Back in March I wrote, “Jack’s Steakhouse is a staple in Baldwin Park. It’s been here pretty much since Baldwin Park became… Baldwin Park.” Well – that restaurant has just experienced a rebirth, and the important news is that Chef Josh Spisak, “exactly the kind of chef that foodies who read my column have come to love,” is there as the driving force behind the restaurant’s latest incarnation.
Let’s deal with why. Why change things up in a terrific steakhouse? Chef Josh’s answer is simple and to the point – people are simply not eating steak like they once did. Don’t you love when an answer is simple and true? Of course it’s true. My guest and I went back over the number of times, in the past two months, we had ordered a great steak, and in at least one case, one guest couldn’t remember the last time. So Jack’s Steakhouse is now Provisions & Buzz Co., and that “new” restaurant is benefitting from Chef Josh Spisak’s inherent love of food, background in a variety of restaurants, and fearless inventiveness resulting in fusion creations.”
Provisions & Buzz Co. is located at 4868 New Broad St. in Baldwin Park. Call 407-896-2688 or visit provisionsandbuzzco.com for more information.
So far as the look of the restaurant goes, the wooden shutters have been replaced by long white drapes, the colors are more up-to-date, and the décor uses decorative hexagons that call up the buzz of a beehive. The staff is trained with the finest of dining politesse – anticipating choices, suggesting when asked, and most importantly, being there when needed and not there when you are enjoying time with your guests. Those are the qualities of a sophisticated wait-staff.
Change this; change that – if you’re like me, it’s finally about the food, and you can tell from the inventive menu that Chef Josh is enjoying a new burst of fusion-freedom that is so wonderful, because we get to eat the creations his ‘mad skills’ present.
Up first was the cheese puffs – lightly fried little carbs that look like baby churros, but these are filled with fontina cheese, and they are so wonderful that a guest said she could make her whole meal on these. Warning – that inner cheese can be very hot, so check the temperature of the filling before popping one into your mouth (as I did).
Fusion popped up big time in the second appetizer of tempura fried shrimp & calamari. Two things we all love, and yet who has ever served them as one appetizer – especially when sauced with a heaven-sent honey aioli. That glorious tempura dish is then sprinkled with chopped candied walnuts. Think of the brine of the seafood mixing with the honey aioli, and be honest – how many of your favorite tastes are fusion-mixed in that one dish? I nominate Chef Josh’s shrimp & calamari as the poster child for fusion cooking!
My choice was the very sophisticated tuna tartare. Begin with the cleverness of serving sashimi-grade diced tuna with a tangy soy-based Ponzu Sauce, served here with the added snap of citrus juice. This magnificence is then plated on pickled (perfect) cucumbers (perfect) over fried wonton chips (perfect), and you have my highly recommended, did-a-little-food-dance deal on that masterpiece of cuisine.
The one thing I miss from the previous menu is the truffle eggplant, and Josh, I’m willing to beg to have those one more time.
Chef Josh’s love of food goes back to when he would trail after his mom in the kitchen. By 15 he was slinging pizzas, eventually going to culinary school on both the east and west coasts (a courageous act). Right out of school, Josh was hired in a test kitchen where he created everything from packaged sauces to self-contained airline meals. Eventually he found himself as the chef of a sushi fusion restaurant. Every one of those influences shows up on his menu today.
For the entrée, I thrilled over the whole-fried snapper, which took me back to a romantic night dining on the sand in Acapulco. The whole fish goes into the fryer, thereby searing in the natural juices of the fish. Served with that wonderful ponzu dipping sauce, the tastes complemented each other perfectly.
Another wonderful choice is the seafood stew, this time reminding me of my first trip to Concord, Mass., with its rich conglomeration of clams, mussels, scallops, crab and lobster meat in a hearty tomato concoction. Served with thick, toasted bread, we used that bread to literally clean the plate. The tomato base, infused with slow cooking, had all those seafood tastes. Suffice to say, the seafood and the tomato stew vanished like magic.
Pork shank was the third entrée choice. In place of the veal shank typically used in osso buco, Chef Josh braises pork shank into fall-off-the-bone goodness and then serves it over an amazing (goat) cheese polenta, topped with onion gravy. Clever, unexpected, and absolutely delicious, it is the originality I seek with Chef Josh.
When one of us found the peanut butter pie on the dessert menu, we were crazy enough to feel that we had room to share a dessert. Let your taste-buds work overtime as I describe a graham cracker crust overlaid with a thick layer of chocolate mousse, peanut butter mousse and topped with chocolate ganache … and then the whole plate drizzled with salty-sweet caramel sauce. We were in heaven, vowing to come back at different times for a meal of appetizers culminating in another peanut butter pie feeding ritual.
And so, fear not former steakhouse lovers. Chef Josh is at Provisions & Buzz to “save the day,” and once again we can enjoy the foodie fun of watching what that fusion mind of his has to offer as his delicious and imaginative menu continues to evolve right here on our main street in Baldwin Park.