Posted on November 1, 2019
A brigade of earnest, whites-clad toques working with purpose, heads down, hands moving quickly and precisely. Every so often a command is issued and they reply oui in high-volume synchronicity. I’ve seen gourmet kitchens like this from New York to Chicago to L.A., but I’ve never seen one embedded in such comfortable confines as Jeune et Jolie.
Carlsbad Village’s new Francophile haven comes courtesy of the owners of nearby resto Campfire, and it expertly blends Parisian and North County coastal cultures. That starts with the front of the house. Servers are friendly, educated, and fastidiously attentive without being intrusive, breezily making their way around the coral-and-seafoam dining room, informing guests about the high-level cuisine coming from the open kitchen.
Under the helm of executive chef Andrew Bachelier, the culinary team’s en masse responses and choreographed procedures could come across as militant, but it’s clear the camaraderie these chefs have forged eases pressure. Complicated preparations are elegantly arranged. Despite the level of detail, there is an underlying joviality among the practitioners responsible for these lovely plates, which make it out of the kitchen at an admirable pace.
From something as humble as petite frog legs given a sticky-spicy glazed-wing treatment to perfectly browned yet lusciously creamy scallops bolstered by plump abalone mushrooms and lent extra shellfish sweetness care of a shrimp shell-infused sauce made with Eastern French vin jaune, quality technique is on display.
A heavily seasoned rabbit sausage is served as a sizable, evenly minced orb and also stuffed into hollowed out heirloom carrots with almond butter, prunes, and a cognac reduction. It’s a veritable garden of mix-and-match options, as is the Côte de Boeuf. Ruby red, medium-rare wagyu beef is the star, but treasures abound all around it in the form of golden breaded sweetbreads, plus a streusel-crusted roasted onion that, dipped in a tart yogurt sauce, is highly addictive.
Also omnipresent are interesting flavor combinations. The aforementioned frog legs are served with an earthy tamari emulsion and a squeeze of lime that elevates
everything. The rabbit appetizer’s nut butter and cognac sauce make for a PB&J blend of sorts. That same sensation comes through in a burrata appetizer with figs and pistachio oil that takes a turn to croque monsieur territory thanks to the addition of Lady Edison ham.
As open as the kitchen is, the combination cocktail and raw bar at the center of the dining room is where similarly extraordinary things are afoot. The cocktail list, directed by Leigh Lecap, features eight house creations, each paying homage to a French colony.
“The Liban” is a riff on a French 75 combining pétillant naturel (French sparkling wine), gin, arak (Levantine anise spirit), lemon juice, dates, and Za’atar spices. The gin-borne juniper and lemon are discernible, while everything else blends to create a flavor profile that is utterly unique and extremely drinkable. “The Quebec” is a rye-based sipper with notes of maple and spruce, while “The Louisiane” is a Peychaud’s bitters-laced Manhattan served in a coffee cup to illustrate its rich java character.
On top of clever tipples, absinthe is prominently featured, offered in drip or frappé preparations. And then there’s the wine list, which is extensive and clearly composed by someone who cares not only about French selections, but in plucking quality bottles from other regions.
The work of that oenophile, wine director Megan Murphy, is celebrated via wines paired with an ever-changing, daily chef’s Carte Blanche menu composed of off-menu items based around special and seasonal ingredients. Each begins with an oyster course, followed by dishes sized nicely for a lengthy epicurean excursion. The night I visited, the tasting menu included grilled Nautilus oysters with fermented chili butter, chanterelle mushrooms and lardo; a savory albacore tartlet with elements of cacao e pepe (peppery, Parmigiano-Reggiano pasta); and scallop carpaccio with grapes, sunchoke, red verjus (unripened wine grape juice), and a burnt applewood vinaigrette.
A three-course prix fixe menu is also available on Mondays for $35 ($15 extra for wine pairings), and brunch is offered from 10am to 2pm on weekends. Options and hospitality abound at Jeune et Jolie, along with a plethora of inspired, delicious cuisine. 760.637.5266, jeune-jolie.com Brandon Hernández
Culinary Innovation: 4
Food Quality: 4
Wine List: 4
Craft Cocktail Program: 5
Photography by Vincent Knakal