Tonight, chef Scott Crawford opens doors to his second restaurant, Jolie, a French bistro steps away from his Historic Oakwood neighborhood hit, Crawford & Son. As of 6 p.m. on opening eve, nearly 2,000 reservations were booked within a short window of time, as locals jumped at the chance to score a table at Raleigh’s most anticipated restaurant opening of 2019.
Jolie is Crawford’s version of France. It’s a little slice of Paris on Person Street named after his 9-year-old daughter, Jolie, who twirled around the space on opening eve in a black tiered gown she originally picked out to wear in Paris on a family vacation. The trip served as much inspiration to the overall concept of Jolie, coupled with Crawford’s nostalgia for classic French cuisine from his early career days. “Jolie fell in love with French food and French culture,” he says. Upon return, the space next door to Crawford & Son became vacant.
Crawford tapped Madison Tessener as Jolie’s chef de cuisine. A Raleigh native, she returned home after a decade of working in some of Charleston’s most-touted kitchens, including Chez Nous, Husk, Charleston Grill, and McCrady’s Tavern. Energy radiates out of the open kitchen, where the two ebb and flow in silence, working in harmony like a symphony orchestra — grins on their faces the entire time as they’re both joyful to be there. “Guests are excited to see the chefs cook,” says Ashley Malinowski, general manager (of Jolie and Crawford & Son). “It’s a quiet and seamless kitchen, and they’re not trying to because it’s open, that’s just how smooth and pulled together it is.”
Tessener worked alongside Crawford next door at Crawford & Son leading up to the opening of Jolie. “This whole process has been really organic,” she says. “Scott and I also like the same things, which is amazing.” During recipe testing, Tessener notes the two executed many dishes perfectly on the first try. “That usually never happens,” she says, reiterating how the entire process feels like a natural fit, and often kismet.
A 28-seat bistro dining room plus a 32-seat rooftop garden, coined Le Rooftop, make up the small, intimate space. Tessener notes the open kitchen is like a dream to her, being able to watch the expressions on the faces of diners when eating dishes she’s poured her heart into. “It feels like we have been here a long time,” says Crawford, when looking out into the space from the kitchen. “I love the people I’m cooking with back here.”
Louis Cherry Architecture adorned the space with French blues, camel-colored banquettes, and gold accents, bringing forth a true feeling of a classic French bistro — as Crawford notes, a feeling as if you’re in one of the more unknown neighborhood bistros in Paris. It’s cozy and fuzzy and welcoming inside. “It’s a little magic, and it’s not just the food,” says Crawford. The restaurant’s logo is Jolie’s personal signature, originally with a heart to dot the “i.” Pink heart-shaped sugar crystals were created for signature cocktails and mocktails as a nod.
The menu is a marriage of classical French dishes, such as steak frites, accompanied by modern spins like white corn vichyssoise with smoked trout, Osetra caviar and dill. Onion soup arrives in a proper Le Creuset soup bowl, bubbling with Comte cheese on top, immediately transforming guests to Paris — while escargot drenched in marigold butter, Tessener notes is a dish that signifies the changing of seasons. Pastry chef Krystle Swenson’s warm, pillow-like cheesy gougères or the canapes dujour are best paired with a glass of $15 grower Champagne, a unique offering in the Triangle that beverage manager Elizabeth Nguyen is very excited about.
The entire menu, from start to finish, is a result of teamwork, passion and dedication. Expect everything from a crab salad with melon, foie gras parfait (with a thick, jiggly layer of Sauternes gelee on top) served with buttery brioche from Boulted Bread, and even ricotta quenelle with julienned vegetables and herbs. Dessert is not to be overlooked as Swenson is a core part of the team, delivering memorable sweets such as pot de creme with lavender, honey and sable cookies.
If you weren’t one of the first 2,000 reservations to flood the system yesterday, don’t freak out. Walk-ins are welcome and encouraged. Diners can scoop up one of the 8 barseats downstairs or post up at Le Rooftop (weather permitting). The rooftop is a charming addition to Jolie and covered by a giant umbrella, surrounded by lavender and rosemary and will give diners a peek at the Raleigh skyline. “I want people to still be able to come in and show up from around the corner,” Tessener says. That’s a lot of how a bistro is in France.”
Jolie is currently open Tuesday through Saturday, from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Reservations can be made on OpenTable.