after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

JG Domestic: Growing Pains

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t says: Inspired by the results from our recent poll, we went to dinner at JG Domestic on its first “real” opening night (they had a soft opening the night before of ~ 50 people). On opening night, they capped the reservations at 100 people. g’s train arrived a little early, so I walked on over to 30th street station. I saw this weird light display/installation on the Schuylkill river between Chestnut and Market …

It was kind of cool. There was a crowd of people on the bank below (I was on the skywalk between Chestnut and Market) as well as someone speaking, periods of applause, and a decked-out photographer (tripod, big flash, etc). There was also some info about the installation on the skywalk, but I was far too eager to get to JG Domestic to even bother with reading …

Then, as I began to walk away, there was shouting. That was peculiar – I figured someone was heckling the speaker below. But no. There was a homeless man about 25 feet in front of me shouting “You’re unstable! You’re violent! Get away from me!” to another man that was only 10 feet in front of me. Funny thing was, the second man (he had a sling backpack, so I’m going to call him sling-man) didn’t really say/do anything. He didn’t even have the chic “derelict” look, either (Zoolander, anyone?), so he didn’t appear homeless. But what was weird was that as the shouting man tried to walk away, sling man continued to follow him! Eventually, I cautiously passed both guys as they had stopped walking and the homeless man went looking for something in his pockets. I sped-walked away to avoid either having a confrontation or witnessing a confrontation.

Not more than two steps away, g called. She asked, “Where are you?” I was about to explain, but was afraid that I was still within earshot of the crazed homeless man. So I said, “I’m on my way – I’ll tell you later.” It’s a good thing I didn’t describe anything in that very instant, because I was passed by the homeless man who was walking very quickly (and still followed by sling man!). They crossed Market and started walking … towards the train station. I opted to not cross the street and simply walk parallel to them. Sling man eventually confronted homeless man, who continued to shout at him. I’m not sure what sling man said, but after that, he ceased following the homeless man, who kept walking … to 30th street station … where he found a seat … 25 yards away from where g was standing. I motioned to g to come to me. She didn’t quite get the signal. I motioned again. Nothing. Ugh – when will they perfect telepathy machines? So, I walked to her, told her to follow me, and guided us briskly past the homeless guy towards the crowd of people waiting for cabs (safety in numbers!). I eventually explained to g what was up. Crisis averted. As adrenaline levels returned to normal, we were overcome with hunger. It was Garces Time!

Now, the thing about JG Domestic that is mind-boggling … how are you supposed to walk to it? There really is no good way to cross that street behind 30th Street Station that the Cira Center is on. It’s also quite dark, the cars are fast, and it’s windy. Ok, not just “oh, it’s some wind” – we were in a frickin’ tornado of dirt and garbage. Mmmm, yummy. After waiting patiently for the light to turn red so we could cross, we ran across the street (but not in a straight line because the wind was actually pushing g down the street) and made it into the safety of the Cira Center. As expected, it’s pretty big in there! I surveyed the layout of the area as g took a moment to tame the static cling in her hair. JG Domestic is kind of like a pop-up restaurant in the lobby of a very large building – a very interesting setup. Because there’s no ceiling and limited wall-space, JG Domestic has little control over the ambience of the venue – not like Tinto, which can be dark and sexy, or Distrito which is loud and party-y. Yes, there were some wood elements and some planters, but let’s get real … you’re on the ground floor of the Cira Center. I’m sure g will have some rebuttals to these comments …

We were a bit early, so we asked if we could have a seat at the bar. The hostess was pleasant and said that they would let us know as soon as our table was available. As I led the way to the bar, I immediately realized that the place is kind of … tight. The walkways between tables can fit precisely 1.75 people … meaning that if there is someone in the walkway, there’s no real way to avoid them – especially if they are walking towards you holding plates of food. There were two traffic jams in the walk just to get to the bar, but we arrived safe and sound (I’m an excellent driver).

As we sat, I looked at the menu while g took in the surroundings. She was non-communicative during this time period, as she was trying her very hardest to peer into the kitchen; if Jose was here, she was going to see him. Not three minutes later, she saw him and directed my attention. He looks exactly like he does on tv. He reminds me of one of our Korean friends … which is weird … I don’t think Jose is Korean …

Next, we got down to business with the wine list. g changed it up and eschewed a glass of sauvignon blanc for a pinot gris. I went for rose because I wanted to be refreshed while at the same time matching any of the lighter fare I was going to encounter (plus, I like to believe that summer’s still here). But I made a mistake when I ordered. I ordered “a glass of the rose”. She came back with a glass of sparkling rose. I can’t handle bubbles. I apologized profusely for the mishap while ordering and asked for a glass of the still rose, not sparkling. At first she kind of looked at me funny, but after a few seconds I think it clicked that a still rose was on the wine list as well and that I had not specified sparkling/still. Oops. But she was very nice to me and replaced the glass of wine. Well, on one hand, now I know I won’t make that mistake again, and I’m sure in the future, she’ll be sure to ask customers about their bubble preference. Crisis averted.

