Thursday, May 29, 2008

Restaurant of the Weekend: Johnny’s Downtown

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2008 at 11:12 AM

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Warm weather marks the time for all sorts of tony celebrations – graduations, weddings, anniversaries, and visits from out-of-town dignitaries – providing the perfect excuse for a trip to Johnny’s Downtown, the luxurious Warehouse District dining room where the scent of freshly pressed Benjamins blends flawlessly with the aromas of foie gras and sautéed veal. White tablecloths, fresh roses, and polished but unpretentious service make guests to this elegant boîte feel like the proverbial million bucks. ... Which is about right, actually, considering the price points. If you think the cost of bread and milk have gone up at your neighborhood bodega, just get a load of the cost these days of a long-boned veal chop – pounded, breaded, sautéed in EVOO, and topped with tomato concassé, arugula, and aged balsamic syrup: a stunning $42.95! And how about that raw-bar tower for four? A drop-dead-gorgeous arrangement of succulent oysters, shrimp, king crab, Maine lobster, lump crab cocktail, and tuna sashimi will set you back a substantial $65.95. Then again, in a town that loves its tavern fare, there just aren’t that many places left to dine on escargot, frog legs, and chateaubriand for two – especially while eavesdropping on the pols, players, and downtown developers taking up the nearby tables. Sure you can wear your jeans. But Johnny’s is also one of the few remaining restaurants where you’ll see impeccably groomed gents in sharply pressed suits, and leggy blondes in diamonds and little black cocktail dresses. Got ‘em? Then this is where you flaunt ‘em. If those aren’t enough reasons to love this grand dame of downtown dining, then consider the quality: the melt-in-the-mouth foie gras, the massive shrimp so fresh they might have just jumped off the boat, and handmade gnocchi so ephemeral, they could float off your fork and into thin air. And for dessert, we’re long-time fans of the deftly done Bananas Foster – buttery sautéed nanas, snowballs of premium vanilla ice cream, and a dark, aromatic caramel sauce so perfect it nearly makes us cry. To help wash down all this indulgence, Johnny’s expansive wine cellar is stocked with an award-winning collection of fabulous international vintages, including fine Bordeaux, rare California meritages, and the requisite roundup of bubblies. Also, for connoisseurs of fine cocktails, the bartenders make what we consider the definitive gin martini – up, icy, dry as dust, and garnished with gorgonzola-stuffed olives. You only go around this old world once, they say. We say Johnny’s deserves a spot on your itinerary. Johnny’s Downtown is at 1406 W. 6th St., in the Warehouse District. Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner hours are 5 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5 to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 4 to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Free valet parking is provided. Call 216-623-0055 for reservations. To read our full review from 1999, click here. – Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at clevescene.com.

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