We love Jose Garces.
Before he became an Iron Chef, he was a well-known and popular Philadelphia restaurateur, known for his small plates-style and creative cuisine. Our first experience at a Garces restaurant was Distrito, which actually contributed some of the inspiration for our wedding.
Since we’re moving in three weeks(!!!), we put together a Philly restaurant bucket list with everywhere that we’ve wanted to go but haven’t yet. Last week we knocked two big ones off the list: Blackfish, which was recently declared the best restaurant in Philly (by Philadelphia Magazine), and JG Domestic, the subject of this review.
Of course on the bucket list we wanted to add the Garces restaurants we hadn’t been to yet (there are 7 in total). We’d conquered Distrito, enjoyed Amada, loved Garces Trading Company, and dined at Chifa twice in two weeks. We went to Tinto in January for Restaurant Week and Brett’s birthday, so we only had two left – JG Domestic and Village Whiskey. I knew I wanted to go to JG Domestic for my birthday. I just had a feeling I would love it (American style, all ingredients sourced in the USA, many local, all the farmers listed on the menu, and other trendy things that I love), and it actually exceeded my expectations.
Here is my Yelp review of the dinner:
I actually quite liked the decor and feeling of the restaurant. Where else can you dine so well in a train station under an escalator? It felt warm and comfortable, probably because of the wood and plants. And I couldn’t get over how much bigger our table was than at most other Garces restaurants. We had plenty of room to spread out our food (Even though we were at one of the long tables and not our own).
We came in thinking we would order the Chef’s Tasting, which is what we usually do at Garces restaurants because the menus are so vast and you don’t know what to choose. Once we really looked at the menu though, there were clear things that we wanted to try, and when we added up the cost it was far less than if we had both ordered the tasting.
Cocktails: My husband ordered the Empire Builder and seemed to enjoy it. I’m not a bourbon-drinker but I had a sip and it tasted good. I ordered the Keystone, which was sweet but not too much, and lasted me throughout dinner.
First course (All of these things came out at once, when we expected them to come out in two courses. It was almost overwhelming, but we handled it.):
Housemade Rolls: Simple, hot, and delicious. The apple jelly was extra great.
Slim JG: 4 sticks of housemade sausage, 4 crackers, mustard. It was a nice snack, can’t complain.
Maine Lobster Cappuccino: I heard many good things about this, but just couldn’t imagine how it could taste good. Wow, it was so good. One of the highlights of the night.
Keswick Creamery Fondue: Cast iron crock filled with creamy fondue, served with breadsticks, apples, and a fantastic onion jam. This was my husband’s favorite first course. There’s more cheese than dippers, but you can get creative with things to dip (rolls, spoons, etc.)
Hawaiian Opah Ceviche with Spiced Passion Fruit Sorbet: This was one of the specials of the night. It might have been the best ceviche I’ve ever had. Perfect acidity and sweetness, and I love the texture of opah. I’m a sucker for Jose’s sorbets.
After a small break, we got our second course plates:
Kabocha squash: There seems to be a lot of hate for this dish, and really we weren’t thinking about ordering it. But when we realized how few vegetables we were ordering, and we saw the people next to us get it, we decided to go for it. It was cooked perfectly (still with some bite, not mushy at all) and had a really nice vinaigrette. Its also two of my favorite veggies (kabocha and black kale), so I’m glad we listened to ourselves instead of the reviews on this one.
California Organic Maitakes: Two maitakes in polenta. The plate for this one was so big we each just grabbed a mushroom and put it on our plate to get the big bowl out of the way. These were very good, but kind of forgettable since we rushed through them.
Green Village Suckling Pig: This was the whole animal of the night. It was a last-minute decision to order this and I’m so glad we did. Every bite of the pork was moist and extremely flavorful. Every cut was better than the last. And the portion on this one was much bigger than we expected from the sound of the reviews. Definitely enough for us.
Dessert course: I always expect dessert to be my favorite, but I don’t think I could ever have expected this. My hubs ordered the Bourbon, which gives you three hot beignets covered in powdered sugar with a bourbon butterscotch sauce. These were excellent (recommended by our waiter, even though we would have ordered them anyway) and my husband’s favorite dish of the night. Then, my dessert came. I ordered the Maple, which is a Maple souffle that comes out hot from the oven. The server pokes a hole in the middle of the souffle, scoops in some ice cream, then pours a hot maple creme anglaise to melt the ice cream into a delicious creamy maple-y soup. I took my first bite and I almost died right there. It.was.so.good. Seriously, if you like maple or souffle or dessert at all, order this. It was the perfect dessert to end the meal.
The dinner ended with 2 petit fours each, one a blood orange and one a chocolate/marshmallow combo. Both were good, but I scraped one last taste of my souffle because I wanted to end with that taste in my mouth.
Our waiter was very nice and helpful, as we’ve come to expect from any GRG establishment.
Yes, the portion sizes can be small on some dishes, but some of that perception is because we’re all used to giant portion sizes. For people who love to have many tastes of different things, this is perfect. The amount of plates we ordered was perfect for us, and we left feeling extremely satisfied but not overly stuffed. It may not Jose’s best value for the volume of food, but for quality, its worth every penny.
I gave this place 5 big, puffy, maple souffle stars