Jack’s Bistro — a Neighborhood Favorite

The last time my husband and I ventured to Paris, I spent hours pouring over more than 100 restaurant reviews, meticulously highlighting passages and taking notes in an attempt to suss out the city’s prime local eats.

The neighborhood joints we discovered were indeed spectacular, but sometimes I forget that we have just the type of hideaway I hunt down when traveling right here in Canton — Jack’s Bistro.

It’s a cozy, neighborhood gem with a kitchen that consistently turns out both innovative dishes and those that feel like old friends.

In the mood for fun and playful? Take a bite of their 100% ground bacon burger. That’s right, it’s an all-out baconfest for pig lovers. No beef between those buns.

Searching for some comfort? Go for the Guinness-braised filet mignon. This is my personal favorite menu staple and it’s perfect every time. The meltingly-tender beef, the velvety sauce, the smoky bacon grits — it’s an entirely lick-worthy plate, something I have been known to do on occasion.

Or always.

Have a hankering for some exotic funk? There are several options on the ever-changing menu for those with adventurous palates.

The spicy Somboon mussels offer an incredible tangle of Asian flavors with fresh herbs, sour citrus, pungent fish sauce and a hit of heat. These plump morsels are not to be missed. It’s hard not to order this appetizer over and over again.

Of course, when you repeat, you forgo an opportunity to try something new on the menu, a dilemma my husband and I both often face at Jack’s. It’s a good problem to have. Mussels or a fresh cucumber ribbon salad? Grilled kale with apricots or chocolate mac and cheese? My favorite steak or duck cassoulet? Or those chewy ramen noodles in a heady broth?  It’s always an internal tug of war.

Guinness-Braised Filet

Guinness-Braised Filet

On a recent visit, the Guinness filet won the entree battle, but I did manage to venture over to the dessert menu and sample something new — durian fruit creme brulee.

I love that this kitchen even gets kooky with dessert. I was too intrigued to pass this one up. It was durian fruit afterall, the southeast Asian fruit that some say emits a stench so vile it’s been compared to festering raw sewage, among other choice aromas.

I so needed to sample this exotic treat.

There was a touch of barnyard on the nose, but otherwise it was mild, slightly sweet, with a hint of nuts and a whiff of onion in the mix. I do give the kitchen points for creativity, but the flavor profile wasn’t what I look for in a dessert. Durian fruit aside, the creme brulee itself was absolutely luscious. If they ever put a traditional creme brulee on the menu, my waistline is in real trouble.

I don’t know how much longer the dessert will be available, but if you’ve ever had the desire to try this peculiar fruit, don’t miss your chance. I suggest you hightail it on over before it disappears.

Durian Fruit Creme Brulee

Durian Fruit Creme Brulee

Although on my most recent visit I devoured my go-to steak, I am eager to return as I now have my eye on new menu items. I look forward to soon slurping up the Malaysian coconut-milk curry and tasting whatever creation my husband chooses. And that, quite simply, is the beauty of Jack’s. The kitchen seduces you with its pure comfort food and consistently lures you back with intriguing menu surprises. It’s bold. It’s delicate. It’s downright wacky sometimes. I am so lucky this bistro is in my neighborhood.

And if you live in Baltimore, so are you.

 

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When Your Israeli Husband Craves Falafel …

My husband will happily eat chicken out of a can.

He likes kokoretsi — squiggly lamb intestines roped around a melded mush of  lamb heart, lung and brain.

He has slurped down not one duck testicle, but two.

Needless to say, the man is not a picky eater. But when it comes to his beloved falafel, he is almost impossible to please.

But I think I managed to woo him!

Falafel Fixings

Falafel Fixings

 

Nothing, he says, compares to the falafel he grew up eating in Israel. And he’s right. He’s taken me to eat falafel in Tel Aviv and Netanya, and I have yet to find a match in the states. It’s not the actual falafel itself that is such a standout, it’s the smorgasbord of gorgeous salads that accompany the meal. I was not prepared for the onslaught of salads that were placed on our table during our first meal in Tel Aviv. I was so surprised by the sheer number that I actually counted them up. We were served 23 different salads. Yes, 23.  Twenty three different ways to prepare eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, lemons, avocados, beets, cabbages, carrots and greens. We stuffed our pitas full of the salads, ate some off the top, and re-stuffed. And re-stuffed. And re-stuffed. It was healthy and delightfully satisfying — “fast” food at its best.

Sizzling Falafel

Sizzling Falafel

So, that was my challenge last week — to make falafel and an array of salads to please our palates. I certainly didn’t create 23 different salads, but I did manage to turn out 5 salads plus a tahini sauce, not to mention softly-boiled eggs and freshly fried falafel. It was quite a bit of work the first time, but the salads kept beautifully so turning out leftovers on a weeknight was easy. Not much beats a delicious meal and a happy husband.

The Falafel Bar

The Falafel Bar

 

Recipes:

Falafel

Beet Salad

Roasted red pepper salad with harissa

Israeli salad: Finely chop the following and mix with lemon juice and salt and pepper: red onion, avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, fresh mint and/or parsley

Eggplant salad: thinly slice and grill eggplants. Stuff into pita with everything else

Onion salad: thinly slice red onions. Toss with mint, lemon juice, salt and sumac

Tahini sauce: whisk tahini with lemon juice and warm water. Salt and pepper to taste

 

Homemade Bread & Cheese

 

Warm, crusty and right out of the oven -- heavenly

Warm, crusty and right out of the oven — heavenly

 

Although I would love to make homemade bread and cheese weekly, it’s the kind of thing I have to make sparingly. Both are just too deliciously warm and fresh when first made, so will-power is just about non-existent. I rarely bake bread, but this was the easiest, most low-maintenance bread recipe I have ever prepared. And yet it tastes as if I spent hours kneading, punching and coddling the dough. No kneading even required!

As for the homemade cheese, well, this does take a bit of attention and time, but it’s so worth it. Freshly pulled mozzarella resembles the store-bought version only in color. When it’s first pulled, it’s warm, gooey, oozy and delightfully creamy. Slabs of this cheese served with the crusty warm bread, olive oil and a crunch of sea-salt made for the perfect dinner. Tomato soup and salad were supposed to follow, but we were too full …

fresh cheese