Sunday, March 04, 2007

And Many More...

Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar
101 2nd Avenue
(Bet. 5th and 6th)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 673-0338


We at Spoon & Fork have a birthday tradition: on birthdays, our gift to each other is a great meal at one of the city's top restaurants. Fork started started the tradition on Spoon's 25th birthday with a meal at Wylie DuFresne's first love, the soon-to-be-closed 71 Clinton Fresh Food. In the ensuing years we've celebrated birthdays with Wylie (who Fork also knows from his softball league: DuFresne is a left-handed power hitter in addition to a culinary genius) at WD-50, with Mario Batali at Babbo, Esca, Del Posto, and Casa Mono, a star-studded, palate pleasing evening at Nobu and Shun Lee Palace. It's an impressive list that'd be tough to rank.

Last night, in honor of Fork's 40th, we added Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar to the list. We'd heard good things about the place, and we'd expected a good meal. But we never expected that Jack's would actually top that list. It may very well be the best experience we've had for a birthday meal--and they have all been special meals, so yes, high praise indeed.

What made the meal so memorable? First, of course, the food. We are seafood lovers, and every dish was exquisite. Fresh, mostly raw seafood accented with homey, landlubber touches like Cape Cod potato chips. The room is tiny, seating only about 16. The ambiance is romantic, but contemporary and not corny. Even the music was sensational, from old Bob Dylan to Art Brut. The service was first-class, personable and precise without being formal. They really seemed to care that we enjoy every single aspect. And we did.

Ah, to the menu. As usual for our birthday dinners, we opted for a tasting menu. Our philosophy is that it's always best to let the chef cook for you. This was a wise choice: the tasting menu was comprehensive, and a shocking value: although everywhere we read online listed the tasting menu at $75 per person, it was $50 on this night, for six stunning courses.

The meal began with a selection of fruits de mer: Washington State and Virginia oysters, littleneck clams, shrimp, and caviar on a toast point. A perfect start. Each bite was refreshing, icy cold and oceany, smooth and delicious and flavorful. Next, tartare: coho salmon for Fork, served with warm Cape Cod chips; big-eye tuna for Spoon. At this point, we were thrilled. Once again perfectly prepared, and the perfect second course. The third course, a knockout: homemade duck liver mousse served in little jars, topped with port gelee, served with a spoonful of black truffles and whole-grain mustard and toast points. In a word: decadent.

Just the thing to lead us to... more decadence and a triumphant piece-de-resistance: butter-poached lobster with pistachio, green beans, enoki mushrooms and lobster jus. All of it washed down with Fork's favorite wine, a crisp Muscadet. It was with this triumph of a dish that we began entertaining the notion that Jack's could possibly contend with Nobu for Most Amazing Birthday Dinner Ever.

After the lobster course, we were intoxicated. The flavors were still swirling in our minds, familiar flavors that we loved, but also new and complex at the same time. Just when we thought couldn't eat another bite, dessert began. First a palate cleanser of pear sorbet drizzled with a fresh vanilla bean cream. We wiped that out. Then a complimentary taste of Sauternes, a spectacular French dessert wine. At this point, NO WAY we could eat another bite, right? Until the dessert arrived: Jack's take on smores: so delicious we wiped that out too...

We can't wait to go back to Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar. Friendly, inventive, familiar yet new flavors, great music and ambiance, and a great value... it is a gem. It may not always beat Nobu, but on this enchanted evening, believe us when we say we have a new champion. --S&F

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