Remember when I quit my job to go back to school and get my degree? Well, after a lot of red tape, obstacles thrown in my way, and just BS, I graduated! With a general associates’ degree, because that was the way to go so that more of my credits would transfer in order for me to then go to a four year school. Unfortunately, due to basically life happening, I am putting my plans to continue school and get a bachelor’s degree on hold. But what is a graduation – or any major happening in my life – without a celebratory meal?!
(If you care to know the longer version: the bottom line is, why settle? I want to go to NYU for a degree in food studies, if not for the connections, the people, the name, then for the simple fact that I’d like to learn about the topics studied. But at this time in my life, it isn’t prudent to get $50-80k in debt just to do so. I work in the field I want to, and I just need to keep working hard and making it happen. Going to a local college where I was accepted already to get a bachelor’s in English would be much cheaper, but that would be settling. I don’t want a degree in English; I want a degree in food studies or nothing. Sound bratty? Sure, but that’s me. Also, continuing with school pushes back some other goals I have that are currently more important to me than the degree. C’est ca.)
For my celebratory lunch post-graduation, I chose Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, the closest and nicest restaurant near school that I knew. Long ago, BF and I went to one of the locations in Manhattan and found it inconsistent – this was before the blog existed, so no pictures – so it fell off our radar. I knew this location existed, and friends of mine had told me different things about it over the years (one friend raved about how good it was here, much better than the Manhattan locations; another friend told me how she HATED this location, though she’d not tried the others). But… well, I’ll write about why I’d never visited at the end.
We started off with the baked clams. BF doesn’t eat all seafood, but he definitely eats clams! (Funny story: when we first met and I discovered he doesn’t really eat seafood, I was disappointed. One time, while dining at a seafood-focused restaurant, he mentioned that he’d eaten baked clams and enjoyed them in the past, so I began ordering baked clams everywhere we went that had it on the menu. After a month or two, he commented that “You know, before you, I’d eaten baked clams maybe twice in my life, and now that number is in the double digits.” I was like, oops, when you said you liked baked clams, I thought that meant you’d eaten it a fair amount in the past! Haha. I’m a silly person.)
A lot of times, baked clams are good just because they’re baked clams and not fishy. These were not good just because. These were really good. Fresh-tasting clams, with a very flavorful bread crumb topping, well seasoned, cooked properly, not fishy at all, and a squirt of lemon juice raised these to new heights. YUM. We were all very pleased with the starter.
Note: our server was extremely friendly and nice; when they saw I was taking pictures, they offered me the platters to photograph before plating/serving us. Unfortunately, with the clams, I would have liked to have the platter in front of us so we could dip our bread into the yummy ‘sauce’ that’s on the plate! I know BF felt the same way. (Apparently, it’s 8 clams to an order, as we received 16 clams, or 4 a person, and the bill listed us as having ordered two orders. Just something to know if you go.)
One of the appetizer specials our server mentioned was bufala mozzarella, flown in from Italy “this morning via FedEx” he said. I thought that was adorable. In any case, the mozzarella was really good – tender, creamy, and fabulous with the balsamic vinegar that was drizzled liberally on top. The tomato wasn’t bad (not quite season yet!), either. FeistySis and I agreed that the balsamic vinegar was of great quality, it was thick and syrupy, almost sweet… reminds me of Cherry Gold, my favorite balsamic vinegar ever. Yum. FeistyMom suggested that this dish was better at Lattanzi, but I disagreed politely.
FeistySis and FeistyMom split the porterhouse for two. This was enough for all three of us to split, really, and each piece had an amazing crust on it, was seasoned perfectly, and so, so tender. Am I raving enough yet? I mean this was really damn good. Both women were raving about it for a while.
BF ordered from the lunch special menu; 10 ounce filet mignon for $35, with two sides. Funny enough, there was also a surf&turf lunch special, 5 ounce filet mignon, 5 ounce lobster tail, and two sides – for $30. He let me try some of his steak; it was almost too much for him to finish, actually. This was also perfectly tender, cooked to perfectly medium rare, and seasoned absolutely right. Tender, as the cut tends to be, but not bland or dry (as this is a lean cut of meat) at all. So good.
As for the sides that came with his special – garlic mashed potatoes were also yummy, and the creamed spinach… well, I liked it, but he wanted it to be chopped finer. This was almost whole leaf, just a minor chop to it, and the texture put him off. I thought it was good though.
FeistySis chose mashed sweet potatoes for her side, which I thought was only OK, but she seemed to really like them. I don’t really like sweet potatoes in general though, so this was no surprise to me.
For my main course, since I’d heard so much about how fabulous the seafood was at Uncle Jack’s, but didn’t want to order a seafood tower (for $98… lots of raw seafood… and eating it by myself? no, not so much). So I asked our server what the freshest fish that day was, and he offered me snapper. I chose the lunch portion, and this is what arrived. Not a small portion – for $15, I thought that was a decent size – but it was basically spa food. What someone might order who is on a diet, or not really interested in eating. Sadface. I mean, it tasted fine, but this is clearly not the seafood that people meant when they said “seafood is fabulous at Uncle Jack’s.” This is entirely my fault for ordering poorly though.
I will definitely be ordering the lunch special surf&turf when I make it back here…
Though we were super stuffed, the dessert menu called to us, especially when I noticed that all the desserts were made in-house. BF was eying the apple strudel, so that, a la mode, was his choice. This is a terrible photo, and I apologize, but we were eager to dig into this, not strudel the way you might think, heavy layers. No no. These were flaky layers of light pastry dough – phyllo? – layered with thin slices of apples, topped with a streusel that was out of this world. We were all shocked by how good it was – I mean, maybe shocked isn’t the right word, but we couldn’t stop raving about it at the table. I wasn’t expecting the strudel to be so airy and light.
Also, the server brought the desserts, waited for me to take photos, then cut each one into four pieces. Nice!
And of course, my choice: tiramisu. I love homemade tiramisu. Sometimes it’s more cake-like, sometimes it’s more… just a bowl of mascarpone that’s been lightly flavored. Well, this definitely fell in the latter camp; airy, fluffy mascarpone with espresso mixed in and just so, so good. I pretty much inhaled my quarter, loving how lightly sweet it was – not overwhelmingly sweet, not too much coffee taste, not too much chocolate (I actually dislike when tiramisu tastes like chocolate; it’s supposed to be an accent, not a focus). SO good.
Full disclosure: a while back, the PR for Uncle Jack’s in Bayside emailed me, asking that I come in for a tasting and write about them. I didn’t like the tone of the emails, which put this place at the bottom of any list I might have kept, and I ceased contact with the PR person. What I don’t understand, though, is why that was even necessary. After this visit, I can’t imagine why he felt the need to phrase things the way he did! In any case, this meal was courtesy of the BF, not the restaurant. I believe the final bill came to $280 with a generous tip for our excellent server. Is that expensive for lunch with no alcohol? Um, yes. Was it worth it for the special occasion? Oh heck yeah.
Yvo says: It’s been a while since I went to a place where I had absolutely nothing negative to say (okay, my one negative was in the beginning when the server was explaining specials to us, it took a good 10 minutes; I really dislike when this happens because by the end, I don’t remember anything that was said in the beginning; I think they also wouldn’t seat my mother, who went into the restaurant alone while we all parked our cars, until my BF showed up, but she didn’t seem bothered by this later). The food was, without exception, extremely tasty, and I’m hard pressed to find a single flaw with it. I would definitely go back for another special occasion (I can’t personally justify the cost at this point in my life, with my current income, without a special occasion to celebrate). Yum!