CUISINE: Cajun and Creole ADDRESS: 119 Dundas Street DATE: February 1st, 2014
Lesson learned: when your Chef-Friend is game for blog dinner UNTIL she hears what restaurant it is, that may be a sign that you’re going to leave disappointed.
I’ve been having trouble with my alphabet lately: I could have sworn it was KAROON, the middle-eastern restaurant that Ian and I are pretty sure used to be the Taco Bell we ate at in high school.
IN OUR DEFENSE: Our palettes have evolved a TAD.
- It was the 90s.
- Those crispy potato-flake fries were a novelty back then.
- You got a low-priced “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” stuffed dog with purchase.
- That dog gets thrown around my drama room on a regular basis. Thanks, Taco Bell!
Anyway, I got Tribe and Erin on board with the promises of Middle-Eastern food, then looked up the list and realized tonight’s selection was JAMBALAYA on Dundas.
Tribe was happy: the downtown location meant he could walk to dinner.
Tribe demurs behind a giant centrepiece flower…
Erin was a bit, what’s the word, NON-PLUSSED:
Erin agreed to join us on this AZ RESTO TOUR stop with the caveat that she could feign a NO PAPARAZZI photo.
But since she had to get up from her afternoon nap for the movie anyway, she rallied and joined us on a slushy, slippery Saturday night.
Jambalaya is on Dundas near Talbot, just down from Billy’s Deli and next to Blu Duby. The exterior, with it’s vinyl sign touting lunch specials, looked a little low-rent to me, but I thought the cozy interior, exposed brick and red paint with large abstract art canvasses, dim lighting, and almost a tiki-style bar at the front, was warm and inviting.
NOTE: No Carribbean restaurant is truly authentic without the inclusion of a Bob Marley Magic Eye poster…
The offering for the evening was the Londonlicious menu, a $25 Prix Fixe with appetizer, entree and dessert.
We decided on some drinks to start: Tribe order the sangria, a nod to a notorious evening he and I shared during last summer’s Londonlicious.
Tribe and I should probably not visit La Casa anytime soon, let’s just say that.
Ian and I split a bottle of wine (reasonably priced Pinot for less than $25), while Erin asked the waiter for a recommendation between the GOOMBAY SMASH or THE PASSION TICKLER.
I realized, in that moment, that I never want to say the word “tickler” in a restaurant.
Tickle-me oh no.
We made our choices for the first two rounds, contented to pick our desserts once we saw how full we were.
Ian let the poster of Bob Marley guide his choices…
Our server was a nice enough gentleman, but I can’t remember him at all besides the fact that he was male, so that’s probably not great.
I do remember the service was really, really slow.
Ian’s app was a chicken Jamaican patty.
Made in house, Ian described it as follows:
- crispy and flaky
- lacking in filling and spice.
- needed more of a sauce
- more starch to beef up the filling
That amount of critique on a Jamaican Patty, an item that most people are content to eat out a warmer on the counter of a 7-11, probably means it was NOT GOOD.
Erin and I tried the two different preparations of calamari.
My Calamari was crispy and plentiful, my Cajun had a light dry seasoning, but the seasoning could have been more flavourful.
Erin’s jerk calamari had a stronger flavour but she didn’t like that it was wet. She found it “soggy and meh”.
Tribe got the coconut shrimp. He struggled to describe it.
MEGAN: How was your coconut shrimp?
ERIN: (sizing up the remnants) Dry and greasy?
TRIBE: Yep, that’s it.
A seemingly interminable length of time later, our entrees arrived, with similarly dismal results.
Erin and I had both gone for the short ribs, and I was looking forward to a rustic and tender braised beef dish.
What arrived was tender; that part we got. But it was also just pork spare ribs. Erin and I were both really confused, to the degree that Erin asked to see the menu again. It indeed said “short ribs”, which the waiter claimed could also mean pork ribs.
Anyway, I still like pork ribs, usually, but these were fatty, with a rub of jerk flavoring that was bland, and worse, not spicy at all.
And here’s the thing: jerk chicken has been almost a weekly dinner for Ian and I since we got married 12 years ago.
Ian and I vacationed in Jamaica in 2008, and had some of the most amazing Jerk of our lives from a drum on the beach.
Ian and I know from Jerk.
This dish really shouldn’t be Named Jerk Short ribs. Every part of that is a misnomer.
This was my third attempt at photographing Tribe’s meal, the mango chicken. It just wouldn’t photograph well. That should be taken as an indicator of its general mediocrity as well. Tribe’s plate also sat in front of him so long after he finished, and so long after our plates had been picked up, that he eventually did this:
Empty plate at a table for one…
Ian ordered the restaurants signature dish: the Jambalaya. As someone who has thoroughly enjoyed the Jambalaya at Tiger Jacks, he claims that “even a bad jambalaya is a good jambalaya”. He found this one “fine, but lacking in spice”.
IAN: I wouldn’t name my restaurant after this dish.
(For those wondering, Ian WOULD name his restaurant “HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPSTERS”. It would, of course, be a food truck.)
The two desserts listed on the menu were a pineapple pastry and deep fried plantain with “tropical” ice cream, but the waiter explained they were also offering a fruit tart and pecan pie, both which were homemade.
Pecan pie is my all-time FAVOURITE dessert, but if you’ve followed the blog, you know that recently I’ve become a sucker for fried plantain. Since that seems to be more of specialty item of the restaurant, I decided to go with the plantain.
This is not just bad lighting. It’s bad EVERYTHANG.
The fried plantain I had a Casa Blanca was soft inside, with chewy caramelized ends.
This little pile of plantain was nothing like that. It was plantain jerky. Tough as leather on the outside, and almost DUSTY on the inside.
One of the worst desserts EVER. Inedible.
There WAS a Pepperidge Farms Pirouette on top. I did eat that. Just as I would if they were served in a can after dinner at grandmas. Not in a downtown restaurant.
We were all served “tropical” ice cream on the side of our desserts. It was cheap and icy.
ERIN: This ice cream tastes like THE COLOUR ORANGE.
Tribe’s pineapple pastry?
Tribe: Like that flaky-thing that you get in a box.
The only redeemable dessert was Ian’s pecan pie, which was homemade and served warm. But let’s just say the giant dollop of ORANGE didn’t really add.
Mmmm, pecans and chocolate and the colour orange…
I wished so much that Jambalaya would have been better. I love island and Cajun cuisine, spice and intense flavours. Correct me if I’m wrong, London doesn’t seem to have a restaurant that is nailing it.
If you want some great jerk, spend the $2.99 and get this:
Pour half this bottle over two chicken breasts in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Shred the chicken over rice and serve with milk because this jerk is MAD HOT.
And way better than just about anything at Jambalaya.