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May 8, 2010 07:45 AM

Joanne Kates still misses Ruby Chinese restaurant (moved from Ontario board)

In today's Globe and Mail, Kates says Ruby Watchco is "no gem" and goes on to complain about the communal serving dishes, and the fact that she can't mooch off her dining partner's plates as they have the same food she has. Well I'm glad she's not mooching off my plate!. I bet she's missing the Ruby Chinese restaurant.

Review here:

(to be taken with a few grains of kosher salt


Ruby Watchco
730 Queen St E, Toronto, ON , CA

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  1. In the words of Jamie Kennedy in "Kickin' It Old School" -

    "Don't be hatin'!"

    Her review is a bit late in the game, she should have been aware of the whole meal concept - Ruby Watchco uses the family communal style to distinguish itself and bring a rarer concept to the table and allows dishes to be tried by all. I find family style fosters a nice connection between all diners at the table.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dachopstix

      with the place open less than 2 months how is the review late in the game? She probably was aware of the concept, but as a reviewer she reported on how she didn't like it. Personally, I can roast a chicken, and make a salad at home. I think that was her point, Crawford is not doing anything out of the ordinary food wise, and there is no choice. Doesn't really interest me either, but the place is packed so I'm sure it will succeed.

      1. re: phisherking

        Having never been to Ruby Watchco, I thought the review was fair. She gave a new restaurant 2 months to iron out the bugs, dined there twice, and wasn't impressed either time. That's her opinion and she's entitled to it.

        How many times have we read bad reviews here or elsewhere, from just 1 visit on opening night or the first couple weeks?

        I associate this "family style" concept with tourist traps, not fine dining. I'm thinking Leoni's Italian Kitchen (long gone, was a SIR Corp property), or those chicken dinners in Frankenmuth, Michigan....

      2. IMO Joanne Kates belongs to a long gone era of Toronto dining (and Chatto is close behind...). I've never really agreed with her reviews or liked her writing, but that's me. I find it kind of humorous that this veteran food critic dislikes not knowing what she'll be served well in advance of her reservation. And have you read her 100 list in the Toronto Post? But in the end, she is entitled to her opinion. I'm just not sure it's still really relevant.
        As for Ruby Watch Co., it doesn't profess to be "fine dining" as suggested by a poster. Crawford is cooking fresh and local; the food is really quite delicious and resembles comfort food or what you'd serve for Sunday dinner. But let's be clear; the meal may be communal style but it's no Swiss Chalet. Any new venture that succeeds in this economic climate has found the right formula. Globe Bistro is one of my favourite places but for $49, I could go to RWC 4 times more often for that "local" experience. Oh and let's not forget about the service; Stinson working the room makes you feel welcome and valued and the servers must have either gone through vigorous training or are from another planet (at the very least, not your standard arrogant or indifferent Toronto server).
        It may be communal dining but most restos in this city could stand to adopt a little of the class this place provides. Personally, I like feeling like they want me back at the end of my meal.

        17 Replies
        1. re: tuttebene

          If Kates thinks she deserves better, especially after RWC's full disclosure of menu and house gestalt, then it only deepens my suspicion she's cemented firmly to 1985 and a resto scene that passed long ago. Think she's due to hang it up or undergo some sort of personal paradigm shift. Her review was redolent of old fud incomprehension.

          1. re: Kagemusha

            Joanne Kates' reviews have never impressed me. I have been to some extraordinary places in Ontario over the years: Domus Cafe probably is one of the finest restaurants anywhere. Inventive use of local Canadian produce,market fresh. Chef and service both unique,brilliant. Chez Piggy also has become a very fine place. As for Caplansky's Deli: Zane is trying very hard. While you can't compare it with Schwartzes in Montreal, (two are totally different,but still both marvelous) In Ottawa I used to enjoy having dinners at Vittoria Tratoria. I can't stand Marky's Deli. Too bad that former Frans went downhill in the last years. I would never go to Sea-Hi on Bathurst. Good,though lesser places to eat (out of town,diners) Wimpy's (Guelph-had lunch this past Saturday afternoon,cheeseburger was excellent

            1. re: marc Bernstein

              I disagree with all three of you. I understand some of Kates' complaints.

              "I find it kind of humorous that this veteran food critic dislikes not knowing what she'll be served well in advance of her reservation"

              Er, why? It's not because I don't enjoy the anticipation of coming to a new spot, looking over the menu, and deciding what to order. But that's not the case here. You show up at the restaurant AND ARE TOLD what you're having for dinner. If they had same-day reservations, that would be fine, but if I have to reserve a week ahead, this seems a bit of a "pig in a poke". What if someone in your group has a food allergy? Are they expected to go hungry?

