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Joey Restaurant Launch

Since we are emerging from R*c*ss**n, some of us have grown accustomed to counting pennies, brown-bagging purchases from Holt Renfrew and religiously bringing lunch every day to work. The economic climate has dictated a less-is-more approach as companies manage their costs and reputations.

Well guess what? The recession is over.

I went to the launch party for Joey Restaurants in Toronto at the Shops at Don Mills and I felt as though I had been teleported back to the decadence of 1982. After a long day of work, I entered the restaurant via red carpet and immediately felt underdressed and slightly self-conscious.

Not to worry, it gets better.

I was quickly greeted by smiling and familiar face, Kathryn Boland from Maverick PR, a glass of Prosecco, and an hors d'oeuvre of boneless pork ribs on a spoon. Not a bad introduction.

Although it was barely 6PM, the place was hopping like Richmond street on a Saturday night. Were there strobe lights? I don’t think so, but it felt like there were. The Joey Restaurant lounge has massive! television screens covering every wall, lights flashing in every direction. Music was booming, people looked sharp, and drinks and food were flowing. It was hard to walk five feet without being offered something to consume.

I was told that they pulled out all the stops for the event, flying wait staff from other restaurants across the country to Toronto for the big opening. Staff looked scrubbed clean, smiley and had their A-game on.

I made my way to the back corner where I was told the blogger-types were hanging. I greeted Alexa Clark and David Ort who created the Cheap Eats guides, star photographer Rannie Turrigan, and Joseph Dee who manages online development at MaRS Discovery District.


One of the first food items I sampled was Joey’s famous lobster grilled cheese: atlantic lobster, brie & cheddar grilled cheese sandwich ($14.99 for the full size, served with fries & cocktail sauce on the side.) Buttery and decadent, it was everything I had anticipating from previewing the menu.


Bellini in hand, I was invited on a media tour with the startlingly young (and somewhat sexy) Executive Chef Chris Mills. You can read my interview with him from earlier in the week here. We met up with some other Toronto food bloggers and PR types: Stacey and Mark from Tasting Toronto, Sean Bailey and his beautiful girlfriend Herdeep Chauhan, and I was over the moon! to meet Kevin from one of my favourite blogs, Closet Cooking.

One of the most fascinating features of the restaurant was the Enomatic Wine Dispenser (see picture below.) This device allows Joey to maximize wine selection while minimizing waste from wines by the glass as the bottles are pressurized using inert nitrogen gas preservation. The flavours and characteristics of the wine remain intact for more than three weeks, as if the bottle had just been opened.


We made our way through the open-concept kitchen past the floor-to-ceiling wine rack. Chef Chris lead us upstairs into the men's washroom to show us the artwork above the men's urinals and eventually outside to the roof where they have plans to build a fantastic rooftop patio.


Chef Chris was fantastic: humble, charming and, did I mention handsome?

After the tour, we returned downstairs to sample more delicious treats. The Panang Prawn Curry Bowl had a remarkable kick! for a chain restaurant. I appreciated that fearlessness. (The price is $15.99 for the entrée size: stir-fried with vegetables in a red coconut curry cream with thai basil and peanuts.)


We also tasted Ahi Tuna Tacos seared rare with sesame ginger coleslaw and wasabi-lime aioli ($9.99). Next came Pesto Shrimp Flatbread with whole milk mozzarella, sundried tomatoes garnished with chipotle aioli and fresh basil ($11.99).

I am a huge fan of Butter Chicken. When I was at McGill, my college boyfriend and I used to scour the city looking to find the best version. (Note: it can be found at Star of India or Mysore, which, as it turns out, are owned by two brothers. Of course.) Joey's Bombay Butter Chicken did a great job of replicating the traditional dish's richness and complexity. Andrea from Canadian Foodie Girl criticized the dish for having no kick, but I bit my tongue. Butter chicken is traditionally mild as cooling yogurt is the basis for its sauce. The full serving comes with toasted almond basmati rice, grilled naan bread and lentil papadum for $15.99.

Drinks kept flying: Super Sonic Gin and Tonics (slushie), raspberry cocktails, wine-by the glass, and beer galore.

By the time the Cheeseburger sliders ($10.99) came around, my poor, little stomach could only finish half! Ice cream? Apple pie? I couldn't even get that far!

I left the party with a full tummy, a dizzy head, and a swag bag featuring a $10 Joey gift card, a mini-bottle of Appleton Estates Rum, and a Stella Artois glass and bottle-opener. 'Twas quite the soirée!

I can't wait to go back and try restaurant again. Chef Chris assured us that a downtown location is also in the works.

15 O'Neil Road
Toronto, Ontario
M3C 0H2
416.445.6391

4 comments:

  1. Nice review. I was reminded more of the heady days of early 1988 by opulence of the Joey party but tomato / tomahto I guess.

    Also, I think you have me confused with another David. I can't take credit for creating the Cheap Eats guides (despite this they are excellent) and I don't think we ran into each other at the Joey party though as you say there were a lot of cocktails so who knows?

    Cheers,
    -David from www.foodwithlegs.com

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  2. Ooh, my apologies, David. I think you are right.

    *blush*

    I enjoyed reading your blog, nonetheless. I hope to meet you in person at the next foodie event.

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  3. I'm amused that every review is different. Like I said in my review, sample sizes, alcohol + palate fatigue made it hard for me to taste after awhile. I also began questioning my own taste.

    It's possible that I've forgotten what butter chicken is supposed to taste like. I'm only just getting back into meat eating after almost two years and only at events. I seem to remember that the cool yogurt is supposed to balance the spice.

    I didn't get the pesto shrimp flatbread but it sounds great. I was mixed on the grilled cheese.

    My swag bag included a wet napkin but I didn't put that in my review it didn't bother me too much (grossed me out a little but it happens).

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  4. Thanks for the comments, Andrea. It's neat to see the how the reviews converge and diverge, I agree.

    I think I remember you being mixed on the grilled cheese. I can see that; it's quite heavy with all the brie and butter. (I was ok with that though.) :)

    I was thinking about going back to Joey to try the food in another context. Sheryl Kirby from Taste T.O. is always saying that it's not fair to review restaurants within the first week of them opening (let alone on the opening night.) I guess my post was more of an event summary rather than a review, but I still heard her warnings in the back of my mind.

    It'll be interesting to see how the food tastes without all the razzle dazzle and free drinks!

    (Also, that's so funny about the wet napkin- sheesh!)

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