Alice Eats: Jericho Café & Tavern | Bite Club

Alice Eats: Jericho Café & Tavern

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30 Route 15, Jericho, 899-2223

Talented young chef Jonathan Gilman started cooking in the kitchen at 30 Route 15 in Jericho in September 2012. Since then the space, which started as the Village Cup, has seen two name and concept changes.

I didn't make it to review Fields Restaurant, though I did enjoy trying dishes at Gilman's experimental test kitchen before the opening.

Now, with yet another new name, and the owners of Rosie's Restaurant in Middlebury at the helm, Gilman finds himself running the kitchen of the Jericho Café & Tavern.

Unfortunately, with each transformation, the returns seem to be diminishing. Gone are the days of Douglas-fir-braised pork shanks and farm-egg flan with brûléed honeycomb and herbed lavender “glass” that were the chef's signatures when he started. There's nothing wrong with more approachable homestyle fare, but at a recent lunch, some dishes worked far better than others.

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The biggest hit was one with a clear Gilman fingerprint (incidentally, I did not spot the chef during my visit, so the kitchen may have been in someone else's hands that day).

The thinly sliced strands of kale were warm and coated in a glowingly tangy and softly herbaceous rosemary vinaigrette. Gilman should bottle the stuff. I would buy it.

Candied walnuts added a little too much sweetness combined with tender roasted beets, but I didn't mind too much. Buttons of blue cheese at the bottom of the pan (warm, but not "molten" as they're described on the menu) beat down the sugar with a funky touch of cream.

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Back at the Fields test kitchen, I'd been impressed by Gilman's Switchback-battered haddock. The fish and chip dish is still available at dinner, complete with addictive salt-and-vinegar fries. At lunch, I tried the sandwich version.

It had all the elements of the dinner dish, sans the fries, which is a tragedy. But I was a fan of the well-balanced balsamic vinaigrette on the side salad. I was also impressed with the ruby-like cherry tomatoes — not exactly a given at this time of year.

The fish, too, was as crisp and booze-kissed as I remembered. I'm sure the dish is great at dinner, but as a sandwich, it simply doesn't work.

I could have done without the lemon-caper tartar sauce, which revealed little more than the flavor of plain mayo speckled with capers that day. It rested on a butter-soaked, crisp-edged bulky roll, which would have been lovely with another sandwich, but created a grease-on-grease effect with the fried fish. Despite the thickness of the roll, it wasn't enough to stand up to the honey-citrus slaw, which curiously tasted of neither honey nor citrus. When I picked up the bun, it was from a pool of the slaw's orange liquid. I ended up eating it open-face.

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It was a tough call, deciding between the hot roast beef on a kimmelweck and Misty Knoll Farms hot turkey sandwich, but Gilman had been so enthused about the latter when I spoke to him in November that I had to give it a try.

For a dish covered in gravy, the hot sandwich was surprisingly dry. The chunks of turkey, not enough to cover the thick-cut, grainy wheat bread on which they were served, tasted less than oven-fresh. And combined, they and the gravy tasted of ... nothing.

This reminded me that the promised pickled cranberries were missing from the plate. "I'm sorry. I'm really not a very good waitress today," said our server as she brought the tangy, spiced sauce to our table. She was right. I even had to refill my water myself.

Though the handcut fries were nicely crisped, they were not enough to save the dish. Most classic diners do the same plate better.

My mother lives near Jericho Café & Tavern and I have a gift card waiting to be used, so I know I'll return to the restaurant before long. I'm hoping that when I do, the flavors will be more on the order of the kale salad than the hot turkey.

Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to alice@sevendaysvt.com.

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