Monday, September 20, 2010

Jam

About a year ago Julia Kramer (of TOC) said that Jam was "Only the best thing to happen to brunch in a long time." With a strong following and great food, this BYO, cash only store-front in Ukrainian village decided to expand to include dinner. When dining buddies Geoff and Ashley suggested dinner at Jam to honor Geoff's birthday, I was thrilled to experience what everyone else had been talking about.

The dinner menu is quite simple with two main choices: a tasting menu of four or five courses, or seven a la carte items. I'm never one to shy away from a well prepared tasting menu and went with all five courses for $37. Ashley joined me with five courses while Geoff and Erica chose the $25 four course option. I appreciated their ability to be flexible with different lengths at one table, and even offered us to mix and match if someone preferred a la carte. Consumer flexibility and service is always appreciated. We had a great meal with friendly service at very compelling value (it helps when you bring your own wine). Total bill with tax and tip came to $160 for four people. We did not walk out stuffed, but pleasantly full from a good meal.


If there is one main complaint from the evening, it would be that the first two courses do not do justice to the rest of the selections. Everyone started with an heirloom tomato with gorgonzola, watercress and coco nib puree. It was a simple starter with a nice plump and fresh tomato, but probably too simple to warrant its own course. I also did not understand the texture or flavor importance of the coco nib puree.


Our second course was foie gras tortellini with melted onion and snap pea puree. I’m not a lover of foie gras, but I am a lover of tortellini. The presentation and technique made this a fun dish and I even enjoyed the foie gras flavors. The main comment was that, again, it was too small a course with three tortellini.


The main entrees arrived and dispelled any notion of an average meal (the first two courses left us wondering). Erica may have made the best move of the evening with a four course meal selecting the roasted pork tenderloin as the entrée. While she enjoyed her entrée, the rest of us were served seared pacific ono with lemon gnocchi, blueberry, ricotta and an almond emulsion. There was a lot going on in this dish with a rather small piece of fish. The presentation was beautiful with the green, blue and yellow colors. The gnocchi and blueberries were interesting and fun textures to enjoy with fish. The almond emulsion made the well cooked fish taste close to perfection. Course three was a major success, we just wish there was a little more of it.


Our meal continued to get better with course four (only for Ashley and me). Erica already sampled the pork tenderloin but it was now my turn. The roasted pork tenderloin served with fig, scallion cream, crisped bollo and tapenade was on the better dishes I’ve had in a long time. The pork was cooked well and the flavors jumped off the plate. Each bite could be savored and enjoyed with any of the dressings. I am quite certain the pork was the star dish of the evening.


There were two desserts on the daily changing dessert menu, and we tried both. The first was a vanilla crème pudding served with small shortcake crackers, and the second was a mini molten chocolate cake served with vanilla Black Dog Gelato from down the street. While the pudding was tasty, the chocolate cake was incredible. This was one course I did not mind my smallish portion because I don’t when I would have stopped eating. Having Black Dog down the street can take any dessert to the next level.


We walked out very happy having experienced a wide range of gourmet flavors, a true testament to a well rounded and talented chef. While the extra course may not be worth the extra $12, I highly recommend the tasting menu to experience all that Jam offers. Bring a few bottles to enjoy and don’t forget to stop at the ATM.


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