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.