Petit Plat de Moules, Sole Meunière, Chocolate Mousse Brûlée
Location: Foster City
Favorite Restaurant: Jeanty at Jack’s
Reviewed Jeanty at Jack’s: Saturday, October 22, 2005
Recently, scientists have proven that chickens dream. And, as they stroll about on well-tended farms in the warm sun, they dream about lounging for hours in sumptuous hot tubs of deep red wine. They dream about one day taking center stage on the menu of a dining establishment that is steeped with charm and has a history of fine eating. There, they will be treated with the utmost respect by artists of the kitchen who take pride and care in how well individual ingredients can come together into a harmonious symphony of flavors while still being able to showcase each individually. They dream about being able to contribute to the sheer bliss of an appreciative diner. In my head, where fact and fiction are often blurred, this is the picture painted as I savor the Coq au Vin at Jeanty at Jack’s.
But it’s fact and not fiction that Jeanty at Jack’s offers authentic, uncomplicated, superbly-prepared French bistro food. Mushrooms, pearl onions, potatoes, and chicken in a rich reduction of red wine — you can see each of them, you can taste each of them, and it’s soooooo good. And it’s a fact that the setting of Jeanty at Jack’s (in the 1864 building formerly graced by Jack’s) with its antique sculptured food-themed wall and ceiling reliefs, brasserie décor, period music, and attentive service is just as authentic, uncomplicated, and superb as the food.
Facts about Jeanty’s Tomato Bisque en Croute: If I didn’t care about people questioning my sanity, or me being potentially forever banned from Jeanty at Jack’s, I would’ve jumped up on our table with my spoon held high and yelled, “THIS TOMATO BISQUE IS F—ING INCREDIBLE!” for all the world to hear. A steaming bowl of tomato soup is often associated with winter when there’s nothing like it to warm the chilled core. But this tomato soup is reminiscent of the treasures of summer when the flavor of sun-ripened tomatoes are at their most robust peak. Topped with a perfectly golden and flakey puff-pastry crust, you’ve got a soup that is most truly “mmmm-mmmm-good.”
Those who believe the fiction of pork as just the “other white meat” probably haven’t had Jeanty’s Cote de Porc — a generous pork chop simply seasoned, seared to juicy perfection, and deliciously married with sweet caramelized onions and a side of sautéed spinach. Even sides of haricots vert and sautéed spinach are done in a way that no ingredient overshadows the other; where butter and garlic serve only to highlight the fresh taste of each vegetable.
And then there’s the “chef’s favorite,” the Petite Sale. While this should’ve been mentioned first since it was more of a starter, the fact is, I just had to save the best for last. One taste of this rich ragout of tender lentils laced with a contrasting yet complementing taste and texture of cured pork belly and topped with a generous slice of perfectly cooked foie gras, and it became not only the chef’s favorite but also mine. This unique dish is really something special.
Entwined in the ongoing battle between fact versus fiction in the Twilight Zone of my head where chickens dream about diners like m, I dream of my next visit to Jeanty at Jack’s.
Favorite Restaurant: Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe
Reviewed Jeanty at Jack’s: Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Ooh — I couldn’t wait to review this restaurant! I was actually excited to go because as I said, I don’t usually get this kind of a treat. I took a girlfriend, and my husband watched our combined five kids under the age of seven. So you can see that this night was unique! The first thing that was a challenge was parking, and we ended up just paying at a garage. That was fine because that’s the way the city works, but it does add to the cost. When we entered, we were impressed. There were velvet curtains to walk through, and we immediately saw small tables with candles and people drinking wine, etc. Very cozy. The hostess then took us in an elevator up to the top floor. Loved the elevator ride! But when we got there, we were the only ones on that level, even though there was clearly seating on levels one and two available. Not sure why we were sitting up there, and it felt very awkward. As stated above, they were getting ready for a few big parties and literally spent all of our meal up to dessert rearranging furniture, moving tables in and out, setting the place settings. Really odd and uncomfortable.
