out of hand, we'll close. We're just a little restaurant that sells oysters." "

                            Just seems like success kinda got outta hand, IMHO.

                            1. re: carswell

                              You make a good point on the parmesean, and it was certainly available as soon as it was requested, I only wish the overall experience and food had been of the calibre we were hoping for. Thanks, Carswell! :)

                            2. re: mtlfoodiegirl

                              "Small details - there is no salt or pepper offered on the tables, a small but condescending touch that I hate in restaurants, but which has apparently become fashionable."

                              That's not a trend. You'll never find salt and pepper shakers on the table of a fine dining establishment. The idea being that the food should be properly seasoned before it leaves the kitchen.

                              Sorry about the rest of your experience. It only confirms my apprehensions about Joe Beef/Liverpool House.

                            3. Perfect and to the point. 'Over extended' seems to sum up my opinion of the collective efforts of both JB and LH. The JB concept was spot on and was well received. Yet, the quality of the food would vary from good to mediocre. As for LH, it seems to be given more attention by the management than JB, ultimately, stretching the responsibilities of the management.

                              LH has become more of a place to be seen, and despite the food varying from good to very good, I suspect that from watching many of their clients, that many really do not notice or care.

                              Like any business, when you lose focus of your core business you lose money. Taking a small small restaurant with limited management and extending it to add a second operation will ultimately cause one or both to fail, unless you operate them with independent management, staffed with adequate and capable resources. Looking at LH and JB any given night, it seems clear that JB is not as much of a focus for the Allison/Frederic/David trio, as it deserves.


                              1. I feel I have to reply to some of the negative posts here. For me, fine dining is rare treat and something my gf and I really save up for. We live near to Joe Beef and have watched it grow over the past couple of years and say that it's not the owners focus is just wrong.

                                My last visit was a few weeks ago for my birthday. Knowing I like the ribs, my gf asked if they would be able to prepare them for me and they said they would do their best. We ended up having to change the date and at the time we didn't mention the rib request as we talked to someone different and didn't to trouble the staff. When we arrived, we looked over the menu and were ready to order when our waitress informed us that she had down that she had a rib request for our table! We were completely shocked and pleasantly surprised. We had a great meal, with very attentive service from our waitress that I just had to ask who it was (previously we had received excellent service from Vanya and have requested to sit in her section when possible on subsequent visits). Well, it turned out it was Allison herself. If you think they don't care, she was there that night serving tables.

                                The waitresses, yes are beautiful, but are very knowledgeable on dish preparation and wine pairings. It is a small roster of staff who are very familiar with the food and are there most nights. The decor is thankfully casual and unique and is not a detriment. And to the poster who is expecting salt and pepper on the table, clearly they have not dined in many fine restaurants.

                                The owners care deeply about LH, JB and McKiernans (which I recommend to everyone because $20 can net you a sizeable lunch that you will definitely bring some of home) and their customers. As anyone in the neighborhood will tell you, David is there pretty much everyday making sure things are running smoothly. It's unfortunate you had a bad experience at JB, it's bound to happen with any resto, but I urge you to give them another try. I'm glad I can attend a restaurant with their kind of standards and not feel I don't have wardrobe or status to walk in the doors. They provide fresh ingredients, expertly prepared without pretentious trappings.

                                1. Hmmm. I find all these reviews quite interesting.

                                  For one, I have read the montrealfood.com review and find it wonderful! I'm not sure if EOJ's comment was meant as sarcasm, but there are a few things you must understand about this restaurant in order to appreciate it, IMHO. This is a trio who adores the restaurant business and lived through some traumatic times in order to get to where they are today. They want to eat, drink, and be merry and cater to likeminded people. They'll serve up a dish with no parmesan, and that's just the way it is. It's not careless, it's intentional. These guys have been around the block and their dishes are prepared with awareness and skill.

                                  My countless visits have never been short of extraordinary. This is the kind of place where you put yourself in the hands of the always knowledgeable staff, and are rewarded by fantastic surprises left and right. This is not life-changing food. It's well-executed, very imaginative at times, and sometimes, it's spaghetti and meatballs. But god it's good. They don't take themselves too seriously and the food descriptions are often very tongue-in-cheek. Fun!

                                  As far as the quotations from McMillan in the heyday of Joe beef... Does one really expect for these talented three to stop evolving? They have small restaurants, great staff, and wonderful food and wine... I don't think it would be fair to expect them to be endlessly happy with a tiny 28 seat restaurant until the end of time.

                                  Price wise, it'll cost ya. But you'll have leftovers for a week. Who can complain?

