Joseph Leonard

Images I was in town last night and Joseph Leonard was a must since I am the only one in the family who has not gone yet.  Fred has been a few times.  He said when he went somethings were better than others.  It does take time to get a restaurant humming so I am actually glad that I was able to wait a few weeks from opening to go. 

I went with Josh and Fred.  We sat at the bar.  Gabe told us that he has already gone through a few line cooks and a sous chef but he now feels that the kitchen is in place so he is going to open for lunch next week.  He chose to open the day his liquor license came through so there wasn't really any time for pre-opening with friends and family so the last couple of weeks were sort of that.  The good news is that customers have already been back 3-4 times. 

In full disclosure, we are investors in Joseph Leonard.  I am going to be completely honest in this review about the food.  In many ways, I found myself kind of nervous to taste the food and more critical because I wanted to be honest, IMHO, on my blog.  I can tell you that I am breathing a huge sigh of relief.  The food last night was absolutely fantastic.  Truly delicious.

We started off with a dozen oysters.  Fresh, briny, solid.  Next out was the tomato tart.  Fred had it before and said it was okay.  He said that last nights tart was a completely different experience.  It was fantastic.  Puffed pastry wrapped almost like a pastry with high sides.  The bottom of the tart was melted brie and then over that were thick chunks of heirloom tomatoes.  Melted in my mouth.  Josh was bold and went for the steak tartare.  I do love raw meat but generally steak tartare in restaurants is a little funky as they add strange spices.  Not here.  A scoop of steak tartare which was subtley seasoned and a gooey poached egg on top to mix into the meat.  Over that was 2 huge crispy crusty onion rings and a large handful of thinly sliced toasty baguette pieces.  Sublime. 

Next out was our main courses.  Fred went with the cod.  Cod was roasted with peas and a few other things.  I can't recall as they are tweaking the menu.  Fred loved it.  I had a small bite.  I went with the Old Bay crusted soft shell crab which was perfectly cooked over a mixture of corn, fava beans and bacon salad.  The crispy bacon was the key.  Mouth watering salad.  Josh had the pan fried chicken over mashed potatoes.  Josh generally gives me hell every time I make chicken but he was in the mood.  He told Gabe that it was the third best chicken dish he had ever had in a restaurant.  The other 2 are at Brasserie Lipp and L'Ami Louis both in Paris.  As a side dish we went with the stuffing which is almost decadent served in a small Corning ware dish.  The veggies in it are very summery.  Too bad because it would be fantastic in the turkey at Thanksgiving.

We bagged dessert as we were stuffed to the brim.  The other highlight was a white wine we drank.  Really funky and eclectic made from nuns in Italy.  Swear.  You can't make that stuff up. 

The menu is large enough that you can continue to go back every week although the lines are quite long.  A great vibe.  Honestly, the food is fantastic.  The chef, James McDuffee, has hit his stride. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. bijan

    i was at joseph leonard last thursday with lauren and the kids.gabe couldn’t have been nicerlauren had the tart and the cod and was in heaven.we all had an amazing meal. love that place.

  2. Jai

    Funky wine made from nuns? Does the Vatican know about this?

  3. francinebruni

    Congratulations on the restaurant. Went the other night…here are my honest, constructive, thoughts which hopefully will only help the restaurant tweak things and get better. I am rooting for it to be a success. I should say in advance I am a huge fan of Little Owl and Market Table – so here goes….First, the space and its vibe are GREAT. Wonderful look and feel. Music was a bit loud for my taste, but totally appropriate. Cute little effect in the bathroom with the q-tips, toothpicks, altoids, etc, in the medicine cabinet. Made me smile.OK… the food.Was hoping to start with Jonah Crab Claws which were on the menu, but they were out of at 5:30 pm. It was a Sunday, maybe they had a huge run on them the night before and couldn’t restock during the weekend. But I do hope they have them next time!Corn Soup – fell flat. Needed seasoning and a bit more depth of flavor/corn taste.Cod – fish was really tasty and well cooked. Served over orzo, peas and chanterelles, which tasted good, not great. The peas were starchy and the chanterelles could have been a bit more cooked to bring out their flavor. Could be a great dish though.Hash brown – delicious! Flavorful! Crunch outside, soft interior. but…. a bit greasy. If the kitchen were to just blot it well on a paper towel before serving it would be amazing!Heirloom tomato salad – Ok – at this time of year, you’ve got to hope for amazing tomatoes, corn etc. Here’s what I thought. 2/3 or the tomatoes were DELICIOUS!!! The dressing/herbs on the tomatoes was sublime. Perfectly seasoned. But among the delcious tomatoes, was one pesky roma-looking tomato that tasted like cardboard. Bummer….. Also, the little fried garnish is cute (kadaif dough??), albeit extraneous, but had no salt or seasoning – so was not interesting to eat.All in all, I’m really glad I went, really glad that Joseph Leonard is there and I’m eager to try it again and become a regular. Every restaurant has to work out the kinks. I’m sending you guys good vibes that the consistency comes and the details are tended to.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Great comments as I am sure they will be read!joanne [email protected]

  4. dlifson

    Do you know if they are open for lunch? I went to their website but there isn’t any info there. Thanks!

