It sounded too good to be true: 4 sips, 4 snacks, 15 smackers at Jennifer Jasinski’s jewel of a Mediterranean joint? Gleefully sniffing fish, friend Mo (whom you may most recently have met here) & I decided to investigate.
It looked too good to be true on paper: the tasting menu—designed according to the evening’s theme, Wines of Spain—read like the entire lexicon of my 1-track subconscious: “brown butter,” “pork belly,” “parmesan dust,” “this cava is full of butterscotch.”
It looked way too good to be true in reality:
To give you a fuller taste, from L to R:
Sip/snack 1: NV Gran Gesta Cava with “apple, pineapple & white raisin flavors that are big & smooth”;
warm Goose Point oyster with anchovy aioli, parmesan & parsley puree
Sip/snack 2: 2006 Uriondo “from the Basque region…mingled with wet earth notes”; roasted delicata & spaghetti squash salad with matsutake mushrooms, micro lemon balm, preserved lemon & brown butter vinaigrette
Sip/snack 3: 2005 Castell del Remei Gotium Bru; crispy Kurobuta pork belly with chestnut-apple-vanilla chutney
Sip/snack 4: 2002 Rotllan Torra Reserva; housemade lamb chorizo with poblano–pine nut pesto, Haystack Mountain goat cheese
It all sure as hell tasted too good to be true. Jasinski’s knack for the bold combo of bright & dark, for capturing the—I will not say chiaroscuro I will not say chiaroscuro I will not say…fuck it—chiaroscuro landscape of the Med palate is thrilling. Meaty yet mild as they are, Goose Points proved the perfect tofu-style foil for their sort of desconstructed Caesar dressing of a garnish; the salad (which is also on the current regular menu) juggled the nuttiness of the butter with the butteriness of the spaghetti squash with the sweetness & light of the delicata squash with the clean citrus squeeze of the balm & preserved lemon in 1 direction, then the other (neat trick); while I kind of feel pork belly isn’t pork belly unless it’s a slab—a square inch isn’t space enough for melting fat to be its meltingly fatty self—you know how I feel about chestnuts, & for that matter about the charoset the chutney reminded me of (putting aside, you know, the fact that it accompanied treyf): whee! As for the chorizo, it was the Altoid of sausage balls: curiously strong for its size, a real spice whopper. So maybe it was the Whopper of sausage balls. Whatever, it was dandy as candy, especially coated in a swirl of goat cheese–dotted pesto.
And so it was finally too good to be true, damn it all: Turns out that fishiness we smelled was emanating from our own piranha appetites, which, having tasted blood, were bubbling to the surface of our good intentions looking to gorge. We stayed put for a 3-course feast, thereby defeating the purpose of coming for a deal.
On that note, I ask you, if your appetite were a killer fish & a big fat pig were lying dead in the water above it, would it snatch just 1 little crouton off its abdomen & swim cheerfully away? No, thought not. It would rip that gut to shreds. Thus did Mo order the signature pork belly with fresh garbanzo puree, about which enough has been worshipfully said—& lovingly drawn—to bear merely alluding to rather than repeating.
Cabbage slaw, poppyseed vinaigrette, bacon aioli & spicy ketchup is an awful lot of condiment for 1 little slider to handle; without much room to maneuver, they kind of all got mixed up in the two-inch-wide-shuffle of this trio of oyster po’boys on brioche. But the shuffle itself was luscious; if no 1 ingredient could quite stand up to another, they sure all rolled around together happily.
By contrast, the accompaniments to Mo’s grilled striped bass were sharply distinctive, from the horseradish potato puree & vodka-pickled beets to the fennel slaw & Pernod crème fraîche—ultimately, she felt, overpowering the main ingredient altogether. I didn’t wholly disagree, although the Ashkenazi in me gets so goofy over the combo of creamy potatoes, beets & horseradish that I didn’t miss the taste of bass so much as just wish hard for herring.
Speaking of goofy, since the gourmet geek in me could literally not see past the words “candied lemon gnocchi,” I didn’t notice until after I’d ordered it that it was paired with poached Dungeness crab, zucchini, grape tomatoes & a tarragon herb salad. Much as I admire all those goodies in & of themselves, my crest fell a little in this particular instance; somehow I’d assumed Jasinski would reinforce the candied & gnocchied elements of the dish rather than the lemony ones, yielding something super-rich rather than sprightly.
Which goes to show why they say what they say about the word “assume.” For all I thought I knew & loved about gnocchi, it proved more versatile than I’d given it credit for, adding soft, subtle little puffs of potato beige to the fresh pastel mix of beach & meadow savors.
Like some sort of resolution retard, I’ve been stuffing down more desserts since New Year’s than ever before; in the pineapple upside-down bread pudding was further proof that such idiocy is bliss.
Topped with a tuile-capped orb of coconut sorbet & set in a splash of rum-ginger sauce, it was unusually, refreshingly light, putting the emphasis on the bread—housemade Hawaiian sweet bread to be precise—rather than the glut of egg & sugar that renders it a pudding, & giving the ring of pineapple plenty of leeway to do its shiny caramelized thing. It was almost more like a snack cake, almost some sort of wholesome thing you’d grab from your childhood kitchen before going out to play.
Of course, preceded by 1 too many snack cakes of another sort—goat cheese biscuits & lavender country bread slathered with butter—we hardly left Rioja pumped & ready to go kick any cans or anything. Buckets were more like it.
And that’s what I’m saying—as that first hit of weed leads to a gruesome heroin-addled end in a trash-strewn alley, so Tuesday Sips & Snacks spells “danger.”
Then again, so does “garden,” with a little rearranging. Does that mean the goodness is true after all?