My wife and I decided to brave the newness and check out JK’s in North Hills the very first weekend they were open. Normally, I would give a restaurant at least a couple of tries before coming to a conclusion, but this was an extraordinary meal that is worthy of comment.
Due to the (presumably intentional) quiet opening of the restaurant, we did not make a reservation for our dinner. When we arrived, there were definitely people there, but it was not at all full. Probably just the way they wanted it to be on just their 2nd full night open. The interior of the restaurant is very classy and rich, but understated. It has a fairly large, segregated bar area where we were told the full menu is available but the dining experience would be less formal. We were seated at a nice table in the middle of the main dining room and knew right away that this was going to be a different dining experience than anywhere else we’d eaten in Raleigh when our waiter met us with a smile at our table, welcomed us, and said he would be back in a moment to take our drink order once we had a few minutes to get comfortable. This immediately let us know we were not going to be rushed and encouraged us to relax and enjoy the evening.
This attitude and pace continued all night. We spent the next 2 1/2 hours completely enjoying ourselves and escaping the stresses of daily life (longest meal I have ever had in Raleigh, I think). The entire staff was extremely courteous and a lot of fun to converse with. You could tell that the management team and staff were already taking great pride in what they were doing with this restaurant. Not once did we experience any sort of jitters or mistakes or unsureness. Amazing for a restaurant so new.
Now, on to the food. For an appetizer, at the suggestion of our waiter I decided to try sweetbreads, something I’ve never eaten before. Apparently it is the meat from just behind the ear of a cow. (Correction: See first comment posted below for the actual definition of sweetbreads… I think I’m gonna be sick… just kidding!) Now, I have nothing to compare to, but it was delicious. Not recommended if you have food texture issues as there was a bit of a fatty quality to the meat. Not the chewy kind of fatty, but the melt in your mouth kind of fatty, if you know what I mean. It was cooked in a mustard seed sauce which was very tasty.
We each got a salad which I recall the both of us raving over, but the entrees that followed have now overshadowed them in my (apparently feeble) memory. For our main courses, my wife and I did a switch from our normal fare. She ordered the filet mignon and I ordered the salmon… the wild king salmon served over gnocchi in a red wine reduction. Holy cow… err, I mean… Holy fish, this was the best salmon dinner I have ever had. Wild king salmon is such a good fish, a bit more lean than Atlantic salmon. It was lightly spiced and cooked to perfection. The mixture of flavors is making my mouth water as I type this. It was heavenly.
I took a few bites of my wife’s steak and it had to be the best cut of meat I have had in Raleigh… You know, the kind that just about dissolves in your mouth? It was a good thing that the salmon was so good, or I might have had to fight her for more of that filet. The manager stopped by to chat with us and we, of course, asked her all sorts of questions about the place. She explained that the menu was not their complete menu yet as they wanted to start out slow and build up to full capacity once they get the kinks worked out. She also said that they dry-age some of their own meat in the back and that is a one-month process… so those items would not be making an appearance for several more weeks (I’m excited to go back and try some of that!).
For dessert, my wife got something that resembled chocolate pudding. It wasn’t exactly exciting, but a great flavor and texture nonetheless. For me it was a concoction that consisted of meringue lightly toasted, filled with a custard or pudding, topped with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and whipped cream. It was absolutely incredible. A nice clean touch of sweetness to finish off a fabulous meal.
I have my fingers-crossed that JK’s is able to maintain their pace and their service once word gets out about the food. Hopefully their price points, which are high (entrees are in the $20 to $30 dollar range), will keep them from being overrun and allow them to continue to run an exquisite place of respite.
Now, with all these accolades I am pouring on this place, Murphy’s Law states that it’s all going to go to hell now… So I’ll be sure to go back soon to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke… Of course, then I might need to go sample it again to make sure they are truly consistent. Ooo, and I’ll probably need to go back even again to make sure I get a statistically sound sample…