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Restaurant Review: Brasserie Jo

By Duangjai Samranvedhya

Staff Reporter

120 Huntington Avenue Boston (at the Colonade Hotel)

phone 425-3240

Brasserie Jo was opened this year by Chef Jean Joho, who owns Brasserie Jo Chicago, a James Beard Award winner. Technically, a brasserie is a french beer house, as opposed to a bistro, which is a casual french cafe. But anything french is fancy here. While the so-called french bistros around Boston charge $2030 for an entree, Brasserie Jo is more of a tres chic beer house.

The idea of Brasserie Jo is very much like that of microbrew houses like the Brewmoon in Harvard square or in the theatre district. Brasserie Jo brews its own beers, and has spacious dining areas compared to the bar area. The large dining area probably serves the Colonade hotel guests. But the real difference you will notice between a french bistro and Brasserie Jo is the menu, a large, laminated, one-page sheet, constructed like the menus you would get at an American eating place like Friendly's, but containing extensive french fare. The food is highly influenced by Chef Joho's Alsatian background-straightforward and simply prepared.

Brasserie Jo Chicago's James Beard Award might have raised my expectations of it's Boston little sister, but I did not find the food all that spectacular, even though I went there twice to give it a second chance. The menu is the same for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, although it's unbelievably extensive. You cannot get the plat du jour until dinner, and you will get a loaf of batard with seasoned julienned carrots instead of bread and butter. And while everything on the menu looks good, not everything tastes that way.

If you like onion soup, order it. Not every restaurant does onion soup right, but Brasserie Jo does. They served the soup piping hot with cheese on the top, the broth so sweet and the onion so tender. I saw a table where everyone ordered the onion soup-a cute picture to see.

Aside from lots of beer, including Hopla, an Alsatian draft beer brewed under Chef Joho's direction, a cold seafood platter, salad, appetizer, and entree, Brasserie Jo offers the plat du jour-dish of the day. Ordering the plat du jour usually means you'll get a good dish. I really wanted to try Saturday Beef Wellington (beef in pastry puff) and Sunday Duck L'orange. Instead, I got to try Tuesday Beef Tongue. Let's just say it's different. It's certainly soft and tender, served with mashed potatoes, blanched spinaches, and crispy fried shallot.

I opted to try the escargot in melted butter and herbs, and the shrimp bag. The escargot was ok, but I was not really excited about it. The shrimp bag made a big presentation on the table as it came in paper-thin layers of pastry sheets wrapped and twisted like a bag and sat on top of a bed of rice pilaf and yellow sauce. The shrimps inside were rock shrimps with mushrooms that tasted bland, and nothing went with the sauce. Forgive me if I don't have the right palate for the shrimp bag, but I do not recommend this dish.

Brasserie Jo is open all day and late into the evening. The place features private/banquet rooms for late night dining. The appetizers cost from $48. The most expensive entree is $20, although the average price is $15. Chances are you can get a pretty good meal (appetizer, entree, and dessert) for about $20, a pretty good deal if you order the right dish at the right price.

Note though that a cup of plain coffee costs $2.99, and the level of hospitality varies from waiter to waiter. Lots of elderly people, presumably with lots of money, dominate the scene on Tuesday nights. Valet parking is available.