My friend and I have been searching for good hamburg steaks ever since Barefoot Kitchen on Denman closed down. As my friend was bombing down Boundary Road, a banner with the words “Hamburg Steak” in big, beaming blue letters caught his eye. I was absolutely giddy he told me there was a place that offered the legendary steak.
29th Ave. Cafe took over the space where James Street Cafe used to be, and it seems that they inherited their decor as well. While I didn’t expect the tatami mats and calligraphy paintings which might be found at other Japanese restaurants, I also didn’t expect a place so lacking in ambiance. The vinyl upholstered wooden chairs, squared tables, and the big sandwich board on the back wall were all reminiscent of my parent’s old restaurant. It was like being sent back in time to when I was ten, and I had to go to the restaurant because there was no one to babysit me. Only this time, I got to sit with the customers, and not on a stool behind the cash register.
There was only one waitress in the restaurant which seated 20-30 patrons. It wasn’t unusual considering we were only one of two other tables while we were there. The chef kept an eye on the restaurant through the kitchen window which overlooked the dining room. We assumed that the waitress and chef were the dynamic duo responsible for 29th Ave Cafe.
The menu had a very limited selection. In my opinion, this is the sign of quality, because the chef doesn’t try to spread him/herself too thin. Instead, the chef will focus on a small number of dishes and pay more attention to detail.
We had a sampling of entrees that night, one of them being hamburg steak. I knew that the hamburg steak was made to order because I heard the slap-slap of the patty being tossed back and forth between the chef’s palms. The hands on approach yieled a tender and moist hamburg, not like some the hockey pucks that have come from my kitchen. The brown sauce alongside the hamburg didn’t provide much more flavour, but it made things even jucier.
The hamburg was served with what could quite possibly be the best carrots I’ve ever had in my life. After a little research, I learned they were carrots made in the Vichyssoise style. They were tender, sweet, and silky smooth tasting thanks to butter. I will definitely be trying to replicate the carrots at home.
My eyes widened as I sank my teeth into chicken croquette (korokke), which was so crispy that it could’ve shattered all the windows from the sound it made. Fragrant mushrooms and the richness of butter filled my senses as I savoured the hot and creamy filling of the croquette.
The small, unassuming mound of iceberg lettuce hiding behind the croquette was dressed with what looked like thousand island dressing. I am not sure if the dressing was homemade, but the addition of black pepper kept me wondering.
Another signature yoshoku dish we tried was a katsu curry, which the chef seemed to have mastered. The curry was velvety with a hint of sweetness, just the way Japanese curry was meant to be. The lean pork cutlet was succulent and not the least bit dry.
According to another blog 29th Ave Cafe was opened by the original owners of Yoshoku-Ya, a restaurant I never had the pleasure of trying, who opened 29th Ave. Cafe. Like Barefoot Kitchen, Yoshoku-Ya wasn’t able to keep its doors open, but that may have been due to a change in ownership. I am glad that I have had the chance to give this hidden gem a try. I enjoyed it so much that I actually went back a second time that week. Since then, I have been hearing that the restaurant has gotten much busier. It makes me happy to hear that they are doing well, and it somewhat guarantees that they will be sticking around for a while.
Tagged: Food, Japanese, Restaurants, Yoshoku
Did you try a different dish on your second visit?
No, went with a first timer, so I didn’t want to take the chance.