Last Saturday night, the wife and I had a date and used a Groupon for dinner at James (824 S 8th St). The room is absolutely gorgeous; it’s a mix of modern and traditional and if I could furnish my home in the same way, I would. To start, our waitress, I believe her name was Brea gave us a full description of the menu and some highlights in just enough detail and provided more when asked. This is evidence of good training and a passion for food.
On her recommendation, we ordered individual appetizers, a shared pasta, and entrees. Before our 1st course arrived, the chef treated us (and everyone else in the restaurant) to a creamy mushroom amuse bouche. It was served in a demi-tea-cup and the minimal amount was enough to preview what was to come in our meal. I started with a special that night: a kindai tuna crudo which is a unique tuna in itself. This variety of bluefin tuna “are farm-raised from eggs hatched in a laboratory, rather than being taken from wild stocks — a process so revolutionary that it ranked second on Time Magazine’s 50 Best Inventions of 2009 (http://aol.it/bQw6r9).” It was served simply with shaved fennel dressed with yuzu and was delicious. The wife enjoyed the 1st of 2 interesting presentations, a matsutake mushroom with smoky consomme. The mushrooms arrived freshly sliced in a bowl and the consomme was gently poured over them which released the aroma to me across the table. The combination was perfectly delicate and flavorful.
Next, we shared the hand cut pappardelle with duck ragu. Once the plate landed, the server shaved bitter chocolate on top which enhanced the earthiness of the dish. I’ve used chocolate in chili for this purpose, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen it on pasta. This dish was amazing and is apparently a favorite at James; I can see why.
For our entrees, I had the butter poached lobster which was divine (if just a bit small). I would have happily eaten three of what was served, but maybe that’s because it was perfectly prepared and, well, yummy. The wife had the sirloin with brown butter potatoes. This dish was well prepared, but not as outstanding as the rest of the meal. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t stand up to everything else.
For dessert, we had a cheese plate (perfect!) and a local apple Napoleon. Like any Napoleon (and black cars for that matter), it was pretty until we touched it…and got very messy from that point on. Messiness aside, the caramel, butterscotch and apples really got me into the Fall spirit. It was a sweet ending to an enjoyable meal.