This post is part of our Hidden Gems series, which is brought to you by Basil Hayden's bourbon. Spicy, unexpected, and full of potential. Just like your plans tonight.
People don't usually go to jazz clubs for the food. "It's almost as if they intentionally make it bad to make you appreciate the music more," Ed said in his previous review of Smoke Jazz Club. Of course there have been exceptions, and we still think Smoke Jazz Club uptown is one of them. You don't even need to drink more bourbon to make the food taste better, though they do have a standard selection of bourbons, and will make a classic Mint Julep or BNG (Bourbon 'n' Ginger). Monday through Thursday is an especially good deal: a two-course dinner for $29.95. And if you go on a Monday night, there's no cover charge for the music (Jam Session Nite!).
Start with the Caesar Salad, which you'd expect to be forgettable, but it actually made us wonder, why don't we eat caesar salads more? The romaine is fresh and bright, the cheese shreds are sharp, the white anchovies add briney, salty slivers, and the creamy dressing brings it all together with a garlicky punch.
If you're feeling like meat orbs instead, get the seafood meatballs. Something about seafood meatballs doesn't usually turn me on (ground-up shellfish with mystery filler?) but these aren't that. They're fluffy and light, and packed with underwater creatures: scallops, shrimp, and clams. They come in a white wine parsley broth with an insanely buttery toast stick hanging out.
Now onto the black truffle coq au vin. How many jazz clubs do you know stock truffle oil in the kitchen? The platter has a lot of deep, earthy flavors. The braised chicken is in a shallow lake of red wine, black truffle oil, pancetta, and mushrooms. Another entree, the New York strip steak, had a charred crust and juicy interior (we ordered it medium rare and they cooked it just right) served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach.
For dessert, nothing is too out of left field. There's a chocolate option, a fruit one, and a cheese platter, and all of 'em disappeared from our table.
You might not suspect chef Patricia Williams's food to be all that much underneath the snappy beats, but it's as impressive as the music.
Smoke Jazz Club
2751 Broadway, New York, NY 10025 (map) 212-864-6662