This place could have gone so very wrong. Dishes with umpteen ingredients. Rare elements, such as evergreen resin, swimming in cocktails. And this homepage declaration: “Serving ferociously seasonal dishes and craft cocktails.”
Punk chefs, one might grumble of the husband-wife duo behind Jardin, the inventive new restaurant braving the crosscurrents of Clematis Street.
But the palate doesn’t read restaurant websites and it doesn’t care about chef manifestos. It does, however, snap you out of your snark.
Present your palate with Jardin’s oven-roasted chicken dish ($25), a not-so-simple ensemble of contrasting flavor notes and prepare to swoon.
The swoon starts with crispy, deeply flavorful chicken skin that conceals the thinnest layer of herbed brioche stuffing atop a succulent chicken breast. That stuffing, fashioned of house-baked brioche, is so delicious you’ll want a hefty side of it. But move along, there are more flavors to explore on this dish.
The composition includes glazed chanterelle mushrooms, charred spring onion petals, creamy dollops of white onion purée and marble potatoes that are slow-cooked in garlic olive oil. There are tart little pops of pickled cherries and tiny pickled mustard seeds scattered in a rich chicken jus.
The result is a heartwarming dish (hello, roast chicken and stuffing!) that’s elevated to new flavor heights, thanks to those pickled cherry notes. It’s gorgeous, to the eye and to the palate.
This is the magic of Jardin’s executive chef and co-owner Jordan Lerman, whose credits include stints at New York’s celebrated Eleven Madison Park and Momofuku Ssam Bar. Like his talented pastry chef/ general manager/ wife, Stephanie Cohen (more on her later), Lerman is a chef who seems unafraid to heap excess love on a plate.
He’s 28, full of ideas, passion and drive. And yet, he’s not careening into preciousness. This is because he respects flavor. Take his chorizo-crusted seasonal fish dish ($28). On the night of our recent visit, it was branzino that Lerman crusted with chorizo. It’s a brazen move to add smoky chorizo to such a delicate fillet. But the chef mellowed the house-made sausage with butter and grated cheese, so the crust added a layer of depth where it might have clashed with the mild fish.
A thick, slow-cooked tomato broth, forbidden rice and green chickpeas completed the dish.
In a less successful composition, Jardin presents a squid-ink spaghetti ($22) with cracked tomatoes, favas and a notably restrained amount of grilled squid. The pasta combo lacked oomph. It’s better suited for those who prefer a more gently flavored pasta.
Flavor was not lacking in the dishes that kicked off our dinner. I enjoyed the chef’s ricotta gnudi ($13), Italian-inspired dumplings afloat in a rich ramen broth with duck confit and black garlic, all crowned with crispy shallots and raw green onions. The plump gnudi soaked up the broth flavors and the deeper notes from the duck.
In Jardin’s roasted spring salad ($12), we found a delightful composition of beets and carrots that were both roasted and presented shaved raw amid thinly sliced radishes and paper-thin pumpernickel toast. These veggies are served over nutty quinoa and an orb of house-made ricotta. This was a feast of colors and textures.
And a shared appetizer plate of lightly crispy cauliflower ($8) proved respectable in size and flavor, thanks to cashews, Indian vadouvan spices, grapes and maple yogurt.
We devoured those starters with a batch of Jardin’s kicky cocktails. As you might imagine, they’re as inventive as the rest of the menu. (Although my favorite was the Juni and Lime, a simple and refreshing mix of Hendrick’s gin, fresh lime, herbaceous house-made tonic and soda, $14.)
And after our full feast, we devoured some of the best desserts in town. Dessert is Chef Stephanie Cohen’s jam – and is it ever. Her love of sweets – deepened by a stint at New York’s famed, Cronut-making Dominique Ansel Bakery – proved strong in a chocolate cake spread ($10) that included scrumptious rocky road ice cream, crispy chocolate wafers, and other creamy, chocolatey touches.
She’s the chef who starts her dessert menu by listing a mammoth doughnut tower with honey-soaked churros and café con leche ($10), and goes from there.
For all the decadence on her menu, it is her simple vanilla custard cake ($10) that won my heart. The super-moist, almost creamy cake is set atop a blueberry sauce that’s dotted with glazed blueberries and crisp blueberry meringue kisses. At the edge of this blueberry sauce pool – which, by the way, gets a light kick from pickled mustard seeds – an orb of house-made sweet corn ice cream sits atop crispy, intensely flavored crumbs made of dehydrated sweet corn. It’s insane. The ice cream and corny crumble alone are worth the price of admission. Add that creamy cake and crispy-blue meringue and you’ve hit 11.
Yes, there are a zillion elements on the dish – but it works. Beautifully so.
There’s something exhilarating about peering into Jardin’s open kitchen and watching this young couple at work, bringing their vision to life in a large, non-fussy space.
They’re on an adventure, one that will be defined by seasonal harvests and whims. Their excitement spills from their menu and into their welcoming and disarming hospitality style. Jardin is a home at which you feel most welcome and well-attended. (To that point: Chef Cohen’s farewell touch on the night of our visit was a dish of delicious “brigadeiros,” small truffles made with condensed milk and cocoa powder, then rolled in cocoa and powdered sugar.)
It’s an easy spot that’s good for cocktails, small bites, a full-on feast or a 15-course chef’s menu adventure. There’s tons of seating, from patio to rear courtyard, from bar to kitchen-view bar to main dining room.
Be warned, however: Many of those seats will be harder to come by as the good word about Jardin spreads.
R E V I E W
ADDRESS: 330 Clematis St., West Palm Beach
PRICE RANGE: Moderate to expensive
NOISE LEVEL: Manageable, with plenty of intimate areas for conversation.
FULL BAR: Yes, a full liquor bar, with a separate bar area.
HOURS: Lunch is served Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner is served Tuesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
SUMMER GRAND TASTING: A 15-course chef’s menu is offered at the bar at 7 p.m. Monday nights. Space is limited.
CREDIT CARDS: Major cards accepted
RESERVATIONS: Accepted; walk-ins welcome.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:
A — Excellent
B — Good
C — Average
D — Poor
F — Don’t bother