Jerusalem: new location , old disappontments
Jerusalem moved from the plaza at Leslie and Shepaprd a bit south to the plaza at Leslie and Nymark. I would go to the Sheppard location with anticipation and leave disappointed, 9 to 12 months would pass, and and the cycle would repeat. I tried the new location for the first time recently and even returned a couple of times because I currently am alone in Toronto and maraud for a good meal. Not an event, but a good meal.
I love "Middle -eastern" (Arabic, Turk, Persian etc) cooking; the flavours, its diverse ingredients and its equal respect to vegetarian dishes. The Jerusalem buffet looks great . It could be one of the best meals in town and a big bargain. The problem is that the kitchen doesn't know how to cook and cheats in wrong places. Good ingredients are spoiled and almost each and every dish is screwed up and not pleasurable. I am left with the feeilng "It's my fault, I should have known better"
In part the reason is cultural. The owners are Palestinian and Palestinian cooking is the clumsiest and most boring, from Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan all the way Morocco, in my experience, such as it is. But Palestinian cooking can be quite alright albeit not dazzling, if it is honest, fresh and sensible..
The exquisite flavouring and refinement of Lebanese cooking simply isn't in Palestinian cooking. So Jerusalem has no idea how to dress a salad or to marinade, nor is there consistency in the failure. But there is more to it than just cooking culture; the dressings and marinades are not complicated. However there is no possibilty of success because Jerusalem saves money in the wrong place. It uses The Bottle rather than lemon juice; the difference is between Kool aid and wine. Jerusalem uses some sort of cooking oil instead of olive oil, ibid.
So the the fatoush salad was clobberd with too much spice and a coarse dressing, the tabouleh was clobbered with The Bottle and twice the oil was rancid. Every other salad suffers in its own way . The grilled vegetables were too oily and with an unpleasant oil. The hummus tasted green, which may be a style but it is not pleasant. Far better is to toast the chickpeas. The babganoush tasted sour , I thought that something had spoiled. And it goes on. Even the pickled turnip is as if done by the dishwasher. The pita which you might want with the salads is the worst pita- I have ever had- like thick, tasteless cellulose.
The lentil soup has improved. The flavouring is clumsy, but at least it no longer is reminiscent of hospital food. The fish dishes are simply brutalized. The roast lamb I guess was boiled before it was roasted. The roast beef has been tenderized into tasteless fluff. Chicken is good but oily. Indeed oil is a problem in general.
A couple times there had been too much salt in almost everything that I tried; I have never experienced this elsewhere.
I could go on, but there is no point. But I should note that what might succeed is ruined because Jerusalem took along its practice from the old location: the pans are too big
and there is too much food in the pans. The food sits around too long and gets clobbered. Partially empty pans have more food put on top. Good luck hunting.
Prices vary with the day of the week. I found that it is best to go for lunch at $10.98. The selection is reduced and there is less opportunity to be aggravated, and at the price less reason. But even at their top prices of $24.95 for holiday weekend dinner it would still be a bargain if the food were good, and disappointment does not have a price low enough. Don't go on Monday. I think that they serve the weekend's leftovers and the food doesn't hold up.
The old Jerusalem buffet was at Finch and Leslie, not Sheppard and Leslie, but - aside from that - Vinnie Vidimangi is accurate on almost all his details. The present Jerusalem middle Eastern buffet is a washout. While the old buffet north of the present one had a few things going for it, this one is a full-scale dud. I don't understand why it's still in business. Few should consider going back a second time. When I went there some months ago, the cold dishes were bearable - after all, it's a buffet, and allowances should be made, so "bearable" isn't bad - but I also noticed the oiliness in many of the cold dishes . And the hot dishes were awful. For one thing, many of the hot dishes were barely luke warm, and essentially tasteless. And a vaguely rancid oiliness permeated them all. Not worth the price, even when the price is low, which - depending on the day - it often isn't. Inexplicably. the take-out part of the restaurant does a respectable shawarma and a decent falafel, so if you live in that part of town - and ONLY if you live in that part of town - and insist on your middle Eastern fix, then it's to the take-out section you must go to. Otherwise, give this place a pass.
Jerusalem on Eglinton is the original restaurant, started with three partners, Arab Christian. The partners fought and split into into three.
One opened Jerrie's a bit west on Eglinton. His operation was simple, service from the counter mostly. He was reputed to have had the best food of the three.
Could be. I have never eaten at the Eglinton Jerusalem. I don't associate
hummous with double white tableclothes on the tables as Jrusalem Eglinton has it. Jerrie's closed many years ago; I remeber it as being OK..
The third former partner opened Jerusalem on Leslie.
To Finnegan, There is no reason why a buffet should not be first rate. In theory. In practice you are right; they are almost all regrettable.
As some sought the Holy Grail I seek a good buffet. In many years of overeating I have found only 4. One was at the Park Plaza in the mid 70's (someone else paid for the trip.) Two are in Auckland New Zealand. One is very expensive (Langham Hotel) and we go on a twofer coupon. The fourth is the Thai Plate (3434 Bathurst St, south of the 401) lunch buffet. It had been run only on Monday lunch. Check what day now., It may be Friday now.
Buffets fail for the following reasons,some of which are aspects of each other.
1. The kitchen doesn't know how to cook.
2.The kitchen has no food sense. It doesn't understand what dishes can be made good and will hold on a buffet.
