Queen West is home to Toronto’s newest destination for steaks. And the concept couldn’t be any easier, a set menu welcomes guests to relax and let the restaurant do the rest. Too often we’re bombarded by giant menus, here, your hardest choice is between a cocktail or the concise wine list. Smart. With a slender offering, the simple and straightforward dishes are executed with laser focus. You will order a steak, it will be cooked perfectly, and you will ask for more fries. It’s fate!
J’S STEAK FRITES SIZZLES ON QUEEN WEST
Setting up shop in the old Dandylion space, the husband and wife team turned co-owners Jad Sfeir and Tara Tang are excited to deliver this meat and potatoes approach to the Toronto tastemakers. A nod to the Parisian bistro classic, the nuances here are very similar to the European original. A walk-in only approach only furthers this connection. Unless you’re looking for group dining, tables are at a first-come-first basis. J’s Steak Frites exudes that casual effortless and aspires to be the accessible neighbourhood hub you breeze in without even thinking.
“I’ve been in the restaurant business for over 15 years, coming from Montreal. I was in the wine business as well. This is my favourite meal of all-time. People like steaks but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars, eating that tomahawk that’s been imported from who knows where. Why should we pay for overpriced food? We have amazing food right here in Ontario.”Jad Sfeir, Co-Owner, J’s Steak Frites
THERE’S ONLY ONE RULE- KEEP IT SIMPLE
The premise of a prix fixe set menu leaves little to debate, except the cocktails. The Twilight ($18) is a smart and citrusy effort that pairs magically with the Green salad with Walnut and Lemon Vinaigrette. Crisp leaves capture the essence of this sensational salad, it’s refreshing and addictive all in one go and a signal that the kitchen really puts quality on a pedestal above all. Baked in house bread and butter echo this statement further.
STEAK, AS YOU LIKE IT
While you may be tempted to fill up on more bread and butter, it’s best to reserve some space for the main attraction. Table mats are a visual reminder of what’s coming next. Enter the ten ounce striploin, cooked to your liking, seasoned only with salt and pepper thirty minutes before it hits the grill. These steadfast rules honour quality cuts, a good steak needs only to be cooked properly.
However, the delicate and velvety touch of a classic butter sauce is a crowning touch. Jad says this sauce is difficult to prepare, a degree too high and the sauce splits, it requires constant babysitting. Insisting on consistent quality for each menu flourish puts Jad’s career in hospitality front and centre. Jad nimbly works his way around the dining room, offering each guest fries tableside. On repeat.
TEMPTATION REACHES NEW HEIGHTS
Jad’s dedication to steaks can only be matched by his partner in business, and life, Tara Tang’s. The Le Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef makes all the bread and desserts for this operation and does so masterfully. Her decadent star-reaching deep and delicious Chocolate Cake is proof that she’s part architect, while delicate mega-Macarons amplify the French quotient.
Four or five rotating desserts will be on offer daily, housed under glass domes, presumably to protect from drool. Rightfully so, they taste as good as they look and capture Tang’s creativity and pastry education in one neat package. Desserts start at $14 and I’ll be deeply disappointed if you don’t order two.
A curated prix fixe menu, $49 for your bread, butter, salad and steak frites is a value combo of luxury. Meanwhile, a steak half the size with no sides can go for the same at any reputable steak house. J’s Steak Frites pays tribute to the steakhouse experience, with premium plates and a French flourish at an approachable price. Check them out Wednesday to Sunday at 1198 Queen Street West.
Interviews and quotes may be edited for length/clarity.
All images by Libby Roach.