- scene: high ceilinged, loft like space with lots of windows; noisy and a little bland
- sip: Whatever gets you jamming
- savor: Smoked salmon and caviar pancake; kale salad; chicken (with a side); dessert
- sit: For a work dinner, wit hpeople visiting and staying in midtown, or with a friend for an after work bite
- spend: $$
- address: 1414 Sixth Avenue at 58th Street
- phone number: (212) 703 2007
- website: the website is annoying and doesn't give much information; try googling it
Barbuto is most likely leaving, and that sucks. Jams has opened, and while it doesn’t suck, it is hardly a proper substitute. Jams is the reinterpreted version of Jonathan Waxman’s first New York City restaurant of the same name. The original Jams was famous for its California cuisine, a concept that is now much more mainstream to NYC diners than it was when the original Jams debuted. The appeal of Jams lay for me not in nostalgia, but in Waxman, and chicken, two words that I have intertwined almost permanently in my brain.
The Jams space has a decidedly downtown feel, but in a very midtown location. Located in the new 1Hotel, Jams has exposed brick and painted ductwork, big windows, and wood. The chairs are taupe and wood, a little bit like hotel conference room items; I think that the candlelight did a lot to inject some character into the neutral palette. I have yet to see the space in daylight but I will venture that it feels a little cold and intentional. There are twelve seats at the bar, and some high boys as well, I assume to encourage more un-reservationed eating, but not conversing, because the noise level is quite high. I was trying to recall the casual outfits worn by the staff, and one of my dining companions offered that they were attired in “invisible suits”, but more on that later.
The menu at Jams offers something for everyone, including some familiar favorites from Barbuto, like the kale salad, a Jonathan Waxman chicken and gnocchi. We started with the kale salad, the corn pancakes with smoked salmon and caviar, and the fluke crudo. The kale was predictably tasty, definitely massaged and well dressed in a caesar type dressing, like any self respecting kale around town should be. The highlight was the corn cakes with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and caviar, a beautiful, well done dish, with the sweet summer corn adding a mellow heft to the saltier flavors. I was not a fan of he corn mush served with it, but hey, caviar! I was underwhelmed by the fluke crudo, which on paper should have been my favorite dish, because it was accompanied by jalapeño, cherry tomato and cucumber salad, all things I love. Something was lost in execution unfortunately, and both the flavors and the textures fell flat, with the fish almost chewy and lacking any fresh zip.
The same could be said of service. I fully understand that this is a new restaurant, but our waitress pulled one of my service pet peeves and she is unforgiven. Basically, our server disappeared after the runner dropped our entrees. Gone. Never came to see how everything was, or if we needed anything; if she did we might have had some recourse with a terribly greasy pork milanese, but instead we were stuck with it until a manager finally stumbled upon us lost and neglected as we were. Now, after we told the manager that our server was MIA, our server awkwardly came over to drop dessert menus, no apologies, no effort, and then just decided to avoid us after that. When servers avoid you because you are not happy, that is the worst thing they can do in my opinion. We were very nice with our feedback, but the level of care and concern, or professionalism was just not there.
Anyway, besides the pork chop we had the chicken and an appetizer portion of the calamari as well. The chicken was as billed, pretty fantastic, in a richer pan sauce than the variation served at Barbuto. While delicious to eat, the dish is rather brown on the plate, and not served with a single side item, so it is not the most attractive piece of food porn ( see title image).The calamari dish was tasty, but should be eaten as intended as an appetizer, because it gets a little boring for an entree; served on crispy bread and with some paprika aioli, it is a fine mediterranean dish.
In order to make up for any service issues, one of the many managers suddenly working sent us over many desserts, which were all fantastic ( and I am not a sweets person). The fruit crumble was a perfect mix of tart and sweet, and all the chocolate dishes (some sort of mousse, and baked Alaska !!!) were absolute perfection.
Jams will never have that unspeakable something that makes Barbuto so magical, but it serves a purpose in the vast midtown wasteland of dining options. I have no doubt that they will hit their stride, and start jamming in the crowds, but it is not crave-worthy quite yet.