For a friend’s birthday, I treated him to dinner at 39 Rue de Jean, a French restaurant in Charleston (that also serves sushi? not really sure how I feel about that). I’d heard really good things from a bunch of friends, so I had pretty high hopes going in. We were seated in a 2 person mini-booth over by the bar. I was a little annoyed because we were basically squished in next to a bar table full of people, so it wasn’t really the private experience I was hoping for. Not to mention, it was super loud, and it only got louder as the night went on. So even though we were only about 3 feet away from each other, we had to yell a bit to be heard.
Our waiter was really funny, and very attentive. He refilled our water regularly and cracked jokes with us, which was nice. I hate it when waiters are too stuffy. He was perfect though, he didn’t hover, but he was always there when we needed him. Ben and I ended up getting the “Plateau de Fromage” (or “cheese plate” for the english speakers) to start off with. It came with four different kind of artisan cheeses, a piece of toast with each cheese, and different accompaniments. I think the offerings change daily, so they brought us a printed out sheet that told what each cheese was, although I had a difficult time telling them apart. I know there were two goat’s milk cheeses and two cow’s milk cheeses. One was served with apricot preserves, one with raspberry preserves, one with blood orange jam, and one with an onion jam of some sort.
Ben also got “onion soup gratineé” (french onion soup) as a second appetizer. It was served molten lava hot, and Ben had to give it a minute to cool down. I’m not really huge on onion soup (I think it just tastes like oily onion water, but to each his own), and this one didn’t really make me change my mind. I mean, it was ok, but it was still just onion soup. Ben really liked it, but it was so hot that it took him a while to eat. By the time it was cool enough to comfortably ingest, our entrees were delivered, which was kind of disappointing.
For my second appetizer, I got a fried goat cheese salad, because I’d obviously not had enough cheese during this meal. But seriously, how do you pass up getting goat cheese at a French restaurant? Answer: You don’t. It was served on a bed of arugula with roasted red and yellow beets on the side. I don’t really like beets, so I didn’t really eat them, but I really liked the way the creaminess of the goat cheese complemented the sourness/acidity of the arugula. It was pretty delicious.
For his entree, Ben ordered the braised short ribs topped with espagnole sauce and fresh herbs, with a side of pureed potatoes and garlic spinach. He liked the short ribs, although he declared that they weren’t as good as his grandmother’s recipe. I personally tend to avoid ordering things that I know my mother is the best at cooking (chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, etc) because I know I’ll just be disappointed. He really enjoyed the pureed potatoes. He said they were very creamy and not overly salted. He liked the garlic spinach, but it wasn’t really a standout dish. I personally just thought it tasted like spinach, there really was nothing special about it. But overall he really enjoyed his meal.
I was torn between what to get. On the one hand, I love duck confit, and I felt like I should order it at a French restaurant, but they had rabbit on the menu, and I’ve never had rabbit before, so I thought I should try it. I deferred to the waiter on this issue, and he recommended the duck, which I was glad to order, since that’s secretly what I really wanted anyway. It was served with a goat cheese potato croquette (never enough goat cheese), butter poached mushrooms, and a bacon grape emulsion. It was absolutely delicious. I started with the boned portion of the duck first, and it practically melted in my mouth. It was amazing. As I worked my way through the duck, the meat started getting saltier, and by the time I moved on to the second piece of duck, it got to be too salty for me to finish. Not to mention I was completely stuffed from all the food I’d already eaten. The goat cheese potato croquette was one of the most delicious potato dishes I’ve ever eaten. It was so good. I meant to ask the waiter to replace the mushrooms with sauteed vegetables, but I forgot, so I just left them on my plate (I’m not really into eating fungus). I really liked the sauce on the duck, it was sweet and savory and I think it complemented the meat really well. Overall, I’d say I’d probably order the duck again if I went back. I’d just pick off the skin and hope that it wouldn’t be as salty. Also, those mushrooms creep me out. I’m not going to say what I think they look like.
Even though we had both eaten way too much to justify ordering dessert, we did anyway. There were so many delicious options it was so hard to choose, so Ben and I each ordered something different so we could try a range of desserts. I decided on the white chocolate strawberry mousse torte which consisted of frozen white chocolate mousse, strawberries in sugar cookie crust with strawberry coulis and créme anglaise. When the waiter brought it out, he’d put a candle in it in honor of Ben’s birthday, and sang a rousing chorus of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club.” It was really fun and unexpected. I loved the torte, it was delicious. Ben kept stealing bites because he liked it so much.
Ben ordered Vanilla Bean Créme Brulee, which he’d never had before. It’s one of my mom’s favorite desserts, but I’m not really into pudding, so I don’t really care for it. I didn’t really think this one tasted like vanilla bean at all… or much of anything, really. But Ben made a serious dent in it, which was pretty impressive considering how much we both ate.
All in all, I thought the food was ok. We ended up spending more money at Halls Chophouse the next night, and I thought that money was much more well spent there than at 39 Rue de Jean. I know lots of people really love it. I’m just not one of them.
39 Rue de Jean
39 John Street
Charleston, SC 29403