To quote Dennis Miller, I think it's a little like being valedictorian at summer school. It's the best upscale New American restaurant I've been to in ABQ, but this is more a symptom of anemic local competition than the restaurant being especially stellar. More than anything, the QPR is off: if their prices were $5 or $10 less per entree ($28 for a salad Nicoise?), I'd be much less grumpy about an evening out there. But in terms of pure deliciousness, you could do a whole lot worse.
I agree with Finlero. I think that Farm and Table might be the closest rival now--in spirit if not in geography, and maybe Vinaigrette when it opens in Old Town. Both have an emphasis on local and fresh like Jennifer James but Farm and Table (though very lovely) does not match the service and home-like atmosphere. THe food has been great the few times I have been able to convince someone to take me there (it is pricey) but my favorite aspect of Jennifer James is how close you are to the kitchen and how truly comfortable and relaxed the tiny place manages to be. PLUS I always end up getting seated next to a movie or TV actor and since its so small we end up chatting.
Wanted to mention I had dinner there on Friday night. It was wonderful. Jennifer's approach is original in so many ways.As example, my appetizer was a raw Australian kingfish served with green beans that had been flash fried for maybe 5 seconds. The combination was superb. My husband's salad was melon, parm cheese and pea shoots, beautifully dressed. We are from NYC and eat out quite a bit, although I love to cook too. I mention this because my husband felt that the halibut was the best he ever had. And the wine list, although short, was interesting enough to satisfy one of our dining companions who is studying for her masters in wine.
Bkeeler, I'm sorry I didn't see your reply before we left for our vacation, but so glad I went. And anyone lucky enough to live in ABQ - definitely go!
Absolutely! First, I need to qualify my response. I'm a foodie. I am NOT from Albuquerque (or NM) originally, and I'm generally fairly disappointed with the food around here. Not the cuisine itself, but the execution of it. No one seems to really care about the quality of what they are putting on their plate. They just focus on quantity. I'm sick of it.
However, there are a few exceptions to this, and Jennifer James is the most notable. Before she left Graze, it was our absolute favorite restaurant in town, and we'd send all our visitors there. So far, we've only been able to get to 101 once (we've since had a baby), but the experience was pure heaven. First of all, the interior is beautiful, cozy, and inviting. Upscale but a little casual at the same time. Service was personal but professional, and unobtrusive. The kitchen really amazed me. Similar to Chef du Jour, the kitchen is essentially part of the dining room itself. And that kitchen was absolutely immaculate. Quite impressive.
I love that she has a very limited menu, allowing her to focus on just a few, seasonal dishes. I ordered a steak (I forget what cut, exactly), and I can honestly say it was the best steak I've ever eaten. Perfect seasoning, accompaniments, and presentation. I had a small portion left, so I took it home for later. (And I only had leftovers because we indulged in appetizers, a bottle of wine, and dessert, also.) Usually leftover steak gets completely overcooked and chewy when re-heated at home, but this one still beat out most restaurant originals, even as leftovers. And that's saying something.
This restaurant, and Jennifer James herself, is truly something special in Albuquerque. I can't tell people enough how lucky they are to have a place like this available to them. Go, enjoy, then tell all your friends. You won't get a huge mounded plate of food covered in green chile, but you will get a perfectly portioned, thoughtfully composed, perfectly prepared plate of food. If this is your thing, this is the place for you.
The location, however, is a little.... odd. But well worth it.
A recent review in the Alibi sums up my feelings about the place perfectly: