Jack's Wife Freda – 224 Lafayette Street
Posted 27 March 2012 - 06:52 AM
So now Dean Jankelowitz and his wife Maya have opened their own little place, only a stone's throw from where they evidently first met (Balthazar) . When we arrived we were greeted like old friends, which is always nice. And it's even nicer on a warm March night, when the front of the restaurant is thrown open to what remains a pretty classic NYC street corner, Lafayette and Spring. Right across from a beautifully renovated pocket park, I imagine they qvelled a little when they first arrived at the location.
I don't think people are going to be making any special trips from out of town for the menu at JWF. And I doubt that that's what the owners envision; instead, they've opened what they hope becomes a place where neighborhood regulars come by a couple of times a week, maybe for breakfast, perhaps a quick lunch or even a more leisurely dinner - though that's when you're likely to see the crowds build - and Dean working the front once again. After all, most neighborhood restaurants rely on regulars and their repeat business; that'll keep them around longer than the hot flash places, and it's an old McNally touch. Might as well learn from the best, right?
One of the first things we noticed when we looked at our menus: no pork. You read that right - no pork. Now we're not talking kosher or vegetarian here, just a decision to not prepare swine in their kitchen and a little different than, say, every other restaurant in town with the obligatory pork belly. I've seen the food here being described as South African Israeli Jewish grandmother cuisine...okay, whatever you say. I'll just start by saying you can't go wrong if you start your dinner with the fish balls. Not your mama's fish balls (if your mama is Chinese, that is), these 5 hot little orbs have the smoky flavor of, yes, smoked whitefish, which is combined with hake, egg whites and a bit of carrot before being coated with panko and double fried to make them extra crispy on the outside and nice and moist on the inside. I've eaten my fair share of "fish balls;" after all, we practically live in Chinatown...these are so much better...
Another unique appetizer that immediately caught our attention was the peri-peri giblets, something you don't see on a lot of menus around town. These tender giblets are marinated in a mix of peri peri peppers, garlic, onion, citrus and an assortment of herbs and spices, before being cooked into submission. Nice that they're served with a couple of slices of toasted baguette, to mop up every last drop of the sauce.
Matzo Ball soup was one of those dishes that had us wondering how much we liked it...or did we? The soup itself was tasty, but you know how it is with matzo balls. Maybe they were good, maybe they weren't; we all have our standards when it comes to matzo balls, as the age-old Seder argument attests. As a matter of fact, I don't even know if I like mine...
Significant Eater veered slightly from her "I gotta have a burger" order to the Prego Roll, which is a skirt steak sandwich served on a garlic buttered roll. It's a little harder to chew but the beefiness of the perfectly cooked skirt made up for the extra effort. Served with a mountain of fries - all fluff on the inside and crispy outside. Once again, if you worked at Balthazar or Schiller's you have to know what good fries are; these are cut slightly different, (a little thicker) but the cooking is right. And in a perfect world, I'd love a squeeze bottle of mustard to go with my fries...
I order the whole grilled fish for my main course. This practically bigger than my plate dorade was simple and cooked right, nosing out the bit of couscous served with it. At $23, there's plenty to share.
The by the glass and carafe wine list short and to the point...5 wines from 5 countries. There are 7 or 8 beers to choose from, the draughts offered by the pint and by the half - thank you; and why don't more places offer the half pint? The coffee is Stumptown - same as I serve in my own kitchen.
So with tasty food like this, and warm friendly service, what could be better? Only one thing - I wish it was in my neighborhood. But I imagine we'll often take the walk west - we have a lot more of the menu to explore.
Posted 06 April 2012 - 05:06 AM
Groundbreaking? Not necessarily. Not Nomad. Not Atera. Just fries. But oh so good.
Posted 10 April 2012 - 04:40 PM
I was happy with everything- but especially enjoyed the eggplant. Nice and soft half inch slices of a narrow eggplant, lightly battered and perfectly fried.
The tofu was also expertly fried, so after the experience with eggplant and weinoos experience with the fries, I'd say you can't go wrong with something fried here.