Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Rumbings #3: Joule

Ready for our Physics lesson. Get it!? Joule!? *crickets*

Last night, we had the pleasure of dining at Joule, a Korean/French/American fusion joint in the Wallingford neighborhood. Joining us were my old friends from college, Grant and Melissa Williams, and our new friends Steve and Michelle Strub. Grant and Melissa are no stranger to my feable attempts at culinary greatness, and were brave enough to join me for the very first Sunday Supper Club.

I've passed Joule numerous times, and always found myself beelining it to the posted menu. They have carved out a very specific niche of cuisine that combines the tradition and rich flavors of French cooking with bold sweetness and spice found in Korean food. I was exposed to Korean food very early on in my life, and grew up on staples like bibimbop and bulgogi. And French cuisine has lately been my north star; I've found myself using those foundational flavors and takes on the mother sauces much more. So really, this stuff should be right in my wheelhouse.


Roasted Asian Pear Bisque
w/ Brussel Sprouts and Smoked Chili

By far my favorite course of the night. I had roasted asian pear bisque with brussel sprout and smoked chili (A) Warm and elegant, it not overwhelm with sweetness or heat from the chili. The brussel sprout leaves added a nice earthy element, as well as some texture. Full marks for creating something true to form, creative, and seasonally relevant. Ann had sardines over crostini that was solid but somewhat unspectacular. Grant, again braver than the rest of the table, had the beef tongue with thai basil and hot mustard, which to our surprise wasn't chewy/gummy as tongue tends to be, and had a nice pot roast-like texture.


Hawaiian Prawns with Jasmine Grits & Walnut Piccata
For me, the main dish was probably the least inspired course of the night. I had grilled Hawaiian prawns over jasmine rice "grits" and walnut piccata (C+). The prawns were nicely cooked, and pulled apart easily, but the grits and walnut piccata were very one-note. Perhaps there needed to be more piccata in my dish, but I did not get the variety of flavors that I was expecting. It wasn't bad by any means, but it didn't blow wind up my skirt either. I was just...whelmed. My partner in crime had grilled matsutakes on sticky rice with pine nut agrodolce which she promptly devoured, but wasn't terribly excited about. Rounding out the entrees was a kalbi with parsnip puree and pickled chantrelles, which I think had the best plate appearance of anything we saw that night. The kalbi was very tender, but a little fatty for our collective tastes. 

Kalbi with Parnsip Puree & Pickled Chantrelles

Fusion desserts, I imagine, can be tricky. You have a lot of creative license to push boundaries and experiment. In this case, the more aggressive desserts proved out, while a traditional offering fell flat on it's face. I quickly inhaled my bittersweet chocolate bread pudding with chili marshmallow (B+), which was more like a molten chocolate cake than bread pudding. Really, only the bottom third of the dish would I consider to be the consistency of a bread pudding as I understand it. And the chili marshmallow didn't stand out in the dish as much as I wanted. I was hoping for some heat, the same type you get when you bite into a Theo Spicy Chili chocolate bar. But never-the-less, I was a Hungry Hungry Hippo and that dessert was a small white plastic ball. Ann polished off her baked apple with ginger crumble with five spice cream, which was tasty and quite potent. The five spice stood out against the tartness of the apple and earthy sweetness of ginger. As for Grant (poor Grant), he had what we all agreed was the worst dish of the night. A very simple blue cheese with roasted dates and chestnut honey . It's a simple type of dessert that restauranteurs like Ethan Stowell champion, but this was just too powerful. The cheese was disporportionately pungent, and the chestnut honey left a burnt nutty coating in your mouth that was highly obnoxious. It was like an unwanted house guest, on our tongue, overstaying its welcome.

Chocolate Bread Pudding w/
Chili Marshmallow

Overall, Joule offers a lot to casual restaurant-goers that are looking for something outside the box. I wish there were more restaurants like Joule that push conventional cuisine aside for aggressive flavors. And even though the occasional cheese dessert may rear its ugly head, I have a strong suspicion there are some wonderfully exciting dishes yet to emerge from this Wallingford hotspot.


1 comment:

  1. Grant...poor Grant...hahaha. Love it. Couldn't agree more with the review!