Restaurant: Jeune et Jolie
Opened: December 2018
Where: Carlsbad, CA
When and What: Saturday Brunch
Review, short version: DON’T, unless you like ear-splitting noise and over-priced faux French food.
Review, long version:
My qualifications to be a restaurant reviewer are the same as my qualifications to be an astronaut:
Zero. Zilch. Nada.
But…haven’t you ever eaten at a restaurant that annoyed you so much that you just had to tell somebody about it?
Well, I’m annoyed, and you are the somebody I’m telling.
I’ll start by mentioning an online blurb about Jeune et Jolie that uses the word “unpretentious.”
And a fawning review in the San Diego Union-Tribune that also used the word “unpretentious.”
Because “pretentious” (or prétentieux, as the French would say) is exactly what I thought after I was seated and looked at the brunch menu:
Oeuf? Pommes Puree? Lardon?
Oh, c’mon! This is Carlsbad, not the Côte d’Azur.
And Beignets. I know what those are – I’ve had them in New Orleans, where they were invented.
|They look like this:||Not this:|
And how about “limited”? Though to call the brunch menu “limited” would be like calling the Grand Canyon a “sinkhole.”
I know the theory of “less is more,” and I wasn’t expecting Richard Walker’s Pancake House “with more than 100 items made from scratch daily!”
But the entire brunch offering fit on one side of a maybe 7” x 7” card, with plenty of white space between the items:
The only one that appealed to my dining companion was the aforementioned beignets, “jam, cream.”
I guess that comma is more français than “and.”
And the beignets were $8, not $6.
I opted for the Salad Lyonaisse, “frisée, poached egg, lardon, green goddess.”
Now, I know adding an egg to an entrée – from burgers to pizza to soup – is très de rigueur, but I passed on seeing a drippy, gooey yolk on my frisée.
And the frisée was fine. There wasn’t much bacon – excusez-moi, lardon – and the green goddess was more oily than goddessy.
And though the Union-Tribune reviewer sounded enamored of the restaurant’s “adding a touch of whimsy to the plating,” I reach the bottom of the salad bowl without a touch of whimsy in sight.
One of the attractions at Jeune et Julie – again, according to the reviewer – is the “full open kitchen smack in the heart of the room.” And I get that attraction – watching a well-run, professional restaurant kitchen is like watching a thoroughly rehearsed play, or Fred and Ginger dancing.
And Jeune et Jolie’s kitchen may have been exactly that – but I couldn’t see it. We were seated at one of these tables:
And since I was in the chair, my back was to the kitchen. So, though I was five feet away and could hear the kitchen, I couldn’t see it unless I turned my back on my companion.
Likewise for most of the 90-seat restaurant; more booths along that same wall, most of kitchen view blocked by the bar. The bar seating – yes, on high bar stools, but only some with a kitchen view. Patio seating, no kitchen view at all, though an up-close view of the street.
So if diners can’t see the kitchen – what was the point?
Speaking of my dining companion, I could speak of him…
But not to him.
It was so noisy that conversation was next to impossible. The restaurant wasn’t full, but between the taped music, the people, and the crying, whining children (more about them in a minute), this is not the place for any meaningful dialogue except,
“Wha (inaudible) -ay?”
“I (inaudible) -oo.”
The children. Perhaps it’s the restaurant’s name, based on the two owners’ young daughters, that prompts parents to think, “This must be a great place for kids – like Chuck E. Cheese!”
Throughout our meal there were at least a half-dozen small children, newborn to three-year-olds, making their presence known.
Now, the median annual income in Carlsbad is around $100,000, so I’m pretty sure these parents could afford a babysitter. Instead, they chose to schlepp their young children and all their accoutrements, including strollers – one of which nearly blocked the front door – to this already small, noisy restaurant.
They certainly added to the ambiance – in the worst possible way. If the place had been packed – merde!
Back to our table. My companion and I like to share a bottle of wine with a meal, usually a mid-priced chardonnay. We don’t feel that an expensive wine equals a great wine.
Well, the low-end was a $50 Scribe chardonnay, which I call pricey, and it wasn’t nearly as good as $25-$35 chardonnays we’ve had elsewhere. The reviewer said, “There’s a 70-bottle program of mostly French wines,” which makes sense, since everybody knows there are no local wines to be had in California.
And speaking of pricey, the reviewer (who was there for dinner, not brunch) mentioned a dinner item:
“The restaurant’s bread pricing, which at $9 for a small baguette and single brioche roll may be the most expensive bread service in San Diego. A month after opening, the price was pared down a dollar from $10, but it still needs rethinking.”
The reviewer summed up her experience by comparing the restaurant to her many dining experiences in France: “Jeune et Jolie captures both the nation’s classic flavors as well as the its joie de vivre.”
I would have enjoyed a bit more joie de vivre and a lot less of the…