              "she's cemented firmly to 1985 "

              Why? Because she expects good food, good service, and some choice in her dinner? I've always enjoyed Kates' reviews, because 1) she actually knows something about food and cooking, unlike, say Gina Mallett or Sara Waxman, and 2) she actually expects gracious service. This is Mother's Day, after all; I can think of too many restaurants where my mother would feel uncomfortable, and, while she's no longer with us, I can safely say RWC would fit into that category. If you're saying she's not young enough and hip enough for you to respect what she writes, fine, but don't dismiss her oeuvre because it doesn't mesh with your peculiar zeitgeist.

              Marc, read your post four times, and gave up trying to figure out what you're trying to say.

              1. re: FrankD

                FrankD, have you been to RWCo? When I was there, I saw quite a few people who must have been in their 70's and maybe 80's and they didn't appear uncomfortable eating there.

                1. re: foodyDudey

                  My mother is always indecisive about what to order so she might actually like a place like RWC, saves her the stress of picking her meal while the rest of us get impatient waiting for her.... But you totally dismissed Frank's very legitimate concern about food allergies,and I'll take it a step further and add in dislikes in general.

                  My brother is very allergic to shellfish and hates raw tomatoes. My wife hates blue cheeses, broccoli and asparagus. They just cannot and will not eat those things. They would be very disappointed to show up at a place like RWC only to find those items as the major part of one of the dishes, and as Frank pointed out, you don't have advanced knowledge at the time you made the reservation and have no way to order something else. So they would just have to send those courses back, not eat them and pass them to someone else in the party, but still pay the full $49 when maybe 1/4 of the meal was inedible to them? Or we show up, see the menu posted on the door, think "yuck" and then have to turn around and find another place on a busy night like Saturday?

                  I guess some of you like the "Charlie's Burger" or "Omakase" concept of the surprise meal, but it just isn't for everybody. Didn't work for Kates, doesn't work for Frank, and wouldn't work for my brother and my wife either.

                  1. re: TexSquared

                    "Or we show up, see the menu posted on the door, think "yuck" and then have to turn around and find another place on a busy night like Saturday? "

                    Then clearly this doesn't suit your dining needs which is fine since there are plenty of other new places getting a good buzz in this city. Good for JK to express her opinion about the concept and make others aware but I'm not so sure why the concept has generated such negative banter. It's a new venture by a very respected and proven chef who is offering a new kind of dining experience to Toronto (not so new in Paris). The room is busy and hopefully it will last. If I didn't like seafood, I wouldn't choose a place known for their fish, or a steakhouse if I didn't eat red meat, etc.

                    As for FrankD's concerns about allergies, you should know that when you make a reservation at RWCo., they ask if anyone in your party has any dietary restrictions, which presumably would include allergies, vegetarians, religious needs, etc. You are also instructed to call 48 hours ahead of your reservation to confirm it and again, you are asked about food restrictions. (Crawford is not new to this business afterall. ) I'm sure that people with food allergies need to be vigilant all the time when dining out and not just at RWCo.

              2. re: marc Bernstein

                Mark, what's going on man? Your posts are becoming rather cryptic. Have you recently gone Zen?

                1. re: haggisdragon

                  First,I can't stand either Kates or Sara Waxman.
                  Second,to all the haters of Caplanskys Deli: GIVE THE MAN A BREAK.
                  He's doing his best and bringing back an old style Jewish deli for and to middle aged Jews in Toronto who recall the days of great deli places in the Spadina core.
                  I love food of any type.
                  My faves are Domus Cafe in Ottawa, Chez Piggy in Kingston,
                  Beauty in Montreal, 20 King Street in Kitchener, Vittoria Trattoria in Ottawa,
                  I also like Continental Bagel in Ottawa's Byward Market. I used to like Studio Cafe,but I feel it has changed and become too trendy. Both Mildred's Temple and Globe were special as far as I am concerned. For Bagels,I enjoy Bagel World, St.Urban Bagel. Scrambled Eggs at Bagel World are still really special. I hope that Marche will return to their former glory. I would never go to Sea Hi ,but I do like the "Dump" in Forest Hill. I'm amazed that "Marky's is still open-never like it-food was rotten,
                  place was dirty.
                  The now vanished Kosher gourmet restaurant, "Greenfield's" was in my opinion,one of the few kosher goumet fine dining places to cater to those who,like my late father,Jack Bernstein,who was and kept strictly Kosher,
                  a place of fine and highest quality kosher food that I feel tried very hard to be a Kosher Four Seasons.
                  I miss Greenfield's alot.

