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Worth the Hype


Too often, I end up reviewing restaurants that have seen and heard more praise than any one restaurant should. When I show up at the hostess stand, eager to judge a place on its own merits, I have to work to block out the headlines and sound bites that cycle through my mind. If it’s too good to be true, I’ll let my $30 entrée decide for me.

John’s Restaurant, an unassuming hideaway on Boulder’s Pearl Street, has avoided much of that hype. I’ve heard bits and pieces of praise, but only in passing. I’m pleased to say that John’s is content to let the rumor mill churn until the sensationalism passes; meanwhile, they focus on a French-gilded menu and service that raises the fine-dining bar.

Comfortably nestled in a converted house, John’s hosts no more than 100 seats. The maze of rooms is endearing and the design hints at traditional French elegance. In a single word, the ambience is “cozy.” For a restaurant that emphasizes the comfort of dining, it hits the mark.

Often, I have dreamed of visiting Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa, California. I imagine it would be much like John’s—quiet rooms that engender quiet conversation with warm laughter resonating briefly in odd corners. Courses are explained clearly, served promptly but without excessive pomp and left to the diners’ enjoyment.

This was my experience to a “T.” The little things are superb—bread replenished without request; water refilled by an attentive, but not overbearing staff; wine decanted precisely before courses were served. Which brings me to the food.

Though I don’t often indulge in foie gras, on John’s menu it stood out: honeycomb volleyed with reduced sherry vinegar for a play on sweet and sour, while in between, the texture of the seared foie gras countered the crunch of toasted walnuts. It was a rich, sensual dish that deserves immense praise; the balance of flavors and textures was both difficult to achieve and perfectly executed.

Complimentary butternut squash soup followed—a soothing, creamy interlude dotted with the sharp acidity of dried cranberries. Usually, these creations fall to a puréed mess of baby food. Chef Corey Buck successfully illuminated the earthy flavors of the squash, while keeping the dish light and clean.

While by no means sub-par, both entrées seemed to reach ever so slightly shy of what was expected. The pancetta-wrapped tenderloin was brilliantly cooked, moist and tender, but smacked of cloying sweetness; its apple cider sauce became less of a complement and more of an overbearing attention-hog. The sweetness carried through to the filling of apple and walnuts.

At the same time, the duck managed to be as brilliant on its own as it was with the conservatively plated sherry-cream sauce. The accompanying Portobello mushroom ravioli were unfortunately bland, but offered the dish a richness otherwise unavailable in the duck.

While I love the thought of a meal at the French Laundry, I can’t fathom a protracted 15 courses. Appetizer, intermezzo and entrée at John’s proved sufficiently filling; any more might have ruined the meal. I applaud the restaurant for its restraint.

If it needs to be said, John’s is worth a visit—or several. Chef Corey is eminently qualified to be at the helm and promises great things to come. It’s an accessible menu matched in setting. While a bit pricey, it’s an indulgence that would be impossible to regret.

So, I say, let the hype proceed.

John’s restaurant
Four Stars
2328 Pearl St., Boulder
Bottom line: Quaint, quiet and professional; the food is beautifully done and not over-indulgent.


Lacy is an award-winning food writer and blogger. She lives in Westminster with her family. Google

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