                                  The ambiance is always a great time, and the staff is superb. I've never received anything short of great service, be it from the owners themselves in the heyday, or from their great team. But again, don't expect over-the-top attentions like birthday cakes and the like, it's simply not that kind of place.

                                  Does all this make Joe Beef a joke? Maybe. But if so, I think they're in on it.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: CocoBean

                                    has anyone been to their new lunchonette place?? I'm curious but it always seems closed. I have no opinion on Joe beef (not having paid a visit yet) but my two cents on Liverpool house are posted on the board somewhere and to sum up..I wasn't impressed with anything but the wine (Pinot noir from Oregon of all places...)

                                    1. re: daimon4

                                      I've been to McKiernan's three times and each time has been very, very good. On Saturday's, they are open for breakfast/brunch. I've tried their breakfast bruschetta and it was simply outstanding. A beautiful, large piece of pita like bread (doughier and bigger), with fresh tomatoes, quail eggs (if I remember correctly) and a couple other toppings that escape me now. Fantastic. They are open for dinner I believe Wed-Fri, and the one time I tried it, I went for the head cheese burger which was --- unique. It was actually quite good, but given what head cheese I'm not sure I'd give it another whirl. Finally, they are open for lunch Tues-Fri and the lunch I tried was absolutely unbelievable. My friend and I each shared halves of the crab club and meatloaf sandwich (it had another name which escapes me now). The crab club was out of this world. Fresh crab, bacon and avocado. The meatloaf was freshly made with their own BBQ sauce laid out and I believe it had avocado as well. Wonderful. The sandwiches are huge (I actually took some of the crab club home) and we were glad we didn't get starters because was no way we would've been able to eat the main!

                                      McKiernan's is a lot more affordable price wise. Two could have a full meal, leave stuffed and with leftovers for $35-40. Ambience is very very casual and come winter, it will be interesting to see if any lines form as it only seats maybe 15-20 at most (the last time I was there, when I arrived there was barely anyone there so we sat out on the terasse, but when we left the entire resto was full, and the terasse half full).

                                      1. re: jagbbq

                                        Sounds amazing--thanks so much for the info!

                                    2. re: CocoBean

                                      "trio who adores the restaurant business"?? Dave HATES the restaurant business and lets everyone who will listen know it. He'd rather be painting. He hates the kitchen. He hates the customers. I've stopped going to JB because I simply cannot stand the condescending attitude. He stands outside smoking letting the world know that he'd rather be somewhere else.

                                      Decor? Yeah, there's a decor. It's called Poor. No money will get you a look like that. If you charge forty-bucks-plus for oysters, I want a tablecloth. "Casual upscale" it's not. It's like a theme restaurant at Disney World - all that's missing are the glass floats on the wall and a fiberglass marlin.

                                      And yes, the food has become an expected disappointment. The last time I was there (with a chef from Toronto who wanted to try it), the porc was overcooked and tough, when we told our waitress (Meredith) she said that a few other people had said the same thing that night. No offer to cut the bill, not comped drink, no apology. What kind of a restaurant is that? That's the way it is there and I'm never going back. I know lots of other people in town who won't go back because of Dave's attitude, either. The recession will most probably bury that joint.

                                      1. re: Spamboy

                                        Like I said earlier, usually ...if you don't have anything good to say...

                                        However, I'd agree with your asssessment on Dave. Some of the stuff he said to us about customers would get the Chowhound police's ire up. He looks at customers as +- $100 per person.
                                        + is acceptable
                                        -, he don't want back

                                        this is only the 'economic' side of his attitude, let alone other attributes....
                                        'Dave' is pretty much why we don't g back.

                                        1. re: porker

                                          A couple of years ago, I got into a long, ugly dispute on "that other board" over Dave's attitude and behavior. My opinion remains as it was then. If that's how you feel, stop calling yourself a restaurateur and throw dinner parties out of your home when you want to play host.

                                    3. IT'S REAL,,,REAL GOOD !!
                                      yayaya....I loved the place.....you should have tried "La Belle Provence" for a burger.
                                      The people who complain on these review blogs are always looking for a cheap meal.
                                      Whenever I travel, I always read blogs to find out where to dine, and OFTEN (though not always) he best places are put down!
                                      First of all......The ambience was awesome! What are you talking about? It seats 30 people, is intimate, the Art on the wall was magnificent!!! I won't go on.
                                      The only disappointment was the dessert agreed, and it was pricey, agreed.
                                      Garcon? Are we talking the same place on Sherbrooke street? My last visit to MTL, I went there to see the Hoffer paintings....those museum painting gems should be yanked from that criminal culinary cataclysm