Joseph Leonard is a gastropub on Christopher Street in the West Village. It's been heaped with praise since opening last year, and Ed Levine has visited in the past for breakfast and lunch, and loved them both. I stopped by last week to see how Joseph Leonard's menu would hold up to the Apps Only plan—an affordable dinner on a budget.
After munching for a while on our bread plate and complimentary jar of cornichons, we started with an order of the Peach Salad ($11), chunks of ripe peaches mixed with arugula, toasted bread, sunflower seeds, cheddar, and endive. Every flavor here played off of the sweet peaches beautifully, with the arugula cutting the sugar and the sunflower seeds adding a bit of crunch. The bread seemed to be something like cut-up pieces of whole-grain English muffins, which added a nice flavor but would have been better if toasted until crunchy—these were browned but still soft.
The Chilled Lobster ($10) was a dish we had to try--how often does lobster appear in an Apps Only column? The menu promised "tail, claw and lemon aioli," and that's just what we got. One claw and half a tail of lobster, steamed to perfection, then chilled and served with a dollop of tangy aioli. The aioli was nice but seemed unnecessary with lobster this good. High-rollers can order a $29 lobster entreee, but this ten-buck taste was a nice surprise. Also from the seafood appetizers, we ordered the Salt Cod Brandade ($8), one of the best values in the appetizer section of the Joseph Leonard menu. It comes chilled in a jar, topped with sweet pepper relish and curry oil, and served with crostini, sort of a fish charcuterie selection--it reminded me of a serving of rillettes, with potatoes lending the dish a nice creaminess.
We knew we had to try the hash brown from the sides menu. What Ed described as "hash brown hall of fame material" arrived to our table looking like a million bucks. The texture was perfect: difficult to even cut through the crunchy exterior with a knife, meltingly soft on the inside. Unfortunately, these were so salty we couldn't even finish half of them; it tasted like they were about one part salt to one part potato. The extra fleur de sel sprinkled seemed like a cruel joke.
The rest of the sides were show-stealers, not to be missed if you're eating at Joseph Leonard. Summer Stuffing ($7) sounds like an oxymoron, but with corn, leeks, tarragon, and a whole lot of butter, this dish managed to perfectly encapsulate the cusp between summer and fall we're currently standing on. The corn is fresh and sweet, while the leeks and tarragon act as a sort of preview of autumn. Even with all that butter, this dish remained refreshing. Butter was also a key ingredient in the Butter Beans and Broccoli Raab side ($8), though in this dish it acted as a counterpoint to the spicy broccoli raab, given even more bite with a healthy dose of cracked red pepper, garlic and lots of vinegar.
Joseph Leonard is not a cheap restaurant, but it's got a surprising number of deals to be had if you dig into the appetizers and, especially, the sides. We spent $51 for three of us, a bit over our price range—but could have skipped one of the sides and still left full. Aside from the hash brown, which may have been suffering an off night, everything we sampled was delicious. If you're going the Apps Only route at Joseph Leonard, definitely bring a few people if you can; the more dishes you can try, the happier you'll be.
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