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Restaurants

John & Sons Oyster House

Posted by Liora Ipsum / Reviewed on October 29, 2012 / review policy

john and sons oyster houseJohn & Sons Oyster House has just opened on Yonge Street south of St. Clair in the space you may remember from past incarnations as Terroni, and more recently, Divino. Gone are the wood ovens and stone walls--this space now triumphs lobster tanks, nautical man-tiques, and dockside decor.

john and sons oyster houseOwner John Belknap knows a thing or two about oysters--he's clocked serious time with Rodney "The Oysterman" Clark. Here, Belknap brings the energy of this downtown staple to midtown diners, telling me that he wanted to open his own oyster house because of the energy that opening oysters creates in a room. "As soon as it happens, the energy and dynamic of a room change; it's almost as if the energy of the sea is released into the air, and everything seems to become brighter."

john and sons oyster houseInside, the front dining room features crisp white cabinetry that frames the well-stocked raw bar, and offers prime seating to enjoy both raw platters and cooked classics like the Oyster Rockeller ($12), which arrives smothered in wilted spinach, bechamel, bacon and parm. Though the oyster selection changes daily, on my recent visit 7 varieties were on offer, mostly from Canada, but with a few options from the U.S.

john and sons oyster houseIn the adjacent cocktail room, bartender Scott Avery pours tap beers, wines, and cocktails like the New York Sour ($12), which is a play on a classic whisky sour, dressed up with port and bitters.

john and sons oyster houseIn the kitchen, chef Sonia Potichnyj prepares fresh fare like the Smoked Trout Salad ($14), featuring Steelhead trout tossed with butter greens, cipollini onions, and a citrusy maple vinaigrette.

john and sons oyster houseThe Autumn Heirloom Salad ($12) takes advantage of the season with a colourful offering of roasted pink beets tossed in Pernot and Champagne, and served with apple vinaigrette-dressed baby kale, then piled high with julienned gold beets, goat cheesecake, and spiced seeds.

john and sons oyster houseThe Tuna BLT ($24) does away with the bread and instead sandwiches seared Yellowfin, maple miso-glazed pancetta and spicy tomato aioli between panko crusted tomato slices that are then topped with edamame horseradish cream.

john and sons oyster houseFor those looming colder days, the Japanese-inspired Black Cod ($25) arrives steaming hot and showcases pan-roasted fish served on a bed of Asian veggies in a ginger-scented bonito broth.

john and sons oyster houseThe dessert menu features low-brow favourites made elegant through beautiful plating and housemade ingredients, such as the Smores ($8), assembled with house-made marshmallows, graham cracker crumb cake and dark chocolate cream.

john and sons oyster houseJohn's sons are only 2 and 16 months old so they won't factoring into the business anytime soon, though he envisions working alongside them one day. For now, GM Ryan Johnson (it almost works) and a team of enthusiastic staff hope to charm the locals with convivial service, and build their own midtown oyster institution.

Photos by Denise McMullin

Discussion

24 Comments

Lizz Z / October 29, 2012 at 11:36 am
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Did you pay for this food out of your own pocket?
Lubin / October 29, 2012 at 11:45 am
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I cannot wait to go!
mike in parkdale / October 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm
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If the food is anything like the original Rodney's, they'll be around long enough for the Sons to take take the place.
mike in parkdale / October 29, 2012 at 12:22 pm
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* take over the place. I should start proof reading, instead of dreaming of seafood.
Ken / October 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm
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The Tuna BLT looks very enticing, but pricing seems a bit steep. Great angles on the Tuna BLT and Miso Cod.
Jack / October 29, 2012 at 01:34 pm
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Nice! Love going to original Rodney's but since moving uptown it's such a hassle to get to unless fighting the after work crowd, and I don't want to go near the Bay St. location with a ten foot pole. Hopefully they carry a good selection of pacific oysters, most seafood places only carry bland east coast varieties.
j / October 29, 2012 at 04:44 pm
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This place will fall within 1-2 years.

It's not a matter of if, but when... you will subconsciously remember this statement, then post a reply +1.

Problem?
morgan / October 29, 2012 at 05:35 pm
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Wish that I knew more about the raw bar from this review, what garnishes they have, the flavour of the oysters ect.
treacle replying to a comment from j / October 29, 2012 at 06:22 pm
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Why you gotta hate? The neighbourhood can sustain a place like this and given that they actually spent some money on decor instead of reusing it like Divino did, I think they'll do well.
Scott / October 29, 2012 at 07:35 pm
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@Morgan They have new oysters every week because oysters in different areas don't go through maturing at the same time they buy whatever is good at the time. But there website www.johnandsons.tumblr.com posts there selection often. As for the garnish they offer horseradish, lemons, cocktail sauce and a couple house made ones.
Acon / October 30, 2012 at 12:45 am
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This looks great and I'm just so thankful that it isn't another Hack Asotr's ruining the creative juices of my beautiful city!
Nixon replying to a comment from j / October 30, 2012 at 08:15 am
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"This place will fall within 1-2 years."

