By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
Out of our lavish three-course meal only one totally delicious dish emerged — a side of potatoes gratin ($8) full of butter, cream, and the most delicate sliced potatoes inside, a spotted crust on top, and the exact amount of salt required. If Jackson's could turn out all its classic dishes this well I'd be happy — but there were those dry, pre-frozen oysters ($12), the lifeless bits of flat-tasting lump crabmeat with cocktail sauce ($12), a generous but overcooked and under-salted veal porterhouse chop (part tenderloin, part eye). The waitress recommended the temp for this one as "medium rare plus;" when it arrived it was bloody close to the bone and stringy further out — if any herbs had been used to season it they were undetectable and there was no natural juice on the plate. I thought back to a juicy salt-baked veal tenderloin I'd had recently at home and mourned the difference.
My pal's 22 oz. "Chicago cut" chop ($48) — a huge, bone-in ribeye cooked medium rare, was good enough to satisfy any steak lover — thickly marbled and tender, a beautiful piece of beef big enough for three meals. But I still missed the kick that takes beef to brilliant— the crunch of sea salt or peppercorns, a side of whole roasted garlic, a tomato confit, a bit of reduced wine sauce, or the dense, slightly gamey flavor of dry aging. The flavoring of everything was so minimalist I wondered if Jackson's kitchen was cooking with an eye to an aging, spice-phobic clientele. A dish of sautéed mushrooms ($9) upped the umami quotient — sliced portabellas, shiitakes, and creminis in their buttery juices. The creamed spinach ($8) needed salt.
A chocolate soufflé ($9.50, also hazelnut or Grand Marnier) should be ordered ahead if you're in a hurry, but we weren't, so we lingered a half hour or so over the rest of our wine. Jackson's does a good job with this retro dessert — a classic that feels contemporary. All that white space, those free ranging molecules of egg and chocolate: the soufflé is basically an early experiment with sugar-scented "foam" any molecular gastronomist could learn from, never cloying or heavy. And a dish of fat, sweet blackberries and strawberries with clotted cream ($8.50) was one expression of vintage simplicity that actually worked.
At the end of the first season of Mad Men, people start feeling the effects of all that butter, cream, tobacco, and gin. Sterling has two heart attacks, and Draper gets a prescription for high blood pressure. If you're going to eat pricey 22-ounce chops, summer oysters, and creamed spinach, let them be luxurious investments worth a certain calculated risk.
I'm sorry to say your odds are better elsewhere.