Review: The Keg Mansion

August 5, 2009


Address: 515 Jarvis Street, Toronto

Alana and Rich both had: The tempura asparagus and snap pea appetizer, and a trio of mini-desserts.

Alana had: A whole steamed lobster with a baked potato, and a pint of Creemore.

Rich had: Grilled tiger shrimp skewers with mashed potatoes, and a mojito.

Plus: Amazing service. Cool atmosphere. The steaks, probably.

Minus: Seafood was good, not great. Dessert was disappointing.

Rating: 6 rock lobsters out of 10

Alana sez: It’s tough, and maybe even a little douchebaggy, to review a steakhouse when you don’t eat steak — as fish-eating vegetarians, Rich and I aren’t able to comment on the seared cow parts that the Keg is best known for. However, after a gift-card purchase mishap, we recently found ourselves with $25 in Keg-dollars during the restaurant’s annual “Lobster Summer” festival — if  these fishetarians are going to eat at beef-village, we might as well do it when seafood is on special.

We decided to head down to the Keg Mansion on a quiet Monday evening. Stepping into the restaurant is like entering a very old and very rich relative’s home — dark wood floors, rich carpet, dark red walls, ornate and fussy decor, and gorgeous lighting fixtures. I loved the spectacle of it. The place was deserted, so we were quickly led to a table near a window — it was nice to have some sunlight in the otherwise dim space.

After our excellent waiter had swung by to take our drink order, Rich and I didn’t need much time to settle on our meal choices — there aren’t a lot of beef-free options on the Keg menu, even during Lobster Summer. We ordered some tempura asparagus and snap peas to start, and I decided on the two-pound whole lobster for my main. Since I had never eaten a whole lobster before and I was a little frightened, I asked to have my sea-bug cracked in the kitchen for me. The Keg was happy to oblige my wimpiness.

Our appetizer came out quickly. The plate was piled high with deep-fried asparagus and snap peas, and came with a little bowl of soy-based dipping sauce. The batter on the fresh-tasting veggies was light, crispy, and not greasy at all. This tempura rivaled the efforts of most of the Japanese restaurants I have tried in Toronto.

Our meals arrived just as promptly as the appetizer, my giant lobster taking up most of the table. The monster, split down the middle as promised by our waiter,  came with drawn butter and a baked potato. I wasn’t sure where to start — claws? tail? legs? feelers? — so, I grabbed the nearest body part and dove in. The lobster meat was fresh, tasty, and generally tender, but I found the tail to be a little tough. The baked potato was pretty standard — I was disappointed to find its skin leathery and chewy and, as I gnawed on it, I grew envious of Rich’s huge mound of mashed potatoes.

After dinner we were prety stuffed, but the server who cleared our table convinced us to try some of the Keg’s “mini-desserts” — 3 oz. shots of sweetness. We settled on the cherry cheesecake, the chocolate fudge brownie, and the lemon blueberry tart. As promised, they each arrived in a large shot glass. Cute presentation, but our first bites failed to impress. Each of the desserts tasted generic and store-bought. Meh. Not the best way to end our meal.

Although the service was stellar at the Keg Mansion and the atmosphere was fun, the food we ate was generally pretty average (with the exception of the tempura appetizer). It’s true that we didn’t try the steaks, which may be amazing, but you would think that a restaurant celebrating “Lobster Summer” would come through on the party’s guest of honour. I didn’t have a bad experience at the Keg, but I’m sure I can find a tastier $130 two-person meal in Toronto.

Rich sez: My past experiences at the Keg have been meh. The first time I had their steak, it was amazing — one of the best I have ever had. Over the next few visits, however, they were some of the worst. So, now being a  “fishetarian,” I thought it might be worth trying out their seafood menu. Tiger shrimp skewers ahoy, with some mash-it-up potatoes.

The presentation was great, the tiger shrimp were huge , but they were also over-cooked and a little stringy. Sad. The mashed potatoes were as good as the instant microwavable ones — you know the ones — Betty Crocker’s box full of powder, add water, milk and toss in the microwave and, presto chango, potatoes that are surprisingly delicious. Well, the Keg’s were even better then Crocker’s, and if I were ever to feel like going back and over-paying for my dinner, I would just order a big plate of those mashed taters.

I just want to add my two cents to the disgusting dessert — it was disgusting.

If you’re going to the Keg, order the steak – obviously.