Monday, March 24, 2014

Dress code at Jules Casual French Bistro

Jules Casual French Bistro on Urbanspoon Saturday brunch is typically pretty slow at Jules Bistro, so if you're thinking of a walk-in, you probably have a good chance of it up till 1:30 pm or so. Before 1 pm or so, it will probably be empty, giving you a great chance to walk about a bit and look at the posters, paintings, and old piano on which are a collection of intriguing flasks and brandy warmers. Also be sure to check out the chandeliers with blue birds.

On this last rainy Saturday, I arrived very early for my brunch reservation, and it was happily very brightly lit inside. While I was waiting, I also got to witness an aspect of running a business in Gastown: Vagrants. The large umbrellas on the patio were apparently a great place to stop for a cigarette, and one casually dressed person did just that. While he was idling for his smoke (rather too close to the door based on current smoking laws, which require a 6-meter buffer zone), an even more disreputable-looking person stopped to talk to him. That was enough for the maître d', who went outside to speak with them -- that is, drive them off.
Since the restaurant was still empty at the time, I asked him about the incident. I think it was with no little frustration that he not only outlined his no-exceptions policy on vagrants, but also mentioned various incidents in the restaurant's seven year history.
With respect to vagrants and smokers, their presence was not only too close to the door but generally a deterrent to the restaurant's customers while at the same time attracting even more shady denizens. An aggressive no-exceptions policy apparently kept their restaurant front clear and inviting. Mental illness, he said, could involve things like coming in to all your potted plants uprooted by someone looking for drugs.

I don't want to start taking sides about this issue in this blog post. There was enough to-do with Pidgin about gentrification in 2013 that there are bound to be people passionate about various views. Where it could affect your dining experience is your dress code: Jules Casual French Bistro, having a hard line on being free of potential troublemakers, may greet you with suspicion or outright rudeness (depending on your experience of their approach) if you like dressing like a gangster or have a crude T-shirt.
Their house, their rules. I suppose you could test them if you don't have your heart set on dining there. If you are the host and one of your party shows up "too casually" dressed, try to intercept them just inside the door and by your greeting make it clear to the restaurant that they are in your party.

If you are waited on by the same hard-arsed doorkeeper, points of service might be abrupt as well. We were firmly told that orders are taken one course at a time (no, you can't pre-order your dessert until he comes around to take dessert orders after everyone's finished their mains). And it's one bill per table. No negotiation, apparently.
This latter point proved to be more trouble for everyone because we were seven. Some persons had alcohol, which involved liquor tax. Some paid by cash and just left it on the table, which wasn't picked up and therefore not factored into the bill. And of course I completely forgot one menu item (my bad) which screwed things up even more. Huge mess. Separate bills would have been so much easier. Another of our party has a review on Yelp and you can read her take on the whole sorry outing.

I hardly ever do brunch because often brunch menus just aren't very interesting. Everything I ordered here, don't order it. Not interesting. This is not to say that Jules Bistro doesn't have good or interesting food. In fact, the items appeared to be well and carefully prepared. It was just the items I ended up with were not particularly interesting.

Bread basket ($9?)
  • Small triangles of toast and some lovely, soft, brown rolls with chocolate inside. Looks like this, but with smaller wedges of toast.
  • Plain butter, some jam. I think this was actually $9 for what amounted to less than a loaf of bread in volume.
    • Total waste of time. If you're looking for an appy to share while everyone makes up their mind on what to order, get something else. Fries, maybe.
    Waffle with Grapes and Pine Nuts ($8.50)
    • Each of the square intents on the fresh, thick waffle had one half of a grape (no seeds). Sprinkled with pine nuts. Came with a mound of cream on the side.
    • Nice fresh waffle, but overall, felt overpriced or just boring. Are pine nuts expensive? Is that why this was $8.50?
    Melting Chocolate Cake, Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream ($8.50)
    • Rather smallish portion of cake. Looked like an oversized cookie or small thick pancake because it was flattish.
    • Quite a few people really liked this, but I thought it was too wet and had a strong eggy aroma.
    It seemed like everyone else had a tastier dessert than I did. The two standouts:

    Vanilla Crème Brulée ($8.50)
    • Typically you get either the narrow round dish that's deep, or the wide dish that's shallow. Here, you get a wide dish that's in between the aforementioned in depth -- i.e., You get more.
    • Basic but expertly done. A safe choice for dessert, and at a good enough portion to share.
    Oranges in a Mint Caramel, Orange Blossom Sorbet ($8.50)
    • Thin slices of orange in tasty sauce. Combined with the sorbet, it makes for a very refreshing feeling. Makes a great choice for ending any large or meaty meal.
    Don't go for weekend brunch if you want to properly experience what the kitchen can do. And watch your dress -- it's more strict than "no shirt, no shoes, no service".

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