  5. kenberger

    It’s fascinating to observe a restaurant in its “getting humming” phase– no matter how experienced the proprietors and staff are, no matter how much planning and smart choices go into it, there’s just no substitute for time and interactive feedback from guests during the formative period of any restaurant.I hear from well-informed sources that JL is shaping up quite nicely, quickly, and that the menu is a relative value.On a somewhat related note, we went to the newly-opened Bia Garden in the LES last night. I crave the Saigon open air BBQ/beer gardens, having a business connection in Vietnam, and this place is a winner. Loved the vibe and appetizers, but there were plenty of mistakes (open less than a week). Cool thing is the staff is very vigilant and accommodating, actively wants feedback to see what works and doesn’t work (tip: don’t get the curried frog!)

  6. Yule Heibel

    You’re a serious foodie who goes to many different restaurants, eateries, cafes, bars, etc., but I have to ask you about a non-food issue. I really want your take on this: a bit further down, francinebruni gave some feedback, including, “Music was a bit loud for my taste, but totally appropriate.” What influences a restaurant’s choice of music (and music volume)? Is it all personal (owner’s) choice, or are there trends that restaurants follow?I’m in Vancouver this week, and eating out way more often than I normally do: breakfast, lunch, dinner. Maybe I’m getting old, but I have to say that I totally don’t get the music choices of many restaurants and cafes.First, it’s usually so loud that you have to raise your voice considerably if you want to have a conversation with people on either side or across the table from you. If the other people aren’t also shouting, you miss half of what they’re saying. Many cafes crank the music up, too – coupled with coffee grinders, it doesn’t make for a situation where you can converse. I don’t know what the point of really loud music in restaurants / cafes is. Do you have any thoughts on this? If it’s a trend, will it go away (she asks hopefully)?Second, if I’m trying to enjoy a meal, listening to what I call “eat to the beat” rhythms drives me bonkers. You know – the kind of music that expects your body to hop or tap or bounce up and down, to do something (vs sitting, eating, talking, listening). It’s so damn distracting! I want to concentrate on the food, and on the company/ conversation. Having a fast-paced rat-a-tat-tat drum- or bass-beat (cranked up loud) kind of defeats the purpose.What do you think? Am I being cranky, or is this something that’s bugging other people, too?

    1. Gotham Gal

      Most of the music played is the taste of the owners or the people who arerunning the café. Personally, I love the indie music but it drives me crazywhen restaurants have the music so loud that you can’t hear your own words.It is definitely for the young at heart who must have better hearing thanus. I am not sure it is a trend but something you have just recentlynoticed. If probably didn’t bother you years ago. The trends, in therestaurant biz as I see them, are returning to small intimate restaurantswhere the entire place is one brand. So, the food and the décor work withthe music. If it is for you, great, if not, go down the block.BTW, this is an issue that is becoming more relevant as 50 is the new 30because everyone, regardless of age, is going to the same restaurants andthe noise level is harder as you get older. Fred actually has come up withan invention for that which I will not disclose but maybe he is on tosomething.

      1. Yule Heibel

        Well, I’m looking forward to hearing more about that invention of Fred’s when it’s ready to be unveiled…!Last night we went to a brewery/ restaurant, and were seated outside. It was quieter than inside (thank god). When we left (and passed through the restaurant), the music was really really in-your-face (or ears), loud & insistent. The line chefs in the open kitchen were cooking up a storm, prodded by the beat.It occurred to me that this is what often happens at home, when we’re cooking. My husband will crank up something really fast & loud & full of driving beats, because he’s getting himself all psyched into his “chef” mode. But if we sit down to eat with that same music & energy level, everybody just gets cranky….So, long way around to say: what the owners and chefs might prefer in terms of energy for cooking and for psyching themselves up might not be the same thing that diners want. Sometimes, in some of the restaurants, I feel like I’m working in the kitchen, banging up a storm instead of sitting at a table to eat. 😉

  7. kirklove

    Lili and I went here about a week or so ago. And it was very nice. I want to love it, but don’t yet. I think it will get better with time.Overall, I give it a solid 7 out of 10 right now.ProsGreat vibe, perfectly sized, intimate place. Very well “designed”Fits the neighborhood wellExcellent bartender (sorry I forget his name). But friendly, helpful, and knowledgeableGreat Malbec Rose by the glass (Lili’s fav)The bar is perfect for a quick bite and chatting with folks about their dishesJust steps off the 1 which is ideal coming from the UWSConsA tad loud, but I did like the music played (Prince at one point, so bonus there)The food was good, but not great yet. (Tom tart, mussels, fries, cheese plate)The stools at the bar are pretty uncomfortable.Best of luck with the place. We’ll definitely be back.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks so much. I know Gabe and Jim are reading all the comments.Looks like lunch and breakfast will not be for a few more weeks. They wantto roll it out when they feel everything is ready. Love that.Brian is the bartender.