Sunday, June 19, 2016

Jardenea Food Review II

Chesapeake Bay Shrimp Tacos

If there's such a thing as reincarnation, I'd love to come back as a (permanent) guest of the Melrose Hotel in Georgetown. Imagine breakfast, lunch and dinner at Jardenea Restaurant (every day) followed by a nightcap in the lounge and a good night's sleep in one of the hotel's 240 stately rooms. It's the stuff dreams are (literally) made of. Transmigrations notwithstanding, the rest of us have to settle for a taste of the good life. I took mine on Friday, a scrumptious finish to an otherwise long/tedious week... and a friendly reminder, just how nice it is to be spoiled and pampered.

Lunch at Jardenea is equal parts relaxing and scintillating. The former, thanks to sublime service with special attention to detail (more on that later.) The latter, courtesy of new executive chef Nelson Erazo's thoughtful menu (much more on that later.) It's a great combination, and well worth a three-mile hike to get to.

Lunch opened with a kind (yet professional) greeting, and a personal escort to my favorite table in the back. Moments later, a bottle of VOSS sparkling water and an armful of newspapers to keep me company. What more could you ask for? How about bread? Multiple kinds, warm and served with soft butter for easy application. Chef Erazo's lunch menu is simple, but covers all the bases (four main courses from farm-to-table, four from sea-to-table.) There's also an equal number of starters (garden and kettle-to-table) and an extensive selection of libations.

Blue Crab Corn Fritters

When in Rome Jardenea, do as the Romans (Jardeneans?) do. In my world, that means two starters: Blue Crab Corn Fritters ($12) and Roasted Vegetable Hummus ($11.) The fritters (all nine of 'em) arrived piping hot with a perfect crunch. I devoured each one in a single bite, taking full advantage of Erazo's delectable Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade in the process. Word to the wise: Dip generously... It's one of the best rémoulades I've had in a long, long time.

Roasted Vegetable Hummus

Hummus may not sound exciting; but it would be a crime to miss it. Especially when paired with perfectly grilled naan bread, that's plenty tasty on its own, but downright special with the aforementioned hummus (smoked paprika!) Other options include Chesapeake Bay Crab Bisque (lots of crab meat) and Grilled “Margherita” Flat Bread, that's somehow eluded me on three prior visits (next time, I promise.)

Butterscotch Crème Brûlée

Before my main course arrived (just one, can you imagine?) I decided to break my drink-only-after-sunset rule, in honor of Jardenea's Cucumber Basil Collins. Sometimes it pays to bend the rules. It looks healthy (leafy fresh basil) and contains cucumber & lemon juice, Collins gin and club soda. Best of all, it's a lot more refreshing than it is alcoholic (and I'm a former gin man.) You still get the slightest of buzzes, but it's hard to imagine a more perfect "real" drink for lunch.

Cucumber Basil Collins

I "stayed in the water" for my main entree... Chesapeake Bay Shrimp Tacos (a steal at just $14.) The tacos were generously sized & soft, with visible grill marks and stuffed with shrimp and yellow gazpacho, perched atop a gorgeous (both in looks and taste) citrus slaw, then finished off with crème fraiche and micro greens. It's a bit messy; but I was too busy enjoying it, to notice (until afterwards, thanks for the extra napkin!) I also wouldn't mind a little more heat, to balance the coolness of the slaw. Excluding those minor flaws, near perfection.

Dessert (Butterscotch Crème Brûlée, $8) was classic, understated and out-of-this-world. It was light on butterscotch, which would normally disappoint; but it was so rich and creamy, with lots of fresh blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, I quickly forgave any possible oversight. Once again, for a lunch dessert (a rarity, even for me) perfection... right down to the shallow dish (yes, I noticed... I'm greedy.) Even on a full stomach, I could have found room for one more.

Service was top-notch from start to finish. I was assisted by at least four different individuals, each of whom couldn't have been nicer or more inconspicuous. My pretension meter (yes, I have one... you should too) didn't flicker once, which is very rare in a hotel of this stature. Used plates and flatware were whisked away; and the kitchen/wait staff were in perfect harmony throughout my meal. As I said before, what more could you ask for? Besides reincarnation, of course.