Review 1: Nellie James Too
Allow me to take a quick moment to repurpose this blog a little. Since the scope of my new job doesn't really afford me the luxury of resculpting the culinary landscape, I've decided to review local restaurants, instead. Consider it a hobby as I enjoy semi-retirement.
First up is a little place on James Street South called Nellie James Too. It is located at the corner of Duke and James, and is in the spot that Boo's Bistro and Wine Bar used to be situated. It is owned and operated by Ken LeFebour and his partner, Jackie, who are also owners of the reputable and popular Chef & Wife establishment in the heart of downtown Dundas, ON. It has since been renamed Nellie James Gourmet Food To Go. The resto on James, ostensibly, as one would garner by the "too" appendage of the nomenclature, is a sit-down extension of the Dundas store.
On first approach to the restaurant, the initial vibe is classy, welcoming and modern. It sports a glasshouse store front and a small staircase leading down into the dining room, making it non-wheelchair accessible. Service staff were friendly and quick to greet, and the coziness of the dining room was quite welcoming. The walls are adorned with kitschy artwork, and the banquettes are clad in a black-and-white pseudo animal print, which adds to the overall modern, funky and textural feel of the establishment.
The menus are blackboard based, which for me is two-fold: I appreciate the blackboard menu movement, as it is very trendy, but I have largely seen blackboards written by people who have little business holding a piece of chalk or a dry erase marker. This isn't just a Nellie James Too problem, it is a blackboard menu problem all over, by nearly everyone who attempts one. Perhaps I am being overly critical, but blackboard menus are meant to be illustrative, neat and well laid out...eye catching...to draw the diner to buy-in. I believe blackboards should be filled out by those with a flair for handwriting and lettering, but I digress. A small niggle, really. Moving on!
|Daily Menu Slate|
The menus were presented on slates with handles, with content that is changed daily, based on Chef Ken's whimsy. I found this to be a very creative and interesting way to present his daily card. The variety on this day certainly did not disappoint. Price points were very reasonable for gourmet cuisine, and Chef Ken has hit all the right bases here.
We were sold a bottle of California's Menage-a-Trois by the knowledgeable and personable bartender / maitre d'. It was a very pleasant, easy drinking and fruity bottle of wine, that was a pleasant aperitif, especially when paired with the complimentary house made potato bread, paired with a lemon herb aioli. The bread was moist, rustic and delicious, complete with chunks of tender potato baked in, and the aioli was replete with citrus, and very savoury.
The Cajun shrimp were presented simply, over a flavourful smoked cheddar potato pancake, crisp sauteed bok choy and a coconut lime broth. It came with three jumbo shrimp, and, while not easy to share with another, were well seasoned and perfectly cooked. The grilled lime was a nice touch, and the denatured juice livened the coconut broth up considerably. The bok choy was a little undercooked, though...not sure if this was the intent of this preparation, but it was still good, offering crunch, and varied texture. Perhaps maybe an avant-garde slaw?
|Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chop|
|Daily Dessert Slate|
|Pink Peppercorn Chocolate Tart|
After the mains were cleared, dessert was the next on the agenda. The dessert slate I was presented with offered several house made creations. This, like their regular menu, changes often. I opted for the chocolate and pink peppercorn tart, and I was not disappointed. The chocolate ganache was spot on, and the salted caramel sauce was delicious...a match made in heaven. It was topped with a quenelle of homemade whipped cream chantilly, and an overly large piece of sugarwork garnish. This plate as a whole worked well, and was a memorable finisher to a great meal.
Great homemade gourmet meals in a modern setting. Friendly and accommodating staff. Very reasonable price points. Menu changes daily.
Nellie James Too is a solid part of the modern renaissance the Hamilton culinary scene is currently experiencing. Because of places like this, Hamilton is quickly becoming a hotbed of epicurean destinations!
Kudos to Ken, his wife and their staff for a great meal. Will definitely be back!
Cheers, Chef D