St. Jack Dining Adventure

For our latest dining adventure, A. and I decided to go to St. Jack restaurant for dinner. I’d been there before for lunch and was really looking forward to dinner. We both agree this was the best meal we’ve had together since we started our dining adventures more than a year ago.

Fisherman's stew

Gratin de macaroni

The decor is simple but I love the lighting, which is a mixture of low electric lights and candles. But they’re not just ordinary candles; they’re mountains of white wax made from the drippings of melted candles. I’m not describing this very well but the effect of the lighting was very flattering, both to the food and to les femmes d’un certain âge. 

I started with a glass of sparkling wine and A. started with a white wine. The server’s suggestions were spot on. My bubbly was not too sweet, but more of an aperitif.

The menu was a delight to read – simple Lyonnaise dishes, not too many choices, and good descriptions of each. One of the specials of the day was beef heart, which our waiter assured us was tender and delicious; I was tempted to be adventurous, but ended up ordering from the menu.

For our appetizers, I chose frog leg’s persillade, and A. chose the salade Lyonnaise frisée, one of her favorites. It had plenty of bacon lardons, and bacon fat croutons, balanced with curly endive. She really liked it.

I had only eaten frog’s legs once before, as a child. I don’t recall much about them except I was tricked into eating them. (Dad!!) This might be my new favorite food. They were dipped in flour and gently sauteed, and served en persillade, a parsley lemon sauce. They were served over potatoes, or rather, a potato puree. (I’m sure there’s a name for it but it’s eluding me at the moment.) I could have ordered a second helping for my entree – they were that delicious. The meat was succulent and juicy with just the right amount of tartness from the persillade. The potatoes balanced the lemony parsley sauce perfectly. Scrumptious.

For our entrees, A. ordered the fisherman’s stew and I ordered the gratin de macaroni Gruyère, cheddar, Rogue blue, and bacon. We both ordered a house red wine but I don’t remember what it was – I was too focused on the food. The wine was very good, and our entrees were delicious. My macaroni was incredibly rich and flavorful and perfect for a cool autumn day. 

The servers were friendly, efficient, unobtrusive, and knowledgeable. The vibe is informal, not fancy. This would be called a “bouchon” in Lyon, where they serve traditional, hearty food. Now I just need to try out their happy hour and some of their interesting drinks. How one resist “The Guillotine?”

St. Jack, 2039 SE Clinton, Portland, 503-360-1281

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Restaurant St. Jack

Last weekend my aunts, Linda and Carole, were in town for a visit. They’re on a great adventure in their RV driving from their home in Northern California to Alaska and back. We had a lovely visit with them. We went to lunch at St. Jack, over on Clinton at SE 20th and really enjoyed our visit together, including the food, which is always an important part of any Saunders family event.

St. Jack specializes in the food of Lyon, France, particularly typical rustic cafe (or bouchon) food. The space was pleasant with lots of windows and light. With four of us dining together, we were able to try a lot of little plates.

First, we ordered little appetizer plates.  The gougères were made to order and were warm delicious bites. They reminded me of my grandmother’s cheese straws. I could have feasted just on these but I’m glad I didn’t. Linda ordered the cervelle de canut, a goat cheese spread with shallots and garlic and a nice chunk of baguette – it was very flavorful and not at all strong and goaty. I could also have feasted on just this. The radishes were cut into nice little bites but they were just radishes.

Todd and I both ordered the ham and cheese tartine, which were little open faced sandwiches, not tarts. The ham was wonderful because it was tasty and had very little fat or other yucky bits, the cheese was good and strong, and the bit of mixed lettuces with very light dressing was tasty. Unfortunately, the baguette used was really crunchy (though delicious!) so it was nearly impossible to cut it with a fork to eat it, and equally difficult to pick it up and take a bite. I ended up eating the ham and lettuces with a fork and then picked up the baguette, added some of the cervelle de canut, and ate it separately. Carole had the salmon tartine, which she liked.

For dessert, Todd and I ordered a chocolate tart, as did Carole, which was incredibly rich and chocolaty. Yum! Linda ordered an eclair,which is nothing like those monsters you buy in the grocery store. It was delicate, with a delicious filling and just the right amount of dark chocolate.

Gougères and radishes at Restaurant St. Jack

Next time we go, I plan to try the chicken liver mousse or the sausage. The vichyssoise looks good too. They have a good wine selection with glasses, carafes, or bottles available. Not cheap but not ghastly, either. They have a happy hour, too, which I’m very interested in checking out.