Campfire duo debuts nouvelle French restaurant in Carlsbad

Opening your second restaurant just a one-minute walk from your first saves time and adds convenience. But running two Carlsbad Village eateries just a block apart could have a downside.

Yet restaurateur John Resnick and executive chef Andrew Bachelier aren’t too worried that their new collaboration, Jeune et Jolie, will pirate business from their inaugural effort, Campfire, which opened a block south on State Street in fall 2016.

Family-friendly Campfire, which is one of the most successful new restaurants in North County in years, celebrates the communal aspects of camping and campfires. Virtually everything on the menu is prepared over an open flame or in a wood-fired oven and the restaurant’s whimsical interior and its teepee-dominated patio resemble a 1950s-era campground.

Jeune et Jolie, which opened Saturday, is more of a date night locale. It’s a classy, 90-seat service-focused nouvelle French bistro with rosé wine-hued velvet banquettes, 1920s-style art deco design features, a custom-made absinthe fountain and a menu so labor-intensive that it’s only open for dinner and brunch.

While the two restaurants’ menus and style are vastly different, Resnick said Jeune et Jolie and Campfire operate under the same company ethos.

“Our brand is authenticity,” he said. “The entire vibe is a little more refined and it’s about good people. These are restaurants where you can come in, have fun and eat some really good food.”

The two men became close friends after Resnick hired Bachelier as opening chef for Campfire two years ago. Both men are 36 and they both live in Leucadia with their similarly named wives, Sarah and Larah, respectively, and their children.

Jeune et Jolie, which means “young and beautiful” in French, is named after their daughters, 4-year-old Elsie June Resnick and 15-month-old Margot Jolie Bachelier. Mixed in with the French art on the walls of the restaurant are a pair of finger paintings by the girls.

Resnick spent many years managing Little Italy locations for the San Diego restaurant group Consortium Holdings. Bachelier has extensive fine dining chef experience, including 4 years at now-defunct Blanca in Solana Beach and nearly 5 years working under master chef William Bradley at the five-star Addison restaurant at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar.

Addison is famous for its impeccably run French-style kitchen, which diners often visit after their elegant multicourse meals. It may be no coincidence that nearly all of Jeune et Jolie’s seats face, or are almost in the middle of, the wide-open, state-of-the-art kitchen where customers can watch everything being made by Bachelier’s 15-member kitchen team.

“The diners can look at the stage of the kitchen and bar. They’re watching the dance happen,” Resnick said.

The menu for Jeune et Jolie was inspired by a trip Bachelier took to Paris a few years ago. He found the old-guard chefs were retiring and gradually being replaced by young nouvelle chefs.

“They were taking out the old tablecloths and giving their food a new twist that’s more whimsical and fun but still honoring the old school techniques,” Bachelier said.

Jeune et Jolie’s menu is French-inspired but with a lighter style and the integration of this region’s seasonal produce and proteins, including a raw bar. Many of the dishes are inspired by the cuisines of former French colonies in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Africa.

Typical of Bachelier’s whimsical approach is a dish called Lapin, the French word for rabbit. Rabbit sausage is stuffed inside a cooked carrot with black walnut, cognac and and prune. Instead of the rabbit eating the carrot, this time the carrot has consumed the rabbit.

Another novel take on a French mainstay is the Poulet (chicken), a rustic version of cassoulet made with brined chicken and beluga lentils instead of white beans. The chicken skin is used to make a roulade (rolled meat dish) with foie gras Béarnaise.

The menu is divided into four sections: Un (one), small bites priced from $8 to $10; Deux, appetizers priced from $15 to $25; Trois, entrees priced from $25 to $35; and Quatre, desserts priced from $8 to $12. Diners can also order a $85 tasting menu with five to six courses of off-menu items.

The bread and pastry program is overseen by Campfire alumnus So Young Kim. She’s making mini-baguettes, pâte à choux (puffed pastry for cream puffs or gougers), brioche in the style of Japanese milk bread and vacherin, a layered meringue and ice cream dessert that’s served in a cylinder form rather than the traditional tower.

Bar manager Leigh Lacap has created eight cocktails inspired by France and some of its former colonies, like Vietnam and Martinique. The centerpiece of the cocktail program is a custom-built, four-spout ice-water fountain for cocktails made with a dozen varieties of absinthe and pastis. The absinthe cocktails are available in traditional and frappé style.

There’s also a 70-bottle program of mostly French wines with a strong emphasis on “low-intervention” wines made with fewer additives. Bottles range in price from $35 to $120, and wines by the glass are $10 to $18.

Weekend brunch service includes French-style omelets, a souffle-like French toast, beignets, French jambon sandwiches and salad Lyonnaise.

Resnick and Bachelier have worked hard to train their service staff because they expect customers may need a little help working through the menu and wine list on their first visit. But they promise there won’t be anything intimidating or pretentious about Jeune et Jolie.

“In June, Andrew and I went to New York to check out what was going on in the new bars and restaurants,” Resnick said. “The ones we enjoyed most were the ones that were fun to be at. For us, this was all about how to make this place really delicious and vibrant and fun.”

Jeune et Jolie

Hours: Dinner service from 5 p.m. (last seating at 10 p.m.) nightly. Raw bar and bar, 4 p.m. to close. Brunch service, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Where: 2659 State St., Carlsbad

Phone: (760) 737-5266

Online: jeune-jolie.com

pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com

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