Jump to content
Forums offline 11pm CDT tonight, 3/23/2019 Read more... ×
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
lafcadio

Jacques-Imo's NYC

Recommended Posts

Hubby and I have been there twice. Once for drinks (to scope the place) and once for brunch last Saturday. Although much touted, hubby and I both disliked the bloody mary. Too much chili powder and other stuff (like shrimp). There are better versions on the Upper West Side, in my opinion. Brunch was very good. Fried chicken was excellent, moist and not too greasy. Sausage and cheese omelet also excellent (very good sausage). Service, though over the top friendly, is slooooooooow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The restaurant's most troubling element is its design, which tries so hard to make the Southern theme clear as to be patronizing. Diners do not need Spanish moss and swamp murals in Gauguin colors to know that they are being fed authentic Southern cooking. Design themes died in the 1980's.
Just about now, your eyes will begin to glaze over because you have had more than enough food, and enough heat and fat to sate you for a lifetime. You have also begun to realize that there is a lot of repetition in this food: that's because the cooks rely on Paul Prudhomme's Meat Magic and Seafood Magic to season many of the dishes, rather than their own blends.

Jacques-Imo's (Amanda Hesser) (from the NYTimes DIGEST update for Wednesday, 19 May 2004. Scroll down for the appropriate link.)

OUCH!!! :blink::blink::shock:

Soba

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought of her article on Emeril's cooking as I read that review.

Heavens to Betsy! :blink:

Soba

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, a satisfactory is weird given the (relative) amount of positive things in the article (the seasoning mix comments aside). Has anyone else brought up the fact that the text of Hesser's reviews don't always seem to match the star rating?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What do the owners seem to be shooting for? Do you get the idea that they're trying to have a "NY Times Starred Restaurant" place?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What do the owners seem to be shooting for? Do you get the idea that they're trying to have a "NY Times Starred Restaurant" place?

Truthfully, no. I was actually surprised that she reviewed the restaurant. Maybe it got reviewed because it is an offshoot of such a well-loved New Orleans restaurant. The atmosphere is very mardi-gras party and rightfully belongs on Amsterdam Avenue between 80th and 83rd, with Brother Jimmy's, Firehouse, etc. It just didn't strike me as a "serious" restaurant that was shooting for a Times review.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What do the owners seem to be shooting for? Do you get the idea that they're trying to have a "NY Times Starred Restaurant" place?

Truthfully, no. I was actually surprised that she reviewed the restaurant. Maybe it got reviewed because it is an offshoot of such a well-loved New Orleans restaurant. The atmosphere is very mardi-gras party and rightfully belongs on Amsterdam Avenue between 80th and 83rd, with Brother Jimmy's, Firehouse, etc. It just didn't strike me as a "serious" restaurant that was shooting for a Times review.

Right. Other small UWS places (@SQC, for example) that would seem more qualified for a major Times review have, AFAIK, not been reviewed by the major NYT reviewer.

Not that I want to turn this into another Hesser meta-discussion, but I wonder if they're throwing her softballs until Bruni is in place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't really know what Hesser's focus was, but I can tell you for a fact that Jack's focus (and particularly that of his partner's) has not been to garner starred reviews in the Times. I believe that the initial idea for the restaurant, and the apparently low key way that they have promoted it, is due to the fact that they expect the same slavishly dedicated New Yorkers who show up on Oak St in New Orleans to show up in New York and to tell their friends. From what I understand business has been up to, or has surpassed slightly, what they originally had planned on.

It has not been a smooth opening, from what I understand. Labor problems in the kitchen (at least one of the guys he was leaning on in the kitchen quit in the first week after opening) being chief among the difficulties.

As to the review, I believe that they will probably be o.k. with it (if not completely happy) for reasons that Hesser points out in a roundabout kind of way:

The restaurants may see it as a burden, but what is wrong with the public responding with exuberance to the one thing a restaurant does better than all else? Mastering a single dish, as any chef or home cook knows, is a triumph.

Jacques-Imo's, a restaurant on the Upper West Side, may face a similar fate. And the dish it does so exceptionally well — well, I will get to that in a minute.

While I feel like there is a pretty good chance that they are doing some things very well and that some things will improve (but not the quirky service or servers, this is a Leonardi trademark-it takes some pretty good stones to have your boss table hopping all night-as Jack is prone to do) it occurs to me that if they are filling seats with repeat customers and continually trying to improve to satisfy both themselves and their customers, while keeping the seats more or less filled,-they'll be there for a while.

