It was my birthday and my husband wanted to treat me to an evening at Jean-Robert’s Table in Downtown. It is quite convenient as it’s right next to a parking lot, which is a Godsend if you are wearing high heels. The first thing you notice are the wonderful paintings on the walls by Leslie Shiels, a prominent Cincinnati artist, which have as their subjects famous or everyday people with a bird around them. Mick Jagger has a wood duck on his shoulder, for instance. Our waiter was very professional, the menu was diverse but with a good lot of fish dishes. Many specials this Thursday, one that sticks in my mind as a great example of the humorous take of the chef was a Red’s Salad composed totally of red vegetables, lobster, and garnished with peanuts and Cracker Jack (as is mentioned in the American classic song “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”).
However, they were featuring morel mushrooms at the time, and you don’t get to indulge in them every day. I chose an appetizer of morels and asparagus in a cream sauce with an egg poached in red wine and a vol au vent pastry shell. Then veal with morel cream sauce. I was asked how I wanted my veal done (this is a very nice touch you don’t normally get in a fine restaurant and the attitude that the chef knows better than you do has caused me a couple of 3 a.m. wake up calls when I had to contend with food poisoning). I said he should cook the meat as well done as possible while not wrecking it. I put my trust in the chef entirely. I suspect that this is harder to do than you think, cook a meat to its limit of good done-ness, and would show off the skill of the cook. Would I be disappointed?
We ordered martinis. They were just what you think of when you think of a great martini. The appetizer was fabulous. The flavor of the morels was allowed to shine through a beautiful brown cream sauce which enhanced the mushrooms like the perfect setting enhances a diamond. The pastry was flaky and delightful. I am not partial to eggs, but I am sure that if I was, I would have found the tiny red wine poached egg to be heavenly.
The main course was divine. Not a trace of pink in the veal and it was fat free, tender, and took to the sauce like, well, they were made for each other. The sauce was brought separately and I was allowed to put it on myself rather than to be at the whim of the waiter. This was quite like the appetizer, but that was my choice and there seemed to be a subtle difference between the cream sauce of the first course and this one. There were accompanying potatoes Galette, asparagus, an onion comfit, and sweetbreads which were a true treat (hot, golden, and expertly cooked).
Desert was a fabulous little Napoleon. Not the paste-of-sugar-mashed-onto-the-top kind, this was a tiny bit of flake pastry which had had its top toasted to the most perfect perfect perfect golden brown, filled with a beautiful gooey Bavarian cream sort of filling, and sliced strawberries which were so much better than what you get in the store. It was a poem of a desert. They did attach a candle to the dish it came in, as well…since it was my birthday.
The portions were exactly right, that is not something which you can say so much any more. So many fine dining establishments over-feed you and present you with a glopping big meal to wolf down. That is wrong. I want to taste and to be encouraged to savor every mouthful. Too much food on the plate just makes it all less “valuable” and somehow demands you to shove it all in your pie hole as quickly as possible.
After three courses, drinks, wine (a very good but not wonderful red by-the-glass), after dinner drink, and espresso for two people; the bill was less than the $200 I expected it to be. For the quality of the food, I would say this is a wild bargain.