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Monday, July 26, 2010

Jump Café & Bar :: Summerlicious 2010

Entrance, bar, & interior

Pleased with my experience at Biff's Bistro, the bar was set quite high for my fourth Oliver & Bonacini Summerlicious experience.

Jump Café & Bar
Verdict: Great service & lively atmosphere but neither Oliver & Bonacini's nor Summerlicious' best
Meal: Lunch (Summerlicious Prix Fixe) 
Price: $20 Prix Fixe + tax & tip + drinks
Location: 18 Wellington Street West

Unlike Biff's, weekday lunch was quite busy both in and outside of the restaurant. Tastefully decorated with wine bottles, glasses, and interesting lighting fixtures, the interior feels open and bright thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. A fantastic outdoor back patio includes an outdoor bar and lounge areas. 

I've noticed that every O&B restaurant has it's own little flair and style to capture a particular feel. While Biff's is a homey, down-to-earth bistro with tarts and rich desserts, Jump is a bit more upscale that caters well to the Financial District cats. Tastefully decorated with prominent wine displays and an enormous bar, Jump appears to be a great place for an after-work drink with co-workers.

Bright & airy interior thanks to huge windows & skylights
Surrounded by looming buildings including Deloitte & Commerce Court, the back patio faces a nearly-deserted and wonderfully quiet courtyard. In contrast, loud chatter fills the interior due to the very open design of the restaurant. This adds a vibrant tone to the experience, perfect for a restaurant that doubles as a bar. I personally prefer  patios or a less noisy environment when catching up with old friends over lunch, but Jump won't lose any points as it's designed to be energetic and open.

Large outdoor patio, away from the noisy street

The service was pleasant and patient - the friendly waiter did not rush us to order and let us take our time to chat for a bit while looking at the menu. We were given a bread basket with crispy flat bread seasoned with tarragon and a few slices of white bread. It was accompanied with a rather plain marinara sauce, which foreshadowed the upcoming meal.

Baby Red Romaine & Escarole Salad
Cara Cara orange, fennel, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and old wine vinaigrette 
A light start of fresh lettuce, a slightly tart vinaigrette, ripe Cara Cara orange, and cheese. While the orange and the dressing was enjoyable, something was left to be desired...perhaps it's because of my unrefined wine and cheese palette, but I wasn't particularly impressed. Memorable Summerlicious starter salads include the butterleaf truffle salad at Truffles at the Four Seasons (which has since closed) and Tutti Matti's carpaccio salads.

Bigeye Tuna Tartare & Spicy Sopressata 
Cracked olives, garlic grissini, arugula, lemon and Sicilian organic extra virgin olive oil 
Fresh tuna tartare on a bed of salami was a welcome dish, especially since I've never tried sopressata before. The saltyness of the cured ham paired with the freshnesses of the tuna created an interesting balance between bites. The olives were typical, and the bread sticks brought a crunch but no flavour to the plate. Perhaps if they were toasted a bit more or rolled in sesame, it would've been a nice compliment to the dish.

Wild & Tame Mushroom Soup 
Six kinds of mushrooms (no butter or cream)
Thick, warm, and hearty - this had the rich texture of a comforting soup despite the lack of cream or butter. I was impressed with the consistency and I love the taste of mushrooms so I thoroughly enjoyed this soup. As with the salad, there was something lacking - the "wow" factor that I always hope for at 'licious restaurants. The best mushroom soup that I've tasted was Wild Mushroom Soup from Tutti Matti - unfortunately not on their current menu.

Grilled Top Sirloin Fettina
Charred onion, heirloom tomato and rocket salad with crumbled Gorgonzola

The vegetables were nice and warm, and the sauce surrounding the steak sweet however the steak wasn't particularly interesting or great. Tender and nicely cooked, it was a good, simple cut of sirloin but didn't blow me away or leave a lasting impression on my palette.

Grilled Jail Island Salmon
Pickled summer beets, heirloom carrots, watercress salad and horseradish crème fraîche
Despite my half-success with the fish at Biff's Bistro, I decided that it was worth another go. While tasty, I'm quickly getting bored with this Summerlicious lunch. The beets were nice, warm, and soft and the horseradish crème fraîche had great flavour. However the salmon was...just salmon.

Roasted Portobello Mushroom & Brie Quesadilla
Caramelized onions, pico de gallo, chipotle crema, plantain tortilla chips and cilantro cress
Ah, finally a dish that perked me up. My personal favourite of the entrées, the chipotle cream had a tangy flavour that tasted great with the pico de gallo and quesadilla. The pico de gallo (salsa) was ripe and simple. Always a fan of portobello, these quesadillas had great flavour. While an interesting visual, the tortilla chips were lacking the flavour I usually enjoy from plantains. As a plantain chip lover, they were a disappointment. I'd rather crack open a bag of the Samai Plantain chips that I got addicted to Barbados.

Chocolate Toffee Crunch Cheesecake
Dulce de leche cream

Thick cheesecake that was more toffee-like than chocolate. The caramel was pleasant with the dense cake. I wasn't a fan of the bit of toffee that accompanied the cake but overall I'd say that this was the best dessert out of the three.

Bavarian Vanilla Cream
Ontario strawberry compote and dark cherry balsamic

Nice and warm with a smooth texture, the vanilla cream dessert sat on one of the better compotes that I've tried. I found myself scooping this dessert up more for the compote than the cream.

Coconut Rum Baba 
Tropical fruit salad and banana cream
This spongy cake was covered with coconut shavings over pineapple, mango, and lychee. A sweet, generous drizzle of rum syrup soaked into the cake quite nicely. While I wasn't the biggest fan of this dessert initially, over time as I enjoyed my company it grew on me. It wasn't too rich or filling.

Wonderfully designed and decorated, Jump Café & Bar creates a vibrant, young, and upscale environment quite well. I would return for a drink at the bar, and the service was fantastic. However, I thought it was missing that the "oomph" factor that would make me wholeheartedly recommend this restaurant for future Summerlicious romps. This is a good spot to take someone who wants a very simple no-frills meal.

Due to the design of the interior, it is quite noisy and perhaps not the best place to go for a business lunch. Decent food, but there are other Summerlicious options out there that I would prefer.

Jump Café & Bar
Verdict: Great service & lively atmosphere but neither Oliver & Bonacini's nor Summerlicious' best
Meal: Lunch (Summerlicious Prix Fixe)
Price: $20 Prix Fixe + tax & tip + drinks
Location: 18 Wellington Street West
Jump on UrbanspoonJump Cafe & Bar on Restaurantica


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