Some restaurants set themselves apart from the crowd the day they open their doors. Fewer can say they've successfully carried on the tradition of being top-notch. The Dirty Dog Jazz Café is that sort of restaurant. When it opened in 2008 as a lifelong dream come true for owner Gretchen Valade, it only took a couple of years before the Dog was winning coveted culinary awards including restaurant of the year and chef of the year twice for Chef de Cuisine André Neimanis. Upon entering the cozy and clubby English-style pub, the white tablecloth environment is nicely offset by a colorful energy that eminates from the welcoming wait staff, the cordial and convivial dining room manager and the interesting mix of diners lining the walls waiting for their food to arrive and the music to start.
The canine theme runs deep at the Dirty Dog with cool figurines of man's best friend scattered about and an enormous oil painting of Border Collies hanging over the equally estimable bar; these design elements add to the fun about to unfold as a jazz quintet prepares for their set in the middle of the dining room. Known as much for its cuisine as for its local jazz offerings that can be enjoyed four nights a week without cover. Most nights you can find Ms. Valade perched, overlooking the crowd eagerly and proudly, waiting for the proceedings to begin.
They soon did as smooth jazz wafted over the crowd and our soup arrived with a courtly service that had our wine glasses never less than half full and each course arriving as the previous one was whisked away. Tonight's soup was a warm and buttery tomato bisque with a half submerged wedge of French bread slathered with melted brie. It was a luscious start indeed.
The Caprese salad, already consisting of fresh, firm mozzarella, grilled white asparagus, heirloom tomatoes and basil, was taken to new heights with a small sprinkling of sea salt, making each forkful decidedly divine. Equally as heavently was the artisanal cheese plate. The dish's creator had the inspiration to take grilled strawberries and match them up with a smart sampling of select cheeses along with crusty sourdough slices. Other starters included shrimp scampi resting on an arancini cake and mozzarella garnish and creole seasoned sirloin tips with a duck fat bernaise dipping sauce that produced as many ooohs and ahhhhs as a fireworks display.
Interested in sampling some of the entrees, we selected the pan-roasted sea scallops with a potato leek puree and (foodie craze of the moment) apple wood smoked bacon that provided a salty sweet finish to the dish. Last was the filet de poisson – a firm yet flaky grouper with grilled vegetables that blended perfectly to close out our heavenly repast.
Or so we thought. Our attentive server suggested an inventive dessert that featured a warm marshmallow crowning a chocolate wafer drizzled with crème fraiche that was just light enough to leave us wanting more. Which we will be back for as the maître d intoned "when can we look forward to seeing you again," as we headed out into the warm evening air. | RDW