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Joli

An excellent rebirth

Experiencing Joli now, you would never know it had a complicated beginning. Opened in September 2017 by owners Janet Eicher (who also owns Chocolat Vitale nearby) and Molly Bostic of Microsoft, their chef left on April 25, 2018, leaving no one to execute the menu. They took it as an opportunity to reset and closed the restaurant temporarily.

Amber and Matt Shaw

Amber Shaw, a former executive chef who decided to get out of the kitchen in 2013, now represents AUI Imports (specialty pastry ingredients, tartlets, decorations, confections). She stopped in at Chocolat Vitale for a sales call and found herself in a conversation about a possible consulting job to get Joli back on track. She thought her husband Matt Shaw might be interested as well, with his lengthy front-of-the-house background. "Our first thought was 'no!' as we were getting out of the industry and not thinking at all about opening a restaurant," says Matt. "I'm halfway through my MBA and was working with Kaspars Catering in pretty much a 9-5 job. But I said I'd help out and look at their books. It was such a beautiful spot, light and airy with big windows, lighter colors. I couldn't help but think it would be a great gin bar. I hate to pass up an opportunity when it presents itself, so here we are." Amber and Matt bought in and are partners with Janet and Molly. They started working on the concept and location in May and opened on June 5, 2018.

Joli went from a French-inspired restaurant to a place with no particular label. "Amber believes in good, seasonal, properly-seasoned food," explains Matt. "She uses high-quality ingredients, then uses flavors that complement them. She has an amazing palate and likes to take classic dishes and add twists. I like to do the same with beverages. We're on our way to being a gin bar with 48 gins now and more to come. The bar menu has 28 drinks, including two draft and two bottled cocktails. I want to add more bottled cocktails. We've also amped up the happy hour menu so there is plenty of variety. We do it twice a day and all day Sunday. That's been well-received by the neighborhood." They offer house white, red, rose, and prosecco during happy hour, plus close to ten cocktails. There are $3-$9 bites from fries to flatbread. Olives are stuffed with fontina and fried, charred sweet corn is added to blue crab risotto, and pistachio salsa verde is used for bruschetta. Once you've had some of Amber's flavor combinations, they're hard to forget.

New York Sour

"One of the big changes we made was to bring the price point down. It feels like you either go out and spend a lot of money on a dinner or you go to a dive bar where, honestly, you sometimes get better service," says Matt. "We want to offer a welcoming experience, nice ambiance and great food, beverage and service at a price that allows guests to come in several times a week or for a special meal. We warmed up the room so it's less stuffy. We're trying to create the kind of place we'd like to go to, a neighborhood spot. Because of all my years working the front of the house, customer service is really important to me. Whether someone comes in to celebrate or to put a bad day behind them, we need to make sure they have a great experience when they're here and forget about their problems. We have fun music and use a projector to add to the warm feel. We are paying a lot of attention to detail and keeping things focused so we're effective and efficient. Without consistency, you'll have problems, so we spend a lot of time training." They have learned from their own and Joli's early experience that the menu has to be great and also executable by someone other than Amber. Joel Jackson, chef de cuisine, was at Jolie before it closed and has stayed on to execute Amber's vision, as well as manage his crew day-to-day.

They chose not to change the name as the original owners were still involved and the restaurant was still relatively new. They'd gotten some publicity early on and wanted to maintain that momentum.

Amber and Matt are a complementary team. He has been in the restaurant industry since he was 16, bussing and dishwashing at a Mexican chain restaurant in Tucson, Arizona. By 19, he was bartending (it was legal there), and moving around from small places to corporate-owned spots. He spent three years at the fine dining restaurant Quiessence on a farm in Phoenix. After getting his undergrad in anthropology at Arizona State, he moved to Portland in 2011 to meet up with friends. He got a job at 23 Hoyt where he met Executive Chef Amber. He started as a server and within eight months was the GM. He and Amber worked together for three years. Amber attended culinary school in San Francisco, then worked primarily in San Diego, mainly at the Marine Room, an upscale spot by the water. She then moved to Portland and became the executive chef at 23 Hoyt, leaving to go into food sales and consulting.

Burger and fries in a bag

Deciding to move to Seattle, Matt found work at Cactus and Tavern Hall in Bellevue and Bottle and Bull in Kirkland. He then started working in Operations for Kaspars Catering & Special Events. "We learned a lot in Portland," recalls Matt. "It's a great food scene and you have to pay attention to your competition because there are James Beard award-winning chefs and master mixologists down the street from you."

Joli has a new life as a neighborhood staple. "We're really not looking for more. We hope to start doing private events here but have no plans to cater. Bottom line, we want to take care of our employees and give the neighborhood a fun, warm place to be that doesn't break their wallets."

Joli
618 NW 65th St
Seattle, WA 98117
206-420-7259

Joliseattle.com

Connie Adams/October 2018


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