Sunday, January 17, 2010

Josephines (Marietta, Pennsylvania) 01/10

Last night we dined at Josephines, recommended to us by several locals as the best fine dining restaurant in the vicinity. The 20 mile drive there was uneventful, thankfully due to the GPS naviguide, a necessity for tourists to get around here. As we dined we began to consider the difference between fine dining and haute cuisine, a French term literally meaning high cooking or grand cuisine. In recent years haute cuisine has come to refer to a style of cooking characterized by many small dishes prepared with numerous ingredients, frequently not usually seen together, and treated in unusual and sometimes highly technical and complex ways, by teams of chefs, to produce extraordinary gustatory experiences. Presentation and appearance of the dishes is crucial. Usually there is an emphasis on local products which can be bought fresh and have not had to travel far before reaching, if not their final resting place, at least the plate on which they will be served.
Josephines promotes itself as providing fine dining redefined When we entered this white and yellow painted house
with its welcoming wreath on the front door
and its huge wooden supporting beams, occupying two rooms with a bar at the far end

we were warmly greeted by our waiter who, on hearing that we had been recommended by friends, assured us that we would not be disappointed. It is a former residence which for a time was converted to a cheap chicken and waffle joint before turning to fine dining 15 years ago.
" You got it" the waiter announced when, after some discussion we chose a Napa Cab/sav (Aquinas 2008), ($48)
which was excellent for our degustation meal($70).
We were in a slightly cool area of the restaurant despite the wood fire burning nearby
and after a short time asked if we might move to a warmer area in the restaurant. After checking his reservation sheet the waiter obligingly arranged that for us with his signature remark "You got it".
House made bread rolls, still warm from the oven, were great and came promptly.The meal began with a tian of Ahi tuna which had a light Kim Chi sauce stirred through it.

Kim Chi is most commonly a pickled vegetable, frequently cabbage, side dish in Korean cuisine.The Kim Chi sauce here lacked the tartness of Kim Chi pickles but was quite delicate. The dish was decorated with a little green there were also a few drops of sauce on the plate. This was as crisply fresh as it is possible to serve. Deservedly one of their signature dishes. Indeed the degustation menu consists of five courses of their signature dishes available for two or more guests. Our waiter consulted Chef/owner, Daniel ......and allowed us to swap one tuna for the oyster appetizer.
"You got it" he said, pleased. The two oysters were almost lost in the tasty but very heavy breading with a light cream sauce and a little alfalfa decoration. The next dish was lump crab cake with a Dijon cream sauce.
We have not often had crab cake, which varies widely around America. This one was phenomenal, about 4 ounzes of crab coarsely shredded and lightly bound with no pastry in evidence and seared on one side. This was very meaty, the taste undiluted by breading or pastry. The next course was braised boneless short ribs in a pomegranite and grapefruit reduction.
Braised for 6 hours it was so tender no knife was needed to enjoy it. The sweetness and sharpness of the heavy reduction matched perfectly with the full flavoured meat. The final main course was a slender piece of eye fillet, served with potato Dauphinoise and cauliflower.
This was disappointing. The fillet was sliced too thinly to be able to appreciate the texture and tenderness of the meat. It could not be cooked warm blue as it was medium rare as soon as the outside was seared. It was sprinkled with coarse salt making it seriously over seasoned and the surrounding Marche de Vin, wine sauce, was also extremely salty exacerbating the problem. The florets of cauliflower, with a white sauce, were all dente to the point of being almost raw and the Dauphinoise was not sufficiently creamy, the potato also being barely cooked and quite hard. We expressed our feeling to the waiter and returned one dish ordering another crab cake in its place. "You got it" he said, happy to please. The last course was another house speciality, homemade caramel ice cream, hand whipped with Tia Maria, a coffee liqueur originating in Jamaica.
It was characterized by a superb, delicate, lightly burnt sugar taste in the creamiest imaginable ice cream.Was this haute cuisine? Not by our definition. Was it fine dining? Yes and no. A serious failure in the last main cannot be overlooked however the remainder of the meal was very good. We would suggest a better description of the meal than haute cuisine would be rustic excellence. It just missed out on being fine dining because of the failed main course.
We would like to hear our readers views on defining haute cuisine and fine dining and is there really a difference between them?
Score: 15/20
Josephine's Fine Dining Entrees


Anonymous said...

Why are you being condescending about a helpful waiter? What do you want him to say - "No"?

Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi Anon
That comment was not intended as a condescending remark. Our waiter was extremely accommodating and very helpful with the wine selection. "You got it" became a little grating after many repetitions. There is nothing wrong with it but there are many other appropriate expressions. Certainly sir, no trouble, we can do that for you would be just a few examples.
If he reads this I hope he recognizes that this is simply a report of the evening and not meant as a take down. He did very well and we wewre pleased to give him a decent gratuity.