Return to story
Mixing things up: Jay's Restaurant and Lounge on Plank Road also offers a DJ and dance floor to its dining space.
Trying the $25-fixed-price, four-course brunch that features live jazz music at Jay's Restaurant & Lounge in Greenbrier Shopping Center off State Route 3 seemed a good way to sample the varied cuisine of one of the area's newest dining entries. Jay's menu, which it describes as "global fusion," offers new spins on dishes that wouldn't be out of place at a Jewish deli (blintzes, latkes, falafel and couscous), as well as samosas, tamales, banh mi, kebabs and many other items.
In reviewing Jay's, the intention wasn't to take things down to the "molecular" level, a scrutiny usually reserved for places that have been in business longer than just a few weeks. But that's exactly how things turned out.
What I had in mind instead was to write a lighthearted piece on the pluses and minuses of brunching, including the main reason my wife and I never (unless you count our forays to Krispy Kreme) venture out for brunch. It's not just that brunches are--according to famed food writer Mark Bittman--a huge fat-bomb, not to mention a dumping ground for leftovers, as well as punishment for a restaurant's B-team chefs, according to former chef/TV personality Anthony Bourdain.
No, it's because, as my wife has made abundantly clear, "We've got stuff to do!" (Including sleeping in till at least 10 in the morning, plus the errands we've put off all week or in some cases, all season long.)
For example, when we headed to Jay's, we had with us not only an overflowing crate of recyclables but a duvet cover we'd been meaning to dry clean since early June.
Then I was going to mention a couple of positives about going out to brunch, such as getting out of one's pajamas at a reasonable hour, and more important, having a valid excuse to begin drinking cocktails--like mimosas and Bellinis--first thing in the morning.
But once through Jay's doors, we were in for a surprise. The moody lighting and powerful sound system, the nightclub atmosphere and dress-to-impress expectation, and the jazz group that really cooked--made us feel like we weren't in the 'Burg anymore--not necessarily a bad thing!
Our brunch, which was served in four stages, also included pastries and fresh-squeezed orange juice on the rocks. For the "Warm Up," I ordered cappuccino and biscotti, while she had coffee and beignets. For the second course, "Sweetness," she had a fruit blintz with bruleed mango and citrus creme Anglaise that she raved about. My "Molecular Fruit Parfait" (Greek yogurt, granola and fresh fruit pearls) was pleasantly light and creamy, but with berries that were distinctly berry- and in no way pearl-shaped.
For my "Carbohydrate" course, I chose savory potatoes Lyonnaise, and she had Jay's spin on grits. This represented the first time in recorded history my wife has eaten, let alone finished, a bowlful of the Southern staple. (Next time I make them I'll know to fold in bacon and cheddar cheese while cooking them down with heavy cream, as Jay's must have done, so the dish more nearly resembles the loaded mashed potatoes she adores.)
While I enjoyed my wondrous shaved-prime-rib gravy and biscuits with a perfectly poached egg, and she dug into her mushroom-asparagus omelet, William Epes, executive chef, approached our table and introduced himself. He let us know about upcoming wine-pairing dinners.
That's when I asked him what had happened to the "molecular" fruit pearls in the parfait. He said that trying to teach the flash-freezing technique to his line cooks had caused a great deal of confusion and not a little of his hair to fall out. So, now, they simply carbonate the fruit itself to give the dish a lighter, fizzier aspect.
Even if Chef Epes doesn't have a single molecular gastronomist on staff, it's all the same to me.
Truth is I'm not a big fan of modernist cuisine. If they can get my wife to eat her grits, they've got to be considered rocket scientists. (We'll be trying Jay's for dinner to see if they can work their same magic with fresh Maine lobster.)
Kurt Rabin: 540/374-5000
Dinner entrees: $12-$28 (5 -8 p.m. daily)
Four-course fixed-price brunch: $25 (Sundays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., features live jazz music)
Also, lunch, tapas and late-night menus available. Beer and wine and mixed drinks are available.The Scoop: Somewhat pricey, varied menu, good food and service, nightclub atmosphere, parking Payment: Major credit cards are accepted