We wanted to start off with a snack just to get things going. g spotted a popcorn snack spiked with horseradish and cheese. We went for it. But, about 8 minutes later, a well-dressed woman came over and started talking to us in a very up-beat manner. g thought it was someone that knew her. I thought it was someone who was going to tell us that our table wasn’t going to be ready for another half-hour. Neither of us were right. It turned out that they just couldn’t get the popcorn to pop. Perhaps the microwave was broken? In any case, she recommended the maple bacon pecans. Bacon? Yes please. How did I miss that in the first place?

The pecans came out quickly and they were delicious. They really are the perfect bar food. Salty. Sweet. Finger-pinch-able. Then, 10 minutes later, right when I was about to say, “damn, these are way better than popcorn” … a bowl of popcorn appeared. The server apologized and said, “they figured it out!”. Woohoo. Popcorn and nuts. The popcorn was also delicious – perhaps not as good as the pecans, but that’s not fair given the pork advantage. Nevertheless, it was some mighty fine popcorn, with nice heat and soothing cheese. I think they could have turned up the volume a little more on the horseradish, and sprinkled some cheese throughout the popcorn, but really, it was pretty good as it was. Woohoo for that that microwave starting working again. Crisis averted.

Our table was ready. Well, kind of.  Seats at the communal table were ready. Now, g and I don’t mind communal tables. We’ve sat very close to unknown people on multiple occasions, and are very good at blocking them out as well as eavesdropping (just in case they say something interesting). But this communal table had a few issues. The first was that it was very wide. g and I would have had to shout at each other to hold a conversation. Actually, only I’d have to shout, because g can’t hear too good. g, on the other hand, would refuse to shout, and just sit in silence. But that wasn’t the dealbreaker (we’d just text to each other if we had to). The dealbreaker was the presence of a small tree that was the centerpiece of the table. Well, the tree, itself, wasn’t the problem, rather, the fact that the tree had to be potted in a pot that sat underneath the table. It was a very large pot. It was so large, that g actually could not pull her chair up to the table unless she moved it over so far that she was physically touching the person next to her. That, my friends, is a dealbreaker. You can look, but you can’t touch … g asked if we could be seated elsewhere. In the meantime, I ate some nuts, wondering if it would be rude to introduce myself to the couple seated next to us (I like mindgames, too).

After a good two minutes of awkwardness, we were relocated to a bistro table. Hooray! Crisis averted. Thank goodness they didn’t pack out the place (they limited themselves to 100 covers). I suspect they are going to have to revisit the layout of their communal table – there’s just no way you can squeeze six diners between two trees on the table. I realize that by now most readers will have no idea what I’m talking about with trees and the communal table, but just go and see for yourself!

Now, let me talk about these bistro tables. We sat at a two-top. As soon as I sat down, my knees hit a horizontal bar that spans/supports the legs of the bistro table. This was peculiar. I’m a small person with small knees. How is it that I can’t actually pull my chair up to the bistro table? After looking at how the four/six-tops were constructed, I realized that this is because the two-tops were constructed incorrectly. It turns out that you need to rotate the four legs 90 degrees so that the side you put your knees into would not encounter a horizontal bar. Once again, if you have no idea what I’m talking about – go and see for yourself. So, I developed an interesting slouching/leaning/spread eagle posture for the rest of the evening … crisis averted.  g, on the other hand, had no problems. I’m not sure how/why. She must have mutant legs.

Ok, on to the food. Having filled up on nuts and popcorn, g and I weren’t super-famished. We ordered two dinners and a cranberry bean soup. That sounded intriguing! Cranberries and beans! It was, after all, the weekend of the Cranberry Festival in South Jersey, so how cool would it be if they were using local cranberries!?! Oops. It turns out that it wasn’t cranberry, rather, cranberry beans. Boy did we feel stupid when our server took our order. In any case, I’m determined to make a soup in the future with cranberries and beans. And it’ll rock.. I’ll let g fill you in on how good the soup was, later.

