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Restaurant Review: Jackson & Wheeler

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A new Eclectic In Pleasantville

A most interesting restaurant with growing pains–and great promise

 

You want Jackson & Wheeler to be good.  It has so much going for it: a great location, (right near the Jacob Burns Film Center—how convenient!), an ambience that manages to be both hip and comfortable, and a menu that promises something for everyone.

 

Jackson & Wheeler has been open since February, and it is careening around in a disorganized frenzy.  But we can set aside the confusion and chaos for those occasional charming moments and hope they come more frequently.

 

One such moment came right away, with a basket full of warm bread.  We had out choice of lovely, peppery extra virgin olive oil, the same oil infused with dill, or sweet butter.  This saves that bother of asking for either the butter or the olive oil, as it seems someone at the table always prefers whichever we’re not served.  I’m afraid that if we’d asked out waiter for butter, it might have been the final straw on what appeared to be a very rough night.  The restaurant was crowded.  Waiters moved like whirling dervishes—frantic, eager and without direction.  Our smiling, perspiring waiter brought out appetizers after an uncomfortable delay but charmed us with his apologies and explanations.

 

Like the restaurant, the first appetizer was a mixed bag.  An appetizer of three seafood preparations delivered Asian-influenced flavors in American portions with visual and textural rhythm: from tender, finely diced ahi tossed with biting raw onion, to salty, oily smoked salmon whose scream of flavors was mitigated by the acidity of tomato, to the chew of white speckled octopus tossed with mild green scallion.  None of the three would stand on its own nearly as well as they worked together.

 

There was nothing on the plate to help the truly bizarre fried chicken wing stuffed with veal and pork.  Reading the menu, one might have visions of the turducken (turkey stuffed with duck filled with chicken) written about so often in the gourmet media last holiday season.  Despite the description, this dish looked and tasted like a piece of Italian fennel sausage that had been coated and fried.

 

Most dished were better conceived.  The pleasantly smoked roast breast of duck was finished on apple wood and served with confit, vegetables and polenta.  The meat had the warm, rich flavor you want from duck and the flavors on the plate married well—as long as you pushed aside the scorched sauce.  Similarly, the “light broth” in the San Francisco cioppino had been overcooked—it was reduced down to a thick sauce in the bottom of the pot.  Fortunately, the lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels all came to the table cooked to perfection.  It is a test of a restaurant to get such a dish to the table without overcooking the seafood, so this may be a harbinger of the potential of this appealing but disorganized restaurant.

 

There were more good signs of what’s to come.  We loved the outrageously rich farfalle pasta in pink rosemary vermouth sauce with little bots of chicken and veal, and kept eating “just one more taste” of the Italian risotto in a lobster cream sauce.

 

The inviting ambience, varied menu offerings (everything from a raw bar to substantial salads, brick-oven pizzas, pastas, and hearty main course meats and fish), and eager service show potential despite the missteps

 

JACKSON & WHEELER

25 Wheeler Ave., Pleasantville

(914) 741-2000

 

HOURS:

Lunch, Mon. to Sat. 11:30 am-4 pm

Dinner, Sun. to Thurs. 4-10 pm, Fri. and Sat. 4-11 pm

Brunch, Sun. 11:30 am-3 pm

Appetizers: $7-$12

Entrées: $15-$30

Desserts: $8

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