Janet Lynn's Bistro
92 King St. South
Waterloo, Ontario N2J 1P5
Back when I was a student at UW, Janet Lynn's was often quoted to me as Waterloo's top restaurant, both in terms of price and quality. It was a place where I heard you could blow hundreds of dollars on a single meal. That seemed like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on food to me and a decadent waste. So during my last work term, I was asked where I wanted to go for an end of term lunch, I jokingly suggested Janet Lynn's and was a bit surprised when my boss agreed and had already booked us a table there. I deserved this?
I remember my first experience there, struggling with the dinner plate sized flat bread propped up vertically between a few pieces of foccacia. Was I supposed to put it down on its side? Butter or not? Was it even possible to gracefully break off an appropriately sized portion without it shattering? To this day it still confounds me and probably gives the wait staff nightmares.
Bread mechanics aside, Janet Lynn's has maintained it's reputation as one of Waterloo's top restaurants over the years. However, many other places in the region have either opened up or moved up in both price and quality so it's no longer in the rarified air that I remembered it as a student. G and I have had the occasion to dine there a few times since my first visit, each one marked by consistent professional service, high quality ingredients and preparation. The menu is by no means innovative, but lends a certain familiar feeling that probably draws back their many regular customers. The best description I can give it is fine dining comfort food. The list of mains would be at home in any upscale bistro and includes pork tenderloin, sirloin, BBQ corn fed chicken, Black Angus beef, rack of lamb, duck two ways, and lobster. Of course with a more gourmet flair in the description of each item. Even the starters are fairly generic, consisting of lobster bisque, quail salad, calamari, hot and sour soup, smoked salmon, and of course fois gras.
Our most recent visit, we started with the grilled jumbo quail with sweet corn salsa, tomatoes and pine nut salad. The quail was fine, if not a little difficult to get at all the meat. The salad was a little too sharp in contrast between the corn and tomato, but the pine nuts were a nice touch to add some textural interest.
For my main dish I had one of the specials, Thai marinated ribs with asian pasta and julienned vegetables. As expected, everything was cooked perfectly - the ribs were meaty, moist and tender. The Asian pasta was a little heavy on the vinegary dressing which made it a bit of a struggle to make it through the generous portions. G had the roasted garlic and fennel seeds marinated rack of lamb with herb tomato vinaigrette gnocchi. Rack of lamb is G's litmus test of a decent restaurant, as we know from first hand experience that it can be difficult to tone back the harsh lamb taste while finding some interesting flavours which do not include rosemary or mint. Janet Lynn's passed with flying colours here - no complaints. The gnocchi was also very good, making us appreciate proper cooking techniques with this item. The portion size was very generous with 7 ribs arranged in a little tepee over the gnocchi. A real bargain compared to the 3-4 ribs you'd normally be served. We skipped dessert since there was nothing that caught our eye amongst the cheesecake, creme brulee and cakes.
What I've come to appreciate most from Janet Lynn's is the professional level of service. For business lunches, they are prompt and unobtrusive. For dinners the servers have always been able to find the appropriate level of engagement, whether you're on a casual dinner or an eye-gazing romantic affair. I'll never forget one of our first dates when we were seated at a corner table. We were obviously out together for the evening, and when it came time for dessert we ordered two separate ones. The kitchen sent it out on a single plate together with a couple of heart shaped cookies. It was at that time we knew we were in love.
Total cost for the most recent dinner was $104 including tax and tip, but without wine or dessert.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Janet Lynn's Bistro