3. The pans are too big. What might be good is ruined by sitting too long.
4. This leads to waste. Old food gets pitched, which leads to budget contraints which leads to miserly dishes.
5.The selection is too large. The kitchen loses control, stuff sits around prepped and then sits on around on the buffet, waste on the buffet , etc., in a downward spiral.
6. All of this leads to too many losers. The more losers you put on your plate the worse your meal even if you liked a lot of the items.
7. Psychological items get put on the buffet . These are expensive items that suffer because they have been badly prepared (eg roast beef marinated into fluff, slamon cooked into a board) or because they are poor quality so that they fit in the buffet budget.. Also, because there is too much choice on the buffet , they sit around , get wasted, etc. problems lead into each other on a buffet..
8. There is no coherence in the selection. Instead of having dishes that go together to make an integrated and therefore satisfying meal, there is just a bunch of stuff.
9. Note in all of this I do not complain about not enough money was spent by the owner for the kitchen to make a good meal. Take for example, lima beans- simple and cheap and delicious. When a Frenchman cooks lima beans they are beautiful. They are cooked long and slow. At Jerusalem they are hard and coarse. They are cooked short and fast. Its been this way for years. The dish is ruined; the ramnifications are wide and the consequences are cumulative. The lima bean failure has nothing to do with cost. You decide the reason.
10. I have never met a failing restaurant owner who admitted that he didn't know what he was doing; that it was his fault. At the most, they say that he problem is the location. Buffets operators adopt an aggressive defense. See how much we give you for $10.99! (or whatever). A 1001 items! Such expensive ingredients! But when it is all ruined dishes, what difference does it make? And by the time it hits $20, plus, plus, it get expensive for a lousy meal on which you have overeaten in the quest to find something good.
11. Just plain stupidity . A nice salad with good ingredients, and the owner has it dressed with The Bottle and cooking oil, and seems to assign the dishwasher to the task.
12 The photography fetish. Hot House Cafe's Sunday buffet has 10 pretty cakes. They present and photograph beautiffuly . But they are all crummy. l would gladly exchange them all for one thing good. And I don't even muchgcar ewhat it is. Two good things well selected? I am in gastro heaven.
Excellent review. I agree wholeheartedly. We used to frequent the Finch/Leslie location quite often, and even then, we had a few disappointing dinners. We have decided not to give the new location a try; it's too pricey for dinner considering the less than mediocre food ..... definitely NOT prepared properly.
A real disappointment.
(A favorite of ours were the lamb shanks)
Anyone who expects good food from from ANY buffet will always be disappointed. I agree with all the above descriptions of the Noth York version of Jerusalem. The Jeruslaem on Eglinto West is the exact opposite. They have no buffet, the food is always fresh and hot of the grill. Do yourselves a favour and only go the the Eglinton West restaurant and taste the difference
You comments about the Jerusalem are certainly spot on. I've never asked, but I suspect these places aren't related (or, in any event, do not share recipes or management). As an aside, the previous occupant of the Leslie St location, Bloomsbury Cafe, had a buffet that is a close contender for the "worst restaurant food I've ever eaten" title (only TGI Friday's in Niagara Falls ON was worse).
But I disagree with your comment that one shouldn't expect good food at ANY buffet. VVM nailed this in his post. Serve food that can sit on a buffet. Most cold foods can be fine. Many hot foods actually improve on sitting for a while. A roasted hip of beef (once a common item) or a whole beef brisket can sit for a very long time. Just serve appropriate foods, using ingredients supportable at a given price point, and a buffet can work. Most buffet operators aren't aiming to serve "chowfind" food, but it can be done. (Targeting gluttons with no taste buds is something else again.)
I don't seek out buffets of any kind, since my capacity has decreased as I've gotten older and a really great buffet wouldn't be worth its cost. But I remember some beauts in Toronto 20-30 years ago. The Prince Hotel used to serve an extraordinary brunch buffet at one time. And the original York St Movenpick served fabulous AYCE buffets for many years -- I specifically recall lovely fish and shellfish and a salmon Coulibiac at their dinner buffet.
I was only at the buffet version of Jerusalem once when it was still at Leslie and Finch but I had found it to be so terrible that I don't even want to bother with trying the new location. We went many times when this location wasn't a buffet and really enjoyed it, but the buffet just isn't worth it.
I was in the area ,it was lunch time and I was hungry. And only $10.99. I figured that I was familiar enough with the buffet items that I could put together a decent meal; there should be watermelon for dessert! You know, like the person who gets divorced and remarries.The triumph of hope over experience. I think that I have now sworn off.
The lentil- rice soup.Not good, but improved recently. This one was like clumsily flavoured wall paper paste.
The kefta (ground meat on a skewer) . Usually good. This time it was very hard. Cooked in some distant past , frozen, and warmed up.
The "" grain"" side. Usually a passable if plain and oily mujadrha(sp? a lentil rice mixture) and sometimes farikeh (sp? smoked green wheat grains) which I like a lot. This time plain lentils which tasted as if they had been laundered.
Pretty good but excessively oily chicken thighs.
Watermelon, the object of my desires. How do you ruin watermelon? The first lot tasted as if it had been cut on a board that had been used for all sorts of things , and for a long time ,and had not been cleaned.adequately. The second lot tasted like soap: they had washed the board. I gave up and left the melon.
Right on schedule, four hours later, classic poo whoosh: a touch of food poisoning, probably from the cutting board.
$10.99, cheaper than a colonic irrigation,but not as much fun.