Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Julep's: A Review

A while back, Groupon was on a roll with some amazing deals, so I bought a $20 for $40 at Julep's New Southern Cuisine. That was back in September...it's now January and only 2 weeks from the expiration date. So I invited my very good friend, Jeremy - who is not only great company, but a true Southerner - to try it with me. I knew he would give me some honest critiques and definitely great conversation and laughs.

After searching for parking...it took a while but we finally found a spot, we made our way to the restaurant. It was so dark, I didn't think it was open. Now might be a good time to recap how difficult it was to get a reservation. Apparently, weekends are high time for this establishment. I called 3 times before finally getting a hold of someone to make a reservation. Why? They only pick up between 5:30 and 9:30. Okay.... I guess I understand that considering they are a smaller locale. After speaking to the person who called me back, I was saddened to hear they were completely booked for Saturday. I can understand that, too, because I tried to make it for the same day. Sunday they are closed, so Monday was the day. I waited anxiously for it to arrive. And now, back to the review.

The vibe of Julep's is at first warm and inviting. It definitely gives the feel of an upscale location in downtown Richmond. On second look around, it is a bit pretentious, but that's probably because both waiters walked by us without stopping to help or offering a smile. The seating hostess, once she arrived, was very sweet and showed us to a lovely table on the ground floor. There is an upper level, but I didn't get to see that - there seemed to be a lot of hustle and bustle up there, though!

We were seated and given menus. After about 5 minutes, our waiter came by. I still don't know his name...he never introduced himself. We waited about 15 minutes before he returned to take our orders. Jeremy chose the duck with bacon, cranberries, and butternut squash. I ordered the shrimp and grits (with White Cheddar) in an Andouille sausage sauce. We waited almost 45 minutes before our entrees came out, but considering how small the kitchen was and how full they were for a Monday night, I don't think they could have served us any faster. While waiting, our waiter didn't tell us how things were coming along and didn't check on us, so that was a little bit of a bummer. When the food arrived, it was beautiful. I mean, it looked amazing and I was so excited to dig in.

The shrimp was perfectly cooked and it was the right entree portion size. I was wowed at first but the more I ate, the more monotonous the flavor palate became and all I could taste was salt. It needed an acid to balance out the other stuff going on. But it was tasty - not sure it was worth $26 though...

Jeremy's duck was wonderful cooked - medium rare just as he had specified. The butternut squash was absolutely superb - especially paired with tart cranberries (not dried, fresh) and the bacon (great texture addition). His cost $28, I believe, which was also a little steep.

With the meal we were served some tasty cornbread muffins which weren't dry at all. I am a sucker for anything with corn baked into it, so I enjoyed them very much. It was a little odd how the server served us the bread then took away the basket. I understand it gives an air of luxury, but I took it to be a tad...um...cheap. At a restaurant as pricey as this AND which touts southern hospitality it just seemed a little off.

Dessert time! Jeremy and I had both pre-viewed the dessert menu and decided on the cinnamon roll sticky bun bread pudding with bourbon creme anglaise. The description was more flowery than that and we were both drooling.

Up until then we were both quite pleased with our meal and were hoping for the perfect sweet treat to cap it off. When our pudding was placed in front of us, I have to say my heart sank. Sticky it was not. Moist it was not. Warm...it wasn't that either... My first bite was ice cold but after playing around I found a couple hot spots. It was definitely not a succulent pudding and I was very disappointed. Jeremy correctly pointed out it had too much egg and not enough sauce. There was no caramel or anything to give the feel of "sticky" but there was a white foam - it tasted like mocha- something which made for an odd combination. I think there was supposed to be white chocolate in it, too, but I didn't taste any. Maybe a few curls on top would have helped. It would have been a lovely brunch casserole, but as a decadent dessert, I'm sorry, I have nothing good to say.


At the end of the meal, the final tab for two entrees and two desserts was about $80. After subtracting my $40 Groupon, we each paid $20. I would say that was reasonable but the original $40/person was over-priced. Once last thing, y'all...I got pretty nauseous 3 hours after eating. Jeremy didn't so it either a) wasn't something in the food, or b) it was something in my entree that he didn't have in his.

Now, I am entirely prepared to receive comments from local Richmonders protesting my lack of enthusiasm over this restaurant. I waited a whole day before writing this post so I could sleep on it in case my first impressions changed. But at the end of the day, I just had to go with my gut.

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