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[DFW] -- Jasper's revisited

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[DFW] -- Jasper's revisited

Kirk | Dec 17, 2004 05:34 PM

I want to like this place. I really do.

Despite an arrival “process” that includes being punched into a computer by a trio of Beautiful People, the crowded Bar Scene to which you are shunted off even when there are empty tables in evidence, and the obtrusive techno beat that makes relaxation virtually impossible, I have had some decent food here that has given me a glimpse of somebody's creativity in the kitchen.

I keep trying hard to overlook the drawbacks. Jasper's also keeps trying hard ... to completely alienate me.

Last night we arrived at 7:30, and were sent off to the bar. Remarkably, considering how crowded the bar was, we found two stools at the bar within a minute or two, and settled in for a glass of wine. For a brief time, it was enjoyable to watch the bartenders' manic behavior, which includes jumping up on the back counter to grab bottles and pour them into trendy concoctions. My wife commented, "I wonder if they only hire gymnasts here?" It's an unusual way to tend bar, but I appreciate eccentricities as much as the next guy. (I’ve managed not to think too much about glasses, serving utensils and consumables being placed on the same surfaces the bartenders jump up on in their street shoes.)

After 30 minutes at the bar, spent talking loudly over music seamlessly mixed at 120 beats per minute and being elbowed by the men standing on either side of us, we were seriously contemplating dropping by Naan or Bob's for dinner. Just then, we were escorted to a table on the banquette against the kitchen half-wall, where I had a wonderful view of my wife plus the added benefit of seeing the heads of all the waitstaff as they waited for food to take to their customers.

Our waiter was good. He arrived as soon as we were seated, quickly took our order for a calamari appetizer, and delivered it within a few minutes. I liked the dish, which has a tempura-like batter with great crunchiness to it, and is dressed with a sweet dipping sauce combining soy sauce, mirin and ginger.

We both ordered Hickory Grilled Flat Iron Steaks, with a side order of frites and Jasper's "small" Caesar salad. The salads were huge, and way overdressed with a mayonnaise-y dressing. Neither of us could finish them.

As we were eating the salads, I noticed that the woman at the next table had gotten up to go to the washroom and almost as soon as she left their waiter (no the same as ours) arrived and delivered both entrees to their table. After a few minutes, the waiter sheepishly returned and whisked the dishes off to the kitchen to “keep warm” until the woman returned.

When we were done with our salads (it was more like our salads were done with us), our waiter cleared the table and we waited … and waited … and waited …perhaps 20 minutes, for our entrees. I kept looking at the waitstaff standing behind the half-wall, and noticed that very few dishes seemed to be taken out to diners during the time we were waiting. I’ve had similar kitchen experiences at Jasper’s before, including one time when the “soup” half of the “soup and sandwich” special I ordered was delivered after I had finished my sandwich.

Last night’s delay did give us the opportunity to talk to the people at the table next to us after they finished their entrees, and we had the chance to eavesdrop on the table to our other side, where a mid-level executive was speaking pedantically to a group of five men who I presume were suppliers, because they listened raptly to this man brag about his expertise at getting cut-rate airfare. (“Instead of $17,000, I only pay $5,000 roundtrip,” I actually heard the man say.) All in all, I would have preferred to be eating instead of “socializing” with our neighbors.

When the steaks finally arrived, they were cooked perfectly (my wife is very serious about her meat being cooked rare, and they accomplished this). We both enjoyed about half of our steak, and had the rest wrapped up to be taken home. After such a long time between salad and entrée, neither of us was particularly hungry. We didn’t have dessert. When we left the restaurant we both relaxed noticeably from not having the boom-boom-boom beat of techno drilling into our medulla oblongata. (Does anyone actually enjoy a techno beat while eating? It has its place in a disco, but why do restaurants play it?)

In all, last night’s experience reconfirmed my previous impressions of Jasper’s. It is a bit too “contrived hip” for my blood. The food demonstrates occasional flashes of creativity, but the quality is uneven from one course to the next. And someone in the kitchen or plating area just can’t hold it together long enough to get meals to diners in orthodox fashion (i.e., appetizer, salad and entrée each following each other in a customary period of time).

This was my third time there, and no matter how much I want to like Jasper’s, I just can’t.

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