I recently went to a tasting dinner at Jackson’s Food & Drink in El Segundo.
I had dined at the former location in Hermosa Beach several years ago – a fabulous experience – but had yet to check out the new location on Rosecrans.
I’d been hearing a lot of great things about this reincarnation, and the newly appointed Sous Chef, so I scheduled Chef Matt Strong to be our guest on The South Bay Show and then made arrangements to stop in and see first-hand what all the buzz was about.
The restaurant is in a space formerly occupied by a Japanese restaurant in an office complex on Rosecrans. It has been completely remodeled in a contemporary, rustic vernacular – lots of rough wood and metal – with a sizable dining area that’s not quite indoors or outdoors but very comfortable.
While I was waiting for my dining companion, Chef Strong joined me at the table to discuss the upcoming show, as well as the various dishes we’d be trying that night. As we went through the menu, he emphasized the farm-to-table aspect and the importance of fresh, seasonal ingredients. He explained that he regularly swaps out ingredients if what is called for isn’t to his standards and he refuses to use out of season produce.
We began with an appetizer of Hummus with Olives and Pine Nuts served with what looked like toasted, seasoned pita – the menu called for a Za’tar Air Cracker. There was olive oil drizzled on top of the hummus, buried olives and unexpectedly, something with a little heat. Tasty!
After the first bite of the first salad we were served – Watermelon and Feta – I grabbed the server and asked, “Was this watermelon marinated? It’s so tasty!” No, it wasn’t.
I flagged down the server again after tasting the second salad – what was supposed to be a Fig, Basil and Feta Salad, but the basil was replaced with peppery arugula – and asked, “These figs are delicious. Are they marinated?” Again, no, they weren’t.
The tomatoes in the Marinated Burrata Salad were dense, meaty and bursting with flavor. The dressings on all of the salads were complimentary and never overwhelmed the flavor-intense ingredients.
The Butternut Squash Soup was silky, flavorful and expertly accented with slivers of apple and cheddar cheese. It was a revelation – I make butternut squash soup all the time and would never think to add either of these ingredients. It was divine.
Chef Strong is in the process of tweaking the menu and he served us a dish that isn’t yet on the menu and oh, what a treat that was.
The Crab Cakes – made with Maryland lump, wild caught, hand picked, fresh crab – were perfection. He promised they will be on the menu soon.
As a member of a large, New York, Italian family, I know from Bolognese. Chef Strong’s Rigatoni Bolognese reminded me of family dinners of Christmas past.
The Port Braised Beer Short Ribs were served with root vegetables and a sublime horseradish cream sauce that complimented it to perfection. So often, horseradish sauces are overpowering, completely overwhelming the flavor of the meat – not this one.
At this point, I told the server we couldn’t eat another bite but he wouldn’t let us leave before trying at least one dessert. Desserts aren’t listed on the menu, so I can’t name it…. but it involved ice cream and was delicous!
The prices are reasonable – the most expensive dish is $34 – and the service was phenomenal.
His dishes make a persuasive argument for eating seasonally.
For those fortunate enough to work in the area, Jackson’s is a fantastic option for both lunch and happy hour and it’s an obvious choice for dinner and a movie…. but then, who needs an excuse for a fine meal? I’m looking forward to eating there again and trying all the other dishes we didn’t have room for!
For additional information, visit the website at http://jacksonsfoodanddrink.com/. For reservations, call 310-606-5500 .
Jackson’s Food & Drink is located at 2041 Rosecrans Avenue in El Segundo.