Every year, when Restaurant Week comes around, I always search in vain to see if Barbuto is participating. For so many years, I've longed to go to Barbuto, because I've enjoyed seeing its chef/owner, Jonathan Waxman, on various cooking shows. He just seems delightful and the food he prepares on the tv looks amazing. Barbuto is pretty pricey, though, so I'm still waiting to go there. However, last week I got an email from the Restaurant Week people, reminding me that it was time to make reservations. I had already made a couple, but I thought, 'what the heck, let's find a place to go on Summer Friday'! I'll admit I did a search of restaurants that have a 'notable' chef. When the restaurant Jams came up, I had to look up the website because I hadn't heard of it before. Imagine my happiness when I learned that Jonathan Waxman is the chef! Woo hoo! Reservation booked!
Jams is located in the 1 Hotel Central Park. It's nice and airy, with lots of wood and glass. It has a casual feel, which I liked. It was quite loud inside, though. I guess it's a good thing I went alone. I don't think I could ever have a business meeting there. I just got my Nook out of my bag and settled in for some yummy food and some summer reading. I was a little surprised that the menu the server gave me was different from the menu on the Restaurant Week website, but I actually was happier with the appetizer options, so it wasn't an issue for me. Oh, and my table was near the kitchen, so I also enjoyed looking up occasionally and watching the chefs prepare other dishes.
I opted to start with the heirloom tomato panzanella with parmesan crackers and a champagne vinaigrette. Boy, was this yummy! Though I probably could've used a couple more crackers to even out the textures. But the heirloom tomatoes were ripe and juicy (and I'm not even that big a fan of eating raw tomatoes), the crackers were crunchy and salty and the vinaigrette was tart and wonderful. Oh, and there were also pieces of basil included which perfumed the whole dish. This was a terrific starter.
I knew for a fact that I was going to get the Jams chicken for my entree, even though all three sounded amazing. Jonathan Waxman is quite famous for his chicken dish at Barbuto, so I was thrilled to be able to try it. Oh, oh good golly, was it worth the wait. I swear it was the juiciest, most flavorful chicken I've ever had, and the crispy skin was out of this world. The chicken is served with a salsa verde, which was also delicious. A little herbaceous, and maybe even a touch bitter, it cut the inherent sweetness of the chicken and the saltiness of the skin beautifully. Really an amazingly delicious dish. I need to have it again soon.
I was the tiniest bit disappointed in the changes in the dessert menu (the words 'pretzel ice cream' had caught my eye), but I greatly enjoyed my mascarpone-berry layer cake with a berry sauce. The cake was sweet, but not cloyingly so, and the mascarpone added a nice richness and creaminess to the cake. I'm not a fan of overly sweet frostings, so this one was perfect for me. And all of the tart berries were the perfect complement. It was a delightful end to a delightful lunch. I almost got a cocktail, since Jams' cocktail menu looked terrific, but I decided to stick with iced tea since I was seeing a show later that night (that blog post is coming). I didn't want to fall asleep after having a three-course lunch AND alcohol. I'm glad I made that decision, because I ended up meeting my family downtown for a little unexpected sightseeing - it wouldn't have looked good if I showed up tipsy.
I'm ever so glad I finally heard about Jams and that I got to try Jonathan Waxman's amazing food. I definitely think Jams will go on my list of special occasion restaurants for those celebrations that take place when it's not Restaurant Week! Since money is tight, I've only got one other Restaurant Week reservation, but I'm pretty excited about it. Stay tuned...