Ladies Who Brunch


First Bites: Jam by Benjamin
July 30, 2009, 5:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The opening of a new brunch spot in my neighborhood is an event of such import that not even the untimely death of a pop icon or the dividing up of Jon and Kate’s 8 kids can outrank it in the pantheon of Important Summer Events 2009. Jam opened its doors a few weeks ago in the former dodo space on Damen and we wasted no times in sampling their sophisticated breakfast menu.

Although intrepid yelp reviewers (soon to be foursquare junkies, I’m sure) report weekend wait times over an hour, our party of seven was seated right away at noon on a Wednesday. Although the restaurant was starting to fill up a bit throughout our meal, the narrow, 30-seat spot suffered from a problem of the staff outnumbering and crowding the patrons. There were two waiters, two manager types, a busboy, and three cooks all packed around the miniscule display kitchen/pass/host stand/cash register, plus two more prep cooks shuttling back and forth from there to the rear of the restaurant. This made for a jumbled mess of bodies during a slow period and I can only imagine it creates a bit of a nightmare during a rush. Jam needs to take advantage of it’s tiny space and improve efficiency by cutting staff to the bare minimum.

Breakfast amuse bouche? Excellent.

Breakfast amuse bouche? Excellent.

The space itself is cute, with the pleasant hardwood and center-stage kitchen giving the place a real homey feel. The decor definitely lifts a little from the Tallulah/Eve playbook, with linear table arrangements, minimalist mod touches and space expanding mirrors. Lime green placemats seemed out of touch with the rest of the space, as they were the only colored element in the whole room.

On to that most important bit though, the food: we were able to sample most of the breakfast items, and there wasn’t a bad apple in the b(r)unch. The lunch items looked dull by comparison, but who knows what I’ll be craving next time.

Probably the winner for the best dish was the breakfast sandwich. Braised pork cheek, pickled plums, goat cheese, and egg on the most pleasantly crispy, slightly sour ciabatta I’ve tasted. This was also the only item left unfinished by us: unlike some of the other dishes, the portion is huge.

We were certain that the savory crepes would never come together (who wants lamb for breakfast?) but these turned out to be a hit as well, beautifully slow cooked lamb shoulder with tangy herb infused asian pears, swimming in au jus. Incredibly rich, I hope this is revisited in the winter time when it will be even more welcome.

Lamb for breakfast? Oh yes.

Lamb for breakfast? Oh yes.

Eggs Benedict featured thick, melty-fat slabs of pork belly in place of ham or Canadian bacon, and this alone made the dish, although overcooked eggs and a thick, flavorless Hollandaise disappointed. The panini cristo was a delicious play on the Monte Cristo sandwich, with prosciutto, tallegio, and rapini completing a clever Italian take on this French Toast sandwich. All three ingredients were quite salty, however, and the addition of some fruit element (a fig jam perhaps?) would have been welcome.

A little too tiny for the true Benedict connossieur.

A little too tiny for the true Benedict connossieur.

Finally, we shared some malted French Toast, served with fresh whipped cream and some lovely candied berries instead of maple syrup. Very eggy and only lightly cooked, they were perfect on my palate but might seem unfamiliar to many French Toast eaters.

Gooey delicious French toast

Gooey delicious French toast

We’ll be back to Jam after they’ve shaken off some of their freshly opened jitters, but for now, here’s the breakdown:

7 points (for seating 7 right away) – 4 points (for the number of superfluous staff members) + 9 points (estimated number of distinct pork products on menu) + 100 points (because sous chef Mike Noll, formerly of Schwa, is stupid hot) x .665 (the packing fraction for M&M’s, used to easily win any “Guess the Number of M&Ms in this Jar” contest, given the volume of the jar) = 74.48, which we’ll go ahead and say is out of one hundred, so

3 OUT OF 4 STARS

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