Posted On: 10/01/2012
Sassy JACís, 1730 S. Eighth St., St. Louis, 314.932.1280, sassyjacs.com
At his casual new eating and drinking spot, chef Andrew Ladlie is hoping to serve big food with big flavor or, as he put it, ďthe comfort food that Grandma made Ė but better.Ē Ladlie, a former sous chef at Annie Gunnís, explained that Sassy JACís southern influence comes from the time he and his wife, Jennifer, spent working in New Orleans, as well as Jenniferís family who hails from Savannah, Ga. So, what happens when you flip Grandmaís recipe box on its head? You find greens, beans and a whole lot of southern hospitality.
A Salad Worth the Spotlight
On a cool, fall day, creamy potato soup hit the spot, boasting hunks of potato poached in a rich broth of milk, cream and buttery roux. A molten layer of smoked Gouda capped things off with welcome flavor complexity. But itís the Muffaletta Salad weíll be coming back for. A light oil-and-vinegar dressing drew our attention to the garnish of prosciutto chips, perched proudly atop the mound of quality greens, house-made croutons, Kalamata olives, Volpi Genoa salami, giardiniera and just the right amount of smoked Gouda.
A Good Start
Fried dill pickle spears offered a decent crunch Ė the batter just thick enough to lend structure but not overwhelm Ė and were served in a playful Lincoln Log design with a side of ranch and sticky sweet house-made jalapeŮo-watermelon barbecue sauce. Equally addictive were the Crawfish Fritters: battered, deep-fried and misshapen just enough to remind you theyíre handmade. A bit more heat in the roasted pepper aioli, a touch of salt and a quick squeeze of lemon juice in the creamy coleslaw, and this plate would be flawless. The Black-Eyed-Pea Pancakes, however, were less successful. Ladlie achieved a great consistency with the cakes, mashing enough of the peas to create a lovely creaminess in the cakes while leaving others whole to retain their structure and coloring. But the accompanying maple-soy glaze was a confusing flavor combination. The dish might be better served as a savory number. Oysters are ordered fresh daily, and their preparation changes seasonally. A twist on the shallot and sherry vinegar sauce traditionally served in French cafes, our half-shells Ė from Massachusetts one evening Ė arrived dressed in a watermelon mignonette that was refreshing, light and just a touch sweet. A bit more vinegar would elevate it even further.
The Crawfish Salad and Monte Cristo sandwiches were delicious contradictions. The former kept things simple: just hearty chunks of crawfish lightly dressed with mayo, topped with crisp romaine and a decent tomato on buttery brioche. While the latter is still seared into our consciousness, what with those slices of smoky, country ham gently warmed and served with house-preserved pear slices and Jarlsberg. The Alpine cheese coupled with the warming sweetness of cinnamon and luscious pear kept things cozy.
Absolutely nothing was wrong with the collard greens, which were slow-cooked in bacon, sweet onions, garlic and house-made chicken broth for four and a half hours and finished with a touch of vinegar. The leaves retained their delicate curl but melted in your mouth just so. They were stiff competition for the creamed corn, which had been lazily reducing with butter and cream for hours. Its silky texture led us to devour those kernels just as fast as we popped the house-made chips: fried just right and dusted with coarse sea salt.
Washing it Down
The bar serves simple cocktails, decent wines by the glass and bottle, A-B products, Fat Tire and a few Schlafly labels, but itís Jenniferís southern hospitality that makes you want to stick around for another. This is Soulard, after all.
THE TAKEAWAY: Donít tell Grandma, but Ladlieís comfort food just might surpass his goal. However, with Sassy JACís soulful eats, simple drinks and laid-back atmosphere, this might actually be a place you can bring Grandma along (just not for Mardi Gras).
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