Jack the Horse Tavern: A Captivating Restaurant that Serves the Most Mouthwatering Mac & Cheese in Brooklyn
Husband and wife Tim Oltmans & Micki Schubert opened Jack the Horse Tavern in June 2006. The Brooklyn Heights restaurant has since become a neighborhood staple. Jack the Horse Tavern serves opulent American dishes. JTH Tavern also offers an impressive list of wines, house cocktails and local craft beers. The Brooklyn joint has reaped 'cred' with foodies for its palatable mac & cheese. With that said, I could not resist taking an odyssey to my neighboring borough to have a bite of the supposedly luscious food item. Brooklyn is not a strange land to me- in fact, I consider myself as a "Brooklyn wannabe resident." Commuting from Queens to Brooklyn is generally a piece of cake but my subway ride to JTH Tavern wasn't exactly the norm: there was a crazy old drunk man, 2 teenagers who seemed not to have a sense of what personal space is and a guy who decided to just knock on the conductor's door [side bar- the man operating the train actually stopped the train and opened the door, to the horror of every passenger on-board]. One could just imagine the colossal hope that Jack the Horse Tavern will be worth the unnecessary inconveniences.
To my relief, JTH Tavern's celebrated first course entree made me forget about the previous ordeal (at least for the time being). The mac & cheese was beyond satisfactory. The aroma was a teaser, I couldn't help salivating as the dish was placed in front of me. I took my first bite and I was transported to what felt like a fluffy room filled with things that made me melt and fall in love. It was an epic moment when the smoked Gouda and fontina cheeses and the cavatappi pasta melded in exquisite harmony. The wise move of choosing the mentioned cheeses added a sophisticated depth to the dish (something that I wish every mac & cheese have). It was savory, sweet and a little bit salty. The smoky element was also there. My favorite part was the texture- it was crunchy upon the first bite and when bitten, it just melts in your mouth. The mac & cheese brought coziness and warmth. It was quite challenging to remain civilized when consuming it.
It wasn't just the mac & cheese, it was also other items from the restaurant's dinner and drink menu that helped lift the state of evening.
Ricotta Ravioli with Braised Radicchio, Brown Butter and Parmesan- One might not recognize this dish as ravioli because it isn't presented in the typical form (it looks like meatballs or risotto balls). There were only three ravioli pieces but I think, they really wanted to focus more on the taste quality of the dish. The ricotta filled pasta was two steps ahead regarding with flavor and elegance compared to other restaurants. It was savory with a hint of sweetness and saltiness.
Country Pâté with Duck Confit, Pistachios, Currants, Cornishons, Whole Grain Mustard and a Toasted Baguette- Perhaps, this was the wildcard of the entire dinner. Pâtés are something that could be really awful when made poorly. Thankfully, the kitchen staff's skills are consistent. The dish was quite pleasant. Duck confit is typically salty but the pistachios and currants helped tone that down. I also appreciated the option of the whole grain mustard for an extra kick.
Slow Braised Short Ribs with Smoked Mushrooms, Garlic-Chive Potato Purée and Red Wine Glaze- I wasn't sure which main course entree I wanted to try so I asked my waitress for a recommendation. She informed me about their special for the evening and immediately, I knew that I wanted to have it. As a meat enthusiast, I can't reject an offer to taste what could be the best braised short ribs ever. JHT Tavern's slow braised short ribs wasn't the best I've had but it certainly comes a very close second. It was tender and it was hearty without being too heavy. The flavors really play well together. It was another delightful dish.
Pan Roasted Chatham Cod & Grilled Jumbo Prawn with Green Kale Puree, Farro and Chorizo Jam- This dish, as a whole was probably one of the best plates of food I've ever had. Everything about it made sense in the way that each component served a purpose. The cod was seasoned and cooked well. It was also a fantastic blank canvas for all the other flavors in the dish. There was something magical about the inter-mingling of the kale puree and chorizo jam. Pureeing the kale helped modify its natural bitter taste and adding chorizo jam to the mix amplified the dimension of flavors of the dish. My favorite part was the farro- It was my first time trying it. According to a New York Times article, "Farro is not wheat, but a plant and grain all its own. A grain of farro looks and tastes somewhat like a lighter brown rice. It has a complex, nutty taste with undertones of oats and barley. But lacking the heaviness of many whole-wheat grains, farro tastes more elegant than earnest." I know that farro has been used in the industry for quite sometime now but the experience was still refreshing.
JTH Tavern's dessert menu offers a variety of cheeses but since a few of my dinner entrees had cheese in it, I opted to go for their sweeter items.
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Persimmon Puree, Spiced Apricots and Faro Brittle- Prior to my visit, someone had suggested that I try this dessert and I completely understand why. This is the kind of dessert for the anti-dessert foodies. It isn't one note with flavor, it isn't just sweet. It has layers of impeccable flavors: sweet, salty and spicy. In addition, the dessert item also offers fluidity in texture. It's a dessert that requires time to devour.
Pomegranate Cheesecake with Date Puree- I assume that this was a recent addition to the dessert menu since it isn't listed on the website. Again, another successful and innovative menu item. The cheesecake was tangy, sweet, soft and light. I was taken by how well the cheese works with the pomegranate, It was a happy ending to an excellent dinner.
In addition to the tasty food items I got to try, I also took a shot at a few of the restaurant's cocktail specials.
Behind the Knees with Gin, Grapefruit, Lime, Elderflower and Cava- It's a simple cocktail but its components require a specific set of skills in able to make it. It's a refreshing drink that's great for brunch- it's light, clean and crisp. Now that I'm thinking about it, I wish that I had more.
Hemingway Daiquiri with White Rum, Maraschino, Grapefruit and Lime- I chose this under the assumption that it will be similar to the previous cocktail. I thought "it has the word daiquiri in it so it has to be girly"- I was half correct. This drink is the more classy daiquiri. If "daiquiri" equals Miss Marvel, then this particular daiquiri equals Wonder Woman- its sophisticated kick is more for the matured palate.
Old Fashioned with Barrel Strength Bourbon, Brown Sugar and Bitters- I can picture myself coming here just for the drinks (but you know I wouldn't come here again just for the drinks). JTH Tavern's Old Fashioned pairs well with the cold winter weather. This drink is proof that the bartender(s) at the restaurant know what they're doing- each element in the cocktail was present in each sip and that's how it should be. An Old Fashioned is one of a bartender's basic cocktails but often, it's the simplest drinks that most screw up a lot.
Brooklyn Heights with Rittenhouse Rye, Maraschino, Amaro, Dry Vermouth and Campari- This cocktail's flavor is quite similar to the Old Fashioned. It leans towards the bitter taste palate with hints with citrus, vanilla and caramel. This is definitely a drink to have if you want to feel like Don Draper