Thursday, August 23, 2007
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
It was a special occasion and this was a befitting setting. Our table of 16 had gathered for a celebratory 30th, seated at a very large and handsome communal table on yet another Sunday afternoon, in anticipation of a great meal. Over the years, I have in a way followed Jamie Kennedy's career - at least reported in the Toronto Star - way before the food network or the linkage of celebrity + chef. So it was with much excitement that I would finally dine at one of his establishments, not to mention the birthday, and brunch of course.
The brunch price fixe menu is $20 with a choice of two dishes. It is a meal that has been turning more highbrow these days, with our brightest local stars extending that trend of making the casual into the sublime (remember $50 hamburgers?). But most of us are adamantly clinging to our low rise skinny jeans as we chow down our $10 diner eggs, still as skeptical of spending our week's grocery money on one mid-day meal as we are of relinquishing tapered for high-wasted wide-legs. As one of our table commented, "I don't even understand this menu". I however, was happy to explain what a confit or even what a ragout meant (hint the spaghetti sauce); just as much as I took this dining experience for what it was, a special once in a while treat.
And treat it was! Lamenting my addiction to fries with mayo, I felt not a whit of guilt as I plunged hot, crispy golden fries into lemony garlicky homemade mayonnaise. (Our guest of honour informed me later that JK is famous for his fries - Yukon Frites $5). The bread plate, was meh - skip it. It might have been homemade, but it was just mostly plain white raisin bread with blah jam. I would think for $5 a plate, they could afford to give tables a demi-baguette from Ace Bakery instead and still profit nicely. Service was great - friendly, informative, and well paced - impressive as we were a large group. They even offered to plate the chocolate ganache cake one of our party brought with berries (but at $3 a pop).
The nice thing about JK Wine Bar is the post tapas sense of sharing. Yes the artfully presented dishes are small, but in a big group setting, at least you get to taste a lot.
The smoked salmon blinis looked and tasted wow: intense salmon fresh flavour as deep as its coral flesh, punctuated with fresh herb salad, pickled onion, and airy creme fraiche with its spongy, nutty, buckwheat base.
I also had bites of the chorizo side (meaty and fried crisp), the tender and saucy pulled pork, and the luscious melt in your mouth pain perdu.
Surprisingly, the duck confit salad (with frisee and poached organic egg) wasn't that special. The bitterness of the green had no point. The meat was more leathery than crisp (although apparently duck would make a good jerky), and the egg could've just as well been a no show. Actually, most of us at the table thought it was goat's cheese at first, which I think could have been a better ingredient. Mmm... if it was warm goat's cheese over the frisee with crisp skin and robust meat...
We couldn't resist peeking at the dinner menu. With its promise of artisan cheeses (also available at brunch), oysters, and other goodies, I immediately tried to think of of what other occasions were coming up.
It will probably take a few more trips before I agree with one comment made by someone, who, after offering JK wb as a recommendation and having the querier respond that he'd been there. "Ah, then it's ruined anywhere else." But, definitely, I would say as the b-day girl opined, "They know what they are doing."
Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
address: 9 Church Street