John & Sons Oyster House

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I’m all about second chances. And in some cases, even third chances. But I’m sad to say that I doubt I’ll be able to give this place a third chance for quite some time.

When I found out about John & Sons Oyster House opening just a 10 minute walk from my house, I was thrilled. I checked out the menu online and salivated over the prospect of indulging in freshly shucked oysters, New England clam chowder, lobster grilled cheese, and lobster eggs benedict.

I couldn’t get the idea of lobster benny out of my head, so my boyfriend and I headed over for Sunday brunch. First impressions were good: friendly greeting from the host and folks behind the oyster bar, cute nautical-themed decor, bright and open space… Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there. We were dying to start off with lattes and cappuccinos, but their espresso machine was on the fritz. Dang. We each ordered the $15 lobster eggs benedict, and patiently awaiting impending bliss. Having once enjoyed lobster benny in Boston this past summer, where I was presented with chunky pieces of lobster meat (claws included!), drizzled with Hollandaise, I had fairly high expectations. What was ultimately brought to the table was – I kid you not – the most disappointing dish I’ve ever eaten. First of all, there was only one half of an eggs benedict dish; a singular “lobster cake”, drenched in a disgusting chipotle-orange Hollandaise. Honestly, I couldn’t even taste the lobster. I could barely even see it. Now that I’m writing this blog entry, I wish I had a photo of the sad-looking dish, but at the time it was so undeserving of my camera. We left feeling hungry and dejected.

Still, though, I thought I’d give it another try and taste the signature dish: oysters, of course. I stopped by with my Dad early on a Monday evening (surprisingly, the place was packed by 7pm!) and we tried out a variety of dishes: a dozen East coast oysters, expertly shucked and accompanied with freshly shaved horseradish (the key to my heart); the velvety New England clam chowder ($12), chock-full of potatoes, clams and veg, but not quite as good as Rodney’s; a single stone crab claw ($12), which had been recommended, was less than underwhelming; and tuna tartare ($16), which was good, but certainly not the best I’ve had, especially considering the price. Our service was slightly amateur and rather impersonal. When I asked if I could take the rest of my chowder to go, our server shrugged, as the restaurant hasn’t yet set up a take-out system. Though not as terrible as my first experience, I certainly didn’t leave wanting to come back.

Restaurant critic Chris Nuttall-Smith suggests in his zero star review that all John & Sons has going for it is the affluent Yonge & St. Clair location, where guests are willing to spend a little cash, and competition from nearby seafood spots is virtually non-existent. Personally, I’d much rather commute 40 minutes downtown to Rodney’s than take the 10 minute walk over to John & Sons.

I’ll be sure to update this post if I do break down and visit for a third time (perhaps I’ll wait until the warm weather, as there is lots of patio potential). For now, as much as I want to like this place, I just can’t.

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