                  1. re: marc Bernstein

                    I'll second the give the man a break sentiment for sure, but Chez Piggy!?

            2. re: tuttebene

              We both think alike when i comes to JK and her reviews. We also both like Globe Bistro. But I was a bit confused when you said that for $49, you could go to RWCo 4x more often. How could that be? It does not cost $200pp to eat at Globe.
              If a couple eats at RWCo and orders even the cheapest wine on their list and a cocktail each before dinner, you will end up around $170 - 180 after taxes but before tip. So that gets you up to at least $200 - $220 after tip. It's pretty easy for two to have dinner at Globe for that price also. The only way your statement would be correct is if you went by yourself and didn't order a drink, and left no tip.

              1. re: foodyDudey

                Sorry, it was a bit of an exaggeration. Unlike you, I find that I don't have the discipline to budget at Globe - if it appeals, I order. Didn't mean to imply to it's expensive because you're right, it's very reasonable for the food, service, decor, etc. I was trying to emphasize that 4 courses for $49 is a real bargain - I can only eat what they serve me at RWCo, which for some reason has become the latest Terroni like thread on this board!

                1. re: tuttebene

                  I've been checking Ruby Watchco's website regularly and wondered why they never posted what was being served that night so you knew and now I know. They simply don't want to. I do like Joanne Kates' reviews as she is very articulate and she knows a lot about food, as well as her palate being very refined. There's no excuse for the overcooked chicken that she and other diners experienced that night. It's not like the restaurant has to juggle preparing different dishes like most restaurants.

                  I am going to try Ruby Watchco for a different experience (my last 'this is what you are going to eat' fixed prix meal was at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley in 1988) but doubt I'd go more than once as 1) I like choice 2) I am 99% vegetarian (ie a flexitarian, like Thomas Jefferson) and 3) I don't mind no choice as long as I can choose what night to go based what they are serving and Ruby Watchco won't tell you that. I know that that my be mostly because they choose their ingredients based on what is fresh and available at the market that day and they don't want to post the menu that day because people might cancel.

                  Caveat emptor.

                  1. re: Flexitarian

                    The problem with newspaper food critics is that you really don't know if their palate is refined. You don't know if Ruby Watchco really had an off night, or if whenever Ms. Kates went to Ruby Chinese Restaurant the vermin were on holiday and the food was spectacular. If we take everything at face value, though, it would appear as if there are many restaurants that she reviews that seem to have 'off nights' on the very night she shows up, considering they get rave reviews from the majority of people we do trust--that is, people on this website.

                    I, personally, won't ever take her seriously since she said that the best ribs she's ever had were cooked by the cook at the summer camp her parents own. That doesn't appeal to the common diner, that's just smarmy self gratification.

                    1. re: Flexitarian

                      Why would you be interested in trying it out if A) you like to know ahead of time what will be served and B) you trust Kate's reviews? And the fact that you believe that she has a refined palate and lots of experience doesn't negate that others who are equally talented in that regard may not agree with her.

                      1. re: tuttebene

                        Have a laugh on me and check her limping review of Bohmer in today's G&M. After blowing half the column on breathless description of the decor, she kvetches about too much cream(there's always Lipitor) but seems not to get the food at all.The trip to risque Ossington probably induced palpitations but she managed to show solidarity(with whom, developers?) through a gratuitous swipe at Joe Pantelone for stopping what she considers a "happening" in the neighborhood--more like just another "manufactured landscape" that's endemically infesting TO. This is commerce not Age of Aquarius spontaneity. Hopefully, someone from Bohmer helped her safely back across the street. Any bets on where she pops up next?

                        1. re: Kagemusha

                          "The message is reclaimed, post-industrial and local; chef/owner Paul Boehmer's menu extends the metaphor."

                          This from someone who prides themselves on weaving some "writing" into their food reviews (check out CBC radio One, Fresh Air episode a few weeks back). Oy.

                          1. re: tuttebene

                            Amen. She's either reading the ON/GTA board religiously and/or undergoing some personal reawakening, judging from her recent atypical resto choices like L.A.B. in Saturday's G&M. Kates isn't down for the count(despite my bitchiness)but she does need a serious frame-of-reference update to remain IMHO credible. READ the daily NYT style blogs, honey!