Old Favorites With Family -- Jar and Campanile
Maybe it's the holiday spirit, but had an urge to splurge on some old stand-bys over the holidays. With my wife laid up with a cold last Friday I took my two daughters (14 and 12) to Jar, squeezing in just before 6 PM through the grace of a hostess who told me on the phone they were fully booked until 8:30, but might work us in if we got their quickly. We did, and were seated in an almost empty place -- for about a half hour -- after which the seats started to fill. Both my girls like good food and the 14 year old is a true foodie and a fine cook who had been eager to try Jar for months.
We split several plates -- none of us is a big eater capacity wise. Tomato lobster soup was excellent, the lobster flavor subtle but adding a definite note. A caesar salad was pungent and excellent. We had the pot roast, a little more fatty than I've had there before, but still with that incredible texture and deep meaty flavor. My oldest daughter had a salad with braised octopus that was outstanding. We split various sides including the wonderful fries (with lobster bernaise -- I can't resist) and brussel sprouts, a vegetable I hated until having it here with the tang of vinegar and smokey pork. My 14 yeard old also requested the miniature yams with creme frache and they were terrific as always. The butterscotch pudding and chocolate pudding were both wonderful (the butterscotch particularly), but the best thing of course was the company. We left by 8 PM, just in time for them to turn over the table for the wave of 8 PM diners. I hope the management at Jar appreciates how well the staff at the front of the house runs the dining room. Our table could have sat empty waiting for the rush, but they squeezed us in, turned the table (without making us feel rushed in the least)and earned much good will in the process.
Since my wife missed Jar (one of her favorites) I surprised her today with lunch at Campanile. I go there fairly often for lunch since it is near our office, and today it was fairly quiet given the holiday season. The kitchen was not quite in sync, the food coming out very slowly considering the reduced numbers of guests, but there were several large parties and that can slam a kitchen pace wise so it was hard to be too upset about it. The food was largely excellent as always. My wife had a very good caesar salad and a butternut squash risotto laced with olive oil tha was wonderful. I had potato soup with a splash of basil infused olive oil that had a delicious, deep nutty potato flavor, really outstanding. My cuban sandwich -- pulled pork, capicolla, pickles and mustard -- was just average, and far below what I've had at authentic cuban delis. I gave it a try because their lunch sandwiches are usually excellent, but no question it was a disappointment, and a fairly pricey one at that. Over all though I still give Campanile high marks. The service is professional and the food pretty consistently wonderful. For every occasional miss (the cuban sandwich) there are plenty of hits (the risotto, caesar and soup).
Note to wine lovers: The Campanile wine list had a special section devoted to burgundies selected by the sommelier, several of which are outstanding, and all of which are priced below retail. I don't know how long this will last, but if you are a burgundy fan defintely check it out.