Location: 218 East Portland Street
Open: About a week
Eats: Globally inspired cuisine with a French twist
Price: $15 to $50
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Executive Chef Ryan Pitts, formerly chef de cuisine at Café Monarch and sous chef at Citizen Public House, has brought his credentials and creativity to the new role. Globally inspired cuisine coupled with French cooking techniques produce dishes from king salmon crudo to red kuri squash agnolotti and a New Orleans Cajun spring roll. We pulled up a bar seat and dived right in.
It was 6:30 p.m. and the cocktail list beckoned. The bartender proposed the J.O.F. (Josephine. Old Fashioned) and the Toulouse-Lautrec, an ode to the Post-Impressionist French painter. We couldn't resist the second option. The drink arrived light green with a dainty cantaloupe floating atop. "Melony," we thought. Crafted with Sipsmith London dry gin, Alessio Bianco vermouth, Luxardo Bitters Bianco, Green Chartreuse (the only liqueur in the world with an entirely natural green color), and a splash of Midori, the libation is refreshing, if slightly sweeter than we would have hoped.
A fork in the road: We were caught between the spring roll and the agnolotti, but the server recommended the former. Another pretty plate presented itself, with even prettier food, neatly rolled into five little segments filled with tiger prawns, Chinese sausage, lollo rossa (red leaf lettuce), and Carolina gold rice. It was fresh, it was light, and it definitely didn't belong at Panda Express.
As it goes, the red kuri squash agnolotti was next, because who actually debates between two menu items and doesn't order both? This may have been our favorite dish of the night: delicate pasta folded over French Brie, topped with roasted baby zucchini, a Parmigiano truffle emulsion, and crispy sunchokes. We pondered second helpings, then pulled ourselves together again — there was clearly more to taste.
The Maine diver scallop was obviously next, as nobody would stop talking about it, and 15 minutes later we knew exactly why. A precisely seared scallop shared the plate with precious nutmeg gnocchi and marinated sun gold tomatoes, topped with walnut pesto. Josephine. knows its way around an ocean.
The interior was curated, the staff friendly, the food impressive. Next time we'll head for Coup de Grace, the speakeasy out back, illuminated with red lights and the inescapable charm of handsome strangers and bad decisions.
We shall meet again, Josephine. Consider this round one.