Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jean-Ro Bistro

As anyone in Cincinnati can attest, Jean-Robert knows food. I first met him in person at La Maisonette while I was in culinary school. I went in during one of my intern periods to beg to do what’s known as a “stage,” or apprenticeship, in his kitchen, and he willingly agreed (stages are unpaid, or course). I’ve met many ill-tempered French chefs who yell, scream, demoralize and throw pots and pans around the kitchen, but Jean-Robert was not one of those, by a long shot. Sure, when dinner service kicked up he was stern and serious about his work, never settling for anything less than excellent. But he was also human, and a good mentor, loving to show people how to prepare unfamiliar ingredients in a new way. While I was free labor, his “payment” to me at the end of my stay was to invite me into the restaurant with my family

Our meal last Friday at Jean-Ro was superb, from start to finish. It’s never just grabbing a bite at one of his restaurants, but is rather dining in the truest sense. It’s sort of like Pigall’s, but a whole lot cheaper. The place was abuzz on Friday, even though it was late by Cincinnati standards (8:30 pm). Still, we were seated in about 20 minutes.

One of my favorite things about Jean-Ro is the “pichet.” That’s French for pitcher, and, at this restaurant it stands for a healthy quantity of either white or red table wine. Nothing fancy or name brand, but very good, solid wines to go with a classic bistro meal. When I say cheap, I’m not kidding. It’s only $9.50 for the larger size, which is the perfect amount for 2 people to share and get 2 glasses apiece.

I started my meal with the Belgian Endive Salad, a delicious mix of sliced endive, walnuts, chunks of Swiss cheese and crisp apple, all tossed in a cider vinaigrette. It’s the salad I always get here, be it lunch or dinner, and it didn’t disappoint. All those textures and flavors combine into a delicious starter. Peter began with a Shrimp Stuffed Avocado, which tasted okay, but a little too mayonnaise-y for me, and too much like something I might get at a hoity toity bridal shower.

We both enjoyed our entrees, but Peter’s merits some additional description. He ordered the Twice Baked Pork Chop, whose description has always piqued my interest. In a word, it was amazing. The best pork chop I’ve ever had. Our server told us that it’s brined and then roasted. Where some pork chops are tough and chewy, this chop was perfectly tender and melt-in-your mouth good. Surrounded by braised, buttery apples, it was delicious and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Crème caramel and Ile Flotant (Floating Island) topped off our meal perfectly. Neither was too sweet, but just enough to make us not feel guilty.

Jean-Robert is a master. Not only do I enjoy his food, but I know him to be a kind, genuine, passionate person, and a brilliant, devoted restaurateur. I’m eagerly anticipating his next venture, Greenup Café, a coffee and pastry shop in the old Wildflour space in Covington. Given his track record, I don’t see how it can miss.


The damage: The total amount we owed was just $60! (just kidding, it wasn't really that cheap. We were lucky enough to have a $60 gift certificate to use, so you do the math)

Watch out for: it's pretty loud in here, so you'll have to sit and talk close to your sweetie

Food: 5 out of 5 forks - this guy sets the city's standard

Romance: 4 out of 5 kisses - see "watch out for" above

Jean-Ro Bistro
413 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 621-1465

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