by Andrew Chalk
In the Garden District of New Orleans is the historic and stylishly restored Pontchartrain Hotel. Inside, is the marquee restaurant Jack Rose (named after two characters in Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo). The restaurant stretches across two rooms, each decorated in a flamboyant style. One a fiery red, and the other verdantly decorated with plants and a disco ball in the center. As it spins, shafts of light spray across the room creating an eerie effect that gets everyone talking, discussing it.
The rooms both exude upscale accommodations and experience, although Jack Rose is intended to be smart casual in The Big Easy and the servers are always relaxed.
The menu is divided into three sections. Small Plates, Shareables, and Large Plates. Small Plates was where we found Duck and Andouille Gumbo ($11) which starred one of those dark and murky roux that pack so much flavor, loaded with sausage and duck meat. In the center, a mound of popcorn rice augmented the flavor and textures.
For our media event, in the Shareables, Crab and Polenta ($25) was a riff on Shrimp and Grits with the ground corn having a fineness to the grind in the Italian style, hence the term ‘polenta’. A BBQ sauce kept things moist, and the crab gave a sweet edge to the whole. My favorite shareable dish was Fried Oysters ($17). More a cohesive whole than just a selection of isolated oysters, as the pictures show. This dish got its tastyness from the sinewy, fleshy oysters contrasting with the sweetness of the breadcrumb batter and the piquent remoulade, plus inflections of bacon. It was made with four oysters, but I could have finished a dozen.
The Large Plates strayed furthest from a pure Louisiana remit, as was the designers’ intention. Jack Rose is part Italian, part French, and part Spanish. We went with the Short Rib Bourguignon ($36) with cippolini onions and wild mushrooms. As it should, the meat melted in the mouth and our taste buds were positively overwhelmed with the rich juices fortified with demi-glace.
Throughout the sequence of dishes I explored the drinks menu fairly eclectically. A starter cocktail Rock You Like a Hurricane ($14) made from banana-infused El Buho mezcal, vodka, and passion fruit I consumed like a passion. A Jucifer IPA ($7) from Gnarly Barley Brewing Company in Hammond, LA was as solid and compatible with the food as the best wine. The Moll broke with tradition and had a Col di Luna Prosecco ($12), pronouncing it a success.
Our dessert of cheesecake known as a Basque Affair ($14) came with a generous cherry compote. The crustless, airy style of this cheesecake is starting to grow on me! In an attempt to redefine the dessert habits of a nation we sipped two digestivos afterwards: Cappelletti ($10) and Cardamaro ($10). Predictably, each is a secret recipe. Just as predictably, each tasted like the forest floor stuffed in a fermenter for six months and then mixed with red cough mixture. Recommended.
And the same goes for Jack Rose. Efficient and friendly service was the feather in their cap. We would go back in an instant.