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Jun 1, 2008 06:50 AM

JKWB (June 01/08) - quick report

My sister and I had late night dinner at JKWB.

Having arrived at 10:00ish, we were seated within about ten minutes at the bar (our choice, as we were also offered a table).

Service was slow to start and proved a little off all evening. Our server was slightly surly and eventually "forgot" one of our dishes. We got the impression he'd had a long night.

The food -

We started with two glasses of bubbles (from a choice of two by-the-glass offerings), a very fruity almost red/pink French sparkler and a light, dry cava. Both satisfying and very different from one another.

The asparagus salad, served with hearts of cat tails, and mushrooms with a light vinaigrette and garnished with pea shoots was fresh and spring-y. The asparagus was perfectly cooked and the presentation was appetizing and pretty. We paired this with the recommended wine, a very, very dry white (can't remember particulars) that we found rather flat and uninspired. We both agreed that we'd cook with it, but didn't love drinking it.

The beer battered trout was fantastique! A very dark breading did not overpower the fish, which also came with a nice slaw of carrot and beets. Probably the winner of the night.

The entrecote of beef with polenta was very rare - to the point where my sister got a little squidgy. Still, I like my meat very bloody and it had nice flavour. Others have complained about over-salting at JK, which I had never experienced before... but our polenta felt like we were actually eating salt and it was a bit unpleasant. Polenta is one of our favourite comfort foods, but neither of us cared to finish the dish. The wine paired with this dish was great - an Italian red, if I recall (sorry about falling down on wine specifics).

We tried two desserts - the chocolate apricot cake with fresh whipped cream and a cherry sauce was very good. The cake was dense but still managed to feel light and the fruity sauce really made the dish.
The rhubarb tart fared less well. It was somewhat bland and completely overpowered by a buttermilk ice cream which was so tart that I could have sworn it was lemon. We had the paired dessert wines with each dish and both were OK.

At the end of the night... $110 with tax but before tip.

I'm a big fan of JKWB, but somehowthe experience last night seemed less than usual. We had some great moments in eating and drinking (the fish, the red wine)... but it didn't quite feel right. Many of the menu items are starting to feel same-old, service seemed tired and beaten-down, and things like no bread to start are starting to feel a bit parsimonious and no-frills. It doesn't have the same energy as I remember... something just felt a little flat.

I'll still recommend, but I think this place might need a bit of enlivening.

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  1. Thanks for the report Rabbit.

    I've failed to really "get" JKWB I guess. I've been twice in recent times and I have to admit that I've become less critical of what they do but I still can't get into the food. I can however support Jamie Kennedy's philosophy of the slow food movement, and local ingredients. In addition, they really have a great selection of biodynamic wines that beats everybody else in the city. However, I've always found their food quite boring, sometimes even a stark mismatch of either flavours or textures, and their pairings sometimes really put me off.

    The one big thing that keeps me from going back? That god awful smell of roasted and/or burnt rosemary that PERVADES the air. As a wine lover, I equate this with the use of scented candles, and in a wine bar, this is a gigantic problem. I understand that the smell originates from one of their breads, but it literally gives me a headache after about 2 minutes. The last time I went, it resulted in a migraine.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

      SWS -

      Curious about what are your favourite Toronto wine bars? I'm interested in wine although (obviously) no expert. We've been to Red's, Crush, Kultura... but I 'm curious about where you most like to drink?


      1. re: Rabbit


        As a serious wine lover, my go-to is Crush Wine Bar, and it has been for the last 4 years. I think many serious oenophiles would agree that Crush has the right to call itself a "Wine Bar" in Toronto. A wine bar, in my humble opinion, should be an establishment that has the following:

        1. At least 1 "papered" certified sommelier at a very minimum, but I would think most serious wine bars have more than that, or at least an individual without papers, but with a long established professional association in the wine industry.

        2. A varied and extensive selection of wines by-the-glass at accessible price points.

        3. A constantly rotating selection of wines, whereby patrons can be exposed to several varietals and/or styles from differing world regions. This should be done regardless of what is currently "in fashion" IMO.

        4. A strong wine education philosophy-with both employees AND patrons

        The focus of a wine bar is the wine. This doesn't mean that the food has to suck, but it does mean that the wine takes centre stage, first and foremost, with a menu (IMO) "flattering" the wine. Too many establishments billing themselves as "wine bars" make food the priority, with the wine playing second fiddle. Many establishments calling themselves "wine bars" are simply masquerading as tapas joints. Nothing wrong with a tapas joint, just don't call yourself a wine bar!

        Wine bars are nothing new in Europe-but are in North America. Some focus on specific regions or varietals-which can be a great educational experience for those that prefer a more focused point of reference. Ultimately, wine is an evolving thing-both in a biological and human-historical context, and this should be taken seriously. Not so seriously that the fun is taken out however!

        Personally, I have always felt that Crush is a great place because it has chosen not to compromise by offering the everyday, recognizable wines that the public feels "comfortable" with. They certainly carry wines that people will recognize and feel comfortable with, but they also push the educational envelope by offering wines by the glass you wouldn't normally see elsewhere, or even be familiar with. Their staff-particularly their sommelier, Eric Gennaro, and manager, Marlise Ponzo, are exceptionally knowledgable individuals, whose palates I respect a great deal. The owner, Jamieson Kerr, also possesses extensive wine knowledge and industry experience.

        If you haven't been recently, you should check them out-they did a renovation this past April and it looks great.

        Sorry for the long ramble Rab, but I guess I revealed how much I love it there!

      2. re: Splendid Wine Snob

        I think the smell comes from the burning of an herb when they present the flatbread with three dips.

      3. Love the review, but is comes off as a too familiar micro-whine.

        You want it to be more enlivening and show up at 10 (ish(!))

        2 Replies
        1. re: stephen

          I work in the industry and I am very sympathetic to the rigours of a long and demanding night. But, with all due respect, it shouldn't matter what time a guest arrives at a restaurant. The service and attitude should be consistent whether you arrive at 6:30 or 10:30.

          1. re: sloweater

            Thank you sloweater. I was thinking along the same lines.

        2. I went to JKWB last Wednesday and had the polenta with the braised rabbit, and I must say that the polenta was very delightful and creamy, not salty at all. The same can't be said about the rabbit, which was kind of like a jerky flavour, dry, rough and not very good at all.

          And our server at the beginning of the night was super snooty.

          1. I was there recently this past weekend for a birthday party. It was my first time at JKWB, did lots of research prior to going... from all my resources they all told me it's a must-go place if you never tried JK. We each order a dish to be fair as it is tapa style, portions were just perfect. The dishes came at the right time, not too slow or too quick. The taste was more contemporary, all were delicious. Although, none of the dishes hit me as "wow" if you know what I mean. As for the service, I agree with all of you it was a tad tired and beaten-down. Our server took a while before he could notice we were asking for him (I mean we were literally "waving" our hands to get his attention). Btw, we did not get any bread either to start. Not sure if time of service was an issue but we were there at prime time 7:30PM. With a name of JK and great reviews all over I was expecting a bit more.

            All in all, the food was still delicious I would still go back again except in a smaller group setting.

            On a similar note, I saw a sign on the front door of the restaurant JK opened a new cafe called Gilead (sp?). I did a quick search online, the reviews were all saying it's ok. Anyone tried it b4 or comments?

            3 Replies
            1. re: pinkbunni

              There is never bread to start - I believe you can order it off the menu for $3

              1. re: pinkbunni

                I think people who read this board will have a high expectation on JKWB as it is mentioned like 10 times every day. I am not sure, I never "wow" by the food there as well. It is good food with good pricing except the salt, and the local thing...