Congee | Crystal Palace 10 King Street South Waterloo, ON …
After a visit this past weekend, my hat is off to Brian Plouffe and the staff at King Street Trio (KST) in the heart of Uptown Waterloo.
I’ve known Plouffe for many years, going back to the days of KST when it was established on University Avenue just about at Weber Street Street in Waterloo.
He expanded operations a while back and opened King Crab Oyster Bar on Victoria Street and River Road, a venue he shuttered a few years ago.
He’s made a few other significant changes in the decades he’s been a part of the food and beverage scene.
Plouffe is a seasoned restaurateur with the bona fides and experience that has got him through landlord issues, construction, infrastructure break-down, polar vortex winters, and the trials and tribulations of hellish ION-LRT construction in which all businesses had to fend for themselves.
None of that even mentions the fiercely competitive industry that makes up food and beverage.
Plouffe is analytical about the market and his clientele, and he made a tough decision based on crunching the numbers a few years ago to stop serving lunch; it’s a decision he says has worked well for the business. (KST is open six days a week and only for dinner; closed Sunday.)
He was concerned about that decision when he first made it, but KST has come through it all stronger now than ever. The restaurant, according to Plouffe, is doing well, and business in general in the downtown is picking up. You can hear that from a number of other owners.
In addition, his initial skepticism about the LRT has modulated into cautious optimism, shall we say? He says he’s looking forward to seeing how — and if — it can boost commerce in the area. (Aren’t we all?)
I think the key is that Plouffe has been quite savvy at honing and refining who his market is, the demographic he is targetting and the customer-base he’s nurturing. In the restaurant game, getting customers in the door is half the battle; getting them to come back again is the other. Diners are fickle and picky.
A recent wintry cold Friday night saw a slow build of customers coming through the door and pretty much filling the dining room.
What I would say is that Plouffe is masterful at watching his front-of-house. That makes a big difference. The way he greets guests is genuine, sincere and very smooth, whether he knows them as regulars or not. I think that’s a big key to success.
He sets up tables, takes coats, and buses and clears used plates and cutlery. He’s trained his staff well too — Alex, for example, is excellent.
Add to the cool interior design with pressed tin tiles, wood, brick, steel tubing and re-purposed materials (the helix-like swirl of boards overhead mimics the railroad tracks beside and now in front of the building), the open kitchen is an important part of the dynamic of the restaurant.
That’s the purview of Kyle Rennie, who has been chef at KST since late 2017. It was a smart move by Plouffe.
Rennie puts together good menus and good dishes and has found a niche for his cooking in the downtown. He likes to experiment on the odd occasion too.
Having cooked at Auberge de Pommier, Thuet Bakery, Splendido and with Jason Parsons and David Lee, he knows his stuff and brings a solid pedigree with him.
As just one example of several I’ve tried, he’s created a very good red wine-braised lamb shank, perfect for winter. It’s seasoned with star anise, cinnamon and cloves and sits along side a rich mushroom risotto and is garnished with toasted pistachios.
That KST has persevered and thrived is a testament to the restaurant’s dedication and hard work, front-of-house and back..
So kudos to them for defining their niche and taking care of business in Waterloo.