Jazz & Food (a bit long)
- Nancy Reyes
What is a chowhound to do when they are interested not only in enjoying a delicious meal, but making the most of their evening by also sipping on some wine while a local jazz band plays in the background?
Is it too much to ask that a locale not only provide stimulating music, but equally stimulating food? I'm going to be picky and hope that someone out there can direct me specifically to a jazz restaurant.
I've been to Butterfly a number of times and enjoyed some excellent music (although it can be a tad too loud for carrying on a conversation). Their menu, however, consist of dishes that I don't really consider a meal. Although their tuna tartar is great to snack on and their drinks are quite tasty!
I recently went to Eastside West in the Marina and had a relatively good meal. It consisted of tri pepper crushed ahi tuna, seared rare, with beet and radish salad and the duck confit and arugula salad with mission figs, candied pecans, and Point Reyes blue cheese in a Cabernet and bacon vinaigrette. My two complaints about the food were than the few pieces of ahi tuna, while clearly describing the ingredients, were overwhelmed by the pepper and the beets. The duck confit befell a similar fate. The duck pieces were too few and far between - while figs, candied pecans and blue cheese are some of my favorite treats on their own - they caused more confusion than balance on the plate. I didn't realize until I looked at the menu a day later that my vinaigrette had bacon in it. Once again, the music is what made the evening, having been practically seated on the pianist's lap and not bothered in the slightest by the volume. This place is great for hanging out and sipping some wine (based on my ever expanding knowledge, their selection was decent).
My third comparison for jazz and food is Gordon's House of Fine Eats, which regularly has some good jazz bands overlooking the floor dining area. In this case I believe their menu to be diverse yet comforting at the same time. Donuts for desert, yummy! However, my dish was the one out of 5 at our table that sucked, to put in bluntly. I strongly advise not to get the green pea ravioli. This dish was one of the blandest I have ever had presented to me, especially in a nicer setting. Everything else ranged from good to delicious.
So, the point I was trying to make, what do chowhounders think about Jazz at Pearls, Rasselas Jazz Club, LES Joulins Jazz Bistro, Yoshi's in Oakland, or any other jazz restaurant in the bay?
P.S. Thanks to all for organizing the picnic, can't wait!
My husband loves jazz and we've always wanted to go to Butterfly or other dinner/jazz places. But my complain is at most places the music doesn't start until well after 9 or 10pm, so you have to have a very late dinner if you want to enjoy both at the same time. We want to try Butterfly, is it worth the late dinner? Can you elobrate a bit more on it?
re: Wendy Lai
My husband and I spend a good portion of our lives lindy hopping, and we have yet to find a place where we can eat well (or at all for that matter) and dance at the same time. Our jazz preferences are very particular and very old school--big band era (1927-1943), very early rhythm and blues, jump blues--so they may differ from yours.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed Bix, which has a jazz trio in the late evenings, but that may be because we had a gift certificate. It wasn't great music, but it was good, and all in all it had a nice speak-easyish atmosphere (if you can avoid the dot-commers at the bar--we had a nice table in the back). We were there about a year ago, and were happily surprised with the food and really happy with the service. Also, if you can catch Lavay Smith at Top of the Mark that might be good a place. I haven't eaten there in many years, but a friend was there recently and said, much to my surprise, that it was really good. Who knew?
We'd love to hear about other jazz/dinner places. Especially if they're reasonable.
re: Wendy Lai
Butterfly is a terrific place to listen to some jazz and enjoy a drink at the bar. It's very fashionable and showcases a variety of jazz styles. Food wise, it's basically appetizers to go with your drinks. I'm quite fond of their tuna tartar with crunchy, fried tortilla-chip-sized wontons, which are great to share with 2-3 people. The duck spring roll isn't bad, however it doesn't emphasize the flavor of the duck too well. Nothing else that I've had is worth mentioning. So I'll reiterate, it's really not a place to go for the food, but instead for the atmosphere.
If you feel like getting dressed up and aren't too concerned about trying to carrying on a conversation with the rest of your party, then you might want to give it a shot. I made the mistake of going there with a friend I hadn't see in a while, and we would have been better off trying to catch up at a donut shop.
One word of caution: If you do go, make reservations and be there right on time because it tends to get packed on the weekends. If you miss your time slot you could be left waiting for quite a while. This happened to me once, and it wasn't all that pleasant, but I simply threw back a mojito and enjoyed the music. Once again, an emphasis on the music and not the food. There are numerous other places to enjoy a meal SOMA and then take a cab to Butterfly for drinks and desert.
Or, if you really want to eat dinner and listen to jazz at the same time, try Gordon's House of Fine Eats.