One of the best things about having guests in town is that it is an excuse to go out to dinner and try a new place. After a little bit of debate, and looking over some different menus, we decided to give Joule a shot, thinking the fusion of Korean, French and American was something unique. Plus, with the two executive chefs being featured on Iron Chef America, there was no way we could go wrong. So we pulled up the site, and made an 8:30 reservation. The hope had been to go a little earlier, but given it was already Friday evening, we were glad to be able to get a table for 4 when we could.
As 8:30 approached, we were all hungry and ready for an amazing meal. We made our way to Wallingford and walked into Joule right at 8:30. Unfortunately, our table wasn’t quite ready when we got there. The hostess recommended that since it was going to be 15-20 minutes, we should go next door to the teahouse to wait since there wasn’t a lot of room in the restaurant. We were a little disappointed, but headed next door to wait for a few minutes. After 20 minutes and a couple cups of tea, I walked back over to see if our table was ready. I was told that it was, and so I went to get the other members of the party. In that amount of time, our table was given away to people that had a reservation after us. We then had to stand for another 5 minutes while a different table was cleared before we could sit. This table was right in the middle of the restaurant, making it very loud, and difficult to hold a conversation, though it had a nice view of owners Seif Chirchi and Rachel Yang cooking in the kitchen. Not exactly the start that I was expecting for a restaurant the caliber of Joule.
Given the fact that we were all very hungry now, and we had looked at the menu online already, we were ready to order…until we realized that the menu online and the menu at the table were different. I was excited to try the duck breast entree and “mac and cheese” with black truffle side, but neither were available when we actually walked into the restaurant. So, I quickly went back through the restaurant, and decided to go with the black cod. We also got the whole branzino, lamb, and sides of green bean casserole and gnocchi. After about 5 minutes, we decided to order a glass of wine, and after spending the next 3 minutes trying to flag down our waitress, we finally got her attention and ordered. With food ordered, and wine on the way, we settled into a conversation, albeit a strained conversation due to the noise.
After a bit of time, we were starting to get restless. Checking our watches we realized that it was 9:45, an hour and fifteen minutes after our original reservation, and we still had consumed nothing but water and a half glass of wine. No bread or anything was brought to the table, and we hadn’t thought to order a salad or soup (the only things that appeared to be appetizers on the menu). Now we are a little upset to say the least, especially because there were people that came in after us that had already received food.
Finally, at 10 o’clock, the food started to come out, and we dove in, barely pausing long enough to take a couple pictures. This is where the evening picked up a little bit. The presentation of the food was gorgeous, and the smells rising up from the plate would have started our mouth-watering had we not already been salivating due to hunger. I stuck my fork into the cod and watched a piece just slide off. When I took a bite, I was definitely pleased. The fish was perfectly cooked, nice and moist, almost buttery in texture. It was accompanied by a chimichurri type sauce that blended very nicely. From there, everything was kind of a blur as we passed around bites of food and practically inhaled dinner. I tried a bite of the lamb which was good, though a tad overcooked (I prefer lamb at medium rare and it was bordering on medium well). However, when you added the olive and pepper mixture, the flavors did blend very nicely, and improved it significantly. The branzino was ok, a tad dry, even with the sauce that accompanied it. The sides were delicious. The green bean casserole was more of a soy bean, with shittake mushrooms that was quite flavorful, which is saying a lot coming from a person that normally picks mushrooms out of anything and everything. And the gnocchi was light and flavorful, especially when you got a piece of bacon, or some bacon juices on it.
After about 20 minutes, all we had left were some scraps, having successfully polished off most everything that had been placed in front of us. When the waitress came by to take the plates, we asked for the check immediately without looking at the dessert menu. I’m sure the desserts would have been beautifully presented, but we’d already been there almost 2 hours and were anxious to get going. Besides, Fainting Goat Gelato was four doors down, and we knew that would be delicious without the significant wait. The check came and we paid, a very reasonable $110 for 4 people, and then headed out to get some gelato (the amaretto is now ranked right up there with Pistachio and Cinnamon…amazing!!)
Overall, the quality of the food and the presentation at Joule were great. But, the experience is kind of like this post. There is a long lead in with an empty table, followed by a quick dining experience, and then heading out the door to the best gelato in Seattle. I definitely appreciate the time and effort that went into crafting each and every plate, but it would be nice to know that there is going to be significant time from the order to receipt of the food, and either provide bread, or strongly recommend an appetizer. This is a place I would definitely consider taking people, but I would want to be sure we weren’t hungry, that we had time, and that we at least ordered some soup.
Final Verdict – 4 stars (I deducted about .25 stars for service).