Review:Toronto:St Lawrence:Pacific Junction Hotel

Pacific junction hotel is a newish joint on King East. The exterior blue gives this place away at street level and the inside is even more eccentric.  It looks like a garage sale gone wrong, complete with a bathtub posing as a seat, formica tables and mismatched chairs ranging from cast iron to benches.  A large TV hangs over the dining room and at the time was projecting life size images of Guy Fieri biting into sloppy sandwiches.

Although it sounds like it should be in Vancouver, I imagine the name of the restaurant has something to do with the fact that it’s a mix of food found in countries with some association with the Pacific Ocean.   It’s sort of an Asia meets Mexico thing, with a little South America thrown in for good measure. Oddly, there’s also a bit of the Atlantic ocean added in the form of a few jerk recipes.  You can choose among wraps and rolls,burgers, tacos or a mishmash of standard bar food including nachos or artichoke dip.  There are a few vegetarian options as well.

The menus were thrown on the table and the waitress quickly disappeared.  They looked well-used, a few pages of printed paper housed with duo tangs that probably had everything from hot sauce to draught beer spilled all over it.  The cocktails feature rum or tequila/mezcal, served in a mason jar or a bowl. There are also a few beer (either in a jar or a pitcher) available as well. I opted for a jalapeno/pineapple mojito in a large jar for $9.30. It was minty and sweet although the added flavours were almost undetectable. I should of savored it more but I was unaware it would be the only drink I was having on this night.

Jalapeno and Pineapple Mojito $9.30
Jalapeno and Pineapple Mojito $9.30

I started with bison sliders for $13.  Each were topped with a different concoction of flavours although I was particularly interested in the blueberry compote.  They arrived in a Asian bamboo steamer.  The patties were overdone, charred to the point where the toppings (even the blueberry!) couldn’t save them.  The chips were hidden in the second steamer beneath and were ordinary and unseasoned but were made a bit better with a slather of hot sauce sitting at the table.

Bison Sliders $13
Bison Sliders $13
Hidden Chips (served below sliders)
Hidden Chips (served below sliders)

Next were the chimichurri tacos (3 for$12). It’s almost tearful to watch beef tenderloin cooked beyond recognition. Even the shells were overdone and cracked when I attempted to bend them.   The intense heat and acid I expect from a good chimichurri was absent.

Chimichurri Tacos ($12)
Chimichurri Tacos ($12)

At this point, with my mojito drained in an attempt to offset the dry meat (I wasn’t so much as offered a water at any point in the evening) I ordered one of the half dozen or so draught beer available.  Perhaps she was upset at the fact I asked her to recite the choices (I had to laugh because one of them was simply “IPA”),  but I never saw it.  She walked by a few times and scanned the table but no pint arrived despite the fact I had no drinking vessel anywhere is my vicinity.

Spinach dip is an iconic bar food that’s a bit difficult to master.  In addition to flavour, it needs to achieve that optimal solidity window, meaning it’s neither too runny or too thick.  The dip hit the mark in flavour, but once it cooled a bit, it was near impossible to navigate through it, especially with the skinny, generic, rainbow nachos chips (yes, 2005 called and they want their trend back).

Spinach Dip ($10.50)
Spinach Dip ($10.50)

Finally, there were the spring wraps.  More commonly called spring rolls, they are usually available for about $4 at any Thai restaurant (maybe $5 if they throw shrimp in it). The price points at the junction were $8 and $12 respectively.  Both the rolls and the  side sauce were pretty average and not worth the price, even with  dry tortilla thingys on the side.

Mango Spring Wraps ($8??!!)
Mango Spring Wraps ($8??!!)

My Take

Serving overcooked bison sliders in a bamboo steamer is not fusion…..it’s confusion. The tacos were average at best and the mango spring rolls were overpriced. The artichoke dip was flavorful but once it cooled below the dipping point the frail chips didn’t stand a chance. The service was not good.

In other words, Pacific Junction Hotel reminds me of going  to that house in the neighbourhood with the guy who entertains out of his cluttered garage.  Everybody calls him Uncle Gus because he burns his eyebrows off twice a year singeing meat with a three foot flame while the wife attempts to cook ethnic food with bottled sauces and her fingers crossed.  Their disgruntled daughter is forced to help serve as opposed to locking herself in her room to share anecdotes of her embarrassing parents with her facebook friends. Even worse,  the six-pack you bring over to drown the predicted pain suddenly disappears and you’re left drinkless for the remainder of the evening and develop a increasing desire to drink out of the garden hose.

Much like the Bermuda Triangle may be the bane of the Atlantic Ocean,  the junction  may be that of the Pacific, with the triangle representing bad service, bad decor and bad food.

Pacific Junction Hotel on Urbanspoon

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