Wednesday, November 21, 2007

James (on 8th)

Jess' Take:
This place is amazing. I’d heard quite a bit about it, but was always discouraged by the location (8th and Catherine) – a little too far south for me. But it was open on a Monday. And, we discovered, well worth the trek (which wasn’t actually much of a trek). The purpose of this blog is to comment on the food and not the atmosphere, but I’ll break that rule quickly here. It was so warm and cozy, with a fire place and chocolaty, warm colors, I wanted to stay all night. It may have had something to do with the dreary cold rain outside, but whatever it was I walked in and was right at home.
Although the menu calls for three courses, we opted for two each… knowing that dessert was a very viable option. I went for the braised rabbit agnolotti, muscat grapes & pecorino di fossa. Not something very typical for me, but I was feeling warm and fuzzy (maybe that was from my Hendrix & melon cocktail). I was not disappointed. The portion was small, but enough for this fairly rich rabbit ravioli. The grapes added a very interesting sweetness to the otherwise salty sauce. It was very satisfying, especially with a glass of pinot noir.
I ordered the butter braised john dory fillets, porcini & crisp apple for my second course. The fish fillets were meaty and delicious and complimented by thin slivers of apples. The dish was drizzled in foam of some sort – isn’t everything nowadays? Again, small portion but very rich. I should have been done here, but of course dessert was calling my name… specifically the pumpkin mousse with cardamom ice cream (homemade on premise) (pictured at top). I could have just had that ice cream and been satisfied for the rest of the week. It was delicious. The mousse was good too, moist and typical of pumpkin unsweet, but couldn’t hold a candle to its accompaniment.
Overall this was a great dinner. I left very full (no need to order three courses here) and satisfied. I would have happily stayed for another cocktail by the fireplace, but it was Monday and technically, that’s my “dry” day. Oops. I give it 4 happy diners out of 4.

Wade's Take:

James on 8th, you made me happy.

I began with the butternut squash soup, poured together at the table, melded with bacon. The soup proved more salty than sweet. It left me thirsty, but feeling warm and effectively appetized.

My second course was the halibut in wrapped in a fennel nest, atop a saffron-basil sauce with celery. If I were a halibut, despite being dead, I would be most pleased to have been prepared some scrumptiously. The fish was moist, and perfectly cooked. The nest of fennel it was tightly wrapped in added more exquisite flavor. The celery was near impossible to eat, limp and stringy. Perhaps it was just an accoutrement to the main dish, not meant to be eaten. Nonetheless, I used it to enjoy the saffron-basil sauce that surrounded it.

As always, the most critical course was dessert. I ordered a chocolate terrine on fried bread (fancy pants term for buttered toast), rock salted with some fleur de sel. What it equated too was a rich chocolate goodness, dense and intense. Imagine an entire flourless chocolate cake, pressed into a 3 by 2 mold. Add some salt to the top, and lay the whole thing on some warm buttered bread. Hard to eat? Very. Worth ordering nonetheless? Absolutely.

The location was warm and inviting, almost like we were had a hipster friend’s house on a cold rainy Monday evening, commiserating over the start of the week amidst a dinner party. The sloped ceiling and comfortable, smoothly designed furniture added to our comfort.

The service was prompt and friendly. Our server’s exotic cheekbones were so sharp that she offered to slice our bread on her cheek flesh. Alas, we declined her offer.

James on 8th, I’ll be back.

Three out of four Eighths.

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