J.J.’s Restaurant hidden inside VCC downtown

Last week was the end of D.’s scholastic culinary journey. But before she finished she really wanted to me to visit her at school and try something she made while on line in the kitchen. The last two months she had been cooking for the evening shift, which made it challenging to bring J.D., but D. asked Espie to join me and partake in D.’s cuisine, which was a big help.

The Culinary Arts section of Vancouver Community College (VCC) Downtown campus runs J.J.’s restaurant. I believe the majority of the staff (from servers to cooks) are students going through the culinary program. I think the servers are normally mid-way through the program, whereas the cooks are in their last two months. I don’t know how well known the restaurant is but I think it is a bit hidden inside VCC.

Service was excellent with tons of smiles and a lot of personal service. Simple things that win me over in restaurants (fine dining or otherwise) are servings of warm bread, soft butter, and constant water glass refills. J.J.’s hit all three and you might be surprised how few restaurants do that. The complimentary olive loaf bread was a highlight as it had the perfect balance of spongy texture and saltiness to get the appetite going.

D. explained that J.J.’s is fine dining is normally a la carte, one set price for a choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert. Although throughout the month they also have scheduled all-you-can-eat buffets.

The restaurant staff were very welcoming and friendly, even with my large stroller in tow. Baby was asleep for the first part of the meal allowing E. and I to choose our meals at leisure. (E. is welcome to comment on this entry, if she wishes too. Otherwise I will use “I” statements in terms of what I thought about the food and only comment on E.’s dishes if we shared them.) Unfortunately all of my photos turned out too dark, a camera-fail on my part as I did not set it to flash. I’ll try to describe the dishes more in the absence of photos.

For appetizers we chose the mixed salad and the scallop with pork belly and shared both dishes between the two of us. For full disclosure we should say that D. was the one who prepared the salad, but nonetheless and without bias, I enjoyed it. It was a large portion for an appetizer. The greens were fresh and crisp and the cucumber vinaigrette dressing was acidic enough to prepare the palate for the main course.

In contrast in terms of size, the other appetizer was minuscule, basically one scallop and one pork belly portion. It was well plated, with a tasty turnip puree laid out in wave shapes from one protein to the other. I ate the scallop with a slightly sweet glaze drizzled lightly over it, which was perfectly cooked, but hard to judge overall taste from just one.  E. and I shared the pork belly, (a two-bite portion) which was only slightly larger than the scallop. The combination of the savoury, well-trimmed pork, topped with salty but sliver-thin onion crisps made it a great bite. This should have been called an amuse-bouche rather than a full appy.

In between courses I had to breastfeed the baby, but the restaurant layout was spacious enough that this wasn’t a problem.

The entrees and desserts were of average fare so I won’t dwell on it here. I will say that the ice cream is made in-house, and you can tell the difference in its quality and taste. The baked goods, I understand, are created by a separate class earlier in the day, whose focuses is strictly baking.

For curious eyes who enjoy entertainment while dining there is also a large screen television in the middle of the room which shows the students in the kitchen preparing the food. That must up the ante for them, but probably results in better food for us!

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