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Good News/Bad News: Joseph Leonard

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Krieger, 8/4/09

West Village: It's been a few weeks since Gabriel Stulman opened the doors to his eagerly anticipated pet project Joseph Leonard on Waverly. Reviews have been popping up all over the interwebs, and it's looking quite promising for the Market Table/Little Owl alum. Despite some kinks, due to the lilliputian space and some culinary missteps, people just love the vibe and find that the food is more than solid. Read on, if you please.

The Mixed News: Over on Menupages, two users have weighed in. One is optimistic about the place, concluding that although there are a few issues to be worked out, "The food was delicious - I highly recommend the mussels and oysters - and the cozy comfortable atmosphere cant be beat. I will be back soon." The other is a little more skeptical, calling attention to the "very uncomfortable" chairs and uneven kitchen performance: "The place could be really great if they fine tuned the food. The ideas are good, the cooks are not." He does love the vibe and thinks it deserves another visit. [MP]

The Salty But Pretty Awesome News: A Tiger In The Kitchen stops in on the restaurant's first night and finds that the apps are quite salty, especially a salt cod brandade with sweet pepper relish and curry oil that was "so salty that you found yourself grabbing at your water glass for a quick swig right after the first bite." But "thankfully, this trend didn't continue through our entrees. The whole fried fish with greens, onions, raisins and olives ($18) was just swell -- perfectly crispy outside and juicy and tender inside. The linguini with squash, zucchini, pecorino, bread crumbs and a poached egg ($14) was similarly well-executed. And the Old Bay soft shell crab with sweet corn, red onion, avocado, frisee and heirloom tomatoes ($18) was just divine." [Tiger in the Kitchen]

The Great News: Four Yelpers have posted reviews of the restaurant, and three of them are raves. Courtney P. has a pretty detailed summary and gets right to the point: "For those of you who read the last page of a book first: I loved it...This the sort of place that you dream of creating one day... or at least being a regular at." She praises the steak, mussels, chicken confit, and heirloom tomato tart, but she reserves the greatest praise for the hashbrowns: "I have a small obsession with hashbrowns. It was crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, well-seasoned, maybe a little salty. I was supposed to share it with my friends but magically it all ended up in my stomach... (and 2 hours later it showed up on my hips)." [Yelp]

The Bad News: That lone Yelper, however, is not wowed: "Joseph Leonard certainly has potential and a great atmosphere, but the food leaves you yearning for more. Every dish is doused in butter or oil, and would be fine if it didn't make every dish so heavy. The mussels were decent. Do not order the oysters, which are served lukewarm on a bed of salt. The chatham cod was perfectly cooked, but the veggies and orzo were doused in butter, as was the corn side. Oh, and the aforementioned hashbrowns, are you kidding me? If I wanted a potato that oozed oil, I'd pick one up at MickeyD's for breakfast." [Yelp]

The Good News: Shecky's has a small blurb on the place that emphasizes the bang for your buck: "They had us at $1.50 oysters...But the deals at Gabriel Stulman's 'bar with serious food' don't stop at the flavorful oysters; crab claws are a whopping $2.50, and small plates such as chunk lobster ($10) and shrimp and grits ($9) had us practically licking our plates. Several craft ale pints ($7) and 11 different wines ($7-12) will match your raw bar excursion perfectly. Of course, if you're feeling upscale (and if you can snag a teeny round table), there’s a $58 rib-eye for two. Still, there's no shame in sticking to the oysters...even your wallet will agree that they're an aphrodisiac." [Shecky's]

The Twitterific News: @kkrader "love[s] it, and that's not just the barbera d"alba duck rillettes talking," @dave_ob thinks it's "the best food I've had in years," @Ladew "can't wait to go back," and @dam00n has a "fantastic meal."
—Gabe Ulla