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Jan 25, 2004 02:11 PM

Jamie Kennedy Church Street report

  • c

My wife and I have now gone to JK’s new restaurant on Church Street twice – once just before Christmas and again this past weekend. Our first experience was excellent, but this last visit left us very disappointed and I don’t think we’ll be returning anytime soon.

On our first visit, they were accepting reservations for dinner. So we had no problem being seated and served promptly. Service was good and the food was very good. The portions are tapas-sized and fairly priced. They wine-by-the-glass list consisted of about 4-6 each of whites and reds, with some additional sparkling wines and sweet wines. These were mostly lower-end wines, but some interesting choices which pleasantly surprised us. The main wine list listed some excellent older vintage stuff which we thought we’d have to come back to explore. Overall, we had a great time, a great meal, and discovered some decent new wines.

This brought us eagerly back to JK in late-January. They no longer take reservations – it’s first come, first served. We show up just after 6pm on Saturday and the place is packed (as expected, I suppose). After a 10-15 min wait at the entrance, we are told by the first person who has the time to speak to us that it is an hour wait. We leave our names (how is this different than taking reservations?) and head over to the Jersey Giant for a beer. Already I am annoyed by their no-reservation policy. We return an hour later and, to their credit, we are promptly seated. However, we could see many very upset people at the entrance. Given how popular this place is, they really should start taking reservations again. It seems quite cruel to kick people back out into these cold Toronto nights and ask them to come back an hour later. In any case, we were now seated. To summarize the rest of the evening, the service was atrocious. However, in fairness, I think this was almost entirely the fault of a particularly inattentive waiter. It took a long time before we could place our orders and then, once we did, it took an equally long time for the food and wine to arrive. In fact, our first dishes had arrived and were nearly finished before our wine showed up. Which brings another point, that Estufarian has already brought up on this board: their once excellent wine list is decimated. If you ask for any older vintage wine, chances are pretty good it no longer exists (but this is not mentioned on the list itself). It got very frustrating after a while, so we just settled for some wines by the glass. The food was at about the same quality as the first visit, but everything else about this visit left us with a disappointed feeling about the whole experience. We didn’t even stay for dessert – we just wanted to get home. One other thing that may or may not be relevant: JK himself was present in the kitchen on the first visit, but not the second.

I was quite saddened about this last experience, because I was looking forward to many more regular visits to JK. Perhaps it is better on a weekday, but I am not willing to risk the time and money to find out any time soon. I’d like to hear other people’s recent experiences to know if this was an off-chance encounter or whether things are already deteriorating at this place.

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  1. I haven't been myself, but three separate groups whose opinions I trust have been in the past two weeks (on weeknights) and have all been very disappointed.

    Service was the big complaint, but even the food and wine came in for criticism.

    I wanted to go, but now I don't really feel like trying it until they've gotten their act together.

    Too bad.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Richard

      My boyfriend and I were there 2 weeks ago for the first time -- it was lunch on a weekday -- and it was delightful. Jamie Kennedy was indeed there, it was a slow, cold day, but the food was delicious: we both had the french fries of course, plus a tagine and one other dish which slips my mind though it was yummy. The service was nothing to write home about, but certainly not terrible or bad vibes. We didn't have wine, but ordered dessert and coffee and altogether left happy and satisfied with the experience and the reasonable prices... maybe lunch is the way to go?

    2. While reading your post, I had a deep feeling of empathy, not for the diner but for the staff at the restaurant. You see I am one of the "back of house people". I am a Chef in a fine dining restaurant in Whitby and I know the other side of the coin all too well. When a restaurant gets packed, as JK was on your visit, a mass rush comes over all of the staff in the establishment. Sometimes it can become overwhelming and we do the best we can to pull it all together. Granted it sounds as though JK was understaffed on the night of your visit being that it took so long to get your wine however, a million things could have contributed to your less than impressive visit.
      The idea of not taking reservations is based solely on owners self absorbed arrogance and possibly greed. This is a concept used to make a restaurant seem elite and a place where only a few lucky patrons will dine that evening. This is also a nightmare for the staff as there is no guideline as to how many people you will seat in an evening thus making it difficult to prepare for service.
      Please don't think I am invalidating your feelings towards your experience. I have had inexcusibly poor service in restaurants and left feeling quite put off. I am simply trying to shed some light on some of the possible the reasons for your less than ideal night out.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nadia Jarvis

        Thanks very much for the "back of house" insight! I completely agree with you that the main problem was that the place was simply understaffed for that evening. This just reinforces my belief that they really should start taking reservations again. It would, as you point out, make things a little less chaotic for the waitstaff and also much more convenient for the diners.