Restaurant Week in Boston: French dining at Brasserie JO

Dinner at Brasserie Jo

It’s Restaurant Week here in Boston, so the other night, my friend Alison and I went to Brasserie JO for dinner. We went there for the first time last fall, also for Restaurant Week. I’d probably go more often, but the menu is just a little too pricey. It’s more of a “special occasion” place. Or it’s a Restaurant Week place. You can get a 3-course meal for $33.12 this week, cheaper than a lot of main dishes on the regular menu.

One of my favorite things about Brasserie JO is the bread. Brasserie JO is one of only two places (I’ll write about the other in another post someday) that I have found this side of the pond that actually makes good French bread. Believe me, I have high standards. Along with the bread, diners automatically get a unique little amuse-bouche of spiced carrot sticks.

The Restaurant Week menu is limited to only a few choices, but they are mostly items you could also get on the regular menu. For a first course, Alison and I both had the Frisée and Endive Salad with Pickled Leeks, Grapefruit, Pistachios, and Thyme Vinaigrette. I don’t think I’ve ever had a pickled leek before, but I would definitely have them again. I almost never eat salad at home, because I just can’t seem to duplicate the restaurant salad experience. Part of it is that I would never think to put grapefruit and pistachios together in one dish!

For the main course, Alison had the coq au vin. I had planned to get the chicken, too, but then suddenly I was struck with a more adventurous spirit. Instead, I got the Farro Rissolés with Raclette, Spinach. Now let me be honest. When I read the menu online prior to arriving, I had to google a bunch of stuff. I had no idea what fluke was (a flat fish, like flounder) or what ramp butter was (a compound butter made with a type of really strong onion) or what fondant potatoes were (but don’t they sound delicious?!), and I certainly had no idea what farro rissolés were! I did know that farro was a kind of grain. The definition of a rissolé is a little harder to pin down. The word come from rissoler, which in French means “to brown.” Essentially they’re like croquettes. Or meatballs… that don’t necessarily contain meat, like the farro ones I had. Overall the dish was very good. It was an unusual taste that I’ve never really experienced before. I’m sure the coq au vin was fabulous, but I’m glad I tried something new. I was a little confused and disappointed by the accompaniments. One word I didn’t bother looking up ahead of time was raclette. I know raclette is more of a technique rather than an actual food item, though it is also a type of Swiss cheese. Typically raclette is melted cheese that you scrape off of a hot metal plate and onto your food (usually potatoes and, strangely, pickles). The word comes from the French racler – to scrape. Appropriately,raclette is also the French word for squeegee. There were no squeegees involved in my farro rissolés. There also wasn’t any scrapable cheese. I suppose there could have been actual raclette (the cheese type, not the squeegee type) baked into the farro balls, but that would just be weird and unnecessary. Of all the Swiss cheeses you could put into a meatless meatball, why would you put the kind that your supposed to squeegee onto pickles?

Besides the cuisine and the typical brasserie decor (white tablecloths, rattan chairs), the other thing that makes Brasserie JO authentic is the wait staff. From what I’ve seen, they’re all surly and abrupt in the stereotypically French way. When the waiter brought us dessert, he nearly threw it on the table then mumbled something unintelligible and stormed away. I had the Cappuccino Pot-de-Crème. The only thing wrong was that it was too small. Then again, I’m pretty sure a bathtub full of coffee mousse wouldn’t be big enough! Alison had the Molten Chocolate Cake with Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. I thought it looked delicious and I don’t even like fruity ice cream!

If I thought my dessert looked a little skimpy, maybe that’s because the women sitting at the table next to us, who ordered from the regular menu, were brought the biggest profiteroles I’ve ever seen, two towering puffs each filled with two heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream and smothered in chocolate sauce. I’m pretty sure the next time I go to Brasserie JO, I’m just going to order bread and profiteroles. I think the French would approve.

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6 Responses to Restaurant Week in Boston: French dining at Brasserie JO

  1. I love your comment about the waiter throwing the dessert down on the table – that has been our experience with the staff at Brasserie Jo as well. I do love their cocktails though – also a bit expensive unfortunately! We reviewed their drinks a few months ago – http://boozeinboston.com/2011/10/25/brasserie-jo/

    Thanks for a review of their Restaurant Week menu – we ended up going to Capital Grill and also have reservations at Bacco for Friday. I’ll have to keep Brasserie Jo in mind for next time restaurant week rolls around!

    • nicoleegidio says:

      I’m glad you liked my review! I’m also happy to see I’m not the only one who feels that way about the service at Brasserie JO. I felt bad overgeneralizing on the basis of two dinners. I also went to the Capital Grille last week, so good choice. You really can’t go wrong there. Their flourless chocolate espresso cake is to die for! (and the steak’s not bad either *wink*)

    • I can’t imagine what makes you think the surly waiters are therefore “authentic”–when did you last go to France?! I’ve been spending part of every year there for more than a decade and warmer, more thoughtful, more expert waiters I have never met. Of course if you spoke English as if you were at home, without even trying to say bonne soiree and mispronounce–bien sur, who doesn’t?!–your menu choices it might have ticked someone off. My guess is that those surly waiters (whom I’m lucky to have escaped on my two trips to Brasserie Jo) learned rudeness in its international capital, Boston Massachusetts.

      • nicoleegidio says:

        I didn’t meant to offend you (or the French) with my over-generalizations. I was just joking, really. The French, and their waitstaff, aren’t typically known for the “warmth” you describe as your experience. You’re incredibly lucky to have spent so much time in France, and you’re even luckier to have never had poor service. I lived there in 2010-2011 (I speak French quite well) and I certainly had my fair share of surly waiters. Do I think that *all* French waiters are rude? Of course not. Do I think that some American waiters are as bad or worse? Definitely. To be honest, I don’t care. The waiter doesn’t have to be my best friend. As long as the food is good, I’ll keep coming back.

        I’m sorry you don’t like Boston, but thanks for your comment! 🙂

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