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55 Mill St. Bldg. #3
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About
Roux Restaurant is a moderately priced casual American restaurant located by Dundas St W and Keele St in the Junction area of West Toronto.
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Review: Roux the day

 
By Alan A. Vernon, reviewed on August 01, 2013

First impressions of a restaurant often begin with the reservation process. After leaving a message (no one answers phones anymore), someone should call you back to confirm. As well as common courtesy, I believe it's, call me crazy, a smart business practice. But after...

First impressions of a restaurant often begin with the reservation process. After leaving a message (no one answers phones anymore), someone should call you back to confirm. As well as common courtesy, I believe it's, call me crazy, a smart business practice. But after leaving more messages than I care to count, no one at Roux ever returned my call, not a one. Forced onto Facebook to make some kind of contact and to get a better idea of their supposed Creole cuisine was as frustrating as the deafening fax machine screech of their landline.

Once there though, I must admit the space is pretty darn awesome. Formerly the Junction Eatery, Roux's dramatic transformation from low-end roadhouse to French bistro with a southern slant was extremely well done, with an industrial chic that fits right into an area whose growing popularity seems to show no signs of slowing. The cast-iron swing-out bar stools are indeed a real orgasm for the eyes not to mention a clever solution for the intimate, narrow space.

Chef and owner Derrick Markland has been in professional kitchens for nearly three decades, having apprenticed at Truffles in the '80s to exec chef at places like Bistro 990 and the Courthouse. With this much experience on the CV, one can pretty much expect some semblance of competence, which is more than I can say for whoever proofed the menus: there are no less than 10 typos. With this kind of sloppiness, one can only wonder what to expect.

Nicely priced oysters ($2 each) have a cool, briny, just-shucked freshness. Served with homemade hot sauces and a mignonette that seems to be made a la minute, everything seems pretty par for the course so far. Except that there's barely enough of each accompaniment to fill even one shell. Lucky for us our server agrees to get back behind the bar to whip up more, but only a bit. We're talking vinaigrette here, not caviar. Why not make a biggish batch in advance so it will last an entire evening? Hmmm.

An order of mussels steamed in Mill Street Tankhouse served with frites ($12) should be a no-brainer for any eatery focusing on the fine culinary contributions the French have bestowed upon mankind. At Roux, however, a blend of sweet and plain potato fries are just plain limp and bland. More disappointing is the bowl of mussels (I overheard it was the last order…at the beginning of dinner service?) with a past-their-prime fetid odour. Scratch that: they stink. Off or not, uneaten they are.

A slider duo ($8) on serviceable sesame buns fares slightly better even if a bit too small even by slider standards. The "bistro" burger is perhaps the size of a toonie and a bit dry even if tasty, while its plated companion of pulled pork is as moist as it is generous, topped with a super smokey sauce. Butter pickles on the burger and some pickled onion are a nice touch, but if I see one more plate lazily garnished with mesclun mix I'm going to punch a kitten.

The menu may read shrimp fritters ($10) but they look a hellava lot more like pakoras. And while the batter is indeed crisp and golden, what's revealed within is a pasty yam mash and shrimp that somehow manages to be simultaneously tough and mushy. A chilli lime dip aids in its rescue, that is, what little of it there is; there's barely enough for one dunk. What, is there a global condiment shortage I'm unaware of?

A yard bird ($16) with rustic mash and spicy coleslaw ($18 with waffles) may seem a bit wintery for the dead of summer, but the barometer of any kitchen doing down home southern cookin' ought to be its fried chicken, which should be crispy, moist and flawless. Roux's is anything but: is its too-thick coating with a slight honey sweetness supposed to disguise the fact that there's barely any meat to chew on? And did you think I wouldn't notice that the potatoes are cold in the middle? Not stating it as fact, but this scientific phenomenon can often occur when reheating with a microwave. Then there's them grits ($5) that taste remarkably like undercooked rice pudding and the collard greens ($5) that, though toothsome and tasty, are a bit on the salty side.

And if ever there was a dish that takes it's sweet ol' time to marry all it's wonderful traditional ingredients, it's jambalaya ($18). Waiting close to 45 minutes for it, we were hoping for an a la minute masterpiece. Instead, our plate is occupied with a huge piece of oven-roasted chicken breast, served with a lovely, if a bit watery, gumbo-style sauce, two pieces of kielbasa? (the menu promises andouille sausage), two limp shrimp and unevenly heated "dirty" rice formed from a square bowl as if plated at a cheap wedding reception. I get that chef may be attempting to deconstruct this classic, but it's just yet another disappointment to come out of the Markland kitchen.

Funny how the window advertises beignets, yet the only thing for dessert is a chocolate cheesecake dusted with icing sugar, a drizzle of caramel and some unripe (in summer!) strawberries. How very French. Pass on that and pretty much everything else at Roux. Unless you live in the neighbourhood, of course, and you feel kind of guilty not supporting your local businesses. Because at the moment that would be the only real reason you'd walk through these doors.

Reviews are meant to describe a dining out experience at a given period in time and are the personal opinion of the writer.
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3 Comments for Roux Restaurant

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Rob Cummins may recommend Roux Restaurant

Both the catfish and flatiron steak were both way over salted - I couldn't finish my meal. Event the fries seemed saltier than they should be.
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Michael Galea recommends Roux Restaurant

I couldn't disagree more with this review! I cannot believe that this is such a negative review! I have been to Roux for lunch with clients and for dinner with my wife and all I can say is that both times I went there, the food and the service were exceptional!, Mike G.
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Bobby Bittman has not yet visited this restaurant.

Great review, hooray for honesty
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 Please select only one reason why you would recommend this business.