I ordered the whole animal. This dish featured five different cuts of lamb prepared in different manners on a single plate. It sounded awesome and was the dish that most caught my eye when I saw the menu first go up online some time ago. Then, our server started rattling off the cuts of meat: “Lamb shoulder, lamb belly, lamb-something-else -“. I stopped paying attention after lamb belly. I had never had it before – it was going to be mine. Now I was super-psyched. I began contemplating what wine I would switch to … But then … 12 minutes later … my happiness was crushed … The waitress came back and told me they were out of lamb. The following internal soliloquy deserves a new paragraph – here we go:

“W … T … F. The lamb is one of the most unique things on the menu – probably even the star next to the chef’s tasting. You’re not even operating at full throttle (only 100 covers for the night). Furthermore, it’s only the second night you’ve been open (soft opening the night before with 50 covers), and it’s a Friday (meaning you’re going to be open Sat and Sun as well), and you’re out of lamb by 9pm tonight? Once again. W … T … F. And if the lamb quantity was in such short supply, why didn’t the servers know about it ahead of time so they could “86 the lamb” immediately. Crushing my hopes as I try to order is one thing, but to tell me of lamb belly, to let me order it, to let me imagine it, and then to take it away … it had killed me a little inside. Make up an excuse. Perhaps a chef in the back managed to accidentally drop all of the lamb on the floor, so they couldn’t serve it? Maybe he sneezed on it! But don’t let me think that I’ve been duped! Oh the humanity!”

I returned to the menu in shock and disbelief.

I wasn’t in the mood for salmon or prawns. I had seen the lamb spareribs going to other diners, but they were exceedingly small. g had ordered the steak, so that was out. Boar or chicken … boar or chicken … Having just enjoyed the bacon pecans, I decided to put them to the test. I ordered chicken. Chicken. Could they make chicken that would make me forget about lamb? How about lamb belly? Furthermore, in the realm of “chicken”, there is fierce competition in my book, as Meritage’s Korean Fried Chicken is so delicious. JG would have to bring the thunder. Seriously.

The general manager returned to our table and apologized profusely for not having any lamb. On one hand, this made me feel better, but on the other, I didn’t want her to be under the impression that chicken was an acceptable substitute for lamb. I told her that it was something I was really looking forward to and that I guess I’d just have to come back another time. I hope she received the message: “I came here for the lamb”.

What was funny is that as she was talking to us, a server came by with the soup. She looked at him and was like, “where are their spoons?” He looked befuddled. “I was going to get the-” “No, get them their spoons now. Two spoons, in case they want to share.” Then she gave him a look. I’ve seen this look before. It’s the look g gives me when she’s pissed. Yikes. He retreated to go and get some more spoons. She apologized to us again, and we were totally ok with everything. And she left. The guy came back with a second spoon … it was dirty … Yea, I wasn’t going to say a damn thing. I didn’t want him to get in trouble, and I really didn’t have a problem sharing g’s spoon. It was fine. It’ll be our little secret.

So how was the chicken? Pretty good. Surprisingly, it wasn’t presented on-the-bone – there were two [small] pieces of boneless chicken. The first piece was “amazingly” tender – I almost questioned its done-ness, but it was cooked through. The second was more “great” tender. The corn flakes were crisp, and the white yam and chicken liver gravy added a nice sensation of creaminess and butteriness. All-in-all, pretty good. Very nearly worth $16 (more of a quantity issue than a quality issue).

For dessert, we enjoyed a huckleberry parfait. It had a creme fraiche parfait which was kind of like a slab of creamy, less-sweet cheesecake. Topped with huckleberry reduction and the berries, themselves. It was luxurious and very filling, so even though the chicken dish was a little on the small side, this definitely made me reach fullness. I longed for a few of the pecans because that would have been a great addition to the dessert (berries and creme fraiche gets a bit monotonous after a while), but I’ll know for next time …

Will there be a next time? Sure. We’ll go again. The service had a few hiccups (the general manager totally bitched out one of the servers who attempted to give us soup without spoons – but she didn’t curse – but it was clear that she was unhappy with his performance).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

19 October 2010 at 11:25am

2 Responses

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  1. Just an FYI for next time – there is a pedestrian bridge from 30th St Station into the Cira Center all the way in the back past the Septa tracks.
    Also, you made me salivate with those maple bacon pecans.


    25 October 2010 at 4:54pm

    • t says: You know – I feel like we knew about that but forgot! That’d make getting there by foot several orders of magnitude easier. Thanks for reminding us! Although this also means that now if a train to NYC is delayed in the morning, g won’t even have to go outside to visit GTC …

      Yea – those pecans were off the hook.


      25 October 2010 at 5:00pm

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