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Joseph Leonard: a Kitchen for Two

The Chef's Table at Joseph Leonard

One of our first “posts” in the life of this blog (not that long ago!) was a quick snippet about one of our favorite restaurants in our neighborhood, Joseph Leonard.

Well, Joseph Leonard is still our neighborhood golden child and even more so after another superb dinner last night.

Joseph Leonard

The Kitchen at Joseph Leonard

Like I mentioned in that first post above, we always opt to sit at the chef’s table—two seats directly in front of the kitchen’s pass.

We love sitting there, as it is the perfect vantage point to watch everything going on in the restaurant’s minuscule kitchen and an opportunity to chat with Chef Jim McDuffee and his crew. (Where else in the city is your chef actually your waiter, too?)

Chef Jim McDuffee at Joseph Leonard

Chefs at Work at Joseph Leonard

The entire restaurant is the size of a one-bedroom apartment, roughly 600 square feet, and is beautifully decorated.

Gabe Stulman, of Market Table and Little Owl fame, owns the place and it’s part of his West Village “Little Wisconsin”—composed of Joseph Leonard, Fedora, and Jeffrey’s Grocery.

Bread and Butter at Joseph Leonard

Stulman’s home state is the inspiration behind the relaxed atmosphere and friendly service at Joseph Leonard. And luckily, the food matches up.

Chilled Melon Soup at Joseph Leonard

Chilled Melon Soup at Joseph Leonard

We started off with a chilled melon soup, served with crab and a delicious drizzle of chile oil. The flavors of the soup were clean and rich, perfectly accentuated by the sweetness of the crab and the punch of the oil.

As you can see, this dish was also astoundingly beautiful—I could have spent much more time photographing it, but considering how tasty it was, I’m glad I didn’t.

Next we shared two other small dishes—an heirloom tomato salad and sepia (cuttlefish) with fresh snap peas.

Unfortunately, Ryan dug into the tomato salad before I could snap a photo—it was just that good. It was composed of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes cut in half, a few slices of crisp cucumber and some lettuce, all dressed with a basil mayonnaise. Very, very good, and extremely rich, but nevertheless, we emptied the bowl.

Sepia at Joseph Leonard

The sepia was meaty without being tough and, like its tomato counterpart, perfectly dressed. The snap peas were sweet and crisp. We had fantastic cuttlefish a few weeks ago at Roberta’s, so I loved having another (just as wonderful) take on it.

For our mains, Ryan had the chicken with a summer succotash, and I had the Montauk fluke.

Chicken at Joseph Leonard

His portion of chicken was a huge drumstick and thigh, perfectly moist, served on a mountain of crisp corn and bell pepper. It was a true welcome to summer. Ryan said it was his favorite main course that he’s had at Joseph Leonard, which is saying a lot.

(By the way, the sign in the photo above is a perfect representation of the fun atmosphere at Joseph Leonard. Where else can you eat food like this with Jay Z’s Big Pimpin’ blasting in the background?)

Montauk Fluke at Joseph Leonard

The fluke has been on the menu for awhile, but I had neglected to try it until last night. It was another generous portion, as the large filet of the flaky white fish was topped with fresh spinach and served alongside a light, summery take on a rice pilaf.

Carrot Cake at Joseph Leonard

For dessert, we enjoyed a slice of moist carrot cake, complete with a perfectly sweet cream cheese frosting, to finish our meal.

We rounded out our evening with a lovely walk around the Village, which is currently adorned in rainbow for this weekend’s pride celebration. (And, with the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, what a celebration it will be!)

– Laura

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Joseph Leonard

One of our most favorite restaurants of late is the oh-so-humble Joseph Leonard. Luckily, it’s just around the corner from us on Waverly Place, so it’s found its niche in our regular rotation of restaurants.

If you go, make sure you opt for the chef’s table—the wait might be atrocious, but it’s well worth the boundless entertainment of watching Chef Jim McDuffee and his crew work in a kitchen that is smaller than our bedroom! Jim also likes to send out extras and goodies, so you’ll be very well taken care of.

Of course, this all sounds like a shameless plug, but there are few restaurants in the city that we’ve been as impressed with as Joseph Leonard. I’m sure the second that you taste a bite of the crispy pork hock or the caramelized cauliflower, you will agree.

– Laura

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Filed under Drink, Food, New York