Saturday, June 25, 2011

39 Rue de Jean, Charleston, SC

Vive Le France, Not So Much...
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a “not so great” dining experience, but today we had one. 

39 Rue de Jean is styled after a French Brasserie and features a moderately sized restaurant and bar.  Antique mirrors dot the walls, globe lighting hangs from the ceiling and the restaurant has dark red leather booths and a lot of dark wood.  Not exactly what I was expecting, but hey, I’ve never been to France.

Seated in a booth in the center of the restaurant, the restaurant had a nice energy to it. Our server, whose name we never got, was efficient and upbeat.  Now let’s talk about the food.

Okay, so we made a big mistake, actually a couple of them.  When we first arrived I saw long loaves of French bread being sliced for tables.  “Great”, I thought, “This is a French restaurant, so that’s got to be good.”  When placing our order my husband ordered the Crispy Veal Sweetbreads.  Hmm, I thought, this is going to be a big carb-filled lunch, but I liked the creativity.

The French bread was a big disappointment. How can a French restaurant not serve great French bread?  Rue De Jean did just that.  The bread was dry and seemed to be stale.  “That’s Okay, I thought, more ‘sweetbreads’ are on the way.”

On the menu, the Crispy Veal Sweetbreads were described as having Mozzarella cheese cavatappi, Serrano ham and a Gruyere mornay. So how my husband ever thought that this was going to be a “sweetbread” is beyond me.  But when they were served I was up for the challenge.
Veal Sweetbreads
A small rectangular plate held two battered and deep fried “veal things” (we didn’t know what they were at the time), and a small pile of what appeared to be cavatappi Mac ‘n cheese.  Boy, we were in for a surprise.

The “sweetbreads” had a funky taste to them and a very odd flavor.  Obviously they were something that you had to have a taste for. When our server came by I asked, “What part of the animal is this?”  Imagine my surprise when she said “The thymus gland”.  That’s not something I would generally order.  My bad (actually my husband’s bad). Down went the fork and knife!  We then started to eat the Mac ‘n cheese to cleanse our palates, and it was just terrible. First, it was barely warm and looked like something that was dished out of a chafing dish at a cafeteria, second it contained not one piece of Serrano ham as advertised, and third, the cheese was nonexistent. If we had not been trying to get the taste of the sweetbreads out of our mouths we would have passed on the mac and cheese altogether.

As we waited for our lunch, which seemed to take awhile, a nearby waiter was asked how the Braised Beef Sandwich was. His answer was, “Out of this world.”  We thought that was a good sign as my husband had ordered this for lunch.  I ordered the Nicoise Salade Traditionale which was to be served with haricot verts (French green beans), hard boiled eggs, potatoes and Nicoise olives with tuna.  Our server told us that they cook the tuna “French style” and so if I wanted it a bit more done, medium would not be the right choice, and suggested I order it medium well which I did.

Braised Beef Sandwich
The Braised Beef sandwich had a great flavor to it.  However, it was served on a roll with a thinly sliced top and a disproportionately large bottom making it impossible to eat without making a mess.    The Pommes Frittes were just OK.  Again I’m thinking French restaurant, good French fries.  Not so much. Even though we overheard that the sandwich was “out of this world” unfortunately it remained in this stratosphere.

My Nicoise Salad looked beautiful. Fresh greens, red tomato quarters, quartered hard boiled eggs, Nicoise olives and haricot verts filled the plate.  But one cut into the tuna revealed that it was close to medium rare versus what I had ordered.  Since the restaurant was now somewhat busy we waited a bit for our server to return and she quickly took the tuna back to the kitchen to have it cooked a little longer.  Once again I find myself waiting for lunch while my husband eats.
Nicoise Salad

My tuna returned in about four minutes. At least it gave me hope that it wasn’t microwaved, which it wasn’t.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the tuna was flavorless.  What a shame.  The salad itself was delicious, but the tuna floundered.

So get this….. As were leaving, we saw another couple receive the Veal Sweetbreads.  On their plate sat this beautiful, toasted, cheese laden mound of cavatappi that oozed cheese when one of the patrons took a bite of it.  This was hardly the congealed, lukewarm mess that we received.

I know many people like 39 Rue de Jean, and I’m certain that many will disagree with my opinion, but I just don’t understand their infatuation with this place.  Having never been to France, 39 Rue de Jean gave me no desire to do so. 


We gave 39 Rue de Jean 3 out of a possible 5 plates.


39 Rue de Jean on Urbanspoon

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