Undeterred and armed with our opening night reservation, however, we were seated and our amiable server explained the menu. It, like many a Garces menu before it, features smaller and larger plates. Our server somewhat non-comittal-ly recommended around 2 smaller plates and 2-3 larger plates, depending on what you order. She also pushed the "snack" portion of the menu, featuring pecans with maple and bacon ($8), popcorn with cheddar and horseradish ($5), and kettle chips with malt vinegar aioli ($4). Kudos to you Chef Garces for getting folks to order those, but I imagine that I can whip that up on the way home with a stop at Wawa.
The menu's second page featured a description of the local farms from which the food derives, an impressive footnote. Non-snack options held more appeal and we settled on the oysters with mignonette and the Keswick Creamery Fondue to start. The Cape May oysters with a concord grape mignonette were good albeit lacking a huge flavor punch, but the tiny slivers of tarragon were overpowering for the relative mildness of the oysters. The fondue, served with toasted bread crisps, apply and onion jam, was strangely thin, akin to a more foamy cheese sauce rather than a fondue and worked better with the bread served with dinner than the crisps. Good concept, however.
Here's where the lesson about not coming on anyone's opening night comes in. We had ordered two selections from the vegetable section of the menu as our entrees, so to speak. After the oysters and fondue arrived, we then waited 45 minutes for the beet salad to arrive. Our disappointment in what came after so much prep time can't be understated.
Pretty? Absolutely. But nine dollars and two bites later, I was left wanting more. And we had ordered more, specifically the white turnip manicotti, topped with quince puree and pistachio. Another half hour passed before that arrived and it was easily the best dish we had chosen. It arrives as a single long roll, filled with what tasted like roquefort and white turnip pieces, topped with the perfect sweet balance of quince.
Should I tell you that we then waited another 45 minutes in the asking-paying-waiting vortex of time for the check? Or that I had to ask for the complimentary truffle bites that other tables had received at the end of their meal? Nah, you probably could have figured that out. I will chalk it up to opening night and a good lesson learned. Here are a couple of more shots from our respective and surreal views. Look out for the cameo from my giant earring.
And last but not least, a sighting of Chef Garces himself, who could be seen cooking in the large open kitchen and was kind enough to inscribe my dining companion's cookbook.If you go, ask for a seat in the back. In addition to the bar area, there are two dining rooms that deliver on the atmosphere lacking in the front. And give the place at least a few months to iron out the kinks.
JG Domestic is located on the first floor of the Cira Center, at Arch and 30th Streets in Philadelphia, Pa., www.jgdomestic.com.