It’s Carnival time once again. And should you be looking for a restaurant in which to celebrate, consider Jack Rose. With its prime time location in the Pontchartrain Hotel on the St. Charles parade route, Jack Rose also possesses an ethos custom-tailored for the season.
“Jack Rose is meant to be a fun, celebratory restaurant,” Brian Landry, Chef Owner of QED Hospitality, said. “I mean, we have a disco ball hanging from the ceiling among the ferns in the dining room. We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we do take the food, beverage and service here seriously.”
And, indeed, Jack Rose is a serious restaurant with both talent and history propelling it forward. The product of a two-tier evolution, Jack Rose arose out of the former Caribbean Room, which itself was a reboot of the hotel’s original fine dining outpost. When the Pontchartrain reopened in 2016 to much fanfare, this was a move calculated to capture nostalgia for a bygone era. But much has changed in the past few years. Since then QED Hospitality has spun off as turnkey food and beverage operator for the hotel. They revamped the space and opened Jack Rose in 2018, losing the stuffiness factor and giving it a well-received shot of joie de vivre. The resulting restaurant shines – it’s a balanced blend of old-school charm and shabby-artsy chic.
“We love taking classic Creole and New Orleans-style dishes and adding a modern twist,” Landry said. Take his “Shrimp Muddy Waters” appetizer, inspired by a dish at the “Ain’t Dere No More” Central City seafood hideout Uglesich’s. Landry’s version swaps brown shrimp with Royal Reds, a deep-water gulf crustacean with a texture more akin to lobster served atop midnight-black squid ink campanelle pasta. Over it goes the namesake sauce, a shrimp stock fortified with aromatics and white wine finished off with oven-dried tomatoes and lemon zest. “This kind of updated version of an older New Orleans dish is exactly our approach to so many other dishes here.”
A representative (and recommended) entrée is the Gulf Snapper Amandine. Using the traditional sauce of brown butter and sliced almonds as a starting point, tamarind and yuzu are substituted for the usual Worcestershire and lemon and the result is a sauce that is both lighter and brighter. “Our chef Vu Vo came up with this dish,” Landry said. “The Asian ingredients add pop to a sauce that is typically very rich.”
The breakout hit off his menu though has been his “Fried Chicken Parmesan.” Featuring half a fried chicken broken down into four pieces and plated with spicy red gravy and a cloud of shaved Parm, the dish also happens to use a cornstarch batter, making it an inadvertent darling of the gluten-free set. The chicken is brined, held sous vide then fried to order.
For desserts, most diners default to the famous “Mile High Pie,” a multilayered tower of ice cream and meringue drizzled tableside with chocolate sauce. Old timers may bemoan the upgraded ingredients (the original allegedly used proletarian K&B ice cream) but the dish benefits from improvements like real mint in the homemade ice cream. And for those looking for a more casual parade perch, the full Jack Rose menu is available at the adjacent Bayou Bar. But stay downstairs if you want to dine – the rooftop hotspot Hot Tin does not offer food.
Off the Parade Route
Many restaurants simplify their menus over Mardi Gras to absorb the crush of business. To side-step some of this consider Maïs Arepas, a Colombian outpost just off Lee Circle on Carondelet Street. Round out your overstuffed Chicharepa with a cocktail made from Colombian spirits between breaks in the parades.
Brian Landry made a name for himself at Borgne, a seafood restaurant in the Hyatt, which pulled off the impressive trick of having a genuinely interesting menu (inspired in part by Los Isleños cuisine) capable of handling high-volume crowds. When he broke off from BRG a few years back with his business partner Emery Whalen, the pair took over the food service operations for the Pontchartrain Hotel as well as the Thompson, a boutique hotel in Nashville. As one might expect from his time with Borgne, Landry has an especially deft touch with seafood.
Jack Rose, 2031 St Charles Ave., 323-1500. JackRoseRestaurant.com. Living Room open daily, dining room, D Wed-Sun, L Friday, Brunch Sun.