St. Jack, parce que c'est délicieux!
No, I do not speak French – I’m just handy with the Google translator. But you, my dear foodie, should go to St. Jack because it is délicieux!
The menu features classic, rustic dishes from the countryside of Lyon, the heart of French cooking. Traditionally French, yes, but the menu is quite a lot for your typical American to take in. St. Jack’s chef and restaurateur Aaron Bennett is keeping it real. But am I ready for the food adventure he’s dishing out?
Let’s just say I have a new crush: Blood. Sausage.
But we’ll get to that in a minute. We must start with the first course, calf’s brain. This is the appetizer special, into which my informative server twists my arm. I was primed to dig into the tripe, but how can I not order the calf’s brains?
Unique doesn’t begin to cover it. I venture deep into the unknown, which happily, Monsieur Boy is totally game for.
Prepared much like your traditional sweetbreads, the little brain nuggets arrive at our table looking a lot like little chicken nuggets. Oh, but the texture! The taste! Creamy, not gritty; earthy, not mineral-y or particularly barn yard-y. This has a clear edge on organ meats. As the first bite melts between my teeth, I detect mushrooms, not meat. These little gems certainly awaken the umami sense. I could hand one of these puppies to a vegetarian and they’d be fully convinced I was sharing my mushroom custard with them.
Next up, pig face salad. While it sounds pretty creepy, really, it tastes an awful lot like fried pork belly. A slab of head cheese-esque pig face bits, gelatinous globs and all, lay atop a bed of leeks and greens. Crisp, salty, savory … in truth, this dish was ordered just for its name, “pig face”. In the belly, oh-so-yummy.
And finally, the fete de soir, blood sausage!!! I committed myself to ordering it long before we arrived. I ardently order the boudin noir, tremors secretly filling my stomach. Blood …. Sausage. An intestine casing filled with blood. How are they going to pull this off?
I tentatively saw into my first link. What a relief – it’s delicious! Other than the name, nothing scary about it. Fragrant with cumin, gossamer thin casing, light and airy. Technically speaking, it was smooshier than most sausages. An altogether tasty treat, with nary a hint of iron-rich blood. The accompanying potato puree, sweet apple slices, and stone ground mustard help me build bite after bite of pleasure. The sausages were so delicate and softly spicy – I could have had more. Paired with a Columbia Valley Syrah, this is easily the best sausage dish I can recall.
There are also French standards like frog legs and sweetbreads, and a fantastic patisserie selection with éclairs and handmade croissants. You can also go as mainstream as baked trout (Ahem, M. Boy) or pork shank if you’d prefer.
I was once again impressed by the east side’s charming, knowledgeable staff, peppered with the requisite tattoos and piercings. The mood was romantic with classic French music billowing about, soft candle light, and simple, non-contrived decor.
So stop in for some provincial Portland eats, or get the blood sausage. Your choice. Next time, I'm coming back for Happy hour, le hamburger perhaps. But for now, I'm still basking in the afterglow of my boudin noir.
2039 SE Clinton
Portland, OR 97202
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