back to joseph leonard

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In full disclosure, it has not been my first time back to Joseph Leonard.  I have eaten their countless times from breakfast to lunch to dinner.  I am also an investor in the restaurant.  The experience of being an investor in the restaurant, for me, has been really interesting.  My favorite thing is that I know everyone working at the restaurant and many of the investors so eating there is always a treat because I feel at home.  What is the most interesting is to watch the transformation of the restaurant over time. 

The industry has changed because of people like myself who go to a place the second it opens up and blogs about it.  Years ago, reviewers would give a restaurant at least a 9 month pass before they would ever share their thoughts with the world.  Not only has that part changed but so has the spike in revenues based on a great revenue.  Susan Hoffman, of Savoy told me a story a few years ago which sums up exactly how the business has changed.  When Savoy first opened up, about a year into the opening, they were written up in New York Magazine.  The rave review was life changing.  The long tail of that review allowed them the opportunity to expand to the second floor and make some renovations on the first floor.  They knew that particular review was sending customers their way for months after it came out.  Fast forward some fifteen years later, they are written up again.  Another great review.  The up-tick from that was for two weeks.  Huge difference.

I watched Joseph Leonard open, I have watched both Jim and Gabriel make adjustments over time to the menu.  What works, what doesn't, what needs a tweak.  I have loved the breakfast from day one.  I also really like the lunch and am thrilled to see more salads on the menu.  Dinner has never been my favorite meal there.  We were there on Friday night.  Joseph Leonard has now been open 9 months.  The dinner was not only really good but the nuances of each dish have risen a notch.  That takes 9 months and that is why in the past reviewers didn't plunge in from day one.  Even Jim had commented on Friday night that the first week they were opened he saw the reviewer from Travel and Leisure having dinner at the bar and cringed at the thought that he would write a review this early on. 

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We tried a few different things on Friday night.  The menu is reflective of spring as it should be.  We started off with a dozen oysters which have always been delicious at Joseph Leonard.  They obviously have a great source.  Our second round of appetizers was a variety of things.  A deconstructed zucchini tart was light and different.  Slices of zucchini layered in a round form to look like a tart sprinkled with chopped toasted almonds over caramelized onions and pastry with pieces of chopped nicoise olives on the side.  Nice. 

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I loved the fried artichokes.  Beautiful presentation, perfectly done, with a nice lemon aioli and pesto sauce to mop in to. 

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Salt cod brandade served in a small dish with a sweet red pepper relish and pieces of crusty bread to scoop up the dip.  Nice with a glass of white wine.

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I ordered the chicken because I really liked the thought of sliced golden beets mixed with sauteed spinach and a spicy onion relish.  Nice call.  The chicken is perfectly cooked and sits over the salad.  Yum.  Two others ordered the skate but by the time I wanted to take a bite, they had both finished their dish.  That sort of sums up the skate. 

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On the side we tried the stuffing of the moment.  Chunks of bread mixed with sauteed leeks, charred scallions and a little bit of cheddar cheese.  Woah. 

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The other was my new favorite.  I never ate a meal at Joseph Leonard without ordering the brussel sprouts even at breakfast.  This is the new brussel sprouts because brussel sprouts are out of season.  Sliced escarole, sauteed until completely soft in a balsamic vinegar and a shot of spicy sriracha sauce over the top.  I might have hoarded that particular dish that evening.

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Dessert was also good.  The butterscotch pudding is decadent and has been on the menu from the beginning.  Worth every calorie. 

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The special dessert of the night was bread pudding.  Made with croissants, soaked in eggs, baked and cut into squares with rum macerated berries poured over the top and of course a dollop of whipped cream.  Decadent.

I am not only thrilled to be part of the Joseph Leonard gang but am delighted to report on their progress and the delicious meal I had there on Friday night.  Josh even showed up late into our meal because his plans fell through.  They quickly made the steak for him which he devoured in no time.  Josh loves the place so much he wishes he was an investor too!