#GOODEATS: FROMAGE BRASSERIE
"Fromage Brasserie is that thing many of us crave: an ambitious restaurant which does its classy thing without being self-conscious about it."
- Rashade St Patrick
Occasionally, restaurants bestow upon those of us charged with writing about them a gift, albeit unwittingly. So it is with Fromage Brasserie in Kingston’s Marketplace, a borderline contemporary joint which plays fast and loose on french bistro eats with a dose of new wave ingredients and styles. The Brasserie serves as a healthy extension of Lisa and Kirk Chin’s Fromage Gourmet Market, a cozy joint for foodies with taste.
A brief glance at the menu at Fromage Brasserie will indicate a thoroughly on-trend interest in the flavours and eating aesthetic of modern people. Also, whoever got the contract to supply their steaks must be thrilled. All flare aside, to be honest; visits to any of the Chin’s ‘Fromages’ should be available on prescription as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress.
I retreated there after a joyless lunch at a New Kingston eatery that made me seriously question the bureau of standards in Jamaica. In restaurants, as in most things, there are benefits to scale, mostly measured in pounds and cents. There are, of course, degrees of this. There are joints out there with plain old standard made-to-order menus and it drives me to insanity. Allow me to provide you with the visual; behind the kitchen doors it's mostly a buffet of huge vats of the most popular dishes lined up along the pass. From here, waiters take turns offloading pounds of growingly stale food all for your dining pleasure. It’s effective and clever, and keeps prices down. But when it comes to the vital business of dinner, we idealise the bespoke. We do not want to be part of some huge mass that merely needs servicing. In the matter of our appetites we are, all of us solipsists.
For this visit I came armed with the most juxtaposed group of people pulled from all my circles. Here enters my high school friend of twelve years (vegan for about two) and her one year old baby sister Noah. Also in toe was my best friend and publicist Yemi and my trusty Asian photographer Alexander Wong.
At the brasserie (not to be confused with undergarments), I get excited about rice balls and marinara. This is proof of either their Arancini balls’ brilliance or my low expectations. In truth, it was both. It’s a resting place during the day for the atleisure working class, and people in need of therapeutic cake. Or for me, clumps of calamari. By night it is something entirely other. At evening time it illuminates with incandescent lighting that permeates between the extensively set tables of glassware and double walls of windows. As far as space is concerned I agree with Suga of Sugalifestyle.com. the two seater tables cornered to the sparsely decorated right wall is not -for me- desirable. It favors a paradoxical circumstance of extreme openness and decided sequestration. But as an epicurean storyteller and not an ambiguous reviewer, Fromage was thankfully expecting me and so was my booth. To Suga’s review, I steered clear of anything with lobster as the extremely bland looking plate of lobster ravioli she wrote on was disappointing even to see and read about.
WHAT WE HAD
Sicillian Grilled Calamari - $1350: Funnily the calamari here are so much better than the brasserie’s brother business Oak Wine Bar. They were ideally cut, crispy and well flavored.
Arancini Balls - $1250: I was very pleased with adding this to my list of starters. The balls well perfectly crisp and the marinara was a dream.
Steamed Little Neck Clams & Mussels - $1500: though I had effectively convinced myself that I was in control of my seafood allergy I approached this dish with much trepidation. See I’m profusely enthused by the flavors seafood dishes like this brings. But after one healthy slurp I was fast reminded of my own body’s limitations. Still, from what I did swallow, it was pretty good and according to Alex, it was good enough to order a second round.
Pumpkin Bisque - $700: Smooth, creamy and decently flavored. Could use a bit more spice, maybe its just me.
Roasted Vegetable Quinoa - $1750: It looked good but I think I’m allergic to large bowls of vegetable and ancient grains. Lisa here’s a challenge, let’s create a vegan dish with a little meateater pizazz.
Steak Au Poivre - $3200: The steak was wonderfully seasoned.
Feta Crusted Lamb - $3950: I love lamb and this rendition only strengthened my enthusiasm. The minty green condiment made every bite magical. Love lamb and mint.
Shrimp Scampi - $2850: Exactly what shrimp scampi should be, I guess.
Dinner came in at a healthy $27,560
The desserts were simple headlines - Nutella Pizza, panacotta, tiramisu - with lots of interest in the text below: coffee soaked ladyfingers with Italian whipped cabaione custard. The sense that the sweet end of the meal is not quite the focus is confirmed by what I had to-go; a serving of the Limoncello torte which was by all means, fine. But it speaks volumes for the quality of everything else, I mean they had me at golden pineapple with coco rum inside. Lisa and Kirk Chin’s Fromage Brasserie is that thing many of us crave: an ambitious restaurant which does its classy thing without being self-conscious about it.
Upon leaving the space a reader with whom I had spoke with online and earlier in the parking lot mused; “This new location is glamorous, good food too” she said, “Not that you want my opinion”. She was right, on all counts.
Fromage Brasserie - Marketplace (876) 649-0820-1.