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.