Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Joey Grill & Lounge: Toronto Eaton Centre

Joey Grill & Lounge, the popular west coast chain of hip upscale casual restaurants that landed in Toronto a couple of years ago, launched their newest Toronto Eaton Centre location on July 8 2011. The menu and interior are true to the Joey brand, with a central big bar accessorized with a flotilla of flat-screen TVs, high wooden coaster tables, funky designer light fixtures, a huge 10-square foot TV Screen with a film loop playing soundlessly in the background, and perhaps most predictable of all, Joey's well-endowed female servers in LBDs and black heels. 

Funky designer lighting fixtures set the mood as guests arrive via the Dundas Street entrance

The garage-style windows open up during the summer months

The space is massive in scale with a bank of garage door-style windows along Dundas that will roll up once the warm weather returns. In the two-storey dining room with upstairs wine mezzanine, where the look is like the bar's minus the TVs, Joey offers a very clever corporate menu, which is the same across the chain. It's a clever formula, with something for everyone, from Asian, Indian to North American and fusion favourites, including Killer Ahi Tuna Tacos, Earth & Surf Calamari and Cheeseburger Sliders to Pan Fried Gyoza as appetizers; a selection of seven enormous steak entrées for meat-lovers to raw tuna on designer greens, for those watching their calories.

Joey Eaton Centre Menu which even accommodates gluten-free diets

The Joey franchise already has plans to expand further by opening a pub called The Local on the lower level of the Eaton Centre in the next year. It'll be connected to Joey through a staircase that will also offer direct access from the Eaton Centre, an important feature it's currently lacking, especially with winter around the corner. However, the Joey brand seems to have a devoted following that will surely not be thwarted by a snow flake or two, to get to their Miso Ramen Soup and decadent Lobster Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

Miso Ramen Soup with wok seared Asian vegetables in rich miso broth

Lobster Grilled Cheese with melted Brie, cheddar and nuggets of lobster

With the Eaton Centre having undergone a major $120-million facelift in the past year, Cadillac Fairview's desire to redefine and reinvigorate the downtown shopping experience has resulted in their success in attracting a handful of high-profile players, from Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman, Victoria's Secret, Trattoria Mercatto and now Joey. Although the Eaton Centre has never been a satisfying culinary destination, the horizon is looking a little brighter than it has before, but it still has a long way to go to compete with the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan — the complex upon which Eberhard Zeidler and Bregman + Hamann Architects originally based the original design of the Eaton Centre. It was envisioned at the time to become one of North America's top shopping and dining destinations. Reminds me of the song by Jiminy Cricket — High Hopes...