Like father, like son
My all time favorite restaurant is Jake’s Crawfish House, in Portland. It’s the anchor to the McCormick and Schmick chain, founded by Bill McCormick. Now his son, Andrew, who started his first job at Jake’s, has opened a great new restaurant in Lafayette, The Cooperage.
This new monument to fine dining is in the completely remodeled space where Petar’s ruled for 50 years or so. Not a shred of the old remains, it’s all new and beautiful, with a vast amount of outdoor seating, a big bar area with 12 beers and 8 wines on tap, a semi-open kitchen and a large private “board room” for special events.
We ate there tonight with The Rip (Mike Rippey) and his sweetie, Gretchen. I made a reservation on OpenTable and was surprised to see that they were booked solid for all the usual dinner hours–I took the 5:45, the next available was 8:15. There were 3 tables in the dining room that stayed unused all through our dinner–it makes me wonder if they are playing games to look busier, although the place is an obvious smash hit.
The food, you ask. What about the food? OK, I’ll tell you. It’s good. The menu seems very limited to me, but everything we had was excellent. The central theme of the menu is the rotisserie–they turn chickens, loin of pork and prime rib on a very cool looking glass enclosed spit. They also grill New Yorks, filets and rib eyes. That’s all well and good, but this is California, and we want our fish, and more than just the one (mahi-mahi) on the menu. They offer a few dinner salads and lots of veggies, just not enough fish. There is also one, only, pasta dish, fettuccine, three buck extra for some chicken to go along with it.
I started with the warm brussels sprouts salad; deconstructed brussels sprouts, crispy shallots and bacon dressed in a bacon/red wine vinaigrette, topped with a poached egg. It’s wonderful.
The waiter was pushing the chicken wings appetizer, pushing like a carnival barker with a new fat lady. So we gave in–either they were really great or the chef got a deal on a boatload of wings and had to move them.
The wings were great. Not the hot, spicy, tomato covered dreck that is the usual sports bar fare, these were what you get when you have a real chef create something special out of a cheap cut of meat. We had them as an appetizer, then Gail had a second dish as her entree.
The Rip is in the middle of a gout attack, so he is sticking to veggies. He had a couple of side dishes of them–I stole some asparagus, and it was as good as everything else. Gretchen keeps her great figure by eating like a canary. She had the wedge salad, with one of the most interesting presentations I’ve ever seen.
That looked interesting enough, but then she cut into the lettuce:
The cheese is stuffed into the head of lettuce in the kitchen, but you don’t realize it when you see the presentation. It’s brilliant.
Gretchen may eat like a canary, I eat like a flock of ostriches, so I had the mahi-mahi.
The fish was cooked perfectly, the rice was rich with coconut and bright with the lime. The menu says that’s a mango-pineapple salsa, but it sure looks like avocado to me. Whatever it was, it accentuated the fish nicely.
Service is expert and smooth, but they have given in to the modern fashion of serving the water without ice. What is this, France? Garcon!! Beaucoup de glasson, sil vous plais. This is California, give me some damned ice in my glass.
There was a dessert menu, but we had no takers. The butterscotch pecan bread pudding was calling my name, but I resisted manfully. Maybe next time. And there will be a next time, this place is very, very good. I’d like to see a few more dishes on the menu, especially in the fish department. They need to work out why I can’t reserve a table for 6:00 and then see empty tables for the entire evening. In the best of all worlds they’d bring in the crawfish etouffee recipe from Jake’s, but that’s probably too much to hope for.