1/2 Do you think people are swayed by businesses with the same name as their own? I would because I'm a cornball, but the only establishment I'm aware of that falls into this category is the Krista Hotel I recently saw in Buenos Aires.
I didn't choose new restaurant James simply because I was dining with someone named James, though it's possible that I was lightly influenced. Really, I was thinking of not terribly far away Brooklyn neighborhoods I rarely dine in like Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Ditmas Park. I'm just not sold on South Brooklyn as neighborhood even after four years here so I'm testing the waters through restaurants.
James is pleasant in that handsome dark wood, painted white brick and pressed tin ceilings punctuated by hanging filament bulbs style that's been au courant for a few years. Nearby Flatbush Farm isn't a wildly different animal. The area can definitely sustain two seasonal restaurants with prominent bars, though.
Sure, there are small plates…and proper entrees too (mostly above $20, for what it's worth). I'm all for a normal dinner-sized portion but something about the wilting humidity combined with offerings that just sounded ok, not amazing (I can't define an amazing sounding entrée but I know it when I see it, and I will concede that James the dining companion's lamb with big fat white beans looked good) prompted me to order the burger. I never order the burger.
The grass-fed beef was juicy and flavorful, perfectly medium-rare. Topped with sharp Cotswold cheddar and served on toasted brioche, this was a more elegant burger specimen. My only complaint is that the patty was a little stubby and tall, and not wide enough to fill up all of the bun. I cut the sandwich in half and this caused the patty to bunch up at the flat cut edges, so that when you tried to grip the half-circle the meat kept sliding out. I don't think it's overly fussy to want your patty to stay put.
I envisioned a cocktail with our shared starter of prawns with a lemony sunchoke puree and a glass of Syrah with the burger but they brought out all of our food at the same time, which is a pet peeve I didn't realize I had. Maybe I'm fussier than I thought. It doesn't just throw off the balance of a meal and lets food get cold, it's physically tough at a two-top. It certainly wasn't the end of the world.
The ginger fizz with rhizome-infused vodka and mint was refreshing. I've always preferred ginger in beverages than in food where sometimes it's jarring. I would've passed on dessert but if one is ordered and put in front of me I can't not take a few bites.
Described as ricotta beignets, the blobs were more like coconut-crusted fritters. Fried, sweet and cheesey is a hard combo to resist. A raspberry-red wine coulis tarted them up.
James is a perfectly likable restaurant, but with so many worthy spots competing for attention in the city I wouldn't feel compelled to return in the immediate future. But it's definitely worth stopping in if you happen to be in Prospect Heights, maybe for a cocktail and a few small dishes.
James * 605 Carlton Ave., Brooklyn, NY