|Is Jean Albert’s Ottawa’s sole restaurant serving soul food?|
Jean Albert’s the place for food that’s got soul
I must confess to being a little tardy in getting this review written. However, sometimes a little interval gives one a slightly different perspective on events and impressions. Our visit to Jean Albert’s in Ottawa’s China Town at Lyon and Somerset took place on Friday May 28th. Since that time we have been to England and back and will shortly be updating you on our gastronomic experiences there.
Where we went: Our good friend Garey Ris has been extolling the virtues of Jean Albert’s for a couple of years now, since he discovered it tucked away in Hallville way down South of Ottawa towards the 401 near Cardinal. We never managed to get there although we were intrigued by his enthusiasm. When they recently relocated to Ottawa, we promised Garey that we would eventually get there. This visit was the result. Although the exterior of the restaurant lacks pizazz, its location could not be better! From the upstairs dining room, where we would ultimately be seated, we had a great view of the local comings and goings on Somerset Street. Indeed, this was the one redeeming feature that mitigated, for some at least, the interminable wait for our food.
What we ordered: Since by the time we were seated and our server came to take our order, many amongst us were ravenous, we ordered the sweet potato chips to share. For me, they were the highlight of the meal and I would heartily recommend them even though they might not be the healthiest option being deep-fried. But then if you are counting calories, Jean Albert’s might not be your best option. Most of our group opted for either the fried chicken and fries or the ribs and chicken. There was distinct confusion about the optional sauces which could be either applied after cooking or ‘baked in’ for an additional charge. I chose ‘baked-in’ and it was only added to my ribs and not to the chicken. However, Debbie, not being aware 0f the choice, had the sauce applied to both chicken and ribs whether she wished it or not!
Some of us special ordered from the lunch menu where they offer 2 pieces of chicken rather than 3 and a quarter rack of ribs rather than a half. For myself, this was still plenty of food even though only one side dish was offered rather than the 2 offered with a full meal. I chose candied sweet potato but most seemed enticed by the collard greens. Once Greg heard that catfish was offered he enquired as to whether it was available pan fried rather than deep fried and battered but they were unable or unwilling to accommodate him. Reluctantly, he ordered it anyway. As usual, the kids selected their normal chicken nuggets/strips and fries.
What we got: As mentioned above, the sweet potato chips were beyond reproach. The warm cornbread offered while we were waiting, on the other hand, received mixed reviews but some were simply not fans of cornbread in general. Several raved about their fall-off-the-bone ribs, whilst I personally found mine overcooked and overpowered by the sweetness of the barbecue sauce. I don’t recall the last time I had Louisiana-style fried chicken but for me it was again overcooked and rather dry. I will admit to being in the minority in this opinion. My side of candied sweet potato was soft to the point of being mushy and swimming in liquid. Those who ordered collard greens and received them, were pleased. Greg was not so lucky and when they had run out of greens, the kitchen simply took it upon themselves to substitute coleslaw without checking first. He also seemed a little disappointed with his catfish too! The kids seemed quite happy with their meals when they finally arrived. Garey and Debbie shared a dessert (fruit cobbler and ice cream, I believe, and were very happy with it. Others were too full to partake.
- Worthy of note: Our server, although very eager, was brand new and unable to answer many of the questions and requests thrown at her. She maintained that the kitchen’s policy was to bring all meals for guests in a group at the same time. Although a worthy goal, this was disastrous in its application. Firstly, at least the children could and should have been served first. This would have been a help to both ourselves and the kitchen. Since we were nine in total, it was clearly not realistic and in fact did not happen. Indeed, some of the group were virtually finished by the time the last person received their plate.
- Although the prices of the main dishes were not out of line, by the time you added some of the optional fixings, it could end up costing more than you might expect at the end.
- It seems that our experience of waiting too long is not an anomaly, since it is echoed is several other reviews that I have read.
- It is an oddity that only hard lemonade is available on the ground floor, since the bar is located upstairs and the management (wisely perhaps), do not wish trays full of bottles and glasses being transported on the narrow staircase.
Positives: The majority of our group enjoyed their food. We were visited personally by Leroy, the owner and he seemed personable and friendly. The sweet potato chips were great.
Negatives: Waiting too long for our food was a downer. For me the food was generally overcooked. Given all of the foregoing, the final tab was not justified by the total experience.
Recommendation: At some point in the future, we will give Jean Albert’s a second chance but for now, I cannot give them even a passing grade!
For an update on the restaurateur’s subsequent reaction to our review read our follow-up on our sister site – w3Junkie
|Overall Rating||**||Needs work!|
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