Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Joe Maggiano's (Winterlicious)

My least favorite Winterlicious meal this year, hands down, was Joe Maggiano's.  I was looking for a Winterlicious restaurant to go to in north Toronto since my boyfriend lives and works up in Markham, and we usually meet up on Wednesdays (our date night ^_^). After some research, the only restaurant that came up was Joe Maggiano's. It was actually a perfect location as it is only minutes away from the Fairview Mall subway station. 

I initially thought that I haven't been to Joe Maggiano's before so when my boyfriend and my friend both assured me that their food is decent, I was feeling good about my choice of restaurant. Both of them have been to Joe Maggiano's before during non-Licious and they said the food is pretty good with generous portions too.

Once I arrived to the plaza where Joe Maggiano's is located, it dawned on me that I've been to this restaurant ages ago, just that I didn't remember the name of it. However, I still had no recollection about whether their food was good or bad.

After sitting down, my boyfriend told me the decor has changed from the last time he was at Joe Maggiano's (I was already a bit nervous hearing that). He said it was more of a  family style restaurant before, unlike the decor now which is obviously more contemporary, with the wooden floors and the sleek black chairs. I'm pretty sure they didn't have the wine glasses back then either.

We sat at a tight booth on the side, and I emphasize "tight", even for my frame. You can sorta tell the width of the booth from the picture above.

The entrance to the kitchen was to my right.

I got myself a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, one of their featured Winterlicious wines from Jackson Triggs.

Some kind of garlic bread to start - it was very oily, a lot of oil was at the bottom. I think it is Joe Maggiano's attempt to replicate the bread from Jack Astor's.

Popcorn Shrimp - Served with lemon dill sauce. This really good - the shrimps were really hot and had a nice, thin, crispy batter. I wish they had a few more shrimps though because they were so tiny.

Fresh P.E.I. Mussels - Steamed with white wine, scallions and tomato sauce. Taste was great and the sauce was perfect for bread dipping. As for the portion, it was deceiving as the dish looked big but when I started eating, I noticed that some shells were empty (as you can see on the bottle left). Also, the mussels themselves were really small; so small they got stuck between my teeth. That's how small they were.

Pollo Trio Formaggi - Chicken stuffed with gorgonzola, ricotta, parmesan and mushrooms, finished with a red wine sauce, served with garlic mashed potato and seasonal vegetables. 

My boyfriend debated between getting this or the Roast Rack of Lamb from their Winterlicious menu. He finally chose the chicken because he was afraid that they will only give him like two pieces of lamb.

To his disappointment, the chicken was really small too (the chicken was lifted up by the mashed potatoes underneath). It was served on a gigantic white plate, which made it visually worse. We were both speechless and surprised at this because typically, if you order chicken at a restaurant, the portions are usually bigger compared to other kinds of meat because chicken is cheaper in comparison to steak, or lamb, or fish. 

Fine, if they are serving such small portions, the chicken better be damn good..well it was damn dry - it resembled eating chicken that have been used for soup, where the moisture and flavor have all been sucked out of it. The following is a quote from my boyfriend about the chicken:

"Tasted like a chicken that had a long walk through the valley of the desert"

Anyway, I had to take a picture of that piece of chicken from across the table. Without having to taste it (my boyfriend offered, I passed) I can tell that it was extremely dry. I mean, look at it! My boyfriend finished it anyway, not because it was good, but just so he can say he had dinner.

Zuppa Di Pesce - With lobster tail, tiger shrimp, east coast scallops and fresh fish in a tomato white wine broth. 

The soup was tasty, but what does that matter when every piece of seafood was overcooked?  The lobster tail was rubbery, the shrimps and scallops were hard, the salmon was dry with absolutely no moisture left, the clams were again so small it's like eating nothing at all. Worst of all, I'm not sure if you can tell by the picture, the dish was ridiculously small too - I could finish the whole thing easily in less than 2 minutes if I really wanted to.

By the way, another indication that our mains was small: once our server placed our entrées down, I immediately asked for more bread because I knew we were going to need it. I have never, ever, done that before.

Vanilla Panna Cotta - With a hint of orange & blueberry coulis.

I have initially wanted their Chocolate Truffle Royal but was told by our server that they didn't have it that night but instead had a chocolate cake.  I asked her what kind of chocolate cake? Flourless? Molten? Layered? She answers "just a regular chocolate cake". OK, whatever that meant I knew I didn't want it. I decided to get the Panna Cotta, something that had a lesser chance of being store-bought than the Chocolate Cake or the Strawberry Cheesecake (I don't know why I was lying to myself).

Panna Cotta. Not sure why there is a mint tree on top of it, and I'm not even going to question what happened to the "orange & blueberry coulis". The panna cotta had zero taste, no vanilla taste at all, and I had to rely on the sauce for any sort of flavour.  There was no silkiness to it either; I felt like I was eating pure gelatin. Bleh.

Strawberry Cheesecake - Creamy and rich

The same sauce was obviously used for both desserts. This was not a bad cheesecake, miles better than my Panna Cotta. 

When the manager came to give us the bill, he asked us how everything was. Normally, I would just say that everything was fine and let it be. But like some people have been telling me, I really should voice my opinion because to be fair to the restaurant, it is essential that they know their customers' experiences, whether good or bad. So I told the manager that I thought the portions tonight were really small. The manager told me that other customers tonight have voiced that concern. He then tells me his whole rationale, which can be summed up as follows:

Since they are only charging $25 for a 3-course meal and they are serving ingredients like lamb rack, lobster fettucini, and seafood soup, which are expensive ingredients, they need to compensate for the cost by concentrating more on QUALITY instead of the QUANTITY.

If I was drinking water, I would've choked on it. 

The whole time he was talking I just nodded and didn't utter one single world - I didn't buy any of it. I thought it his whole rationale was ridiculous. Why? Because the quality of their food was subpar, at BEST. My Winterlicious lunches at both La Maquette ($20) and Arcadian Court ($15) were both way superior than this dinner at Joe Maggiano's ($25), and both La Maquette and Arcadian Court had salmon, and La Maquette had lamb as well. 

I mean, if the food at Joe Maggiano's was delicious, I wouldn't have complained about the portions, but both the quality and quantity were not up to standard. I didn't even bother complaining about the quality part to him because I didn't feel like having a 10-minute conversation. And another point is, if they feel the need to sacrifice on portion size, why don't they just charge $35 instead of $25? I would rather pay more for delicious food with good portions. Or maybe the manager didn't know their food sucked that much. 

During our dinner, I overheard the table beside ours complain about the portions too. One of them ordered the lamb and we were right - only two pieces of lamb on her plate.  They ordered more bread too. They also asked the manager whether their regular portions are this small too. I couldn't hear the manager's response to that.

One final complaint (I promise). I do not understand why some restaurants do not have items on their Winterlicious menu, during Winterlicious, when they know it is a menu that they will be offering for the next two weeks  If they are going to promote those dishes, then have them available. Is that too much to ask? Am I being too fussy? I don't know maybe I'm enjoying this venting rampage too much. Somebody stop me! =P Then again, to be fair, I've only had 2-3 experiences where they didn't have something from the Winterlicious menu. But you know, still, just trying to make my point across.

And oh yeah, I went back home and had Tostitos with spinach dip.

P.S - A twitter pal of mine went to Joe Maggiano's for lunch and she enjoyed her lunch tremendously. She said the Chocolate Truffle Royal was delish (the dessert I wanted to order) and her Angus Steak & Mash was very good too (the Angus Steak was not on the Winterlicious dinner menu). 

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