James (605 Carton Ave. at the corner of St. James Ave., 718-942-4255) has been open for a little over a year and I finally made it there for dinner the other night. It's in the space formerly occupied by Sorrel, the corner spot, changed up with a bar, mirrors and unfinished plaster, tall fern leaves in vases and an uber-modern plastic chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. The cocktail list is filled with unique concoctions, like the Vesper Lynd, Tarragon-infused Vodka, gin & Lillet Blanc. It was more licorice-flavored than I expected, but it grew on me as I sipped it.
We started with two appetizers. One was a salad made with Spinach, Shiitake Mushrooms, Parmesan-Reggiano & Balsamico. Big, meaty slices of mushroom dotted the greens as did little cheesy crackers and pine nuts. I really enjoyed it, but my boyfriend, not the biggest mushroom fan, wasn't wowed.
We also ordered the Glazed Berkshire Pork Belly with Apple Chutney and Golden Raisins. This was pretty amazing. Crispy skin on the outside of the meat, the chutney giving it a slight Indian flavor, and the meat melting on your tongue. Decadence - perfect for sharing.
For our entree, we chose the Cumin Crusted Loin of Lamb with Braised Mustard Greens, Sunchokes & Jus Natural. We were both amazed at how smooth and tender the meat was, unlike how lamb usually is served. it was perfectly cooked and spiced. The combination of the three flavors was also incredible - it was the best dish of the evening. Some may complain that the portion was small, but I thought it was perfect, considering we shared the appetizers and went on to get dessert.
We picked the Grilled Lemon Pound Cake with Figs in Port Wine Reduction for dessert. This was OK. The pound cake had a nice, citrusy flavor, but all in all it was a little boring and dry. The figs were small, there was barely any sauce; just a big mound of mascarpone, always nice, but not very exciting. I wish we had chosen the banana crepes with dulce de leche or the lavender creme brulee!
I liked James, I just wasn't blown away. From what I had heard I was expecting something it just isn't. The food was nicely prepared and served, but it won't replace any places on my list of favorites. Perhaps if I lived nearby I'd go there more often. As it is, I won't be going out of my way.