On Wednesday our dining group popped down for their 4-6pm Happy Hour. The Happy Hour menu at Joe Fortes shows a list with daunting painful-to-your-purse prices, but which was OK at 50% off Happy Hour prices. Some items actually become a steal. Expect to be reminded that ONLY the Happy Hour menu is half-off as they apparently get people who get the wrong idea. NOT drinks, obviously, where restaurants make their moolah. Have a few drinks at your table to help them out, eh?
It all started with making a reservation on OpenTable. Apparently restaurants don't check the messages on these reservations till much later because a few hours prior to our Happy Hour reservation, I got a call from the restaurant saying Happy Hour was first-come-first-served at the BAR. Reservations for tables were for dinner only. They were evaded my question about whether the restaurant would be so busy that our party of an expected 10 persons would have trouble.
I'm sure the person on the phone was doing their best to be polite but firm about the rules of the establishment, but overall I felt like going to Happy Hour automatically makes you a second-class citizen in their eyes. Sort of like how some places make you feel when you have a coupon.
It would turn out that although the front of the room buzzed with diners at the bar and the barstool-height tables, the rest of the restaurant was understandably quieter in the pre-dinner-rush hours. Upstairs, it was dead. They may have felt it poor form to shove us upstairs when all the social buzz was downstairs, I suppose.
Still, good to know if you have a large group descending on them for Happy Hour that there are options. If you show as a large group you could possibly ask to be put upstairs so their precious downstairs dinner tables are still unassigned (?).
Anyway, our party of 7 drifted in over maybe a half hour from 4pm, and we were done shortly after 5pm, so I didn't see how that would really have affected their dinner seating.
Service is ace at Joe Fortes. Attitude is pro, bussing is prompt, and everyone is exceptionally well-mannered. They generally insist that you have the right of way. In the one or two times a server did accept when I yielded (probably because they had a plate of food and didn't want to keep their table waiting), they always thanked me. All this done calmly and courteously in a restaurant busy at happy hour and bound to get busier later in the evening. If you ever wanted a safe venue to take a guest, you can count on Joe Fortes to make no missteps with service.
The fact that our waitress Nicole was the one super-hottie amongst the servers was exceptionally distracting. Everyone else sort of blended into the background. Although she showed the same professionalism to be found in all the staff, it was harder to see that in her. I rather think this was a sad commentary on what details
Food ranges from average to good, with one or two outstanding items. Where it feels even better than it tastes is in the presentation. Plus, they are NOT stingy with sauce. You get a small gravy boat worth of sauce. Definitely more than enough if you feel the need to bathe your food in them. If you end up not using much of it, obviously this will feel wasteful. But it is unlikely that you will have to ask for more, and there is an upscale feeling of affluence, generosity, and being taken care of. The plating in general also inspires a "Gawd, that's a huge portion" feeling. Joe Fortes is a safe place to bring guests you want to impress with your largesse.
Jumbo Tempura Prawns ($14.95 regular price) togarashi mayo
- If I remember correctly, this was three really jumbo prawns. We're talking half an inch thick, maybe 9 inches long. Otherwise, they are just prawns. At $5 a piece if you had paid regular price.
- Other than the wow presentation, however, prawns are prawns.
- Each of these are about the diameter of donuts, but 50% thicker. Five per order. I find blue cheese disgusting but if you like it, you will probably like the sauce.
- Again, other than the wow presentation, onion rings are onion rings. Batter was good, though. Good crispyness on the outside.
- Really goood and a very good portion size. Totally worth it even at regular price (basically $10 regular, $5 during Happy Hour). Restaurants sometimes overdo truffling, but I found these fries really nicely put together flavour wise. Don't kill it with the tomato sauce. Don't relentlessly eat one after another, either, since that will lead to french fry fatigue. Instead, nibble intermittently to complement your meal.
- Nothing special here except the generous overflowing portion barely contained in the cast iron frying pan. Strangely, the first couple I had were bitter. The rest were fine. Maybe some fluke involving residue from previous frying.
- Hang on to the chipotle aioli for other things if you like a bit of bite in a dipping sauce.
- Slightly sweet. Really decently done calamari. Not stellar, but "just" good. Painful at regular price of $15.
- HUGE deep shells. Again, there's a wow factor to the plating here.
- We sneakily isolated the oyster and it wasn't huge. We isolated an oyster and it wasn't exactly huge. My suspicion is that the lovely shells were recycled for this order.
- They looked beautiful and that set expectations high, but strangely the flavour here wasn't as strong as I hoped.
- Our server advised us that the coarse salt on the bottom was for presentation only. Do NOT eat.
- Lots of green goop left over on the inside. If you also ordered the Mini Lobster & Shrimp Rolls, you could tear off one half of the roll and eat the rest as an open-faced sandwich. Then use the half you saved to mop up the green goop here. Maybe also throw on a bit of the coleslaw from the plate of Rolls.
- For some reason I thought these would be miniature spring rolls filled with lobster meat. Turned out they were dinner rolls stuffed with basically a lobster and shrimp salad.
- Tasted good and not stingy with lobster or prawn, but I think it could be even better served with a cooler filling, and with a more refreshing taste. Maybe an optional orange wedge to very lightly drizzle on a citrus zip?
- Three good-sized very-stuffed rolls plus token not-muddy-wet coleslaw on the side topped with a gherkin.
- At basically $7 during Happy Hour, considering the lobster and prawn you are getting this is a great deal.
- NOT on the Happy Hour menu, but on the "Extras" menu section. NOT half price at happy hour.
- Large slices of pickle in batter, deep fried. This treatment softens them and seemed to temper the natural sourness and bring more sweetness to the fore. Worth a try.
- The avocado ranch seemed rather bland and pointless. You probably have to love avocado and want to pick out that flavour for it to do anything for you.
Our bill came out to $17 per person including drinks, after tax, but before tip. We were full enough to not want dessert. (Well, I had eaten strategically to have room for it, but no one else did, and we even had a small doggy bag to go).