chris atchison/metro toronto
Tom Jones Steakhouse And Seafood
Address: 17 Leader Lane
Hours: M - F: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., S-S: 5 p.m. – 1:30 a.m.
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip: $150
**** 1/2 (out of five)
When George Goutzioulis bought Tom Jones Steakhouse in 1966, the restaurant offered just five items on the menu and was one of only a small handful of fine beef emporiums in a very Anglo-Saxon Toronto, still known by its prudish nickname “The Good.”
Nearly 32 years later, Tom Jones is still thriving in that same old building on Leader Lane — which housed the original Grand & Toy store, run by Mr. Grand and Mr. Toy, in 1882 — and still catering to its loyal clientele of movers and shakers. It continues to serves some of the city’s choicest U.S. cuts.
Much has changed since those early days, restaurateur Goutzioulis admits, particularly the ethnic composition of a city that was largely homogeneous when he emigrated here from Greece in 1957.
“Toronto, and the restaurant business as a whole, has changed so drastically because it has become a more cosmopolitan city with the diversity of ethnic people here and the versatility of ethnic food,” Goutzioulis says. “Every time a new business comes in, it makes us work harder to be better because we have to compete.”
These sea changes aside, Tom Jones has maintained its dimly-lit steakhouse charm with multiple dining rooms accented by stained glass and photos of the Toronto of our grandparents’ generation, all tended by discreet, tuxedo-clad waiters. Then, of course, there is the meat — Tom Jones’ raison d’etre.
The 12-ounce Prime New York strip loin, like all their steaks, is char-grilled on an open gas flame in the restaurant’s tiny kitchen manned some nights by Goutzioulis himself, but more often by his chefs Nick Pantazis and Larry Triantafilou.
The meat is perfectly marbled and — uncharacteristic of many of the restaurant’s newer rivals — is paired with a choice of side.
The filet of fresh Atlantic salmon is deliciously moist and topped with a light Hollandaise sauce. It should be noted that Tom Jones’ Dover sole is considered one of the best in the city for a very good reason.
Goutzioulis has adhered to a tried and true steakhouse philosophy: Keep the service precise, the menu simple — beef, a pork and a lamb choice, and an array of fish and seafood — the atmosphere relaxing but appropriate for business, the wine list varied (ranging up to $2,500 per bottle) and the meat prize-worthy.
He calls it his recipe for success and longevity in the business.
No argument here.