Restaurant Review: Honest Weight is a 20-seat heartthrob in the Junction


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Seared scallops and peas

Image: CJ Baek

John Bil, the owner, pours shots of skull vodka for a couple of regulars and says he never wanted to open a restaurant that a lot of people made a fuss over. He only ever wanted a neighbourhood place, which is why, he says, “It’s only 20 seats.”

Well good luck with that, John. You shouldn’t have made such a fantastic restaurant if you didn’t want people to flock from all over town to your little Junction hot spot.

Honest Weight is a heartthrob. How cool to see the fish counter and know that by day John sells all this impeccably fresh fish, and by night he cooks it up for you to order. His CV is all fish: Before Honest Weight he did oyster sales, was once a PEI oyster farmer and managed a salmon farm in New Brunswick.

The small menu reaches from Italy to Japan via Thailand and with great grace. Quaff the Caesar with house-made Clamato and cucumber vodka while you’re deciding. Dreamy. It’s easiest to order pan-fried fish, as you see on display at the impeccable retail fish counter. But they do complex really well too. Other than the chowder and the iconic okonomiyaki pancake, the menu changes based on the fish coming in.


(IMAGE: CJ ​BAEK)

 

Their trademark okonomiyaki — a tradition to which whole restos in Japan are dedicated — is a feather-light pancake stuffed with the fish of the day, shredded cabbage, mountain yam and bacon, topped with bonito and green onion spiked with okonomi sauce, which to me is sweet soy. Their Thai lobster salad is loaded with lobster spiked with toast peanuts, chilies, Thai basil and vinegar. And we love the chowder, a clean un-thick cream (made with organic 40 per cent cream).

They steam mussels and clams with bacon, shallots and fish stock to great effect — with sourdough for dipping. There is moist smoked sturgeon served with lightly pickled mussels. And Ontario shrimp.

Yes. Ontario. John knows a local hog farmer who threw in the towel when the price of pork went south. So this hog farmer installed big saltwater tanks in the old hog barn. John gets them often enough that the Ontario shrimp you eat tonight were alive yesterday. Though not as sweet as Gulf shrimp, they’re so fresh they’re wonderful.

Dessert is hardly necessary after the seafood feast, and there’s usually only one. If it’s pouding chômeur (meaning literally unemployment pudding or poor man’s pudding) was created in Quebec during the Depression. Super-moist white cake/pudding cooked with maple syrup. Yum. And depressed is what you’ll be if you fail to get a table at Honest Weight. ’Cause it’s in the Junction and they don’t take reservations.

Honest Weight, 2766 Dundas St. W., $65 dinner for two

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Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cordon Bleu de Cuisine in Paris. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Maclean’s and Chatelaine. Follow her on Twitter @JoanneKates.

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