We had some Lettuce Entertain You gift certificates to burn and, since its in our neighborhood, my wife and I decided to dine at Brasserie Jo last night. As I have perceived in previous visits to the place, it remains one of the least Lettuce-like of all the Melman properties. First, the smoking: BJ may think it a cute reference to the tobacco-addicted French, but theres almost no place to escape the fumes coming from the bar and adjacent smoking section. Second, Brasserie Jo has always lacked that certain energy common to other LEY restaurants. Maybe its Jean Johos low-key influence, but we were greeted and seated in a most downbeat and perfunctory manner.
Things improved a bit when our waiter, more in the LEY mold, offered us menus and cocktails. We each ordered a glass of a Rhone red for $9.50. Nice wine, but a stingy pour and one of the smallest wine glasses I can remember seeing in a restaurant. My wife ordered pumpkin bisque and Coq Au Vin; I ordered the daily special, roast pork with sautéed potatoes and spinach. The waiter left us sweet butter and a small, warm French baguette in a paper bag, a nice touch.
Virtually everything we ordered was salty, on the edge of too salty. In fact, my wife sent back the side dish that came with the Coq Au Vin, some little spaetzle-like objects which had been rendered inedible by a heavy hand with the salt shaker.
One good note: the busboy, brand-new to the restaurant, was world-classa silent wraith, effortlessly refilling water glasses, removing plates and silverware. Hell soon be working at one of the top spots in the city.
I wish I had enjoyed my Brasserie Jo experience more, gift certificates or not. I believe the main office needs to come in and knock some heads together, both in the kitchen and front-of-house. As we were leaving, my wife perfectly summed it up when she turned to me and said, Lets not come here again.
59 W. Hubbard St.