Braise opened late and I figured by midsummer it would be a perfect time to go. Unfortunately, disaster struck a few days after the Fourth of July, when an electrical fire shut the restaurant down. Nearly four months later, Braise reopened at the end of October. I knew I had to give them at least a month to right the ship.

The brainchild of Anthony “AJ” Jimenez (former chef at The Table) and Josh Hanoka (formerly of Bray Butcher Block at San Pedro Square Market), Braise’s new American cuisine features a constantly rotating and evolving menu, based on seasonal ingredients and probably whatever pops into Jimenez and Hanoka’s culinary minds.

After making a reservation (which is highly recommended at this small neighborhood eatery), I made my way to downtown Willow Glen and through their unmistakable lime green door.

Their bar features a curated selection of wines, beers on tap and craft cocktails. We ordered the Bananas Alexander ($12) and their variation of a Gin and Juice ($10), which featured grapefruit and champagne. I’m normally not into cocktails but the Bananas Alexander was simply fantastic, as it almost tasted like a fresh banana milkshake. The banana liqueur mixed with cream, cacao and cognac combined for one tasty adult treat with a nice kick. The Gin & Juice was also good, as the floral grapefruit masked any booziness of the gin and champagne to make for a bubbly delight.

Braise’s menu is broken down into four areas: snacks, shared, mains and braised. It’s also important to note that almost half the menu is veg-head friendly, and a few of the dishes that aren’t can be altered in the kitchen to make them so.

We ordered items from each section of the menu. Our snack of choice was the the cheddar beignets ($7) and chanterelle mushrooms and cheese toast ($9); their infamous bone marrow PB&J ($13) was our shared plate; we selected the Anson Mills faro verde fried rice ($22) from the mains and rounded it out with the lamb tongue pastrami ($17) from the braised menu.

All the items came out one by one in true shared-plates fashion. First out were the snacks. The cheddar beignets were simply fantastic. Cheesy, yeasty and with a slight hint of sweetness from a drizzle of honey, these were an almost perfect bite-size snack. Next out was the mushroom and cheese toast, and it was a bit of a disappointment. The dish tasted fine; the size, however, was a problem. It was a bit too large to be bite-size, and trying to fit the whole thing in our mouths was a bit cumbersome.

I was really looking forward to sampling their bone marrow PB&J, and it did not disappoint. The housemade creamy peanut butter and passionfruit jelly were very flavorful, and when combined with the fatty, creamy bone marrow it made for a taste sensation like no other. If mom’s PB&J sandwiches tasted like this, I never would’ve traded them for Twinkies. While texturally the bone marrow isn’t for everyone, when combined with the crunch of the bread it was barely noticeable.

I thought they wouldn’t be able to top the bone marrow PB&J, but the next two dishes proved me wrong. The faro verde was extremely flavorful, with the crispy onion strips, carrot, green onions and Napa cabbage lightly bathed in a tasty concoction of fish sauce and spicy chili sambal. But the real pièce de résistance was their smoked lamb tongue.

Tender, flavorful and just the perfect amount of salt and smoke made this quite an incredible dish. My one quibble was the concomitant braised rutabaga and golden raisins were a bit heavy on the vinegar, and the dish could’ve used some kind of bread to go along with it.

Soldiering on, we knew we had to try their desserts and fortunately, they only had two options: a mini chocolate pot de crème with a marshmallow fluff brûlée ($3) and a spiced pear buttermilk panna cotta ($5).

The panna cotta was ridiculously smooth and not overly sweet, and the spiced pears were cooked extremely well, so that they still had a bit of bite to them and weren’t over-spiced. The pot de crème was also an absolutely beautiful dish, with the torched sugar on top of the fluff when combined with the silky-smooth chocolate made for quite an amazing flavor profile of sweet, burnt, rich and chocolatey all at once.

All told, my experience at Braise was truly a highlight of 2018—it was one of the best meals I’ve had all year.

1185 Lincoln Ave, San Jose