She's got the Jax! The 1975 gambling song by AC/DC, The Jack, rolled through my head upon hearing that local Hell's Kitchen finalist Natalie Blake had landed as the Executive Chef at this new local restaurant. But can she really cook or is this a big bluff? The My Happy Fork team went over to ante up and check out the menu.
This West Short and Limestone Street location has had many attempts at a stable business, mostly known for the spot that the popular Bar, Mia's, made a losing bet for thriving a business. But there's something I just love about sitting out on the sidewalk and enjoying the evening.
Even with short notice The Jax staff was able to fill our reservation which I will recommend for anyone at the moment if you'd like a table. Since it's new it's popular and it does fill up there with lots of nicely dressed guests ready to gamble on this fresh Lexington scene.
Let's say upfront that this is NOT a well-oiled machine. They have plenty to work out and I say lets give them the time to get “the house” in order. The menu alone looks like it was decided by a roulette table or drawing straws. You'll see everything from Kettle Chips, Caprese, Beer Cheese to dried figs & honey on a Baguette. And entrees ranging from Burgers, Taco's and Pasta to Curry and Pork Sliders. We picked up on no sense of direction with this menu but only that Chef Blake is playing her hand smartly and waiting to see what Lexington wants from her (ie to see what sells and what doesn’t). Though I wish she would create her own destiny and show us her flavor, perhaps the menu will solidify in the future.
There are several starters to choose from and a coin toss won us the “chips and guacamole” at $6.50. With 17 tortilla chips and a 3oz serving each of salsa and guacamole we really didn't feel the value here. The salsa was good but we've had better guacamole at impromptu parties. Both had a perfect little dash of heat at the end but the guacamole could have used some seasoning. And I couldn't help to notice the large group of cilantro stems in our salsa which was surprising to see from this Celebrity Chef.
Let me interject and say it was at the point that the server began to take our entree order that we were informed of the nightly specials. This mis-step might very well be remedied as their staff get more training and experience. But when we ordered our beer, it was served to us to warm bar glassware. We were told that The Jax doesn't have chilled glass to serve beer in. We couldn't wipe the “uh oh” from our faces.
We doubled down and pressed on to try the Tacos at $11.90 and the Jax Burgers for $13.90. The Tacos had a surprise of wonderful taste. Here's “The Tacos” description right off the menu, “Tomatillo braised pork in three corn tortillas toped with queso fresco, house picked onions, fresh cilantro, lime crème fraiche & sliced radish.”
The Jax Burgers are small but delicious. An equivalent size portion is an Appetizer down the street (and less than the $14 price we paid here) so we were surprised at the size vs price. But the burgers were good and layered with complimentary flavors. The Jax describes their burgers; “Three petite Angus beef patties placed on soft brioche buns, with farmhouse cheddar cheese, crispy romaine, house pickled red ions and our authentic Jax sauce. Served with house made kettle chips.”
Rarely do we ever pass up a chance for a good dessert and when we learned that our local culinary ace, Chef Blake, had Beignet's on the menu, we went all in for it. We were surprised by what actually arrived. Most places around Lexington that serve a Beignet bring something along the lines of a square or triangle puff pastry dusted with powdered sugar. As you will see in the pictures below, we received something that looked like a hushpuppy. It was about the same size and color as a hushpuppy but did indeed have the flavor of a Beignet. Don't fret too much, this variation of the typical Beignet is not unknown, but often referred to as a boules de Berlin referring to a Berliner (like a doughnut but without the hole) often filled with a jam. We were slightly disappointed at this dish because the Beignets, being round, rolled over the dish and really had no powdered sugar to speak of and were perhaps left in the fry oil a little too long. We would have been happier with the larger Beignets but the accompanying lemon butter showed off Chef Blake's creative mind. We really liked it. So as you can see our hopes for this potential downtown staple wasn't busted.
As we like to say, if you're not happy with a visit to a new restaurant don't fold your cards and give up on them. Let them know what you like and what you don't like. Give them some time and visit them again as we certainly will. They are eager to listen to their customers and will continue to change and evolve to stack to the odds in your taste-buds favor.
Address: 101 W Short St, Lexington, KY 40507
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