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Joy Bistro

Posted by Joshua / Reviewed on June 18, 2008 / review policy

Beef TartareThe relaxed atmosphere at Joy Bistro, a popular Leslieville restaurant on Queen East, is immediately welcoming. Chef Bryan Burke's menu, offering French and Italian techniques with Ontario ingredients, is equally inviting.

The restaurant is well conceived, with great care taken to prepare a limited menu of the chef's best offerings, changing every six weeks, and supplemented with a chef's tasting menu, changing twice weekly. Some items, such as beef tartare with watercress and soft boiled quail's egg, are clearly the inspiration of a talented chef. Others are chef Burke's take on classics, such as steak frites.

Joy Bistro offers something for the whole family, including options for both the pickier and more adventurous eaters.

Lamb Shank
A nice feature of the Joy Bistro menu is the chef's tasting menu ($35), which offers an affordable way to enjoy three courses. It also begins with an amuse bouche, which on my recent visit was a particularly memorable black bean puree.

Of the four of us in my group, two ordered the chef's menu while the others elected for only two courses. In true French style, in order to serve everybody together, we all received the amuse bouche, and while this is certainly not a major thing, it shows an attention to detail and consideration for the guests that is often absent.

Chicken Liver Pate
In the appetizer round, the grilled asparagus were the surprise winner, declared "the most perfectly grilled asparagus I've ever had," by one dining companion. The beef tartare had an exceptional flavour, and the generous portion only needed more toasts to be complete (which the server was happy to provide). The house made pate was good, nicely creamy, but unremarkable.

Asparagus Appetizer
We were looking forward to the main dishes. The chop and roast of lamb was truly excellent, very juicy and tender with lots of flavour, and was well complemented with rosemary. Similar success was enjoyed with the short rib, although it was the only portion size that seemed a touch small.

Short Rib Entree
The menu has several vegetarian options, but currently, most include goat cheese. For my vegetarian dining companion who doesn't enjoy goat cheese, this proved to be a challenge, although she inquired about the possibility of doing the risotto sans chevre. After checking with the chef, the server said it would be no problem. Unfortunately, the risotto wasn't very good, as it was extremely bland. I'm sure it would have been much better with the goat cheese, but the chef shouldn't make it without the goat cheese if it isn't going to be good. Substituting an alternative cheese would have also been nice.

While all of that is not a big knock against the restaurant, the biggest hole in Chef Burke's menu came with the hanger steak main. The steak itself, cooked perfectly to medium rare (the server made it clear this cut just gets tough if cooked too long) was delicious and the house made bacon added a luxurious richness to the kale. However, the potato rosti was potato toasti, completely, unappetizingly burnt.

Hanger Steak
This error was troublesome for two reasons. First, it shouldn't have been burnt. Whoever's on the line should be able to cook a potato rosti correctly every time. Second, and more troublesome for me, is that it should never have been served. It was obviously burnt (it's obvious in the picture), but none of the staff noticed: the cook, whoever plated and the server. Whoever clears dishes for serving was asleep at the wheel, which is too bad.

The restaurant had also gotten busy, and the attentive service became inconsistent; flagging down our server to mention something about the rosti proved a challenge, and ultimately, it just went back to the kitchen with the otherwise cleaned plates.

Desserts were average for us, with the best being a chocolate torte with peanut butter ice cream, which I would have gladly taken a big bowl of. Another dent in the armor, the chantilly with the rhubarb sponge cake was borderline burnt, which the two baking fiends in the group immediately noticed.

Ultimately, we had a great meal. The wine list is thorough and, like the menu, quite affordable. Some interesting options are available by the glass, and the bottle list offers a nice selection at $40 and under (along with some pricier options).

Joy Bistro brings an upscale flair to a solid neighbourhood restaurant. Chef Burke has a lot to be proud of, and could take his preparations and presentations to many of Toronto's starred restaurants. That he spends his time turning fresh Ontario products into enjoyable and affordable meals in Leslieville is a bonus for neighbourhood residents, who are obviously happy to fill the restaurant. And that's what this restaurant is really all about: good local food at very fair prices.

Joy Bistro

Read this document on Scribd: Joy Bistro Menu

All photos by Joshua Tusin except exterior view by blogTO staff.



Tim Hewetson / November 12, 2008 at 09:16 am
Joy Bistro also serves a sensational Eggs Benedict for brunch. I find it's a place that it is casual yet formal enough to bring clients to for dinner. Their outdoor patio is also generous in size... great for warm spring, fall, and summer days.
Joshua / November 12, 2008 at 09:31 am
Apparently you're not the only one who loves their <a href="http://blogto.com/toronto/the_best_eggs_benedict_in_toronto/"; target="_blank">eggs benny</a>. I haven't been there for brunch.

