Restaurant review: Jack's Steakhouse

Jack's new menu shines

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  • | 1:17 p.m. March 25, 2015
Photo by: Sarah Wilson - Jack's offers a supremely succulent steak with added flavors to make the meat pop.
Photo by: Sarah Wilson - Jack's offers a supremely succulent steak with added flavors to make the meat pop.
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Jack’s Steakhouse is a staple in Baldwin Park. It’s been here pretty much since Baldwin Park became Baldwin Park. But if you haven’t eaten there within the past five months, you’re missing out on the re-birth of a restaurant.

Host/Manager T.J. Kress and Chef Josh Spisak are moving forward and honoring the legacy that was – and continues to be – the dream of young Chef Chris Lacey, who was taken from us much too young.

The happier news is that Chef Josh is exactly the kind of chef that foodies who read my column have come to love. His inherent love of food, interest in cooking from an early age, background in a variety of restaurants, and fearless inventiveness resulting in fusion creations has made him the chef of a steakhouse that even a vegan could love. Word.

So far as the look of the restaurant goes, it’s still there on the corner at 4868 New Broad St. and the little park across from Prospect Street. And its signature wooden shutters over a wall of windows still give it that open clubby feel. Add to that a staff trained to make you feel welcome, and it’s a great place to stop in – even if it’s just for one of Chef Chris’ innovative appetizers. (And they offer happy hour every day from 4 to 7 p.m.)

Chef Josh’s love of food goes back to when he would trail around after his mom in the kitchen. She tells a story of when he was so young that he was allowed to use the microwave (but not the stove with the burners). Very young Josh knew he had to heat clams to get them to open, but since he couldn’t use the burners, he “cooked” the clams in the microwave – to explosive results. By 15 he was slinging pies in a pizzeria, and eventually went to culinary school on both the east and west coasts. Right out of school, Josh was hired in a test kitchen where he was tasked with everything from creating a series of packaged sauces (remember this) to the creation of self-contained airline meals. Eventually he found his place as the chef of a sushi-fusion restaurant.

Every one of those influences shows up on his menu today. To begin with there are enough delicious vegetable appetizers and sides to keep a vegetarian well fed. For starters, I went right for the Truffle Eggplant, pieces of eggplant too lightly battered and too wonderfully delicious for the obvious comparison to tempura. This eggplant appetizer is the perfect example of what fusion cooking can be. Each bite was lightly battered and lightly fried to perfection. These marvelous little bites were then tossed with just enough bits of shaved parmesan that I could happily make a meal of them.

So happy were we with that dish that we then tried the Hoisin Green Beans. Pan fried with ginger and garlic and sauced with Chinese barbecue sauce, hoisin is a combination of fermented soy, vinegar, chili and sweetener so that it has a salty, sweet – and very Oriental – flavor. More fusion; also wonderful.

One of the taste sensations of the evening was the Escargot Marsala. Imagine the taste of escargot sautéed with mushrooms in a wine and veal stock sauce. It becomes a masterful fusion of tastes that diminishes the earthy taste (which I’ve never cared for) of the snails while introducing a wine taste that my dining partner enjoyed even though it was her first taste of escargot. We called it the perfect intro to what is often an acquired taste.

Another winner is a plate of shaved and fried Brussels sprouts. Chef Josh truly cares about his vegetables and appears to be on a campaign to make them not only edible but delectable … and he’s succeeding. At no time in my youth, when facing the prospect of not being allowed away from the dinner table until I ate my vegetables, did I ever imagine that I would be thrilled to be eating in a steakhouse and so enjoying Brussels sprouts, green beans, and eggplant.

We will get to the steak, but first I must sing the praises of two of the menu’s Signature Dishes. The Pan Roasted Salmon served over cheddar cheese grits with chunks of sautéed tomato and onions is a mix that works very well with both distinct tastes ( the cheddar gives real taste to the grits) that the two tastes literally enhance each other.

The Hoisin Glazed Pork Ribeye is so unbelievably moist (and tasty) that each bite is to be compared favorably with the finest steak.

This brings us to the Filet Mignon for which our inventive chef has created a choice of six signature toppings. We expected a choice piece of meat, and that is what was placed before us. We chose a topping entirely new to us – called the Boursin Bake – a combination of Jalapeno jelly and Boursin cheese. It was both fun and a definite taste addition to our filet with the little bubbles of Jalapeno jelly popping in our mouths and immediately made pleasant by the buttery sweetness of the boursin.

Crazy enough to feel that we had room for dessert, we went with our host’s choice of the Tempura Cheesecake. Yes, it is fried cheesecake served with flambéed strawberries. We had one of the great moments of the evening as my dining partner and I looked up at exactly the same moment with the same smile on our faces – YES – it is definitely worth the calories.

It is a joy to recommend Jack’s Steakhouse especially in its new incarnation with Chef Josh. We can all enjoy the sheer foodie fun of watching what that fusion mind of his has to offer as his menu continues to evolve right here on our Main Street Baldwin Park.


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