This statement is based on?
Mikey / October 30, 2012 at 09:30 am
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I second (or third, or fourth) the comments on the pricing.

Looks REALLY good but $24 for that portion of yellowtail?!

I'm pretty sure the same thing is $10-15 at Guu, and that man also knows how to tataki something.
GranVizeer replying to a comment from j / October 30, 2012 at 10:10 am
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"J" will fall within 1-2 years.

It's not a matter of if, but when... "J" will subconsciously remember this statement, then post a reply +1.

A Problem is "J" to be sure.
Chewy replying to a comment from j / October 30, 2012 at 10:43 am
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My Problem J, is that I subconsciously remember that your statement is a waste of space and time. I am sorry that you have no evidence to back up your statement.
On a brighter note, the restaurant looks beautiful and the location couldn't be better! Kudos to chef Sonia for making these amazing edible creations and great job to John and Ryan and all the staff!
chris / October 30, 2012 at 11:48 am
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I work in the area and the Deer Park locals can certainly afford a $24 Tuna BLT. The challenge is maintaining business after office hours, as the area pretty much rolls up after the work day and that location is on the very fringe. I'd assumed that's why Terroni closed up camp. It looks like a beautiful place with well-thought-out food. I wish them luck.
Sadie / October 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm
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Based on the location, and the quality of food they're serving, I wouldn't say their prices are too outrageous. All I want now is a lobster claw poutine!
jen replying to a comment from chris / October 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm
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Some Deer Park locals can afford it, but not all of us. It's a pity it is out of my budget; it looks really really good.
nathan replying to a comment from GranVizeer / November 3, 2012 at 09:24 am
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please dont say that j will fall you are the only customer there
Jenna / November 16, 2012 at 12:55 am
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Oysters were great, food was amazing... Oyster shucker Mark talked too much and lingered over the table, my guests and I felt uncomfortable and when we were leaving and he handed us his personal catering business card! Overall loved the food and atmosphere, will be returning soon.
Sarah / November 22, 2012 at 02:20 pm
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I just had lunch here with some co-workers and it was absolutely delicious. The lobster grilled cheese is huge, full of lobster chunks, and delicious. The fish and chips were also a massive portion, and very yummy, according to my oo-worker. I would recommend skipping the seafood ravioli, because at $24, you are paying exactly $6 per small piece of ravioli. My co-worker should not have been starving after spending $24 on lunch. Overall, a very delicious place, but probably wouldn't visit unless the company was footing the bill. Too pricey.
Margaret Thomson / April 19, 2013 at 07:06 am
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I had lunch there yesterday with a friend and I was totally bowled over by the food and the convivial atmosphere. The oysters were perfection, the staff very knowledgeable and helpful, and service was good. Our Moules were delicious as well, and for me the lunch was memorable - we shall certainly return,,, and bring friends!
Chris / August 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm
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I have never had such bad service in Toronto in a long time. My husband and I arrived for our 6pm reservation on time and were seated at a table beside a woman who had her feet up on the bench beside me. We asked for another table, in the empty restaurant, and were told they could not seat us inside but the table beside the a/c outside was available. I would rather battle with the sounds from an air conditioner than sit with another patron's feet in my face, so we went outside. We ordered cocktails and a cheese platter, both were good. While we were eating our appetizers the waiter asked for our main choices, which we gave as well as the bottle of wine we wanted. Well, we hadn't finished appetizer or cocktails when the wine was plopped on the table and within about 5 minutes our mains were brought out as well. We had appetizer plates, a cheeseboard, two main plates, cocktail glasses, wine glasses and a wine cooler on a tiny table for two!! My husband had to get up to clear the table because our waiter had not deigned to see us. They were not short staffed but had staff in plenty and not many patrons. All in all we were very disappointed and will never be back. It was a bad start to a weekend.
Jax / September 3, 2013 at 10:56 am
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I am normally a die hard Rodney's fan but John and Sons (uptown location) was amazing. The service was exceptional, they were present without being overbearing, they were knowledgeable and upbeat and they even went so far as to bring us an oyster shot (although I presently cannot participate in the alcoholic festivities due to medication), I will definitely be back when I can to fully indulge in their excellent wine and cocktail list.

I don't understand the comments about this place not lasting more than a year and how expensive it was. The area is definitely capable of supporting this lovely establishment and I know I would like to make it here at least once a month. The atmosphere is exactly what I like in a restaurant and I will make an effort to come here at least once a month.

The comments about the price are silly, it's raw seafood and the freshness is top notch. If you can't afford it, it's understandable but don't write negatively about an establishment that has fair prices for the quality of product they serve. People don't need to be bitter because they can't afford it all the time.

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