A Thoughtful Look Into Things
Bringing back the restaurant reviews, and the first new one is Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse in Toronto.
Overall: When a place puts on airs like this, I expect perfection. Unfortunately, the food was not perfect, so the would be elegance of the establishment just felt arrogant.
Entrance and Decor
The entry pathway is unnecessarily convoluted, though I understand the reasoning behind it. You climb a small flight of stairs to enter the building, and then descend a few stairs to the host desk. The desk is located by a lounge area, which is slightly separate from the main restaurant. In order to reach the main dining area, which we were taken to, you must walk across the floor of the lounge in a circuit, and climb another flight of stairs up to the main dining area. This main dining area, though, is located next to the same stairs you use to enter the building. You can see the main entrance from the dining area, so it’s actually a forced walk through a separate area of the restaurant.
I understand this advertises the lounge and encourages guests to become aware of a different part of the establishment. However, upon reflection, it seems like unnecessary advertising. A place with prices like this shouldn’t need to do something like that. It’s a nice restaurant, we get it.
That being said, the rest of the decor is straightforward and elegant. Standard black tables, comfortable seats, and a basic grey scale color scheme give the place a nice unobtrusive modern finish. It’s clear that the intention is for the food, namely the steak, to be the focus.
There’s also a glass walled display room where the restaurant displays its beef selection. This is located centrally and is actually a great fixture in the restaurant. Putting the premium ingredient on display is a smart choice both psychologically and aesthetically.
My colleague and I ordered the seafood tower (pictured above). It contained mussels, oysters, shrimp, lobster, scallops, and crab salad.
Let’s talk first about the price. That tower cost $150. For that price, I expect a quality of seafood that transports me into the waves. I should be able to feel the spray of the ocean upon my face, and that feeling ought to live within the product I’m receiving. While this was the case for some of the items there, it certainly was not true for all of them.
The mussels and scallops were both accompanied by a sauce verte which was reminiscent of a cross between a chimichurri and a mint chutney. It worked well with the chilled mussels, adding a nice flavor which complemented the texture of the shellfish well. The scallops, however, were destroyed by the sauce. Scallops are one of the most delicate shellfish, particularly when served chilled. They do not require powerful flavors to complement or enhance them. To add such a strong sauce verte to chilled bay scallops without adding more textured components can almost be considered amateurish. Seared scallops served warm could have handled the complement alone, but not these scallops. As a result, that part of the dish left me wanting. It felt like it was trying to be a completely conceived ceviche, but didn’t quite make it.
The crab salad, while not bad, was unremarkable. Once again, based on how the establishment presented itself, I would expect something like a crab salad, which would ordinarily be simple fare, to be elevated to new heights. It was definitely good, but far from dazzling.
The shrimp and lobster were excellent, but I attribute that to the quality of product rather than anything that was done to them. They were simply cooked and chilled, and their natural flavor was excellent.
In general, the items on the seafood tower that were not tampered with were excellent, and the ones that received some intervention were underwhelming.
The main course, not surprisingly, was steak. I ordered a Canadian prime striploin, and my colleague ordered the USDA prime striploin. It should be noted that Jacobs & Co. has Wagyu and A5 Black meat on the menu. I was tempted to give it a shot, but you know, $500 for a 12oz steak is a bit excessive for me.
Let’s start with the cook on the steak. We both ordered ours medium. Mine came out medium well, and my companion’s came out medium rare at best, closer to rare. I personally don’t mind temperature differences much, and neither does she. But, if you’re going to present your establishment the way Jacobs does, it is completely unacceptable to be so much as a few degrees off from the ordered cooking temperature.
The sear on my steak was a little uneven, resulting in an inconsistent crust. I’m actually not sure how the steak was cooked. It seems it was seared for too short a time, and then finished in an oven. But, the temperature was too well cooked for a short sear, and the tenderness did not reflect a longer stint in the oven, so I’m not quite sure what happened. There was also a single sprig of thyme on top of the steak, which was a little ridiculous. Add a few, or none at all. The single sprig just looks strange.
The flavor, fortunately, was excellent. The seasoning was perfect, and the accompanying salts that were provided added a sharp enhancement to the already delicious meat. The chimichurri was great as well.
Don’t get me wrong, the steaks were definitely superior quality, and I am certainly being hyper critical. Jacobs & Co. demands hyper critical evaluation, though. They are clearly striving to be an upper crust establishment, and based on my dining experience, they fall slightly short of the mark. With a little more thoughtful preparation, this place can easily be five stars. In the grand scheme of all restaurants, it definitely deserves a higher rating than I’ve given it. When compared with its peers, though, it still has some growing up to do.