Jacks Bistro Trip Report
Went to Jack's Bistro last night at the behest of a friend of mine -- I've got to say that Ive been maybe twice in the past year or so before this and left not fully satisfied for whatever reason (small stuff and probably just my expectations more than anything), but yesterday was a wholly satisfying experience, and will probably have me back there sooner than later.
There were three of us, sat in the back room with two or three other couples there.. one of them really trashed so it was interesting to watch and overhear. If you havent been, it is certainly intimate in the back room so if youre going to plotting to overthrow the government this isnt the room to do it. We had some cocktails to start.. the jalapeno margarita, their equivalent of a daquiri with berry foam and some hot sauce in there too (was great and not overpowering), and a huckleberry lemonade which was nice and definitely not alcoholic tasting at all (in a good, dangerous way).
Our first courses were the sous vide shrimp, which were very tender and flavorful, decent cocktail sauce (though its not my thing normally). Friends got the sous vide egg on toast which was well done, and the chocolate mac and cheese which had a surprising but not unwelcome hint of smoky bacon in it. The chocolate was a mild milk chocolate so its not overbearing at all.
For entrees I had the sous vide pork loin with brussels corn and bacon -- it was nice, great texture because of the sous vide. Other dishes were the sous vide bistro steak (yeah sous vide was our compulsion for going if you couldnt tell by now) and the haddock cake with sea beans and purple sweet potatoes. The steak was served with fries and truffle oil -- this was better than the last time I had it, though thats mostly because there seemed to be more proper plates than the last time I had been. The presentation was a lot nicer overall, and of course the steak is by grace of sous vide at the perfect temperature and rediculously tender.
The haddock cake was well assembled, good flavor and texture (not too bready or what have you), the purple sweet potatoes fun to look at as well as being a good mashed sweet, and the sea beans I had never had before -- like the texture of bean sprouts but crisp and salty as well.
I will say now that myself being in the restaurant biz as was one of my friends, we definitely noted and appreciated the aggressive seasoning going on in all the food.
The desserts we had were also solid.. I had the baked aleutian had a very soft nicely browned meringue hiding a great strawberry shortcake.. very simple (by Jacks standards) but just overall very solid. Other dishes were the fried smores which were great but I didnt have much by then, getting full, and the frozen sabayon which had a nice presentation and very clear and delicious flavors (drizzled with a little basil oil as a nuance).
Anyway after reading over this I dont want to sound like a shill but there wasnt much fault to be found here tonight. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, our server was knowledgable and attentive (waited to serve someone who had stepped to the restroom, etc) but not overbearing.. I wasnt looking for a home run out of the park 'best meal ever' kind of experience but I definitely got more than I expected and like I said I'll definitely come back sooner than I had in the past.
Well Wednesday is the celebrate sous vide night, which is when we went -- but in our case for the special night they were replacing the sous vide chicken with a sous vide tenderloin special. But normally (well as far as I know) they have the sous vide egg, shrimp, pork loin, steak, and chicken.. and I think there was a sous vide duck cassoulet but I dont recall. So yeah lots of options for dinner.. on the late night I think its just the egg.
I believe the menu touts Jacks as "Baltimores first sous vide restaurant".
After the initial reports I feared this was just a gimmick restaurant, but I went tonight and wondered WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG? Started with a flight of ales including a rich Oregon one with a hint of chipotle. Tender smoked shrimp on wilted frisee flavored wth red onion and wine vinegar made me smile, and the poutine (fries with foie gras flavored gravy and hunks of curd cheese) went really well with a soft poached egg and wild mushrooms. Beef tenderloin was strenthened and enriched by a Guiness sauce. S'mores dessert was a more elegant concoction than it sounds, with a malted chocolate ice cream in the central portion of a specially designed plate.
The only house failure was the famous mac and cheese with chocolate, that couldn't decide what it was: it needed stonger cheese or a darker chocolate.
Yes, Turkeybone, the jalapeno margarita is a hit. And the service was great: not in-your-face, and waiting till we had a chance to taste the food before asking about it.
I like the taste and the feel of this place: I'll be back. I feel jealous of the East Baltimore hounds, with Jack's and Salt and Carolina to feast on. My next try is going to be Miss Irene's. that has an interesting menu