Monday, January 9, 2012
Croquer: St. Jack
We hurtled a blockade and ambled down over the train tracks. Given the crisp evening, I was pleased the restaurant was walking distance, but surprised skipping tracks was part of the route. Judah and Brooke have never let me down, and could practically market themselves professional Portland concierges, so I didn't question. On the other side of the train yard we soon hit SE Clinton Street, a familiar stretch lined with family residences, shade trees and bicyclists. A rustic clapboard corner ahead housed our destination, Restaurant St. Jack.
Opened by Canadian chef Aaron Barnett (23Hoyt, Olea) and restaurateur Kurt Huffman of Chefstable, St. Jack embodies the best of a traditional Lyonnaise bouchon (read: with a healthy focus on meat). Alissa Rozos (Bluehour) rounds out the team on the pâtisserie side, making the best canelé in town. We saddled up at the bar bastioned by grandfather candles ready for a taste from one of Portland's rising stars.
The bar program by Kyle Webster distracted me from the Pôts Lyonnais option, traditional 46cl bottles imported from Lyon serving wine direct from the barrel. That said I was pleased with my Baccarat cocktail, an elegant union of bourbon, Carpano Antica, Aperol, Maraska Maraschino, and Regan's No. 6 bitters. Brooke's Guillotine was another killer, with Appleton V/X rum, Cointreau, lemon, housemade grenadine, and Kübler Absinthe.
Judah swears by the Gratin De Macaroni, oven baked with Gruyère, Aged Cheddar, Rogue Blue, Bacon and Shallot. I'm not often swayed toward overly-rich mac 'n cheese, but this dish was extraordinary.
I was seduced by one of the board's specials, Coeur de Boeuf. I hadn't ever eaten beef heart, that I'm aware of, so chanced this classy joint would make me love it. Seared bloody rare and sliced alongside perfectly golden pommes frites and tarragon-thick béarnaise, the lean, flavorful muscle was a carnal delight.
We shared a dessert, settling on the Chocolate Pastis Pot du Crème with carmelized peaches and lacey chocolate wafer. The combination of disparate flavors was intoxicating and unique. A perfect adieu.
After dinner we walked down the street to the Savoy Tavern for a night cap. A cozy neighborhood joint, we ran into friends and enjoyed a late night happy hour scratch Old Fashioned. Oh, how I miss Portland sometimes.
2039 SE Clinton St. Portland, OR 97202; 503.360.1281