480 King St., Alexandria, VA
Oh, Jackson 20 - I want to love you more than I do, but I'm sorry to say that it's just not going to work out between us.
I had last visited J20 - located in Old Town's Hotel Monaco - for Mother's Day brunch. We were happy with the spread, so I was eager to return for dinner. Plus the place offered a beer that I was anxious to try (21st Amendment, Back in Black). So we landed a couple of gift certificates, booked on OpenTable, and were well on our way. J20 was busy Friday night, but our server made some immediate, spot-on beer recommendations. The hubs started with Back in Black (which turned out to be too hoppy for my taste - perhaps this was an omen?) while I fully enjoyed an Old Chub Scottish Ale. We ordered appetizers, and that leads me to Mistake No. 1.
The server, probably observing my less-than-thrilled look, suggested that the egg would help give the dish "a creamier texture." Yes, perhaps, for the three bites afforded by the yolk. I left the last few bites on my plate - I just could not bring myself to eat them - and naively figured I would at least enjoy the greens. Mistake No. 2 - the accompanying frisee was topped with an over-salted charcuterie sauce. Fail.
Meanwhile, the hubs chose Oyster Rockefeller, six baked Rappahannock oysters topped with herb butter. They were decent enough, but nowhere near our amazing oyster experience at Kushi. At least his oysters had been left well enough alone, and not ground up into an insulting, sad oyster paste. Hmph. Thankfully our "main" beers arrived, and my Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager (which smells and tastes like pure dark honey) cheered me up.
I chalked up the pig foot patty as collateral damage - perhaps I shouldn't have tried a chef's interpretation of something that should remain uniquely French - and moved on to the main. Mistake No. 3 was ordering the "local fish of the day," which was bluefish topped with a Chesapeake crab sauce, accompanied by a green bean casserole. I should have read between the lines when the server mentioned that bluefish is "an oilier fish." Not only was the bluefish taste overpowering, but I removed seven bones from three bites of fish. Seriously, people? I decreed it unpalatable and survived on the far more edible dollop of Chesapeake crab sauce, then picked at the green bean casserole, aka green beans in an anemic cheese sauce topped with fried onions. Fail again.
Even the hubs' main, the full rack of barbecued pork ribs, failed to impress, with the sauce cloying and sticky. If you want amazing, fall-off-the-bone ribs, please check out Founding Farmers' pork ribs. However, J20 did serve up two nice sides - apple cider coleslaw, which was tart, crunchy and fresh, and a light, creamy mac n'cheese that wasn't overly decadent. Sides 2, Mains 0.
Overall, I was disappointed. I would return for brunch, or for Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager, but never again for dinner. If we had not paid for the dinner with gift certificates, I would have strongly inquired about the chef's reasoning behind the preparation of the pied de cochon, as well as the bluefish. Really, really underwhelming.
(Photo credit: mvissat)