It's a shame about the desserts up there as opposed to Oak St. They are really a high point (and a tough decision as Hesser is totally correct on the generous and sometimes larger than wanted portions) in New Orleans. People go there late in the evening just for drinks and dessert (the restaurant, smartly, encourages this behavior).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Satisfactory" seemed to be a low rating out of line with the superlatives scattered throughout the review, but what she's saying is that they're doing a great job at what they're doing, but they're not aiming for the stars. I haven't been there and can't assess her assessment of the food or of the restaurant, but the review is of a piece with the grade and text in agreement.

We have trouble with the concept of "excellence" and don't understand that a three star hamburger is not an equivalent of a three star meal in a haute cuisine restaurant. The nature of this review is that this is a great place to consider if you're not looking for a starred meal. It's a great place assuming any place whose seasoning comes from two jars can be great.

The stars as already awarded by various reviewers over the past few years are thoroughly out of line with each other, but this review by itself, might serve as a good restart for the system. It would require some understanding of what's possible at the top and require some appreciation of those restaurants at the top. It would also require readers to read reviews and not just look at the ratings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bux, although we are moving towards topic-drift here, I wanted to respond in a general way to your comments re the star system, more specifically to the jist of your comments that a "three star hamburger is not an equivalent of a three star meal in a haute cuisine restaurant." I agree that there should be some way of differentiating between the two. I also agree in general with your conception of the star ratings. However I'd like to point out that the Times itself is largely responsible for this misunderstanding. To wit:

What the stars mean

(None) : Poor to satisfactory

* : Good

** : Very good

*** : Excellent

**** : Extraordinary

There is is in black and white (well, actually black offset in a little tan box... but you get the idea). Given the Times own explanation of their star system, it would seem that Amanda Hesser's rating is saying Jacques-Imo's is not even "good" -- and this seems to be at odds with the generally positive comments she made in her review. That we have certain (Michelin-influenced) ideas about what the stars signify is something that exists in our minds, not on the Times' pages. Now, I happen to agree that the Times at least tries to assign star ratings according to what level of hauteur the restaurant is geared towards and the extent to which that level is achieved... But this practice is not reflected in their explanation of the Times' star ratings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was actually surprised that she reviewed the restaurant. Maybe it got reviewed because it is an offshoot of such a well-loved New Orleans restaurant.

I don't think she's the first of the city's critics to review it. The opening of this restaurant generated plenty of media buzz, and already it's a dining destination. Whether it stays that way depends on whether they clear up some of the service and quality problems, but it certainly merited a Times review.

What do the owners seem to be shooting for? Do you get the idea that they're trying to have a "NY Times Starred Restaurant" place?

Probably not. They wouldn't have minded a star, but the fortunes of a place like this don't really ride on the Times's rating, given that they bring in so much brand identity from the New Orleans location. It's almost review-proof, like the Hard Rock Cafe.

Yeah, a satisfactory is weird given the (relative) amount of positive things in the article (the seasoning mix comments aside). Has anyone else brought up the fact that the text of Hesser's reviews don't always seem to match the star rating?

Since this is a relatively informal place, probably one star is the highest it could realistically hope to attain. In a sense, she was rating it on a zero-to-one scale, not a zero-to-four, because practically no restaurant like Jacques-Imo's has ever been three or four stars, no matter how good it was (a few aberrations excepted). Two stars would be a remote possibility if it were literally perfect at everything it was trying to do. Once you understand that one or perhaps two stars is the practical maximum for this type of place, then it makes sense that a restaurant with as many problems as she found here was rated at zero.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think she's the first of the city's critics to review it. The opening of this restaurant generated plenty of media buzz, and already it's a dining destination. Whether it stays that way depends on whether they clear up some of the service and quality problems, but it certainly merited a Times review.

You are right, it did receive quite a bit of buzz pre-opening, but it strikes me as a place Asimov might have reviewed (I know it is not $25 and under, and also that you have started a thread on this topic). I have trouble believing that it is a "dining destination," however.

While I feel like there is a pretty good chance that they are doing some things very well and that some things will improve (but not the quirky service or servers, this is a Leonardi trademark-it takes some pretty good stones to have your boss table hopping all night-as Jack is prone to do)

The service might be excused if Jack were there socializing with the customers, but he wasn't the two times I was there (brunch and drinks). Both times I overheard customers complaining about the length of time it took food to arrive. Also one of the waiters and the bartender got into a shouting match, which generally made the customers uncomfortable. The fried chicken was great, but if the service doesn't improve I think they might struggle in NY.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
. . . if the service doesn't improve I think they might struggle in NY.

