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REVIEW: J & A Restaurant

The Round-up:

  • Food - 1 out of 5
  • Decor - 1 out of 5
  • Service - 2.5 out of 5
  • Total - 4.5 out of 15
$10 for lunch, $15-20 for supper. Open seven days at 11 a.m. for lunch and supper.

2201 11th Avenue, Regina, SK


To me, there's something comforting about tucking into a restaurant below street level.

Those few stairs that lead down to the dining room make the noise of traffic outside seem even further away behind the glass windows. It's like discovering a secret getaway in the middle of the city.

Big Willie and I popped into J & A Restaurant across from The Bay on 11th Avenue last weekend. The place was fairly full for a Saturday so I figured we were in for a good time.

Friends told us that J & A, which specializes in Chinese cooking, does a mean dim sum. Being dim sum fans, we just had to check it out.

We settled into a table fairly quickly -- our waitress just had to wipe it clean before we could sit down. She wiped it, though I wouldn't say it was clean. But we got past that. We were hungry, after all.

We waited a few minutes for tea and then a few more minutes to order. With only two waitresses working the floor, the service wasn't exactly speedy.

Unlike most dim sum restaurants, J & A does not bring carts of hot food by your table. Instead, you are provided with a slip of paper on which to tick off your choices from the menu.

We went with a range of standbys, like dumplings and spring rolls, along with a few more unique items (like cassava cake).

As we waited for the food we started to take note of J & A's decor, which includes a strange mixture of fake flowers, pink chairs, and Walt Disney characters on the walls.

First to hit the table were the Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings. These weren't exactly proper Chinese food, but they sounded good. And they tasted good. At first.

I was on my third wing when our whole experience started to go downhill. I bit into the wing and noticed that underneath the crispy skin was a whole lot of blood. How a chicken wing can be deep fried and crispy on the outside, but bloody on the inside, I'm still not sure. I stopped eating the wings and waited for the next item to arrive.

The Vietnamese Spring Rolls were up. Three puny spring rolls came on a small white plate. That's it. No sauce, and an odd number of rolls (there were two of us, as I said).

The rolls tasted about as good as they looked. In fact, they really reminded me of frozen appetizers from Costco. I'm just saying....

We asked the waitress if she had any type of sauce for the rolls. She brought us some plum sauce. In a package.

Next we got the Cassava Cake. This dense, yellow cake was hearty and very filling. Cassava, a root vegetable common in the tropics, is mixed into a sweet cake and then cut into squares. It tasted OK but I'm no cassava expert so I'll refrain from judgement here. Big Willie grew up eating the stuff and he thought J & A's version was on the sweet side.

Next up, another item and another disappointment: the Shrimp and Vegetable Dumplings.

Unlike any other dim sum restaurant I've ever visited, J & A serves dumplings in metal steam baskets instead of traditional bamboo steamers. That's a bit of a shame because the metal seems to dry the dumplings out while bamboo seems to retain more moisture. Plus the bamboo adds a touch of authenticity.

These dumplings were overcooked and the pastry pockets weren't even staying closed. And they had almost no flavour. Good Lord, it was time to take action.

We still had at least three more items to come, but me and Big Willie had more than enough by this point. We called the waitress over, pointed out the bloody chicken and asked her not to send any more items. Oh, and Big Willie mentioned that his teacup was dirty when it came to the table.

You might be thinking that we should have pointed out the chicken incident sooner. And we probably should have. But I like to be an easygoing diner and I was willing to let it slide at first, until everything else turned out to be a disappointment too.

We asked the waitress for our bill and she brought it quickly. Thankfully, she took the chicken and the items that never made it to our table off the bill.

We settled up, threw on our jackets and made a beeline for a real dim sum restaurant: The Four Seas on Rose Street.

To read my review of Four Seas, follow this link:

As for J & A, your quaint basement location in a convenient spot downtown almost had me at hello. Unfortunately, you blew it. Big time. We won't be back. And please lose the Mickey Mouse decorations.

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