Jay’s Restaurant and Lounge a 'Gastronomic Gem'
Awesome Eats is in love with the food, presentation and atmosphere.
I received a tip from a friend telling me that I had to visit newly opened Jay’s Restaurant and Lounge. She gave two reasons why an Awesome Eats feature must be done.
- The offerings are unique, and the quality and presentation are on par with a four-star restaurant.
- The atmosphere is modern, hip, swanky, chic, up-scale-uber-sophisticated but not stuffy.
I was intrigued, albeit skeptical.
The moment I walked into Jay’s, I felt like I had walked into a lounge-night club, with a long bar and low-level neon back lights. Skepticism kicked in.
Then I saw dining tables fully dressed with white linen cloths, linen napkins and water glasses. Good sign.
I walk past a dance floor with a DJ station to a carpeted area with velvet roping that held conversation seating in modern leather sofas and chairs in black and white. Scandinavian-style glass topped cocktail tables were in the center of the seatings that beckoned me to sit down. My mojo groovyness kicked in, and I all-of-a-sudden felt that I might just belong to the "in crowd."
Enter Executive Chef William Epes — what lounge has a chef let alone an executive one? Dressed in chef’s hat and coat, he presented a tray of the most beautifully plated, colorful, Bon-Appetite Magazine cover photo-worthy dishes. Wow!
The first entrée was roasted rack of lamb, pepper-crusted and pan seared, drizzled with an apricot balsamic glaze and served with rosemary roasted potatoes. It was prepared, seasoned and cooked to absolute perfection. I have eaten rack of lamb at several five-star restaurants, and Jay’s tops them all.
The artful presentation added to the overall star quality. Chef Will nailed this dish with plenty of room to spare. It cut like butter, exploded with a delicate flavor and literally melted in my mouth. Outstanding! Bravo! The lamb chops would turn a vegetarian into a carnivore in a New York minute. And New York City is most likely the closest place you will find anything like this plate.
The shrimp cocktail at Jay’s is a refreshing break from the classic dish. An obviously fresh, vibrant mixture of mango, pineapple, papaya, avocado, horseradish, garlic, Thai Chili, habanera and cilantro, crowned with five extra-large Gulf Tiger shrimp. The fresh-squeezed tri-citrus juices (orange, lime and lemon) and the locally grown microgreens make every bite explode with a taste of Caribbean. The left over juices at the bottom are to be sipped like a fine brandy.
Chef Will explains that "different" is the key to their menu creations. “If it can be had at other establishments, you will not find it here," he said. "We take food to a whole other level, kick-it up a notch, turn it up-side down, deconstruct it and make the usual, unusual.”
He said boring is a word not used in his kitchen. He is a shoe-in for the cooking show Top Chef if he were to apply, his culinary talent and artistic creations are simply that good.
The Grilled Napolito wings are a true testament to his statement. They are cactus marinated — he actually burns then grinds the needle of the cactus, and infuses sweet, smoky and spicy flavors. The not-your-ordinary wings start off with one flavor and actually change several times; not layered flavors, but changing flavors, which is a very hard trick to master.
The wings are not slathered in a wet sauce, but grilled with a dry rub. Superb! The intoxicating smokey, cumin-seasoned chicken wings are topped with a fresh yellow corn, tomato and avocado salsa served with a honey mango dipping sauce. Not only were they stunningly beautiful to behold, they were amazingly delicious to be had. Okay, this is NOT the bar food I was anticipating by a long shot, if fact, it was the polar opposite.
Truffle lobster mac & cheese, Cuban Missile sandwiches, shrimp and oyster Po-Boys, wilted spinach with lemon, vegetable white lasagna and more are yet to be explored.
The grilled cheese Caprese with house-made mozzarella, basil, oven-dried tomatoes and prosciutto crisps on a toasted baguette is calling my name. Blackened salmon with Jerk spices, topped with a pineapple and rum glaze and an order of pan-seared duck breast wiz by me on their way to lucky diners while I await dessert.
The last course arrives, and it does not disappoint. A silky chocolate mousse martini topped with fresh-made whipped cream, edible flower and a fresh, ripe, strawberry capped off the night in the most ‘what dreams are made of’ kind of way. This decadent dessert is rich in the means of chocolaty richness, but light in weight and texture. It was the piece de la resistance.
Jay’s features a four-course, pre-fixed brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday, with creations that are worth getting out of bed for, according to Chef Will. To top it off, brunch is accompanied by live jazz music. With entrées including shrimp and grits with a cream sherry sauce, I have no choice but to accept Chef Will's invitation. Part II of Jay’s Awesome (brunch) Eats will be next week, so stay posted.
Jay’s Restaurant and Lounge is located at 2030 Plank Rd. in Fredericksburg. It's absolutely a gastronomic gem. I'm sure the hip, swank, cooler-than-cool cocktail and conversation evoking lounge is going to be popular with adults in search of a metropolitan night out. When you go, tell Chef Will that you have come for the Awesome Eats as seen in Fredericksburg Patch.