a lot of Gaul

Pasatiempo - - AMUSE-BOUCHE -

Adding an “ish” to a state­ment of in­ten­tion al­most al­ways sounds like you’re hedg­ing your bets. “I’ll be there at 6-ish,” for ex­am­ple, doesn’t ex­actly scream de­ter­mi­na­tion to be on time. Jen­nifer James, some­time James Beard Award semi­fi­nal­ist and one of Al­bu­querque’s most pop­u­lar and highly lauded chefs, may have cho­sen Frenchish as the name for her new foray into the din­ing scene to avoid the judg­ment of purist Fran­cophiles, but she needn’t have wor­ried. Her ver­sions of French clas­sics can with­stand the scru­tiny, and her more whim­si­cal twists might even win over les grincheux.

The chef’s pre­vi­ous restau­rants — Jen­nifer James Con­tem­po­rary Cui­sine, Jen­nifer James 101, and Graze — earned nigh-leg­endary sta­tus around the Duke City over the years. She opened Frenchish last fall in the heart of Nob Hill, in the Cen­tral Av­enue space for­merly oc­cu­pied by the women’s cloth­ing bou­tique Elsa Ross, seem­ingly un­con­cerned by the launch of the Al­bu­querque Rapid Tran­sit project along that cor­ri­dor and the en­su­ing kerfuffle.

The back­bone of her cook­ing — clean, mod­ern, and lo­cal — re­mains in­tact. In her pre­vi­ous es­tab­lish­ments, James was known for some­what un­ex­pected sig­na­ture dishes in­clud­ing deviled eggs and chick­pea frit­ters. A vari­a­tion on one of these stand­bys ma­te­ri­al­izes at Frenchish, this time a halved soft-boiled egg topped with a frilly slaw of Di­jon and cel­ery root ac­cented with mi­cro-greens. A new cu­rios­ity, the “car­rot dog,” adds its name to the ros­ter, too. Rather than chopped or pro­cessed car­rot formed into a dog shape, the dish is as straight­for­ward as it sounds: a hefty sausage-sized car­rot, par-cooked, given a quick smoky black­en­ing on the grill, and swad­dled in a brioche bun with rel­ish.

Cheesy gift-shop cock­tail nap­kins ask, “Why limit happy to an hour?” Frenchish an­swers by ex­tend­ing it from 5 to 6:30 p.m. This means six-dol­lar glasses of white wine, red wine — un­named but iden­ti­fied on the menu as French — and bub­bles as well as a few cheap beer choices. Six or eight dis­counted snacks are of­fered, in­clud­ing the car­rot dog, the egg, and crispy pig ears with a mild sweet­ness and plea­sur­ably fatty mouth feel. Fried pick­les, prac­ti­cally a del­i­cacy in the Amer­i­can South, be­come fried cor­ni­chons, briny two-bite tid­bits with roug­hand-tum­ble corn­meal “bat­ter” and a sat­is­fy­ing swee­tand-salti­ness.

There’s a well-man­i­cured wine list — the 2016 Bieler Père & Fils rosé is a stand­out — along with a shorter list of lim­ited-avail­abil­ity bot­tles. Any­one at your ta­ble in­trigued by the Unicorn Frap­puc­cino should in­stead opt for the “prick­led pink” French soda — a com­bi­na­tion of prickly pear nec­tar, cream, and soda wa­ter that ar­rives strat­i­fied but, when stirred, turns into a de­light­fully fizzy and filling pink drink.

The sin­gle-page main menu, which changes of­ten, in­cludes starters, sal­ads, cheeses, sides, and plats

prin­ci­paux (a three-course prix-fixe op­tion is men­tioned for those par­a­lyzed by de­ci­sions). Only the bread ser­vice struck me as a tad fussy — a small plate of puffy Parker House-style rolls and sweet cream but­ter for three dol­lars. But the mo­ti­va­tion be­came clear: end­less bas­kets of bread will only lead to a belly full of bread, leav­ing you with less room for the truly good stuff — of which there’s quite a bit here.

The rab­bit ter­rine is rugged and rus­tic, served with crisp slices of golden-toasted baguette and sprightly, snappy pick­led car­rots. Afi­ciona­dos of odd­ball veg­eta­bles will re­joice, with sides like sal­sify, hearts of palm, and on a re­cent visit, sun­chokes, each treated min­i­mally to re­spect its nat­u­ral good­ness — cooked

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.