Whoa. Think about how bad the service has to be to sink a place on the UWS.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Whoa. Think about how bad the service has to be to sink a place on the UWS.

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

Wishful thinking on my part. Sadly, you're right.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've eaten there and thought her review was spot-on.

I'd eat there again as a casual Tuesday night sort of place.

It is considerably better than Natchez.

With that said, I was surprised to see her review it at all -- it certainly fits more in the $25 and under parameter than some of the places Asimov has been reviewing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
However I'd like to point out that the Times itself is largely responsible for this misunderstanding.

The Times, its individual reviewers, and the fact that they report the number of stars long after a new reviewer with his or her, own standards and relativity scale, are long gone from the scene all contribute to this misunderstanding. Hesser may be a temporary reviewer, but her marks may stand for a long time for some restaurants. Certainly they'll stand long after the next critic establshes his own yardstick just as some "current" ratings date back to Ruth Reichl's bell curve. Confusion may be a better term than misunderstanding.

The conversation is off topic in a sense, but it helps readers to understand that not all restaurants have been judged by the same standards.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The review did read as a pretty harsh slam to me, and the slam had three main elements:

(1) Panning the decor

(2) Panning the level of noise

(3) Panning the use of Paul Prudhomme's Meat Magic and Seafood Magic

Along the way, she also made backhanded remarks about service.

Seems to me, what she's saying is that a restaurant that serves some dishes that are good-to-excellent isn't thereby doing enough to get a star, and I think her statement is pretty clear and understandable.

Based on what she's written in other reviews, it seems to me that style is very important to Hesser, whether as reflected in decor or even the nature of comments made by people sitting at the bar (e.g., "Who was that babe?", which she heard at Masa, I think), and a sufficient reason by itself to deny a restaurant a star, even if she didn't have substantive objections to the food, too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jacques responds in this week's New Orleans Gambit. I don't think that Ms. Hesser will be recieving any extra oysters on her salad if she decides to darken the door of Jacques-Imo's again.

This is a good article about the inner workings of an out of towner trying to make it

in the big city. In fact, he has a quote that is exactly like one I made aroung here someplace as we were discussing the opening:

Jacques Leonardi-Proprietor-Jacques-Imo's

"What I pay for a year's rent in New Orleans is what I pay for a month here. The labor costs are higher, and we've got so many other costs. You have a lot more ways to goof up here."

I also like his line about Hesser "ragging on the interior".

Anyway, I thought some of you big city types might enjoy seeing how this is playing in the hometown press.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, the reviews of the restaurant in New Orleans is mixed. Some people love it, but I'm not in that camp. The lines are ling; the food is less than what one would expect and it's loud. However, I'm 40. Perhaps at 21 I would have thought the place wonderful. :hmmm: But I know more about good food now. :raz:

OK; OK; "are mixed."

Edit #2 (so maybe I should take a typing course): "The lines are lOng." Geez :rolleyes:


Edited by Rhonda Graham (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm 43 and I like it. But then again, as an aging hipster :wink: , I feel closer to that action there than I do alot of places around town.

Besides, I love those chicken livers with toast points and that alligator cheesecake.

]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Casey (at my office) is 25. She and her husband went for the first time Friday night. I asked her about it after reading this thread.

They arrived at 5:40 (which is good -- this place doesn't take reservations for parties of less than 5.).

She had the stuffed catfish and describes it as "delicious, but the crabmeat dressing didn't need the rich sauce." The mashed potatoes, "delicious." The corn maque choux = "delicious (yeah, I might give her a thesaurus for Christmas), but the bell peppers made it taste off." (Don't listen to her -- corn maque choux needs bell peppers.)

Her husband had the carpet-baggers steak, which had a sauce on it they didn't like.

I asked her, "Would you go again?"

Answer: "In a heartbeat, but not anytime soon, and I'd order half of the food."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I tried out Jacques-Imo's NYC a few weeks back basically because of the raves for the fried chicken (Amanda Hesser's review, here, etc.). We got there around 7:30 pm on Tuesday and had almost no wait. The decor does not bother me. It's pretty silly and over the top, but so is the original (which I have only been to once several years ago).

Well, all four of us ordered the fried chicken, and I had the macque choux as the side. We were all pretty disappointed, concluding that Popeye's does it considerably better. I also was not pleased with the macque choux, and I love that dish or almost any dish featuring corn. The best part of the meal was my $6 Abita Amber. It's hard to reproduce a restaurant so entrenched in its surroundings like Jacques-Imo's outside of the region. I'd say save your $$$ for a trip to the original.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×