Jake & Humphrey’s Bistro New Hamburg

Jake & Humphrey’s Bistro
Address: 196 Peel Street, New Hamburg
Open: 11:30 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday
Cost: Lunch for two with glasses of wine is about $50
Contact: 519-662-1143; jakeandhumphreys.com

Amuse-bouche: The town of New Hamburg is home to a couple of good eateries with Jake & Humphreys’ Bistro helping lead the way with simple, fresh cuisine expertly executed and simply and enticingly presented.

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Chef-owners Klaus Ristanovic and Janet Duncan opened Jake and Humphrey’s Bistro a year or so ago and since then the New Hamburg restaurant has quietly gone about its business and created an enthused following of dining customers.

The old house on Peel Street—it must date to at least 100 years ago—is essentially split down the middle. On one side is a stark and minimally decorated dining room with a deep burnt reddish-orange paint treatment, a wonderful old hardwood floor and deep, deep woodwork trim with chairs and tables that former Artbar aficionados will recognize.

Art on the walls and the art of cooking.

There is some art on the walls, too, and the overall bistro effect is casual and pleasing if not a bit noisy because there is no fabric for dampening in the room. On the other side is a more casual dining room with rattan-style chairs. The name of the restaurant derives from the owners’ cat friends, though to their credit feline images are restrained.

Outside the back door are some herbs that get picked and used in your meal, including likely for the seven appetizers ranging in price from $6-$8 at lunch. Those dishes range from snail and mushrooms in a chicken broth to simple hummus on the kitchen’s own Melba toast. The most expensive dinner item, from roast pork loin, salmon, chicken supreme and a roasted veg plate is a $19 grilled strip loin.

Service is professional, knowledgeable and paced the meal well.

The classic salad ... made correctly.

At lunch, seared sea scallops with spinach and mushrooms entice with corn muffins, while Caesar salad appears quietly on the menu as romaine lettuce with the proper attributes of Parmesan, garlic, smokey bacon, croutons and an olive oil-based dressing that had silken texture and a really good kick without being overpowering.

Home-made bread.

A more rural country setting in New Hamburg and a dazzling fall day seemed to demand country-style pork and pistachio pate. And a chunky rustic pate it was too, so much so that the four thick slices with the crisp Melba toast was virtually a meal itself.

I have always imagined a fat pig snouting around the forest noshing on acorns, so it just seemed that the pork and nut combination was one of those ideal pairings of what grows together goes together. The flavours did coordinate well with the crunchy texture of the nut contrasting with the softer porcine protein.

The pistachio and the porcine; the pistachio IN the porcine.

The dish, though, was really set off nicely by the acidity in some home-made chutney, pickled carrots and beans, a cornichon and a small milkweed pod—what a fabulously creative and earthy idea.

The grilled cheese sandwich, whether the croque monsieur French version or its more simple American cousin, is a flexible, adaptable edible that can easily cross the line from diner fare to an absolute elegant delicacy.

It was indeed buttery.

The Jake & Humphrey’s Bistro rendition starts out with some hearty potato-oregano bread, rich and full-bodied, holding a trio of old Cheddar, Swiss and havarti cheeses. It’s delicious, though it should be noted that this serving was quite buttery indeed. Accompanying were some medallions of home-fry style potatoes nicely seasoned.

Now, word has been travelling to these parts that Jake & Humphreys’ Bistro puts up a pretty good burger. And that is precisely right; nice thing too is that you can ask for it to be a bit pink.

A wicked-good burger And a great soup side.

It’s a hefty affair with an inch-thick prime-rib patty, a good solid yet soft bun, loads of real Cheddar, smokey bacon, some fried onions and lettuce and tomato. It’s a wicked-good burger, and if you add a delicious fall Oktoberfest soup like cabbage, sausage-nugget meatballs and caraway dumpling you have a very filling and scrumptious lunch—and for only $11.

Desserts include bread pudding, a brownie, poppy seed angel cake and apple crisp, but a bright crisp day seemed to demand a bright crisp lemon tart with a nicely caramelized meringue.

The key notes here were two-fold: one, the lemon curd was hugely lemony yet hit the perfect balance of sweet and tart in its satiny smoothness; and two, the crust had excellent snap and texture and itself wasn’t too sweet. That crispness is an indication that the first was not added to the second until the moment the dish was served. The rival flavour on the plate? Some sour cream ice cream was a perfect accompaniment with a couple of small biscotti.

Delicious lemon curd; lovely crust. And the two were put together at the right time.

Jake & Humphrey’s Bistro keep their cooking simple, yet chock-full of flavour. And the drive through farm country to the town of New Hamburg is simply divine with the flavour and colour of fall in the air.

The real felines aren't around any longer.

Restaurant reviews are based on anonymous and unannounced visits to the establishments. Restaurants do not pay for any portion of the reviewer’s meal. Listen to “The Food Show” Sundays at noon on 570 All News Radio. Andrew Coppolino can be reached at apcoppolino@rogers.com.

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Been there? Try these:

Elixir Bistro
34 Main Street, Cambridge
519-623-2800; elixirbistro.ca

With simple Mediterranean ingredients and flavours in a casual bistro setting, Elixir strives to hit classic notes from Caesar salad and escargot to duck confit to filet mignon. Along the way there is a chicken basquaise and a saffron-tinged bouillabaisse.

Babelfish Bistro
80 Macdonell Street, Guelph
519-826-6709; babelfishbistro.com

Casual dining in a pleasant and cosy venue that draws on a range of flavours and ingredients to inject some verve and energy into several thoughtful dishes. Service is efficient and professional too.

Enver’s of Morriston
42 Queen Street, Morriston
519-821-2852; enversofmorriston.ca

Situated such that it picks up customers from Hamilton, Toronto, Guelph and Waterloo Region, Enver’s sits quietly doing what it does best: letting chef Ken Hodgins find seasonal ingredients to prepare inventive yet understated dishes that please palate and eye. Space is limited so reservations are probably a good idea.

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