When the Caribbean Room was re-opened by the Besh Restaurant Group in the Pontchartrain Hotel in 2016, the resurrected stalwart exuded elegance and straight-laced appeal. It shuttered this spring and was replaced by Jack Rose, which also takes an extravagant approach, but one with a light-hearted spirit and colorful ambience.
Whether you sip Champagne on the rose-lined terrace, sit in one of the plush armchairs that fill the granny-hip Living Room or dine in one of the boldly decorated dining areas, a night out at Jack Rose can feel like sensory overload in the best way.
The restaurant is from the QED Hospitality group, led by former Besh Restaurant Group employees chef Brian Landry (also formerly of Borgne) and Emery Whalen. Under executive chef David Whitmore, the kitchen crafts dishes that are playful and creative yet polished and refined.
The restaurant’s colorful design and fun menu facilitate a relaxed attitude. Swift, professional and attentive service carries fine-dining appeal but isn’t stuffy.
The expansive menu seems inspired by France with dishes such as escargot served atop hand-torn pasta and a classic steak tartare, as well as ties to southern Italy —fried chicken Parmesan served with tomato sauce feels like the quintessential Sicilian-Creole hybrid. There is a throwback to Uglesich’s Restaurant’s signature trout Muddy Waters, envisioned here with Royal Red shrimp and squid ink campanelle in a buttery and spicy sauce.
The list of starters includes delicate Parmesan-crusted fried squash blossoms filled with oozing raclette cheese and sweet tomato jam. They are served atop basil aioli with a jumble of pickled and fresh vegetables, and the result is a multidimensional dish with bright acidity and crunch. Large platters of kale Caesar salad are prepared tableside with cauliflower florets, golden croutons and shaved Parmesan. The salad is big enough for two to share. One of the most successful dishes is a blue crab bisque with a creamy coconut base, bits of charred corn and unexpected spicy heat.
The height of extravagance isn’t the Champagne, the over-the-top decor or even the heldover Mile High Pie. It’s an enormous lamb shank served on the bone with fresh mint gremolata. When delivering the mass of meat to our table, our server cracked a fitting joke about Fred Flintstone. The lamb is slow-cooked and then flash-fried to create a crispy shell that gives way to fork-tender meat. The dish is served with creamy risotto studded with peas and a demi-glace-like lamb jus. The dish would be completely awesome except for the massive amount of raw garlic in the gremolata.
A stalwart from the Caribbean Room’s bygone era is the Mile High Pie, a towering confection with layers of chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and peppermint ice cream and marshmallowesque meringue topping and a cascade of dark chocolate sauce poured tableside.
Those who prefer a nightcap to a calorific indulgence can grab a glass of Champagne and take it back to the Living Room, with its lush couches and local artist Ashley Longshore’s portrait of Lil Wayne’s sparkling grill.
There’s no shortage of eye-catching decor and entertaining people-watching at the remade hub on St. Charles Avenue, but the food is what will keep me coming back.
Pontchartrain Hotel, 2031 St. Charles Ave., (504) 323-1500; www.jackroserestaurant.com
lunch Fri., dinner Wed.-Sun., brunch Sun.
squash blossoms, blue crab bisque
raw garlic in gremolata
bold decor sets the scene at an extravagant restaurant in the Pontchartrain Hotel