My husband, father-in-law and I enjoyed a wonderful Saturday evening dinner at James a few weeks ago. The food was fabulous, although we did agree that some dishes were more impressive than others (we are pretty picky). Overall we were very pleased. The decor was modern and very well done, the staff was extremely welcoming, personable and knowledgeable. They clearly took pride in their job and product and we did not feel rushed in any way. In fact, we were there for close to 4 hours. Definitely worth the visit for foodies willing to spend a little.
Posted by Kim: Jun. June 2nd, 2009 at 8:25 PM
I've always believed that you can measure the quality of a meal by the lack of conversation during its consumption. Imagine, if you will, a quintet of DiBruno salesman, unwinding after a long December Friday. While physically exhausted from the day's work, we are filled to the brim with anticipation and the vitality of youth. Swigging house-infused gin martinis, we boast about the days transactions, our effusive banter approaching excessive decibels.
After two rounds, we are escorted to our table. U-shaped in the corner of the dining room, it affords us the opportunity to view other patrons as subjects, fortunate just to be dining in our presence. This serves to contribute to our brazen attitude, commenting freely on the beauty of women and attacking any minute flaw in eachother. We are greeted by Rob who, for lack of a better term, I will call our waiter, although his ability and personality deserve a more grandiose moniker.
With the type of abandon generally reserved for reckless drunks, we order the entire menu. "We'll pass it all around," I explain to Rob. Shortly thereafter, Rob returns flanked by two adjunct servers. With expert coordination, the first course is set out and announced with grandeur. The result: silence. Deep breaths. Appreciation. The langostino tempura, served with whipped ricotta, fresh grapefruit and crunchy black walnuts are sublime, perfectly balancing sweetness with citrus and earth. The squash soup with fennel mostarda and bacon unites the ideals of haute-cuisine with comfort food, and the crispy sweetbreads would convert even the staunchest animal-rights activist.
After the dishes are cleared, premonitions of greatness permeate our thoughts. Fully aware that Food and Wine magazine placed one of the ensuing plates in the nation's top ten, our formerly spirited assembly waits in a state of prescient salivation. The dish, Risotto alla Kristina, is the head chef's homage to his wife, and Kristina is worthy of the praise. Not only does she greet every patron at the door, she is the restaurant's manager and interior designer, creating a modernly elegant ambiance that is both calming and suave.
The second course arrives, and the expectations established by the first course are exceeded. The risotto is prepared with oysters and champagne, and while it is certainly worthy of recognition, it is outdone by a neighboring intermezzo. The braised rabbit angolotti is presented with sweet muscat grapes and pecorino di fossa, a pair that are at opposite ends of the taste spectrum. And while it may appear that these two ingredients would clash, they instead achieve a harmony and balance that force you to put down the fork and knife and contemplate life. Should I consider myself fortunate to eat this well, or should I be bitter that I cannot enjoy food of this stature every night?
As I consider the enigma, the main course is served. The Snapper is presented in such a way that only an artisan could conceive, its skin fried to a crisp and laid perpendicular to the filet, which is perfectly tender. My knife falls through it without the application of force. An unexpected spice awakens my palate and prepares it for the remaining dishes. With marked reluctancy, I pass my dish to the left and receive from my right.
The final entree in my rotation is the free range Poulard, presented with tender spinach, chanterelles and apricot-infused pan sauce. As the entire ensemble has now tasted each dish, we confer and agree. The quality of the Poulard cannot be expressed without the use of expletives.
The dessert menu is presented, and while the others indulge, I am in the mood for something simpler. As a passionate cheesemonger, I have firm convictions that no chef in the world can concoct a flavor as appealing as perfectly ripened Epoisses. James, fortunately, does not overcomplicate matters, serving it with sliced bread and fresh pears. The generous portion is the perfect exclamation point to a superb meal.
As the table was cleared, we considered options for prolonging the evening. It was agreed that a final round at the bar was the necessary course of action. Theo, bartender and liquor-infuser extrodinaire, greeted us with Scotch and Belgian beer. His smile and ebullient manner are contagious. Disappointed that it is time to depart, we reassure eachother that we will return soon, and we head into the winter cold warmed by the memories of our fabulous meal.
Posted by Hunter: Dec. December 17th, 2008 at 4:47 PM