Opened last December in Brampton, Ont., west of Toronto, J.Red & Co. is an airy, modern bistro outfitted with concrete floors, Edison bulb light fixtures and exposed ductwork.
On the plate, there are intense flavours — for instance, the Nova Scotian-style chowder, rich and thick and loaded with seafood, potatoes and roasted corn. Even more intriguing is the daily soup, a veggie-based affair given unexpected depth of flavour from a Mexican-style dark-cocoa base.
Creamy zucchini fritters come with a French onion-style dip based on whipped goat cheese. Anchovy provides earthiness to Caesar salad boasting crisp greens and double-smoked bacon. Enormous kale salad is perfectly fresh and loaded with roasted almonds, caramelized onions, dried apricots and feta in balanced honey chili vinaigrette.
Mains are equally successful. Highlights include Bolognese gumbo, a clever mix of shrimp and chorizo sausage in a rich tomato sauce served on cavatappi noodles. In another winner, Thai coconut sauce perfumes noodles tossed with shrimp, chicken and veggies in the restaurant’s signature main course. Mediterranean sea bass is paired with crispy hash browns and veggies.
Desserts are terrific. One creation, for example, layers warm hunks of banana bread with vanilla ice cream and warm banana jam, while another pairs crumbled fudge brownie with peanut butter parfait, whipped cream and wood-fired raspberry jam. Best-in-show, however, goes to the smashed lemon: short crust cookies draped with puckery house-made lemon curd and toasted coconut.
Buyouts will be considered for the entire restaurant, which seats 220 people and accommodates 180 for standing cocktail events. The back area seats 195, and the restaurant can also host groups of 20 to 40.
— Don Douloff has been a restaurant critic for over 25 years and, during that time, has critiqued more than 1,200 eateries. In 1988, he studied the fundamentals of French cuisine at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris, France. During his time in France, he furthered his gastronomic education by visiting the country’s bistros, brasseries and Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. He relishes exploring the edible universe in his native Toronto and on his travels throughout Canada and abroad.