Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Jackie's: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Mickey, Carlos, Steve and Patrick
Carlos needed a ride to Silver Spring to meet his own darling chubby hubby, Mickey (a.k.a. Mickey-do) so we agreed to take him there after work. After picking up Carlos, we found that we had about an hour and half to kill so we decided that we should go ahead and have dinner. Steve had read about a restaurant that opened a couple of years back called Jackie’s. I don’t quite know how this place flew under my radar screen (Steve swears he told me about it), but it did.
So let’s talk about the good stuff first.
Jackie’s has been retrofitted into a restaurant from an old garage. It has a funky, upbeat interior that reflects a style of restaurant that Steve and I are always saying we don’t have enough of in Washington DC. I know there have been some changes to this genre recently, but it seems that you either have to go high end or low brow in DC for dining with not much choice in-between.
They have kept much of the dimensions of the original space with exposed brick walls, high ceilings, bright paned windows and they even dangle workers lights from extension cords overhead. We loved the open kitchen, and the opportunity to watch the chef’s in action. The seating is colorful with multi-patterned booths and varied colored plastic chairs with a serious 60’s feel. In the front of the restaurant by the bar hangs a large mobile of large pastel colored plastic disks. Very Fun.
The first courses were fantastic. We ordered the melon with proscuitto, one of my favorites. I love it when a chef has the balls to get out of the way of great food. The melon, cantaloupe in this case, was perfectly ripe, sweet and musky with a beautiful color. It was topped with generous portions of ultra-thin slices of a good quality proscuitto. Jackie’s prides itself on using high quality organic meats and vegetables and it truly showed in this dish. The whole affair was lightly sprinkled with a nice olive oil. Sublime.
Next was the Gazpacho. It was a true Gazpacho made in the Andalusian tradition with soaked bread, fresh tomatoes, garlic and sherry vinegar blended to create a creamy texture and rich tomato flavor. So often when you order Gazpacho these days you are served a watered down version of chunky vegetable salsa, which has very little to do with the actual dish or its origins. The Gazpacho had a nice garnish of chopped cucumbers and onions, and was finished with a golden thread of fine olive oil, visible on the surface of the cold soup. The dish was perfectly seasoned and the flavors were well-balanced. We were off to a great start, but alas, there were rocky moments ahead.
Carlos ordered the roast chicken breast. It was by far the best of the entrees. An airline chicken breast, a chicken breast with wing drummie attached, was perfectly cooked. It was very juicy and meaty with a crispy skin. It was served over a huge portion of mashed potatoes and green beans. The chicken was then topped with a creamed wild mushroom sauce. The dish was elegant, yet homey and comforting at the same time. What more could you ask for?
Oh, but here is where the trouble begins. I ordered the Flat Iron Steak with Chimichurri Sauce. It was accompanied by roasted shallots and a liberal portion of French fries. The steak was ordered medium rare, but the griddle grilling of the meat produced a steak which was unevenly cooked and frankly, a little overdone. I also couldn’t help but feel the portion size was a little small. The chimichurri sauce, however, was the major downfall of this dish and not like any chimichurri I have ever seen before.
Chimichurri Sauce, an Argentinean steakhouse staple, is a great condiment to grilled meats, with a pungent flavor of vinegar, garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs. Jackie’s chimichurri had a peculiar color and a flavor that was acrid and unpleasant. I suspect that they made it with Dende Oil, a Brazilian palm oil that has a light orangey-peach color, but I really can’t be sure. The herbs were all brown as if the sauce, which is traditionally always served at room temperature, had been heated, wilting any sense of "freshness" out of it.
The French fries were exactly as I liked them, thin swatches of potato fried to a delicate crisp and the roasted shallots were sweet and tender. Too bad they chose to drown the steak with sauce. If it had been served on the side I could salvaged my meal, but no such luck for me.
Poor Steven really got the raw deal with his meal. He ordered the house made linguini with meatballs off the daily specials menu. Jackie’s features a daily specials menu that is designed to present home-style comfort foods in a modern way.
First off, the portion size was the size of an appetizer and at $20; they could have thrown a few more noodles his way. The noodles were delicious, but they weren’t linguini, they were fettuccine. They were tossed with the most minimal amount of marinara sauce possible so that the noodles simply had a pinkish hue to them. Because the noodles were so minimally sauced, they clung together like a solitary "noodle cake" which could, literally be cut with a fork and knife into a wedge. The whole mess was topped with three small, dry, unadorned meatballs. I know that they were going for a modern interpretation, but did the chef grow up in an eastern block country? What was “comfort food” about this?
It was accompanied by sautéed spinach and garlic bread. The spinach was seasoned on the plate so it had a furious salty first bite then nothing else to carry through the rest of the side dish. The garlic bread was adequate.
Service was casual, friendly and really, really slow. I had to remind our waiter that we had ordered the Gazpacho. Service was so slow, in fact that we didn’t have time for dessert, as we were now a half an hour LATE in dropping off Carlos. That means we had been there for two hours for those of you who don't want to do the math.
Upon closer inspection of the menu, I think I would order differently from Jackie’s in the future. They definitely have their starters down, including one we didn’t order, but wish we had, the mini Elvis Burgers, at $3.00 a burger. We eyed a plateful as they were presented to a nearby table and felt the deep pang of "oops-I-ordered-the-wrong-thing" envy. Despite what were some big disappointments, I would definitely return to Jackie’s. There was enough good in the experience to warrant a second visit. Hopefully, this was just a bad first trip, so keep an eye out for a second review of this dining spot coming soon.