Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar
His name may be all over anything organic and local, but you wouldn't be able tell from the seasonal menu that he slips you his principles through his namesake restaurant - the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar. You'll find half of the kitchen staff in the back curing, smoking and preserving carefully picked ingredients while the chef's bar out front puts on the show. Definitely the best seats in the house, at the bar you can watch the small plates come together and query them about everything you see. It can be overwhelming, but ordering a couple dishes at a time will make it a great experience.
Poutine is a staple on the menu but it is always given a different twist. Tonight it is a Chicken Curry Poutine ($9) with a mild curry sauce and slightly dry chicken over crisp fries. Topped with a small mound of chives and a few shavings of cheese, it is a stretch to call it poutine.
Autumn Beet Salad with Gizzards ($12) is an awesome dish and it could easily stand alone without the salty offal. Dollops of rich pistachio remoulade are tucked beneath the leaves and a handful of colourful tender beets. Candy coated pumpkin seeds are a good crunchy addition for a well balanced dish.
There isn't much variation in the bread used for the sandwiches and the Rabbit Sandwich ($10) could do with something more interesting than the basic grain loaf we receive. Filled with only rabbit, the tender strands have a fatty texture reminiscent of rillettes. A side of mustard slaw accompanying it is creamy and offers a nice tang and big crunch.
Chicken Pate ($9) is a standout dish that thankfully makes the menu several times throughout the year. Mildly spiced, it is light and yet rich. Only three walnut tuiles sit on the plate but getting a few more doesn't incur any extra charge. A few preserved beans garnish the side and they are crisp with a strong bite of vinegar.
After some nibbling and prodding, we discover that the fish in the Black Cod And Pork Belly ($14) is undercooked. Hesitant about sending it back, a small mention to our server has it disappear with a freshly cooked dish replacing it. Perfectly cooked, tender flakes of buttery fish fall from the fillet. Although salty, the mess of rich stewed pork underneath is delicious and complements the under seasoned fish.
Entrecote of Beef With Mushroom Polenta ($14) is a small wonderfully tender rib steak cooked barely to a medium rare. The sweet meat swims in a soppy polenta infused with rich earthy mushrooms. Fantastic in flavour, the polenta is unfortunately very salty as well.
Certainly the best dish of the evening was the Duck Confit With Chickpea Crepe ($12). Drizzled with honey, the sweetness played off the crisp skinned duck amazingly. There was little to distinguish the crepe as being made with chickpea, but the filling of tender greens and mild cheese were dense in great flavour.
We ordered the Chocolate Nut Tart ($7) to end with a sweet. Peanut should have been emphasized as the main component of the dish. They were abundant in the moist and sugary tart and also appeared as a quenelle of house made peanut butter. Only a small pool of chocolate sauce sat on the plate and it hardly met our cocoa expectations.
The selection of wines is extensive and unique, but a list of all the bottles available must be asked for. An unsure palate can ask for samples and servers will provide a sip to try. Sometimes I wonder if the heavy hand in salt is to promote more wine drinking. Without that misstep, the food would be perfect Ontario tapas.
Recently instating a reservation system, its one week lead time proves to be arduous. Take a chance on dropping in, the time estimates for tables are usually far off and you'll be seated sooner than you think.