Tried John D’s “American Bistro,” in Ferndale and will be back. There was a lot of hype about the place, on Y*lp. Now that I reread it, it appears to have been generated by having invited/planted a bunch of Y*lp posters at the soft opening Media Night. Just a guess, and not that I found too much of what they wrote to be bull.
I had the pulled duck sandwich ($12), sweet beet salad ($10), roasted tomato&pepper bisque ($5), and vegetarian panini ($8). Now for two perhaps contradictory comments: I feel the pricing is quite good for the quality received, but the only dish I’d soon order again is the bisque.
The duck seemingly was braised, pulled, very lightly packed into a droopy ball, and then fried a bit on the griddle and served on a “brioche” roll with, in essence, no toppings. (The sans toppings thing seems to be a theme—make good food that doesn’t need to be hidden under ketchup, Cajun spices and ranch dressing.) The sandwich, or “sliders,” was a fantastic concept. My only complaint was that the duck tasted a bit as if it was towards the tail end of its Best Before date. Just my luck of the draw. It was fine, and I did eat every bite. It came with fries which were extremely lightly beer-battered, sprinkled with parmesan powder, fried crisp and dressed with a little “truffle oil.” Excellent, and no the coatings did not dominate.
The roasted beet salad was somebody’s visual artwork, so bring a camera if you are in to that kind of thing. It came with goat cheese, arugula, walnuts, cranberries and a lot of honey or something. Too sweet for me, but I wouldn’t argue with someone who said it was really nice.
The roasted tomato and pepper bisque was homemade, of course, and---if you’ll excuse the parlance---complex and perfectly balanced. Don’t know what else to say; it was excellent. The veggie panini had an intensely flavorful fresh vegetable spread on a quality roll, but that was it. A quarter inch of veggie spread if I correctly recall. I unrealistically had been envisioning a thick slice of marinated portabella, a slice of roasted eggplant and roasted bell pepper, and cheese and greens, all stacked up. Regardless, I enjoyed it and it was very good for me, but I’ll probably try the burger next time.
Indeed, the food is worth going for. I almost didn’t go in, though, when I realized this was one of those cliché Ferndale places that has lots of concrete and all black and white décor, paired with techno music. Uninviting (I think I can hear the architect and owner hating on my ignorance, right about now). But, the charismatic hostess persuaded me to come in. Once there, I was welcomed by an excellent and (too) gorgeous waiter, the manager and the owner. These folks really, really want to ensure the guests are well taken care of.
Once I was settled in, near the front wall which was retracted up so I could enjoy the beautiful evening air and view the picturesque old post office (not sarcastic), I started feeling really good. My elder guest was offered “help” when selecting wine, and I was shocked that the wine suggested was the lowest priced offering on the list…and it was excellent. Big points for that waiter, who was first class throughout.
I must say, that while John D people are professional and intensely focused on their customers, the manager or owner (sorry, I forgot which one) didn’t seem very moved when I told him his beer list was grossly lacking. This piece of genuine feedback was preceded and followed by effusive positive feedback. I’m not the first to notice that shortcoming, either, so I guess we’ll see whether they’re really listening to their customers, or just listening to their distributor.
Next month, brunch and patio service start. If you come, you may see me there, so say Hi.