Last night, I went to Judy's Cafe, on Bainbridge at 3rd. I wasn't expecting it to be crowded, but I had forgotten it was "Dine out for life" night (a benefit for AIDS that was going on throughout the city). Just as well! We had drinks at the small bar and it was such a nice atmosphere (slightly dim, but not TOO; bustling but not too noisy) that I didn't mind the wait.
The food was GREAT. I was starving and started with a country pate with walnuts. The pate was served on thin toast with a nice whole grain mustard. Though it didn't say all this on the menu, it also came with a small portion of vinegary mesclun, a pile of cornichon, and a GREAT fruit compote with figs, dried cherries, and dried apricots. I'm not usually a big fan of sweet things before dessert but I ate every bit of everything on my plate, leaving behind only a few grains of mustard. It was certainly enough food for a light meal.
But, since I was hungry, I got the rack of lamb (which is a splurge for me). I ordered it rare and as I first cut into it I thought it was a little too cooked, but the seared bits on the outside were very flavorful and crusty and it was juicy throughout. It came with a reduction that was, again, a little on the sweet side for me but was actually lovely -- very full flavored; I suspect it had some balsamic vinegar in it, and it almost definitely had a good-quality meat stock reduction. It also came with some haricot vert that were still very slightly crisp but not at all underdone (a pet peeve of mine). The potato gratin was the only unspectacular thing that I tried; the potatoes were very thinly sliced but could've done with a little more time in the oven, and the cheesy, creamy sauce was a bit too thin.
My friend ordered a five-mushroom soup (it needed a little fresh ground pepper, I thought), and salmon served with vegetables over jasmine rice.
We were too full for dessert but I really wanted to order the Key lime pie (which I'm told is quite good there). All of the desserts are made on the premises, which pleases me. The dessert list was also fairly extensive, with maybe 15 choices. I'll definitely be going back, and I'll try to save room for dessert. They had a well-considered list of bottled beer and a well-stocked bar of liqueurs, but I didn't check out the wine list.
One thing that annoyed me a little was the fact that, at the bottom of the menu, it said, "Two dollar surcharge to substitute our famous mashed potatoes for another side dish." Otherwise, the food was priced especially well for the quality, and we paid $70 for four drinks, two appetizers, and two mains. They also gave us a couple of coupons for a "buy 1-get the 2nd free" main course on Monday, Tuesday, or Wed. nights.
It was a little smoky, which has been bugging me lately, but it wasn't as bad as your usual bar. The service was very friendly.
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