James

June 10, 2009 | By | COMMENTS

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The Brooklyn question is a question that still permeates my life, even after living here for three years. Usually, it’s the worst in winter when our heat goes out and getting into the city is a nightmare; that’s when I begin my ritual rant about “looking on Craigslist for Manhattan apartments when our lease is up in the fall.”

But then Spring comes and I fall in love with Brooklyn all over again. Walking down Union Street, here in Park Slope, on a beautiful Spring day towards Prospect Park, I wonder why in the world I’d ever want to leave this. Here’s all the charm of a small neighborhood and it’s just one bridge away from the world’s greatest city. Who would ever want to leave?

That argument was furthered, two weeks ago, when we joined our new friends Maura (of the blog Crafternoon) and her husband, Rufus, for dinner at a beloved, local restaurant called James.

James is a short walk from our apartment, and yet Craig and I didn’t even know about it. If it weren’t for Twitter and someone Tweeting about it (was it Amanda Hesser?) I would never have thought to suggest it when Maura and I were making our plans.

But now we do know about it and it’s a powerful reason to stay in our apartment for at least another year: James is a gem.

Why, look at happy Rufus and Maura with their seasonal cocktails:

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Maura and I both had the rhubarb cocktail which, I had to confess, wasn’t as good as the one I had at Franny’s (another reason to stay in Brooklyn!) The one at Franny’s had the right balance of rhubarb to alcohol; here, the alcohol overwhelmed the rhubarb. But that was the only false note at James.

Otherwise, we loved the food. Like these appetizers which we all shared—pork belly on the left, scallops in the middle, and some kind of salad on the right (this was two weeks ago, give me a break!):

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For my entree, I had the lamb and Craig had the spring pea risotto:

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Everything was flavorful and perfectly seasoned and vibrant. But what I liked even more than the food was the mood; this was a hip place–there was a bold light fixture in the middle of the room and other bold decorative touches throughout–but the mood was relaxed and welcoming. The place is run by a husband and wife who live upstairs and on the way to the bathroom for the umpteenth time (drinking makes me have to pee), I chatted with the wife (I didn’t catch her name) who was beautiful and friendly and effortless at conversation. She said living upstairs from your own restaurant is pretty stressful–you can’t really leave your work at work. It’s right downstairs.

For dessert we all shared a fruit tart and crepes:

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It was a really fun night–Maura and Rufus are great company–and we loved James so much, we’re definitely going back. In fact, I may be getting my facts wrong, but according to something posted outside they have $7.50 burger nights every weeknight from 5 to 7 at the bar. Look for Craig and I there soon.

And so, as The Brooklyn Question looms, ask yourself this: would you rather live in Manhattan where the best restaurants are all well-known and correspondingly crowded or in Brooklyn, where neighborhood gems are like well-guarded secrets and husband and wife owners live upstairs from where you’re eating?

With this nice weather and with such nice memories of our meal, the answer is easy. Just don’t ask me next winter when our heat’s out: I’ll be busy searching Craigslist for Manhattan apartments and the vicious cycle will start again. Welcome to my life.

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Categories: Brooklyn, New York, Park Slope, Restaurant Reviews