JiRaffe report, Fri 12/23
Went for the 1st time last Friday with 2 friends. The restaurant was very warmly decorated, and we were seated in a corner table upstairs. Although the tables were a bit too close together, the noise level never got too bad. Our waiter was very friendly and helpful, but the service was very poorly coordinated. We had to ask for bread and water long after we arrived and were told the dinner specials. The timing of our courses was also poor, as our main courses were served as we were finishing our appetizers, not really giving us time to eat at our own pace. My souffle dessert also came out room temp, surprising for a dessert for which we were supposed to wait extra time and which, therefore, should have been fresh and hot?
Our food was a mixed experience as well. Luckily, my own food was wonderful - tomato tart and rack of lamb. The tart was fresh and full of a range of flavors. The crust of the tart was flaky and worked very well with the tomatoes. The rack of lamb was cooked perfectly and the Indian flavors blended together well with the veggies, but the sauce was a bit salty. Also, given the price, I thought the chops were a bit small. My friends got foie gras and a salad for appetizers and ribeye steak and ahi tuna for main courses. The foie gras was excellent, didn't try the salad. The ribeye was a horrible cut, extremely tough and lacking in flavor and marbling. The ahi tuna was good as well, but the soba noodles served with it took away all the flavor and were too bland.
Also, just fyi, the menu is pretty much the same as the online menu. An interesting special we didn't try was venison.
My wife and I decided to go at the last minute on Christams eve. The place was completely full, obviously taxing the staff. However, while they were really busy, they made no service gaffs with us. Rafael worked the room too, and it was plaesant to have a few quick discussions with him about the likes of rillets and foie gras. He's a very affable host, and was gracious enough to get us a (comped) glass of bubbly during the short wait for our table.
We had two apps, two entrees, and a dessert. All were very good to excellent. As usual the seared foie gras was a standout. It was served topped with pistachios, a reduction sauce, and a cooked mango. This did not fall victim to a current trend of a reduction sauce that is too sweet. I also learned that they brush the FG with honey prior to searing to add a bit of crisp. Nice trick. As a side note, I really hope LA establishments do not fall prey to the anti-FG maniacs. It's a fantastic dish with good reason behind its lasting appeal. It's also one of those things that is difficult to swing at home.
Other app was a very good purple potato gnochi with rock shrimp and very light tomato sauce, perhaps more of a butter sauce with a smattering of tomatoes.
My wife had striped bass, served with clams and I had the swordfish with a corn relish and fingerlings. Both were extremely fresh, flavorful, and large cuts of fish. I often have cuts of sword that are not great, especially purchased to cook at home, which is why I seldom have it. However, as I imagined they had a very nice piece. Seemed like it was lightly dredged and pan cooked, which also probably kept it tender.
Dessert was a shared banana creme pie/tart. It was very good, not too sweet, using carmelized bananas rather than raw ones.
We both left feeling like we were treated very well, enjoyed excellent dishes, and wondered why we don't go more insamuch as we live nearby. Definitely have to try a Monday night soon.
My visits to Jiraffe have been very hit or miss, mostly on service. The food has always been consistent, except for a few slips on minor things, nothing like the ribeye above, but then again I don't eat beef....out or really anywhere for that matter. The problem with the place's service staff, except for the bald French dude, is that they think they have to be more of a star than the food moreso that 99% of the other service staff in LA eateries, including the hostess/manager. My last and final ever visit a few months ago I had made res. 3 months prior and had to confirm them myself, well that should have been my first tip. We showed up, on time actually ten minutes early, and waited for 30 minutes until we were even told what was going on with the table after repeated requests to be seated. The place was not pumping, it was actually winding down, the res. was for around 9. After waiting for an hour and 10 minutes we were finally seated and sent 2 paltry scraping scraps of a "comped" appetizers that the manager made sure to inform us were being "comped". Mr. Lunetta is sadly mistaken if he thinks his food can out perform poor front of the house management long term. I have spoken to SO MANY non-chow users that have had such similar experiences. And I'm not some cheapo that brings a flask to dinner. Maybe it was because my area code was 818.
My friends and I went to JiRaffe for dinner and while it was decent, I wasn't super jazzed about it. I still recommend it to people, but only because of its proximity to 3rd Street. If it were located ten blocks north, I'd have completely different attitudes about it.
I've been to JiRaffe a number of time and have had for the most part good experiences. I wish tables weren't so cramped
and yes some of the waiters could use some polish. Isn't that true of almost every restaurant. My advice would be to make sure you talk to Rafael and let him know how you feel.