Bruno Jamais, February 2008
I had the pleasure of being invited to dinner at Bruno Jamais a week or so ago and was surprised to see that such an interesting restaurant existed on the Upper East Side. I'd never heard of it, truth be told, and had zero expectations walking in.
Oh, and I'll come right out and say it - a friend of the restaurant owners invited and paid for my meal, but I assure you that what I write below is honest and accurate.
You could walk by the townhouse the restaurant is nestled in and never know that a restaurant exists there. This, I suppose is part of its success at giving off a secret, club-like vibe where only those in the know, know. However, its inconspicuous location and set up isn't going to help with walk-ins or even getting people to notice it. That's a gamble that Mr. Jamais has taken, and by the look of the crowd inside, it seems to have paid off.
The people inside are, quite frankly, attractive and have what you might say some deep pockets - at least their clothes and overall style would suggest so. It's a peculiar place in that some of these people looked as though they were treating the restaurant as a pre-game to a long night ahead, others looked like it could be a quick bite out before going home to retire for the evening and still others looked like they'd nibble a bit here or have some drinks, go someplace else for a few hours and then find their way back at 1:00am for some appetizers and cocktails to close the night up. I would guess they'd make it more like 2:00am for their return visits on weekend nights, which is when the restaurant is open until. Who knew?
Reading up on the place, it had previously been labled a supper club or private dining club of sorts. This really isn't the case. There are, however, many regulars (you can just tell), but certainly not a private club of any kind. I bet if it became an Open Table restaurant, it would have a better chance of dispelling this rumor.
On to the food
We started out with a signature dish, the lobster creme brulee and the terrine of foie gras. The foie gras was respectable in every way. I liked the toast points - rectangular blocks instead of the traditional sliced brioche, but why fix what ain't broke? The portion size was perhaps too big, but I suppose the size justified the equally large price tag for it. The lobster creme brulee could, we surmised, be either very good or very bad. In the end, Danna didn't really care for it - something to do with the texture, but I enjoyed the flavor and the amount of lobster. But I think the presentation could use some work. I can see how people would either love or hate this dish though I find myself in the middle - enjoying it just enough.
Danna ordered the duck and I will stop right here to say that this dish was fantastic. The best dish of the night and one that you 'll walk away knowing you'll remember it for quite some time. This is the dish to order at Bruno Jamais as far as I'm concerned. I ordered the short ribs, which were good. Nothing wrong with them, but not at all special - compared to some of the versions that I've had the good fortune of trying around the city. But again, it was very good, sound cooking, remarkably tender, etc.
Danna ordered an apple tart of some kind and I, though totally full at this point, ordered the clearly store-bought sorbets. In fact, none of the desserts were made in-house as far as I could tell. Though Danna enjoyed her tart and gave it a passing grade regardless of where it was made.
Overall we loved the vibe of the place. It was alive, but not manic. The service was excellent and the food was above average if not priced a bit high...but then again, for the neighborhood, I suppose I understand.
I'd go back, and will probably get a later reservation to see what the nightlife vibe turns into. It looked like it was going to be a pretty fun night the night we were there...and we left by 9pm.