That's true about the patio - it may actually be larger than the inside seating!
No Joy in Joy Bistro / February 16, 2009 at 02:16 am
While the food was delicious, the service was horrible. Our waiter had an attitude the size of NYC! Not too sure why he was rushing us to take our order and made us feel like he was doing us a favour. I think this fellow needs to go back to how to treat customers so they come back school. The Manager who I spoke to was largely unsympathetic stating that "he is one of our best". Well I would hate to see your worst!
Alpha Kitty / November 24, 2009 at 08:44 am
I was upstairs at OverJoy for dinner about 2 weeks ago. I like OveJoy as a cozy place for a drink but I will not be eating there again. Our food was insanely salty! I like salt as much as the next person, but this was almost inedible. I never thought I'd find french fries inedible, but the salt on them was too much. My companion had the beef cheeks, which were also way too over-salted. I had the seafood risotto, which at the time seemed fine, but later in the evening I found myself to be quite thirsty (from the salt). This is all very disappointing since the meals themselves had so much potential.
Kate Lewis / November 6, 2010 at 12:37 pm
We definitely appreciate your feedback, both positive and negative. We are currently undergoing massive renovations to bring on positive and refreshing changes...one locals can be proud of! We'd love for you to come down and drop by our Grand Re-Opening on Wednesday, November 17th, starting at 6pm (http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=103447059722076). All of the owners will be there, and they would truly love to hear your feedback...tell them Kate invited you! We're trying to create a great neighborhood restaurant/bar experience that is perfect for Leslieville. Again, we always appreciate your comments.

-Kate Lewis
Social Community Manager
Joy Bistro Bar
Kate Lewis / November 22, 2010 at 01:16 pm
The newly re-opened Joy Bistro Bar would like to invite you to "Industry" night, this Wednesday, November 24th! Doors open at 5:30pm, with lots of sponsored drinks and free appetizers! Come celebrate the hottest bar in Leslieville! Spread the word! The more, the merrier!
John Hernik / August 9, 2011 at 06:25 pm
Joy Bistro is a schizophrenic restaurant. One day its a great meal experience the next its not. I recently went there for Sunday Brunch. I should have figured something was up when all the other brunch places were full and Joy was not.

What was Joy offering? a brunch buffet. Eeeesh how 80's. Its too bad because I remember Joy's Brunch being great at one time a few years ago. This experience clearly wasn't. The french toast was soggy and cold... the poached eggs weren't cooked properly.
How did they get it wrong? Is there new management? I don't know but avoid this place for weekend Brunch....
Toast / February 17, 2012 at 04:44 pm
Went here recently for a walk-in dinner in the middle of the week. We sat in the bar area as opposed to the dining room upstairs. It was a nice atmosphere, for sure, however the service was kind of slow and the food was nothing to write home about. I was also wrongfully charged at the end of the night :P
disappointed newlyweds / October 30, 2014 at 09:10 pm
We reserved a private dining room at Joy Bistro for 14 people about a month and a half prior to our event. Our reservations were planned so our immediate family could celebrate after our civil wedding ceremony.
We arrived at Joy Bistro on time and were notified that the private dining room was no longer available for our reservation. Apparently a group of 40 people showed up before our reservation and Joy Bistro thought it was better for their business to give these 40 people the private dining space instead of us.
When we raised our concerns that the purpose of the private dining room was to celebrate in an intimate setting our brand new marriage their response was "You didn't tell us why you made the reservation. There are no notes here about your event". Well we certainly didn't realize this information was required because they accepted our reservation with no questions asked. If customers need to identify the reason for a private event, then shouldn't have Joy Bistro asked when the reservation was made? We made our reservation and Joy Bistro accepted. Isn't that how most restaurants work?
The worst part about it was they weren't even apologetic. No "sorry about the mix up." or a "here's a drink on the house for your group". Nothing was done to acknowledge or take accountability for their screw up!
We ended up leaving and were accommodated last minute at a restaurant further east on Queen St. When that restaurant found out what happened to our reservation...even they felt the need to apologize on behalf of the restaurant/hospitality industry on what horrible customer service it is to overlook an accepted reservation.
We've lived on Queen East now for a few years and were very upset to have this experience in a neighbourhood were there are so many great restaurants vying for your business. We certainly will NEVER be going back there and felt it necessary that everyone be warned about the poor customer service you may experience there. Take your business elsewhere, where it will be appreciated.

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