Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Visit To Charleston's Number One French Brasserie During Restaurant Week--39 Rue de Jean Was Sumptuous

This would be my first visit to the posh 39 Rue de Jean--a French brasserie located between Meeting and King on one of Charleston's most notable streets. With the Charleston Museum close by, the museum's newly constructed glass enclosed building housing the first locomotive built in America could be seen from my vantage point at the entrance of the beautifully landscaped alleyway that separated the restaurant from the oldest building on the block, the Charleston Music Hall.

In the distance, magenta and purple neon lighting brightly bathed the alley's inviting walkway of odd sized stone pavers while the overhead lights of Rue's covered patio softly immersed the table settings along the alley's right side. This was a part of John Street I thus far had not ventured down on previous outings.

Reservation was set for 7:00 pm. I checked in at the front desk and was promptly taken to a small table with a single chair and a booth-style burgundy bench topped with stainless steal rails. Identical on both sides, it ran along the right-middle of the main dining area. Full booths and scattered tables filled the rest of the space. A bricked archway led to additional seating beyond and glass doors flanking the bar opened onto an outdoor patio. Two aged-smoky looking mirrors covered one wall and a full bar covered another. A patterned ceiling reflected the age of the building. The table was covered with white paper--the perfect medium for doodling on or writing the lyrics of a new hit song or sonnet, if you were moved to do so. Hey, Edgar Allen Poe did it.

My server promptly arrived with a carafe of water, filled a glass and shared some of the preferred specials from the main menu aside from the 3 for $30 menu prepared by Rue for Restaurant Week. I immediately informed the server I would be choosing from the 3 for $30 and selected my cocktail--a Citron Mojito. The concoction of mint leaves floating in Absolut Citron, key lime juice, and simple syrup topped with a slice of lime arrived a few moments later and I took my first sip. It was the perfect opener.

The first course on the 3 for $30 menu was a choice between Cauliflower and Brie Bisque, Smoked Salmon Maki Roll and Varietal Greens Salad. I chose the Varietal Greens Salad with Roasted Pecans, Pickled Golden Raisins, Figs and Goat Cheese Vinaigrette. Second Course offered four options: Poulet Confit, Pork Belly, Braised Cod, and Vegetable Dauphinoise. Braised Cod was my selection. It was an entree of Fennel, Curry, Cherry Tomatoes and Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes. Dessert options were between Brown Butter Crepes and Chocolate Pate. I hesitantly picked the Brown Butter Crepes prepared with Caramelized Apples, Creme Anglaise and Powdered Sugar.

The Varietal Greens Salad was a generous portion of locally grown greens. The nutty flavor of the pecans superbly complimented the delightfully fruity taste of the pickled raisins while the cheesy vinaigrette dressing pleasantly accented the total combination. It was very sumptuous.

The Braised Cod arrived to the table steamy hot and at the hand of a helper with a French accent--aside from the menu, the only French I encountered all evening. The fennel, curry and cherry tomatoes were buried under a fillet of cod surrounded by the whipped potatoes. The curry mixed in with the whipped potatoes made my eyes water from time to time, but overall was tolerably delicious. The fennel covered with a crisp coating was very good as were the cherry tomatoes. The texture of the cod was perfect, flaky to the fork and not dry.

My hesitancy in selecting dessert was justified. I am not saying the Brown Butter Crepes wasn't good, to the contrary, it was satisfying, but I should have not passed up the Chocolate Pate with fresh strawberries, creme anglaise and berry coulis. It would have been more colorful with the red of the strawberries and the berry coulis drizzled all over it.

Andre was a very attentive server, checking in from time to time and filling the water glass when it was near empty. The delivery of the various dishes was timely and the presentation was artful. The removal of spent dishes was prompt and replacement silverware was provided when needed. Additionally, mixed in with the meal, I like to engage in a little small talk with the server, more than just, "Is everything satisfactory?" or "Can I get you anything?" It was a busy night at the Rue, so I do understand the server's limitations in this regard, but it is something to give consideration to when dealing with patrons.

The upscale casual Rue de Jean is ideally situated between Meeting and King Street next to one of Charleston's finest venues, the Charleston Music Hall. Its marquee style entrance is eye catching. The main dining area is comfortable and not cramped for space. It offers outdoor seating on a black rail enclosed covered patio with a front view of historic John Street and a beautifully landscaped alleyway even more picturesque at night under the lights. I give high marks to the chef and kitchen staff for a skillfully prepared, elegantly presented culinary experience on my visit during Charleston Restaurant Week.

Side note--If you are looking for a mouth-watering burger, 39 Rue de Jean was named Charleston's number one brasserie for burgers.

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