We have a couple of guest critics for today’s review. John and Rita Lowndes were the successful bidders on a silent auction item to have dinner with me and to contribute to the review. The dinner was provided by the generous folks at Rosen Plaza and Jack’s Place, with chef Michael McMullen, and benefitted Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF.
Since the last time we reviewed Jack’s Place, the intimate dining room has undergone a sprucing up. The dozens of celebrity caricatures, drawn by hotelier Harris Rosen’s father, Jack, when he was employed by the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, are still the main decor element.
But the room now seems somewhat softer, more elegant. It’s a lovely oasis in the large convention hotel, a quiet escape for a pleasant meal.
Our starters included the Jack’s house Salad, which featured a stack of bright and peppery arugula, dried cherries and candied pecans tossed in a vinaigrette flavored with pears and gorgonzola.
The Pan-seared Crab Cake had seasonings courtesy of Old Bay. It was loaded with blue crab meat and sat on a puddle of Key lime sauce. Everyone loved the crab cake itself but Rita thought is needed more sauce.
John liked his Escargot en Croute, which had the snails under delicate puff pastry lids with a bit of melted brie.
The Spicy Shrimp and Grits were presented differently than what you might be used to seeing. Prepared as more of a casserole with the shrimp layered on top of the grits in a square baking dish. Different but good.
Rita liked her Prime New York Steak Bites entree mainly for the pasta and the 7 Pepper Spiced Tarragon Sauce. “The sauce is excellent, the tomatoes are delicious, the asparagus is just the right amount of crunchiness,” she said, “and the pasta itself is al dente.” However, she thought the bits of steak had been a tad overcooked.
“The scallops are my favorite on the table,” said John. The Caramelized Day Boat Scallops featured a coconut red curry sauce with crispy fennel and heirloom rainbow carrots. The large scallops, all cooked perfectly, sat atop Bourbon Maple Sweet Potato Mash. “The sweet potatoes with the scallops are particularly good,” he said.
For my entree I chose the Sea Bass, a beautiful fillet, deftly grilled, served with a risotto, cippolini onions and a sauce of pureed kalamata olives. The sauce was Rita’s favorite part of the dish.
And a Veal Chop, graced with a marsala demi-glace and roasted yellow tomato vinaigrette, was cooked precisely to the requested medium rare and was everything you’d expect a veal chop to be, including delicious.
My guest reviewers concluded that it was a pleasant dinner. I was glad to have another chance to enjoy the hospitality at Jack’s Place.
Jack’s Place is at Rosen Plaza, 9700 International Drive, Orlando. It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-996-1787.