The waiter was an older gentleman and very nice but absolutely fit my stereotype of the hoity-toity restaurant waiter. I wanted him to cut loose a bit and crack a big smile, but all of my charm went nowhere! HAHA! My friend and I did share our meals and he brought us extra plates for that purpose. Again, he was very good and kind, and I’m sure that’s just the reserve needed to work at a restaurant such as this. The food was delicious, save for the dumplings, which were fair, but again very pricey for the amount served. The desserts were very good, and I would definitely recommend the chocolate mousse brûlée.
By the end of our meal, the large party had arrived and several smaller tables were seated around us. At that point it actually felt like a restaurant rather than a banquet hall that we were intruding upon. As we walked down the two flights of stairs, each level looked much better than the level where we had been seated. The second level overlooked the first and that was really a pleasant feeling. So, I was fairly disappointed with the overall experience because this was a big deal for us and I had high expectations based on the prices. I would not recommend this to my friends because the atmosphere took so much away from the experience and if you’re going to spend $158 on two people, you want to feel like it was worth it.
Occupation: Architect/Developer/Stay-at-Home Dad
Favorite Restaurant: Soi Four
Reviewed Jeanty at Jack’s: Sunday, October 24, 2005
As soon as you approach Jeanty at Jack’s you are transported to Paris. The restaurant looks like a Parisian Maison Bourgeoise converted into a French Brasserie. Jeanty at Jack’s is so authentic, that even the bartender and maitre d’ are a bit snooty. The restaurant occupies all four levels of the original Jack’s built in 1864. The first level off the street has high ceilings and contains the main kitchen, bar, reception, and some small tables. Black and white tiles cover the floor, lace curtains hang in the window, and the walls are lined with rich mahogany, mirrors, and sculptural plaster relief. A carpeted switchback stair with a brass handrail and wire metal balustrade winds its way up through three levels of intimate dining areas and rooms and ends up in a brilliant glass-roofed atrium with a view straight up the facades of towering skyscrapers. The dining areas, both intimate and private with hand painted doors and papered walls, provide pleasant quiet places to dine. The rooms are nicely lit from a mixture of hanging antique fixtures and modern recessed lighting.
The menu is traditional French bistro. Californian fusion cuisine is nowhere in sight. We had Escargots ($10.50), Beet and Mâche Salad ($8.50), and Petit Plat De Moules ($10.00). The escargots with garlic-pastis butter were tender and delicious, and the beet salad with a citrus vinaigrette and feta cheese was also very good. The mussels steamed in Pinot Noir were tender, but unfortunately the broth was too salty. We didn’t try any of the charcuteries or pâtés.
For the main course, we sampled the Sole Meunière ($17.50), Kobe Beef Short Ribs ($24.50), Steak Frites ($28.00) and Cassoulet ($23.50). The short ribs were tender, but also too salty and the steak was a bit tough, and the frites, beautifully presented in a white paper cone supported by a spiral of wire, were crispy, but salty also. Finally the cassoulet, which comes in a casserole dish topped with herbed breadcrumbs, was so hot that everyone at our table was finished before I could start my meal. This dish was also a bit too salty. The duck was tender but no longer flavorful, and the sausage had a good flavor, but it was hard to bite into without burning my mouth.
The deserts were fantastic. I had the Apple Galette ($8.50) with rum raisin ice cream. The tart was warm and crispy and the large scoop of ice cream complemented it perfectly. The Chocolate Mousse Brûlée ($9.00) was heavenly. The caramelized sugar on top was light and crispy, and the chocolate mousse, covering the custard, was satisfying for chocolate lovers.
If it weren’t for the salty dishes, this first time experience would have been wonderful. Perhaps the chef had a heavy hand with the salt this night. The atmosphere is very nice and the service is great.
Finally, I remember when French restaurants were one of the only places you could get gourmet food in the Bay Area. Then came Chez Panisse and Californian’s got crazy about food. Now I prefer menus inspired by French cuisine but tweaked with flavors and preparations from other countries. I guess I’m a little bored with classic French bistro cooking. I don’t think I would return to this restaurant. If you are looking for the traditional French fare, however, you should give Jeanty at Jack’s a try and hope the food isn’t too salty.