Unfussy decor and loud wallpaper make the new place seem larger.
Six years ago, Counter Culture invaded Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar, a narrow townhouse with two tiny floors of seating on East 5th Street.
The chef at that time was Alison Vines-Rushing, who made a name for herself and then left town. Her food was superb: tongue-in-cheeky oyster dishes offered in addition to raw seafood and French-inflected cookery. Small in size, the place launched a frenzy for micro-eateries that continues today. The current chef is Brendan McHale, who McHales from Boston.
The potato-wrapped octopus tentacle looks something like an eggroll.
It was time to pay a revisit, in connection with the formation of Our 10 Best East Village Restaurants. The place triumphed in its new digs around the corner on Second Avenue, reaching the #3 position on the chart.
Jack’s remains one of those small dish places where you can eat nearly the entire menu and still be hungry. So be it. Get a slice of pizza afterwards if you have to. But do go there and eat, because the food is superb. It seems as if Jack’s has incorporated elements of its sister restaurant DeGustation, because there are science chef flourishes and painstakingly constructed plates galore, and deconstructions, too.
The meal began with an oyster service consisting of three each of two different East Coast oysters, each variety done a different way, featuring herbs, bits of citrus pulp, and other flavorings. Next, a thick octopus tentacle grabbed the spotlight, wrapped in thin sliced potato and fried, so that it looked like a mutant eggroll. Arriving soon after was a miraculous hamachi crudo with tangerine ice and thinly sliced red pickled bird chiles, a nice Thai touch.
Raw oysters done two refreshing ways at Jack’s.
While not as spectacular as the oyster service or appetizers, the mains were still solid, including a grilled suckling pig that had the right proportion of fat to meat to crunchy skin, and came with a couple of sauces. For dessert, the delicate and lovely cheese plate offers a half-dozen miniature accompaniments to three cheeses.
Jack’s remains off limits to those with hearty appetites, but if you value flavor and structure over size, it’s one of the best restaurants in the E.V.