Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Portland's New Favorite: St. Jack Reviewed

"Eating snails, I thought that was cool when I was a kid. I think that was like my playing in mud puddles."- Chef Aaron Banett

Last night I had a fabulous meal. Living in Portland my wife and I are never short of good restaurants, but a truly wonderful restaurant experience is something far and few between in almost any city. Good food coupled with good atmosphere is great, but good food coupled with excellent service is something unique – the something which will always get my wife and I to return (and spend more money of course). 

We live in SE Portland right off Hawthorne, a district in-of-itself, which is a wonderful mix of socially-conscious families, urban hipsters, and semi-homeless hippies. A melting pot for good cuisine, SE Portland is a foodie’s dream. Now just south of Hawthorne is a small neighborhood district called the Clinton District, named after its stop and go street lined with pockets of small businesses. And recently, just blocks from where we live, a new neighbor has arrived: St. Jack.

St. Jack is a very French eatery, inspired by the revered cafes of Lyon, holding a dual existence as a cafĂ© in the morning and afternoon and a Lyon Bouchon at night. Owned and operated by Canadian native Chef Aaron Banett (via restaurants in Los Angeles, Vancouver, BC, and San Francisco), St. Jack focuses on rustic “traditional pâtisserie” and 19th century home-cooking, meaning while you will see such things as Steak Frites and Coq a la biere, you should come expecting other traditional delights such as frog legs, blood sausage, and stuffed pigs trotters.

Right when my wife and I arrived we were taken in by the wonderful atmosphere. Where Portland seems riddled with loud music hipster joints, St. Jack is inviting and warm. The music ranges from Jazz and light French pop, complementing the candlelit space while never does it distract. We came earlier than our reservation so we could have some time at the bar.  I, knowing ahead of time what I wanted, ordered the De Rigueur, the English twin of the Brown Derby, and my wife ordered the St. Jack Red, a Columbia Valley red wine purchased by the barrel and personally produced for St. Jack by Guild Winemakers. Both were great. And personally De Rigueur, prepared by bar manager Kyle Webster, was wonderful - just tart and not overly sweet. To accompany these two treats, we ordered their very popular Frog Legs en Persillade, frog legs prepared in a white wine, garlic, and lemon sauce with fresh herbs. Wow, these things were wonderful, nothing of what I expected - tender moist and meaty.

And this only got better with dinner. The Onglet Steak Frites for my wife and the… drum roll… Stuffed Ducks Neck for me – duck neck stuffed with pork sausage, apples, chestnuts and sage. Now generally I will do wine with dinner, especially when accompanied by such uniquely meaty options, but I diverged from my wife’s choice, the Quady North Syrah, for Buffalo Trace neat. While having bourbon (or any whiskey for that matter) with your meal is something which is only just becoming fashionable again, I myself have not often done this, especially when it comes to French food. But, not to my surprise, Buffalo Trace complimented the meal wonderfully (And Mr. Webster, who followed us from the bar to the table, didn’t skimp on portions when I was in need of a refill). The moist sausage with pommes puree (w/ lots of butter) went perfectly with dry oakiness and winter spices of the Buffalo Trace. *I review Buffalo Trace here.

My wife and I didn’t stay around for dessert (we had a movie to catch), so we will have to come back for that. But it is a fact that we will come back. St. Jack is well on its way to becoming a Portland favorite. With the wonderful menu and great service it is a great addition to the neighborhood. 

Photos from stjackpdx.com
Patisserie St. Jack on Urbanspoon

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