Monday, May 27, 2013

Road Trip - Jean-Robert's Table - Cincinnati

Our second day in Cincinnati, hubby managed to get a little time off so we could stay in town long enough to have lunch.  I asked one of my longtime readers from Cincinnati where we should eat, and he recommended Jean Robert’s Table (among other places). It was conveniently located a couple of blocks from our hotel, so it was perfect.

It’s really a cute little place—run by the former chef of the Maisonette, which seemed like the perfect way to finish the full circle of our eating experience.  It is obviously a place frequented by local business people for lunch, as it got quite crowded. They also offer a 4-course $14 lunch at the bar in less than an hour, which is pretty cool.  We opted for the regular restaurant though so we could order whatever we wanted.

I have to mention the bread and butter first thing. It was so good. This was slices of a French baguette—so tender inside and crisp crust.  And they were nice and warm.  They were served with amazing rich, salty, European style butter that was slightly soft.  I really couldn’t stop eating it. It was the kind of bread and butter that you could eat as the only thing in the meal and be perfectly happy. It kind of makes me drool thinking about it.

We started with the goat cheese, asparagus and onion tart ($8) to share. It was totally not at all what I was expecting (a tart filled with goat cheese and asparagus) but it was really, really delicious.  Basically, it was a small “tart” of puff pastry topped with spears of asparagus that were perfect crisp tender, a dollop of herby goat cheese and then shaved endive and this, wonderful, perfectly balanced Banyuls dressing. (Banyuls is a fortified French dessert wine.) The whole dish was a little tangy and a little sweet. It was so good.  I was using the bread to sop up every last bit of the dressing.

For my main, I had the Jean Robert version of a Croque Monsieur ($14.50). I was intrigued by the description of this, which included chicken confit and sautéed chicken livers.  Again, I loved it. It was so perfectly put together; it made it clear this kitchen knows how to create amazing food with amazing finesse. So at the bottom of a bowl, there was frisee that was perfectly dressed with a tangy vinaigrette.  On top of that was the sandwich itself including the usual thinly sliced ham and cheese, but also pieces of tender chicken confit.  The bread was perfectly grilled with a nice crispy exterior. THEN, there were two sautéed chicken livers and a few more pieces of the chicken confit. And THEN, there was a perfectly seasoned sunny side egg on top. Seriously, this was perfect. It had a ton of richness (obviously) from the livers, egg, and the sandwich, but the salad underneath and the yolk mixing into it all made it reach a completely different level.  I know I am a little obsessed with lack of acid in food, but this was just a shining example of how a little acid and balance can make for a truly amazing and memorable dish.

Unfortunately for hubby, who had, shall we say, overindulged a little the night before and decided he really wanted a burger ($11.50), his meal was nowhere near as good.  I have to say, the burger sounded pretty tasty (it had blue cheese and caramelized onions) but he asked for it cooked medium rare and it wasn’t. And it was almost too big to eat as a sandwich.  The frites were good, and I liked the aioli they served with them, but my dish was just so so much better. I would actually really like to go back here for dinner.   Top to bottom, for me, food-wise, I am not sure which meal I enjoyed more in Cincinnati. They were both delicious.

Jean-Robert’s Table
713 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH  45202

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