JAR: A BRAISING BIRTHDAY TREAT
Please forgive the rather crappy images that accompany this particular post. I know they are never of David Bailey standard at the best of times, but during this meal, my attempts to capture my food in all its glory, were hampered by my beloved’s insistence on altering all the settings on my camera. She denies it, of course, but it has taken me two weeks to get the bloody thing back to some semblance of normality.
I should be more understanding, I guess. Without Sybil, I would not have experienced one of my more enjoyable dining experiences in Los Angeles so far. In fact, I had never even heard of JAR until we pulled up outside and she handed over the keys of her battered jalopy to the parking valet.
That in itself is quite an interesting experience. In London, after nearly twenty years of eating out and approaching five years of hardcore blog action, there are few restaurants I haven’t heard of even if I would never set foot through the doors of many if you offered me all the money Brian Clough took in bribes. However, here in Los Angeles, every day throws up a potential new venue for supper.
But, I digress. Back to JAR.
Sybil had chosen JAR as the venue for my birthday celebration in an attempt to prove to me that not all mid-range American style dining in the city sucked a considerable amount of ass. I still remain to be convinced overall, but have to admit that, as I glimpsed at the menu and drank a hefty gulp of some smashing St Peter’s Cream Stout, I was rather pleased to see lots of dishes on there that I might actually want to order and which did not involve the word "slider"
JAR stands, apparently for “Just Another Restaurant” and styles itself as a modern chophouse. The chef, Suzanne Tracht, is partnered in the kitchen by Thai chef, Preech Narkthong and while some of their South East Asian influences are worn very much on the sleeve, there is enough about the place and the menu to remind me why I used to get terribly excited about eating in US restaurants.
Although the restaurant is well known for its steaks, my eye was drawn immediately to a section entitled “Braises and Sautés” which contained their signature pot roast and, more importantly that all too rare dish on restaurant menus, Coq Au Vin. Despite my love of dead cow, this rustic French classic just screamed out to be ordered.
Sybil, had decided on her main course before we even arrived. She would gladly hand me over to be raped and murdered if someone offered her a meaty pork chop in return. It was almost inevitable that the offer of a “Char Sui Pork Chop” would be too much for her to resist. That just left us musing on starters, which to be honest were pleasantly distracting rather than memorable.
Devilled eggs seem ever so popular in the US right now. I have seen them on quite a few menus. I imagine the ease and cheapness appeals to chefs and the nostalgia appeals to customers. They leave me slightly cold, although the crabby version offered at JAR is not a bad example of the genre. It is just not a genre I would like to see given too much house room. My own starter was not bad at all (not that you can tell from the washed out picture). An acceptable amount of lobster served with shaved fennel, avocado (welcome to California) and a drizzle of vinaigrette laced with a hit of jalapeno chilli.
Main courses arrived in rather too rapid a fashion, but definitely looked the part. Sybil’s pork chop had taken on splendid glaze from the marinade and cooking and came glistening in a pool of herby butter. It also contained a good band of fat, all too welcome in a town where chefs trim every bit of meat to within an inch of its life. It tasted good too, the little I was allowed to try, even though it was, as I may have mentioned already, my birthday.
My Coq Au Vin was not quite as impressive, but not bad at all. I suspect that Joan Rivers aside, it is hard to come across too many old boilers in Los Angeles, so the bird lacked the flavour of the best roosterfied versions. That being said, it had taken on great flavour in the slow cooking process and was well served by stunning chunks of bacon, pearl onions and Crimini mushrooms. Both dishes were also well served by excellent side dishes of duck fried rice, wild spinach and mashed potatoes made with enough butter to make Robuchon blush.
I made a big mistake when it came to pudding. I was slightly in my cups by this point and assumed that the word pudding meant, well, pudding. So, I ordered the “Butterscotch Pudding” which was not a great British pudding involving sponge, butterscotch sauce and custard. Instead, it was an American pudding, in effect nothing more than a dish of Butterscotch Angel Delight. Not bad in and of itself, but not, as I had dared to hope, something which helped build the empire. To make matters worse, they had also stuck a candle in it to remind me of my advancement to the grave. Damn them to Hell.
Sybil ordered another quintessentially American dessert of “Banana Cream Pie”. It was an ugly affair of pastry, cream, gloopy cooked bananas and caramel sauce. I rather liked it and helped Sybil polish off. She didn’t want me to, but as I may have mentioned more than once, it was my birthday.
I never saw the bill (birthday, remember?) but, Sybil tips well, so I am sure our English server was well taken care of as was the bill for three rather decent courses,that lovely beer and a few drops of passable wine by the glass. Sybil did not seem terribly upset by the damage done to her credit card, so I am guessing she considered it reasonable value for money.
Reasonable value for money for very decent food, by Los Angeles mid-range dining standards, that makes JAR far more than “Just Another Restaurant”