When Jardiniere first opened (around 1997) it was my favorite restaurant in the city.
I will never forget my first meal there; two of us ordered a tasting menu, and they brought two different things for each course. All delicious. The room was gorgeous and the service impeccable.
When I returned a year or so later with another friend, the food was still great, but not quite as good, and this time, everybody got the same thing for each course.
Another year later, I brought other friends, but the food was not as good, it had fallen off a bit, and given the apparent trajectory, I was not tempted to go back.
So, prior to last Monday, I had not been back for about 10 years. I shall not return.
Monday is their prix fixe night, and I'd heard good things. A friend was in town and wanted to go out on a Monday, so when I saw it, I grabbed a table for 5 on opentable, at 8PM.
We entered early, (20 minutes early) and the greeter told us that the table was not ready yet. No problem, we'll hang out in the lounge/bar area until the table is ready. One friend was already at the bar, awaiting a drink he'd ordered. Rather than my ordering at the bar, the bartender suggested we let a waiter take our orders in the lounge, and he'd send over my friend's drink. So we nabbed some seats in the not-at-all-busy lounge area. Two of us sat on a banquette, the others on some square tuffets placed on the other side of a table.
Note that we did not move those tuffets before being seated. As we waited for someone to take an order, snippy busboy says to my friend on a tuffet "you need to move so that we can get through here". The tuffet was apparently blocking passage between our cocktail table and a pillar. A pillar which the busboy could easily walk around. So my friend skootches over, and snippy busbboy says "That's not far enough. We need to get through here with dishes and drinks". So my friend moves farther, asking snippy busboy why the chair was placed there in the first place. Snippy busboy too busy to answer. And so we wait about 10 minutes. Nobody comes to take a drink order, and my friend's drink does not come.
So I sidle up to the bar, to inquire about my friend's drink . The bartender was waiting for the waiter to drop off an order, he was going to send them together. I say "You know, the guy over there snapped at us, and nobody's taken our order, so I'd just like to get it directly from you if you don't mind." Barback murmurs "That's not good" as bartender makes delicious drinks for us.
Back to the table with drinks. We finish them. Nice waiter comes along, "Would you like another round of drinks?" I inquire, "Well, what time is it?" Confused, waiter checks watch and says "Ten after 8". Me: "Well, our table was for 8, could you check if it's ready?" Waiter consults with greeter 10 feet away and comes back with "Ah, yes, your table is ready, right this way."
Okay, upstairs we go for dinner. We all order the prix fixe. Three courses with wine pairings, $45. Sounds like a good deal, no? Okay, before we get to the food, more on the service upstairs. I swear, it felt like they had a staff of thousands, none of them assigned to us. People kept whizzing by. All I know is, it took us over 2 hours to have 3 tiny courses (EDIT: to be fair we added an espresso in this time). During one of our periods of grand desertion, I attempted to get a second dinner roll. 5 people whiz by my expectant face. Eventually, as I am preparing to tie a string my chair leg to one across the aisle, in the hopes of tripping a serviceperson into submission, I manage to stop someone by asking, in a voice louder than I would have preferred to need to use, "May I have another roll please."
Okay, but the food.
Brandade on toast with tomato salad.
Go to epicurious.com and search for "Brandada". Make that recipe. It is a fantastic recipe. It will be way better than what we had at Jardiniere. Plus you will be able to have a portion big enough to enjoy it. Don't worry about the lack of tomato salad. The ones at Jardiniere had no flavor.
Little Monterey squid stuffed with sausage and served with beans.
This was very good. No complaints about the flavor. But the portion was small.
Dessert. Something they called a languedoc (after the region) which looks kind of like 3 puffy round nacho chips covered with powdered sugar. Served with a little white rectangle of pudding-textured stuff and a little pile of chopped apple stuff. We asked the server what a Languedoc was, he said they made it up and it's basically a nacho. Kudos to him for honesty. When you fire the entire front room staff, Tracy, you can keep this guy and the guys behind the bar. Okay so the little chips did not taste fresh, they were made ahead and sugared before serving, so they were not even crunchy. They tasted kind of like the shells they use to serve tostadas in. The white pudding-y thing was bland, basically empty calories with no redeeming feature. The apple pile reminded me of the apple filling from those old Swanson TV dinners, that would have one little square for an apple cobbler or something. It was like that.
I left hungry and had a snack when I got home.
So, basically, it's like the old joke:
Q: How was the food?
A: Terrible, but at least the portions were small.