keith lee toronto

Toronto jerk restaurant wants a second chance after negative Keith Lee review

A Toronto Carribean restaurant is responding after TikTok food critic Keith Lee gave them a mixed, if not negative for his standards, review and criticized them for their service.

Scarborough's No. 1 Jerk Restaurant (not an official ranking, though they really do believe they offer some of the best jerk in the city,) was stunned this week when they learned that TikTok star Keith Lee had stopped by the restaurant and given it a review in a recent video.

@keith_lee125 No 1. Jerk taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic ♬ original sound - Keith Lee

The excitement was promptly cut short, though, when Lee ended up giving the restaurant's food a middle-of-the-road review and commenting on the fact that the person who served his sister was, by their own admission, "hungover."

"After watching Keith Lee's review, we felt overwhelmed, especially with the negative comments," No. 1 Jerk director Laylah Chen-Aly — who is also the daughter of restaurant co-Founder Koi Chen, tells blogTO.

The restaurant, which Koi opened alongside his brother, Ritchie Chen, who died tragically this past September, has been open in the neighbourhood for the past eight years, born of the brothers' shared passion for cooking and connection.

Specializing in both Chinese and Jamaican cuisines, and offering an entirely Halal menu, Laylah believes that it's Koi's passion that earns them the restaurant's name.

"Koi doesn't see this as just a job; it's his life," she tells blogTO. "He starts each day by making fresh jerk marinade and preparing his family's signature soups and dishes."

It's not all bad news in the wake of Keith Lee's review, though, as Laylah tells blogTO that the restaurant has been experiencing a bump in business thanks to the so-called "Keith Lee Effect."

"It was heartening to see our loved ones rallying behind us, recognizing the hard work Koi has put into his craft over the years," she says. "We've seen a significant increase in Uber Eats orders and a surge of new faces visiting our store."

@number1jerkscarborough @Keith Lee #fypシ゚viral#no.1jerk#toronto#fyp ♬ original sound - Alexia Croffet

While Laylah believes that, in a multicultural city like Toronto, there's something for everyone on the menu ("what Keith Lee didn't like might be someone else's favourite,") she does say that the restaurant is best known for their jerk and barbecue chicken served with gravy and rice.

After leaving Jamaica for Toronto, overcoming past failed restaurant ventures and losing his brother, Laylah tells blogTO that Koi is, above all, committed to not only his restaurant, but the community at large.

"Each June, he hosts annual anniversary celebrations at the restaurant, inviting everyone to join in for free food and music," she tells blogTO, adding that Koi regularly supplies free meals to unhoused people and refugees.

"He possesses the biggest heart imaginable and will go to great lengths to support those around him, regardless of the circumstances," she says.

That commitment to his loved ones happens to be exactly the trait that led to the whole "hungover staff member" debacle, Laylah tells blogTO.

@number1jerkscarborough #stitch with @Keith Lee Thank you keith lee god is amazing #keithlee#fyp#scarborough#viral ♬ original sound - No.1

Koi had committed to attending his sister's dance competition this past weekend, Laylah says, and running the restaurant on a skeleton staff, had to make do by asking a staff member who was... not in peak form, to work that day.

The criticism hasn't led to many long-lasting negative feelings, though, with Laylah mentioning that it's become a lighthearted joke among the restaurant's staff and customers.

In the end, Laylah and Koi know what the restaurant has to offer which is — aside from good food — heart and soul, and that passion is what allows the restaurant to keep rolling forward, in spite of bumps in the road, and are pushing for Lee to return for a second chance.

Lead photo by

@number1jerkscarborough, @keith_lee125


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