“I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas. “
Juliet is not a seafood restaurant! Although it has been a little bit difficult for me to justify that statement over the past few months as we have served every single guest who has made a reservation for dinner a whole fish. Or at least a great big piece of one.
Sometimes the fish was a flounder, a black bass, or a cod. Often a branzino, quickly cured with fennel and salt then rubbed with olive oil and lemon, that whole fish has become the centerpiece of what we do for just thirty people each night. That fish has provided us with three star reviews and pull quotes that dreams are made of from all of the local publications of record.
Juliet is still not a seafood restaurant. In designing our dinner service we drew some inspiration from a restaurant in San Francisco called Petit Crenn. Similarly to Juliet, Petit Crenn serves one meal, twice a night. Built to paint the picture of the owner’s childhood in Brittany, the meal is a multi course casual feast highlighted by a whole grilled fish.
Unashamed, ever, of paying tribute to inspiring individuals along our path, we wrote a first menu that evoked images of Petit Crenn. A restaurant named after its owner, grounded in excellent technique in the kitchen and in service, and an exceptional taste palate, curated to make possible the sharing of so much more than just dinner.
In a few ways I outright copied what I loved there and took it home for ourselves. We are not ashamed of that either. We had a vision for how this would work and an excellent model for how to get there. So we used it. We loved it, our guests loved it, the newspaper loved it. We served it all summer. Over the course of a few months it became something very different and every bit our own.
That is how Juliet, our brand new little restaurant, in our growing neighborhood, celebrating only our favorite things, became known to about 90 people each week as a seafood restaurant. If any were really looking closely, at the fish and the shellfish and the bread, and the apples at first; maybe even something like a Breton restaurant.
Dinner at Juliet is a little bit of a simple night out, a little bit of a party you’ve been invited to crash, and a little bit of interactive theater playing out all around you. Any decent theater changes the programming sometimes, and we are preparing to turn over the set at Juliet completely for the first time now.
It’s already begun as little boats of mushrooms floating in brown butter have laid their anchors for the last time making way for rich crepes strewn with chives amid pools of pureed parsley and shavings of truffle. Our little European fish can stay in their seas as we look closer to home, carefully selecting fall chickens with some of our favorite farmers. Our instant classic “fruit de mer”; her fate is sealed too, although she doesn’t quite know it yet.
The sea isn’t going down without a fight though and that fruit de mer will be headlining a ten day long special at Juliet in support of ArtWeek Boston’s Art Of Food event, September 30th-October 9th. Its ragged claws scuttling across wide shallow bowls one more time, carrying with them the memory of a favorite meal shared, an inspiration that has brought us a great deal of initial success and is now leaving us to make our own way.
Katrina has been nudging me toward a menu based on TS Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock for years. Its scenes of oysters strewn on sawdust floors, its toast and its tea, its frequent indecisions, constant circling revisions, its coffee spoons measuring the day morning noon and night, could be so many things. Could be Juliet. Will be Juliet, for now.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.