Growing pains

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Most new restaurants experience rough spots when they first open, so take that into account; I visited Justin and Jordyn’s Chophouse on days four and 11.

Justin and Jordyn’s Chophouse is “setting the standard for excellence in Royal Oak,” our server proudly informed us as we sat down to dinner. Owner Scott Rubin (father of Justin and Jordyn) serves some fine dishes and others that need work, at high prices. In the past, he ran delis and pizzerias. At this point, he needs to work on getting the quality of his service and music in line with the price structure.

One thing that sets Justin and Jordyn’s Chophouse apart from other restaurants, again according to the proud server, is that it prepares some dishes tableside. (Better to invest in more tableside cooker-carts, then, so diners don’t have to wait.) We watched some excellent scallops and shrimp (two and three critters, respectively, for $15), being tossed in a cream sauce.

For dessert we ordered bananas Foster and got to see the orange zest being grated, the banana liqueur added and sizzling — and the size of the pat of butter that helped make this dish delicious. The tableside guy is quite reserved, however, so don’t expect a flamboyant, Opa!-type show.

Justin and Jordyn have a salad named after them as well as a restaurant, and it’s luscious with ingredients that sound mismatched but work fine: a chewy round of pancetta, ovals of goat cheese, lots of pine nuts, caramelized onions; I even liked the sweet strawberry vinaigrette.

Roast chicken roulade is stuffed with pancetta and Emmentaler, nice and runny and reminiscent of the cheese toast I used to live on as a kid. Crab cakes (two for $11) are melt-in-your-mouth, and a crunchy mushroom topping does a bland whitefish a world of good. The pork chop is huge — maybe five inches tall? — and comes with a tasty grainy-mustard jus and some fine mashed potatoes and purple cabbage.

Soups are less successful: just one flavor per soup. The tomato Florentine was watery and lukewarm. And the spinach salad that our server promised to be out of the ordinary was in fact very much in it.

I know that restaurants feel free to call just about anything tiramisu, but the version at Justin and Jordyn’s Chophouse seems to be 90 percent bland mascarpone, with little flavor of Marsala, coffee or chocolate. Skip it and go for the bananas instead.

A recent newspaper ad for Justin and Jordyn’s Chophouse mentions “Michigans Finest Black Tie Waitstaff. Hand-Picked and Trained For Your Complete Satisfaction.” Here’s an old-fashioned training nugget I’d try to instill: The customer is always right. When a customer has a request or a complaint, the server (and management) should try to take care of it, rather than invent a fanciful reason why the customer is wrong.

Among a couple examples: When I questioned the doneness of my pork, instead of offering straight away to get it cooked some more, the server said, “Oh, they’re [the pigs are] raised under completely different conditions.” Farm practices before hogs are butchered dictate safe temperatures for the inside of a chop? Skip the excuses and go right to the solution.

The other area that may need work is music. The ad promises “Sinatra, Bennett & Martin Era.” On day four, a live electric-piano player accompanied a tape that was neither more nor less than elevator music, only louder. This was not easy-listenin’; this was excruciatin’. On day 11, however, a Saturday, a very enthusiastic live crooner did sound like a Tony Bennett impersonator.

Justin and Jordyn’s Chophouse is doing great business already, so perhaps Royal Oak was looking for a place like this. Work out the kinks and business should be even better.

Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

About The Author

Jane Slaughter

When she's not reviewing restaurants, Jane Slaughter also writes about labor affairs, having co-founding the labor magazine Labor Notes. Her writing has also appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, Monthly Review, and In These Times.
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