Ja Bistro Revisited (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 222 Richmond Street West
Website: www.jabistro.com
Type of Meal: Dinner

This post is my second visit to the restaurant where I've had enough new dishes that I felt an update was warranted.  To read about my first experience and general thoughts of the restaurant please head over to my first review.

At last, we return to JaBistro to visit their new rooftop patio.  Although not very big, the layout isn’t crowded with tables so the patio feels rather spacious.  Additionally, we went for a late dinner so the after work drink crowd had already left leaving the middle bar stool seating area empty.  Given the surroundings were dark; I didn’t want to take pictures and annoy tables around us with large flashes of light.  So, for this post I’ve sourced the pictures from the internet and thus may not look exactly like the dishes we ordered.

Given my love for the JaBistroll ($22) on this visit we had to get the full order of it.  Luckily, they didn’t stock out of the snow crab again and by the time it arrived we were salivating!  Although still delicious, it wasn’t as good as the last visit.  Likely, it’s due to our proximity to the sushi chef on the first visit where we sat right at the sushi bar. When you sit on the patio, it takes time for the food to be brought up, so the JaBistroll lost the heat and smokiness from the blowtorch.  So, if you’re going for the taste - ask for sushi bar seating.  However, if you rather enjoy eating outdoors, be prepared to sacrifice the essence of the dish.

JaBistroll (1)

During this visit, the focus was more on the bistro side of the menu.  After noting they updated the kani ($15) to use coconut curry sauce we decided to try it again.  The soft shell crab was just as fresh and delicious as our last visit, but I did notice they have shrunk the dish and it now only includes 3 pieces (1.5 crabs) rather than the 5 pieces (2.5 crabs) we had the first time.  To be fair, the pieces were larger so perhaps the amount of soft shell crab is the same, it just makes sharing in large groups harder.

Kani (1)

The coconut curry sauce was an improvement to the chili and complimented the seafood well.  Unlike the curry crab dishes you may have at Malaysian restaurants, JaBistro’s sauce is a bit thicker and creamier.  Instead of pita chips our dish included fried shrimp chips.  Sadly, they were the regular run of the mill Chinese restaurant variety.  Rather, the chef should consider using the Thai/Malaysian version instead which is thicker (to help pick up the sauce) and is more flavourful.

My husband’s a huge fan of beef tartare so we decided to try their yukke ($11), which is essentially beef tartare with a quail egg on top. I was interested to see how they would add the Japanese twist to this normal steakhouse appetizer.  JaBistro’s adapation was served with pieces of toasted nori, in place of bread, and flavoured with ponzu and gochujang (a Korean red chili powder) to give it tons of flavour and heat. Topped with sprouts and green onion this was the best beef tartares I’ve had (although to be honest I’ve only had three so that doesn’t mean much).

Yukke (1)

Lastly, the gindara ($22) had to be tried given black cod is normally one of my favourite Japanese dishes.  I’ll admit I was turned off by the description on the menu, which noted the dish had bacon in it.  Unlike most individuals, these pieces of crispy smoked pork are sometimes good on its own with eggs but not something I like added to dishes it can be overpowering.  Fortunately, it was used in moderation and only speckled into the coating that crusted the cod and offered an interesting smoky saltiness to the fish. 

The fish itself was a nice thick piece and cooked well so that it flaked apart.  Thin pieces of crispy salty shrimp toast accompanied the cod; they were okay but didn’t really complement the fish.  In the end, there were just too much heavy ingredients and flavours used with the fish and just not my cup of tea. However, it’s a matter of preference, because my husband loved the gindara. But then again he loves bacon and I don’t so this dish is meant to be enjoyed by bacon lovers.  Alas, JaBistro, when will you make a version to suit people like me?!

All in all, the second visit was still a good experience and solidifies the 9 being given to JaBistro.  It’s good to see their quality hasn’t gone down and there continues to be a changing menu to provide some new excitement.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System
  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!
For further general discussions about this blog please refer to http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/welcome-to-gastro-world.html

Photo Sources:
  1. JaBistroll, kani and yukke - JaBistro's Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/jabistro222)