Gilead Wine Bar
The only meals I've ever enjoyed in a "Jamie Kennedy" venue were those at JK Wine Bar when Tobie Nemeth was in charge. I've been to every other restaurant of his, with the exception of Palmerston and the current incarnation of Gilead, and have been disappointed each time.
In my opinion Jamie Kennedy, as TorontoJo points out, is to be commended for his advancement of local sustainably raised and grown food, but I do not think that he himself is a great culinary talent.
Well...I went the other night and tried most of the menu with my friends. There were a few highlights, but mostly disappointments.
- Fries with two dips: hard to go wrong with JK's consistently awesome fries.
- Braised beef poutine: delicious, full of rich flavours and melt in your mouth beef.
- Smoked whitefish dish: wonderful, smoky fish on top of a great hot potato salad with bacon.
- Beets salad
- Winter vegetables salad
Both good, but it would have been nice to be warned that these two salads are very similar to one another...
The simply meh:
- Marinated lake trout: gravlax style, very chewy.
- Galatine of chicken: touted as our server's absolute favourite, it was bland and boring.
- Cabbage roll: overwhelmingly tomato-y. Pass the salt, please.
- Braised and crispy pork: braised, yes. crispy, no. Also suffered from blandness. The potato rosti was good.
- Red wine braised short rib: beef seemed like it would have benefitted from another couple of hours of braising, as there were still large pockets of fat, and it wasn't melt in your mouth. The flavours were muted, too. The braised beef in the poutine was much, much better. The one bright note of the dish was the excellent sweet potato puree.
While none of the "meh" dishes were bad, none were worth spending money on.
It was really quite disappointing, as we had gone because most of us had very fond memories of JKWB "back in the day". While I have loads of respect for Jamie Kennedy for being a pioneer and really bringing farm-to-table thinking to Toronto, I feel like perhaps he needs to evolve his style and cuisine a bit? Or maybe not -- the place was full when I was there. Maybe it's just that my palate has evolved and moved on. Regardless, it was kind of sad when we realized that the best parts of the dinner were all the potatoes, a piece of fish and the salads. Oh, and there was an overuse of fresh thyme on too many dishes. Maybe that wouldn't have been a problem if we hadn't ordered so much of the menu.
Those plates seem as flat as the flavours you describe. I changed my larger reservation to Geraldine, and the cheese course is all I can remember. The whole experience echoes your "meh" and not worth spending money on comment, which I'm finding more and more common as these newer spots pop up.
I will be by Gilead next weekend, for a few glasses of wine and the dishes you enjoyed. They're what we would have ordered, anyway.
We had dinner there on Saturday night, and for me, the meal was reminiscent of the best meals I had at JKWB down on Church St. back in it's heyday. We order 12-13 plates in total (incl. the short rib poutine - twice!), and all of it was immensely satisfying. Highlights for us - other than the poutine - were the marinated lake trout, the roast beef, and the pouding chomeur.
And I was happy to note that across the board the dishes were less salty than the past (I remember by the end of JKWB - and even at the Restaurant and at the Gilead when it was first doing dinner service - that over-salting had become a bit of an issue).
My sense is that if you go to Gilead Wine Bar expecting warm service and solid dishes rooted in French technique, you'll leave happy. But if you're looking for renditions of the newest trends in food, this isn't the place. Mind you, it's clear from the menu - and from knowing Jamie's culinary background - that the wine bar is going to showcase local products in a classic - dare I say European? - style (a menu that uses words like consommé, brunoise, galantine, meuniere, beurre blanc, bordelaise, and meringue glacees [I mean, how much more old school does it get than meringue glacees, people?] is not going to then dabble in the modern / faddish; no tacos or ramen here, my friend).
Don't get me wrong. I love the new (some people think I have an unhealthy attraction to the momofuku family of restaurants) and I am always look to try the latest. But it's also nice to have a restaurant to go to that doesn't make me yell to be heard or beat me down w/ condescending / disinterested service, and isn't going to sacrifice value for show.
Personally, I'm happy Jamie's back doing dinner service, and I wish him every success.
re: 2 cents
I love dishes rooted in French technique and I love simple, classic cooking. What was missing for me in several of the dishes was flavour. Salt, spices, whatever -- there was a lack of depth in those dishes.
I wish Jamie success as well. Gilead just won't be a dinner destination for me -- wine and snacks (I will always love his poutine!).