Jar Restaurant: Duke Ellington Called
Posted by Austios on February 11, 2010
When I agreed to join Andrea at Jar for dinner during DineLA restaurant week, I simultaneously knew what I was and wasn’t getting myself into. On one hand, Chef Suzanne Tracht is a well-known chef who I have heard about and have followed relatively closely, especially since her appearance on Top Chef Masters in which she triumphantly was able to advance to the champions round. On the other hand, I inversely knew relatively very little about her restaurants in terms of how they actually were thought of by the general public and my friends. I knew that this restaurant was one of the more sought after reservations in town, but again, I unfortunately had not heard much about the food itself.
Just as with Petrossian, this location is near but not among La Cienega’s “Restaurant Row”. I especially appreciate that because it allows the incoming guests to not lose the restaurant among the ones next door.
It actually took me to look at the website to find the words, but upon walking in, I felt as if I was transported to the 1940s. It had that classic kind of feel, from the furniture to the lines to the fixtures, the décor screamed Duke Ellington. The only thing missing was a live jazz band in the corner featuring none other than, Duke Ellington. I say all this not as a bad thing, but it was kind of cool and I liked it. A little pleasantly unexpected I should say. I checked in with the hostess and once I realized I was first to arrive, I took a seat at the bar. The bartender immediately came over and I ordered just a water. I actually kind of liked the coaster with the logo/restaurant name in the corner and the baby blue color.
Andrea arrived shortly thereafter and went back to the hostess. After a brief blank stare, she realized I had already checked in and that we were ready to be seated. We were lead to our table relatively in one corner. The furniture kept very well with the theme of the décor. Andrea sat on the inside, which was padded bench seating, and I sat on the outside. What was interesting was that my chair, which resembled more like an egg chair, was is had rollers. Not that I had any problems in those regards that night, but I’m just saying.
What happened next probably set the tone for a majority of the evening. Where is our server? We seriously waited almost 5 minutes before we decided to flag down a busboy to get our server. Then when he did finally come, he took our drink orders and I asked him to decant the bottle of wine we had brought, but he apparently “forgot” to give us the menus. He seemingly avoided us for a few minutes before we could flag him down to give us menu. By this point, I was getting quite upset.
Looking over the menu, the choices seemed pretty straight forward. However, it included an amuse bouche. There was a choice between a crab deviled egg or a char siu pork croissant. I ordered the crab deviled egg while Andrea ordered the croissant. My appetizer I ordered the apple and celery salad with arugula and watercress. I decided on the Jar signature pot roast as my entrée, and for dessert, the famous chocolate pudding. Andrea ordered the roasted beet salad, lemongrass chicken with kaffir lime leaf, and banana cream pie.
Within a few minutes, our amuse bouche arrived. Now, I have to tell you, I personally am not that big a fan of deviled eggs. I love eggs and I will eat them scrambled, fried, over easy, poached, but just when it comes to deviled, something about it just isn’t all that appealing to me. However, the fact that Andrea ordered the croissant, I, on autopilot, ordered something else so we could try each other’s food. It was just ok, but at least the crab wasn’t overcooked.
Our salads came out and they looked pretty good but straightforward. My salad had a good mix of apples and fennel and wasn’t overly dressed. The dressing provided nice balance to the crisp apples and celery.
When our entrees arrived, I was ready to dig in and I was actually quite excited. My pot roast was simply presented. A small block of meat topped with caramelized onions and braised root vegetables, all in a beef broth. The pot roast was pretty good, maybe a little underseasoned and seemed it could have been just a touch more tender, but I still enjoyed it very much. The broth was not salty. Not perfect, but solid.
Andrea asked if I wanted some of her chicken, and next thing I know, she’s loading up half of it onto my bread plate. She claimed there’s no way she could have finished it all. She’s actually told me that before yet I don’t believe her for some reason. However, the chicken was really good and I definitely could have ordered it as well. Well seasoned, cooked perfectly. Definitely had plenty of Asian influence with the lemongrass and kaffir.
For DineLA, we each had a choice of 2 side dishes to choose from about 6 or 7 options. Andrea ordered the purple potato and the pea tendrils. I ordered the French fries and creamed spinach. The fries were good as was the creamed spinach. I did not try the pea tendrils or the purple potato.
We arrived at dessert and I think I became more excited than I was for the entrees. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a pastry chef and while I love most foods, one of the things I get excited about the most is dessert. I will have dessert anywhere and after any meal. I will even have dessert when I haven’t even had dinner. The chocolate pudding was magnificent. You could really taste the quality of the dark chocolate. The crème fraiche provided a sweet balance to the subtle bitterness of the chocolate. I absolutely loved this and desperately attempted to get every last bit with my spoon.
The banana cream pie was really good as well. With whole slices of banana, the custard wasn’t too sweet, the crust just perfectly sweet and flaky, and the whipped cream and caramel on top to add another dimension of sweetness, what would have sent it over the top is maybe some chocolate shavings or melted chocolate smothered on the bottom of the tart shell. I’m just saying.
The entire night, I was tempted to ask if Chef Tracht was in the kitchen or not, however given the environment, it just seemed it would have been a little awkward? *shrug* Perhaps our paths will cross some other way.
Now that I have knocked this off of my list of LA Restaurants to try, I look back and consider it a very great meal, despite the so-so service, with solid food.
8225 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048