So, last night, some colleagues and I attended the launch party for a new restaurant up in Don Mills called Joey. When I got the invite, I passed it along to some people and one of the guys, originally from Vancouver, was super excited. Apparently, this is a popular West Coast chain and this is their first venture into Toronto. Anyways, he couldn’t have been happier to see it arrive in his new city of residence.
So, first the bad news: it’s way the hell up in what I consider the middle of nowhere at the Shops at Don Mills, which turns out to be a very nice little open-air mall with lots of nice shops and a handful of restaurants, mainly of the Jack Astor’s variety. But the location makes it a pain. It’s not really on public transit and if you’re like me and enjoy consuming some adult beverages while you eat, it makes driving a bad idea.
Getting there proved to not be an issue, however, as the good folks at the PR firm handling teh event generously offered to send a limo to take my colleagues and I. So there we are, about 6 of us young advertising folks, waiting outside of our office, enjoying a smoke and dressed in jeans and t-shirts when this massive, white stretch limo pulls up. It was a total 80s pimp-mobile complete with mood lighting and we felt a little awkward tooling around in this beast but it sure beats the hell out of the TTC.
First, a word on the event itself: Huge kudos must go to the fine people at Maverick Public Relations for putting on a great launch. I’ve been involved in big public events before and they tend to get quite chaotic but this was incredibly well-run. Everyone was super prepared and collected and really put together a hell of a party. I’ve never personally worked with these folks before, myself, but some people at my agency have and have nothing but good things to say about them. And after this event, I can see why.
As to the decor, it was okay. I tend to hate chain restaurants for being bland and interchangeable but as far as chain restaurants do go, this would be in the upper tier. It’s a fairly minimalist and sleek, mainly black decor which worked for them. We were in teh lounge area, which is a nice big open space. There are tons of big TV screens which seemed a bit out of place (I only want TVs if I’m in a sports bar) but we got there early enough to secure ourselves a comfortable booth with a good view of the action.
Now for the service: keep in mind that this was a launch party for “VIPs” (like your very important narrator) and there was media there so they were definitely gonna bring their A-game and it may not be representative of what you might experience if you were to go there on a regular night. But I must say that the service could not have been better. Everyone from the hostesses to the bus people were really, really good. The servers were totally on the ball, even in a packed house full of people enjoying free food and drink. Nobody at our table ever experienced an empty glass. They were super fast and attentive and also really nice and pleasant. Their service staff definitely deserves a ton of credit. On another note and if you are teh type of person who cares about such superficialities, I can share with you that even my dining companions of the homosexual persuasion could not resist noting that all of the service staff possessed certain aesthetic qualities that served to enhance our dining experience.
As for the food, basically, the servers went around delivering various appetizers from the Joey menu. I think they had about 6 or 7 different dishes that they were sharing with us and pretty much all of them got excellent reviews from our table. I personally liked the Bangkok Curry Bowl, the first dish I sampled. I don’t like when chain restaurants dial down the spice in teh food so was pleasantly surprised that this actually had some very nice heat to it. I think my favourite app that i sampled was the “tuna taco”. These are deep-fried wonton shells filled with very good, rare ahi tuna with a nice peppery crust on it. Absolutely delicious. Joey deserves credit for not skimping on teh ingredients. This was very good quality and very fresh tuna. The lobster grilled cheese sandwiches also got rave reviews from our table and everyone surrounding it (there was a rush to grab them when the trays came by) , with one diner overheard describing it as “better than an orgasm on cocaine.” Given that my religion forbids lobster (along with orgasms and cocaine), I will defer to their judgment.
Now, for the most important part of any pleasant evening out, the drinks. I didn’t check out the wine lsit so can’t comment on that. Apparently, they have some sort of very impressive cool wine pouring system but, again, I did not partake in any wine. I’m assuming they have all the standard beers on their list (they were serving Stella at the party), but they offer some very good signature cocktails which I would highly recommend. Basically, these cocktails were vodka, soda, fruit and some osrt of icy “slush” like you’d get in a Slushie. I sampled several of these and they were all very good. The apple-flavoured one is the beverage that I would most recommend. These are really tasty and nicely refreshing. They also have some very elaborate cocktails which some of my friends sampled and they looked pretty impressive. The only cocktail that didn’t really work for me was the “super sonic gin and tonic” which came highly recommended by our server. The G&T is one of my standard drink choices but mixing it with this icy slush substance jsut added too much sweetness. So I’d take a pass on this one and stick with the vodka sodas.
Another thing: all my food and drink was on teh house so I have no idea what the prices were and if the place offers value for money. But, generally, I was quite impressed. Excellent service, very good food and some cool and unique cocktails make for a good time. If this place were at Yonge and Bloor, I could see it being somewhere that I’d frequent with some regularity. And word on teh street is that they will be opening a more downtown location at some point, which would be a welcome addition. It definitely is worth the trek to Don Mills at least once to check it out. And if you were planning on doing some shopping up there anyways and looking for a place to eat, this seems like the place to go.
Of course, if the good folks at Maverick would keep sending me limos, I’d be there all the time…