My friend and I went to Jardinière last week. It was one of the best meals Ive ever had. We got there about 5 minutes before our reservation and they seated us promptly. I had asked for an upstairs table when I made the reservation, and that request was fulfilled with no problems. The downstairs looked quite empty when we arrived besides the crowded bar.
We sat down and the server gave us just the right amount of time to settle in our seats before bringing our menus, which I had studied religiously for a few days prior to the visit. But I still couldnt make up my mind! I looked around the room and many tables were still empty, and a few of them did not fill up until after 9pm.
From postings on Chowhound I had expected this place to be fairly formal. I decided to go with a tie and no jacket and felt overdressed! Sure there were customers with jackets and ties, but there were just as many with short sleeve shirts. The woman sitting at the adjacent table was wearing jeans. Though one might feel self-conscious about ones own clothing, it really didnt matter to the restaurant or anyone else. My friend had considered wearing a hoodie but didnt, thinking it was too informal. Im sure she wouldve fit right in anyway.
So, the food: we ended up ordering the charcuterie plate and Belgian endive, peach and prosciutto salad for appetizers, duck breast and red wine braised beef shortribs for our entrees, and vanilla crème brûlée and peach tart with pistachio ice cream for desserts. No wine.
I have never ordered charcuterie at a restaurant of this caliber, so I wasnt sure what to expect. It was five kinds of very thinly sliced meat served with a peach salad on the side and toasted bread. Again, Im not sure how charcuterie is supposed to be like, but I would have personally preferred slices that were a bit thicker so I can actually feel what Im biting. The bread was a bit too oily, especially when its supposed to be coupled with the already fatty meat. But it was good.
The duck breast with a wonderfully crisp skin was just right in terms of saltiness and flavor. Though it was supposed to be medium-rare, it came out to be closer to medium, making the meat a bit tough. Besides that, it was great.
The beef shortribs were heavenly. The meat was so tender and came off the bone so easily. It was absolutely wonderful and melted in my mouth and easily slipped down my throat. There was a tiny spoonful of horseradish potato purée that complemented the meat well, but I wish they had put a little more of it in there, as the sauce easily drenched the potato and somewhat overwhelmed it. I didnt care for the bitter herb salad that came with the shortribs.
The crème brûlée was fine, if not a bit boring. More raspberries (it came with three) would have added more nuance to it. The pistachio ice cream that came with the peach tart had such a strong, satisfying obviously non-artificial flavor. The server also recommended the chocolate cake as one of her personal favorites, but I passed because the decadence had to stop somewhere.
Throughout dinner the jazz band played on and off. It was perfect in the background and was not intrusive on the conversations. This is what I imagine a date should be like were the words of my friend, I think (my mind might have still been focusing on the shortribs when she was talking).
The service was fine. The server was always available whenever we needed her, and the timing of the food was good. Because I look young, sometimes I get bad tables and unenthusiastic service at expensive restaurants like this. This definitely did not happen at Jardinière.
I just moved to the bay area a couple of months ago, and this is definitely the best meal I have had so far (edging out Chez Panisse). Another friend of mine went a couple of nights later after I told her about our experience, and she had no problems getting a table by calling an hour ahead on a Saturday night. Im not sure why reservations are so easy there, but Im not complaining. Id definitely recommend Jardinière and will take my family there if they visit.
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