Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Source's Laurie J. Rice Reviews Jackalope Grill

I ordered the rouladen because I had never seen it on a menu before, and I wasn't quite sure when or where I might have the chance to try it again. I loved it. The combination of flavors - meaty rich, salty with a subtle sour twang - was far better than I could have imagined. Chef Tim really knows food. -hoc

Defying The Adages: Expecting the unexpected at the Jackalope Grill

by Laurie J. Rice
The Source Weekly - Wednesday, 28 November 2007

You’ve never had a pickle this good - Jackalope’s Beef Rouladen.

So often we hear that location is everything for a restaurant. If it’s not in a good spot, death is inevitable once the initial curiosity has worn thin. Then there are those restaurants like Zydeco – perched between a car dealership and a fast food restaurant – and Kokanee CafĂ© – located in a beautiful setting, but an hour from most of the area’s population – that have defied that adage. Another of these location-challenged, but successful, restaurants is the Jackalope Grill, which I visited recently with a friend who had deemed it the best restaurant in the area.

From a marketing standpoint, the strip mall location and commonplace bones of the space are big deterrents. Those same weaknesses become strengths when viewed through the lens of convenience. The restaurant is right off Highway 97 and offers ample parking. As a result, getting there can be less stressful and time consuming than dining downtown.
Inside Jackalope, owner Kathy Garling has made the most of the interior. Charming and comfortable in a homey, unpretentious but upscale way, the acoustic tiles are partly hidden by drapes of gauzy blue linen and twinkly star shaped lights float over each table. Red and gold walls bring a soothing touch while tiny lights interwoven into the spiky snake plants make a clever privacy screen between the dining room and the entrance. Between the carpeted floor and the soft materials used throughout, the sound level stays at a comfortable din – busy and cheery, but never deafening.

My dining companion and I found ourselves in a comfortable booth looking over the Jackalope Grill menu while the knowledgeable server told us about the specials. It was a Friday night, a little before the 7 p.m. dinner hour, but still the place was almost full; by 7:30 there was not an empty seat.

We perused the 18-page, well-organized wine list emblazoned with the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence seal the restaurant recently received and decided to leave the choice up to owner Garling. The variety of wines is well rounded and at good price points ranging from $20 - $250. There is a balanced selection between the high cost and more economical wines, featuring some bottles I’ve rarely seen on other Central Oregon wine lists. After a quick description of what we wanted—a full, smooth red with a big finish—Kathy brought us a 2004 Chateau Pesquie Cotes du Ventoux Cuvees des Terressas from the Rhone Valley in France, a $29 bottle of wine with the distinct character and lushness of a more expensive bottle.

Next came a salad my friend and I opted to split. Recently I have steered clear of salads, finding that many have been subjected to either a heavy or stingy hand in the dressing department. This salad, I’m happy to say, was perfectly dressed with a pear vinaigrette complimenting the Northwest flavors of field greens, blue cheese, hazelnuts and dried cranberries.

The meal was nicely paced with a few minutes to sip wine between our salad and entrees. Stylishly plated, our entrees tasted as good as they looked. My companion’s Filet Mignon was beautifully rare with the right amount of rich, green peppercorn sauce brightened with a touch of brandy.

I ordered a traditional German dish off the special list that I’d never tasted. Chef Timothy Garling rolls thin pieces of Oregon flank steak around bacon, onions and, yes, pickles to create a classic Beef Roulade. It sounds strange but it tastes great. The pickles add a bit of umph, but don’t take over. And bacon, of course, makes everything it touches that much better. Served with it’s own juices, a big portion of tender spaetzle and some tart red cabbage, I can’t think when I’ve enjoyed the lowly pickle as much.

We finished our meal with a homemade macadamia coconut ice cream filled with whole nuts and creamy coconut milk, and a juicy pear tart with some of the flakiest crust I’ve ever tasted.

You’ve got to hand it to any restaurant that can serve up an amazing haute Northwest cuisine experience while sharing a parking lot with Blockbuster Video. Once again Jackalope Grill has defied all adages and proves that location is less important to success than the overall experience.

Jackalope Grill

1245 S Hwy 97, 318-8435


Anonymous said...

The last time my wife and I visited the Jackalope Grill they had neither Muller-Thurgeau or Gewurtztriminer(sp) on the wine menu, both which we enjoy with German dishes. That disappointed us but the food was as good as always.

Anonymous said...

Hey Harold,

I noticed this comment on your blog about a couple coming in and the restaurant not having any Gewurztraminer on the wine list. I felt so badly that I went out the next day and added Trimbach to the list.

Kathy Garling