Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

Hot Time

It's not New Orleans, but it's somewhere close.

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The menu boasts red beans and rice that is a credit to Popeye's (no kidding; that chain is a hallowed name in the Crescent City); a lightly breaded oyster po'boy with bacon and Hollandaise that you can envision devouring at the marble counter at Acme Oyster House; and a blackened redfish named for (but, of course, can't match) an offering from the fabled jazz brunch at the Commander's Palace.

Throw in a crawfish boil, jambalaya, a muffuletta sandwich, crab cakes Rex with a red rémoulade, and pecan-crusted catfish meuni┼áre over dirty rice and you'll swear there's a Creole chef in the kitchen.

The menu, however, is supervised by News — who ran Mr. Patrick Henry's on Church Hill for 17 years — and at the grill, Adam Ginsberg, who previously cooked a few blocks away at The Hard Shell.

The front of the house is the province of Malone, who managed the Salisbury Country Club for 22 years before taking early retirement. Malone's father was a chef, and his family operated three restaurants in Southern California.

Aficionados will appreciate the crawfish étouffée over rice, jambalaya pasta with smoked sausage and chicken, and a well-pounded veal with prosciutto in a Parmesan lemon sauce.

Only the herb-encrusted poussin — a young South Carolina chicken served with a roasted garlic sauce over buttered noodles — failed to delight; it contained only tiny legs and thighs, which were too chewy.

Except for exceptional collard greens, the vegetables were ordinary.

Starters range from $3 for a cup of soup — corn-and-crab bisque and sausage-and-chicken gumbo are the regulars — to $9 for bourbon- and honey-glazed shrimp with candied pecans. Entrees are priced in the teens.

Luncheon fare includes a daily special that pays homage to Mrs. Johnson, who operated a soul-food kitchen around the corner for three decades. You can't get more down-home than honey-fried chicken, smothered pork chops, meat loaf, chicken and andouille sausage or fried lake trout.

Desserts ($5) are made on the premises, and they include profiteroles (a mountainous cream puff) drenched with a dark rum chocolate sauce and blackberry cobbler.

The décor includes teardrop lamps with beads, wall sconces, stained-glass windows, lots of bricks and mirrors, tables topped with white tablecloths, flowers and masks, and a mural in the bar area.

The painting by Richmond's Happy the Artist features masked women cavorting with ever-so-cool men smoking and smirking, the restaurant manager's pets and caricatures of the construction crew as well as some recognizable faces, such as Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and Sen. John Warner.

The noise level is not up to that of Galatoire's, but it does require some leaning forward for conversation with tablemates, especially when Creedence Clearwater Revival is cranked up on the sound system. Near week's end, the sounds are softer, provided by a jazz trio.

Jacqueomo's, named for a court jester, opened a month after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Two of the first servers hired were evacuees of the storm, and early patrons have included a number of former coastal residents who have relocated here.

Mardi Gras may be problematic in New Orleans this year, but you can bet there will be a hot time at Jacqueomo's next month. You can almost hear the saints marching in. S



Jacqueomo's New Orleans Grill

,i>101 N. 18th St.
344-5181
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m.
Sunday brunch buffet: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

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