A Tale of 2 Jacks – Part One

5 07 2010

A few months ago, I was in Mississauga with a friend of mine for some shopping.  After several hours of wandering aimlessly around Square One, we decided to refuel at Alice Fazooli’s for lunch.  This is an Italian/Seafood eatery with other eclectic choices like alligator thrown into the mix.  To our dismay, they did not open until dinner and the logical other option was Jack Astor’s which was a mere 10 metres away.  Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with places like Jack Astor’s except for the fact that they’re, well…general…and often times boring, but due to a lack of options (and our mounting hunger) we grudgingly pulled open the doors and stepped inside.

It was quiet in there because they were still 7 minutes from opening and when we walked in, the young maître d smiled at us warmly.  Coming from a customer service background, this is not easy to do when a customer blatantly ignores the rules.  She said it would be no problem to accommodate us and promptly seated us in a nice booth.  “Not a bad start”, I thought to myself.  About a minute after we sat down a youngish waiter asked us what we wanted to drink.  We requested more time and started exploring the drink selections (I promise it was at least 12 noon at that point).  My friend ordered a blue rum concoction and I ordered a Bellini cocktail.  Not only were our drinks good but they were also enormous and arrived quickly at our table along with the menus.

After some discussion about just how large our beverages were, we agreed to start off with a plate of calamari before things got messy due to our very empty stomachs.  Already, alarm bells were going off in my head since cooking calamari is basically an art.  I once read that if you overcook calamari by just a few seconds it will become inedible (unless, of course, one enjoys eating rubber bands).

Didn't think so...

To our astonishment the large plate of battered, deep fried rings was hot, fresh and perfectly tender.  Hooray!  The dipping sauces were standard (one was tartar and one was horseradish) but tasted fresh rather than like condiments scraped out of a jar.  There was even a sprinkle of parsley on top of the squid to make it look more appealing.  After eating as much as we could handle (my philosophy being: when life gives you good calamari, you eat all of it) we moved on to our lunch course.  Jack’s had an Indian special going on at this time so I ordered the Samosas.  My friend (being West Indian) chose the classic Three Peppercorn Pasta instead since she already eats all the Samosas she wants at home.  Once again, our food tasted fresh and was very hot.  The Samosas I ordered were a good size and arrived in a grouping of three accompanied by a wonderfully smooth chutney; it was the best chutney I have ever had.  Sweet yet sour with a little kick of heat.  It was complex too; one second I swear I tasted cherries, the next second I had chilli pepper flavours filling my mouth.  It contrasted beautifully with the crunchiness of the Samosas and did a wonderful job of brightening them up too.  My friends’ pasta, a Jack Astor’s favourite, had a good bite to it from the peppercorns with the perfect amount of pasta sauce (not dry but not flooded either) accompanied by a handful of pan seared mushrooms throughout.  All of this was topped with real bacon and a sprinkle of parmesan.  We gobbled it all up and with renewed vigour, returned to the mall for more window shopping.  It was a great visit to a chain restaurant.

When the opportunity to visit another Jack Astor’s came up a mere one week later (I swear my bank account groaned) I agreed.  Little did I know just how much seemingly standardized chains could vary.

(image courtesy of http://www.quinl.com)




2 responses

5 07 2010

I’ve not visited Jack Astor’s many times since it opened years back in Mississauga… but I have to say that I have found the quality to have increased over the years…

6 07 2010

Jacks- sounded great, but I must admit the local Jack’s restaurant in my area is very bad (to say it simply!) Why is it that chains are so different? They should be the same but we are only people and I guess mistakes can be made. I will not go to another Jack Astor’s my experience has always been “bad”-service, food, and atmosphere. I can’t wait for part two!

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