Friday, July 24, 2009

Stick To The Basics and You'll Be Fine

On the recommendation of a colleague I decided to check out a local place that reportedly serves very good homemade pasta. Jimmy's, located at 4262 Portage Street NW in Norton Canton, OH 44720, 330-494-9096, looks like an old Wendy's fast food restaurant that has been converted into its present form, complete with a rear patio. The sign out front not only shows the marquee for the restaurant, but also any daily specials.

Here is what you will see from the roadside:

Once inside, I found a table that would have access to some of the sunlight from the outside streaming through the blinds. Unfortunately, it also had the effect of making the menu somewhat hard to photograph well.

Here is a shot of the front of the menu:

And a shot of the back:

And a close-up of the dinners / entrees:

While I would normally get something like the chicken Parmesan, I decided to branch out and get the chicken piccata with a side of pasta and their house red sauce. I figured I would get to try both their homemade pasta and sauce as well as something a little different as well. At $17 it felt a little pricey, but I proceeded to order it anyway.

After a few minutes, my server brought out a bread basket and my salad. First up, a shot of the bread:

And while this bread wasn't homemade, my server indicated that it came from a local bakery. It had a lovely smell and flavor to it. It was essentially a seeded Italian loaf that was sliced into nice thick pieces. It wasn't dried out in the least. And while I didn't have a chance to ask, I'm almost positive that the croutons on the salad I received

were made in-house from this bread because they tasted so fresh and delicious. While Jimmy's offers several varieties of salad dressing, only the the house Italian vinaigrette is homemade. Other than the croutons, the salad was nothing out of the ordinary. While the vinaigrette was seasoned properly, it didn't really pop in my mouth.

After finishing my salad, my entree and side of pasta came out. First up, a shot of the entree:

When this was set down in front of me, I was in shock. In perhaps a bit of foreshadowing that Jimmy's used to be a Wendy's, a bit of TV past came back to haunt my thoughts in the form of Clara. Those who remember her from Wendy's commercials from the late 1980's and her iconic question will know to what I am referring. For a minute I stared at my plate and literally thought, "Where's the beef?" Or, I suppose more appropriately, where's the chicken? For $17, I expected about twice the portion I had been served.

Now, I will concede that the chicken was very tender and moist. But that's where the love stops for this dish. The chicken had been dipped in an egg and batter and then pan-seared. Traditionally, chicken piccata is lightly floured and pan-seared. What I had been served was actually chicken Tosca. They used to do a marvelous version at Carrie Cerino's in North Royalton, Ohio using veal instead of chicken. Some might argue that an egg and batter dipped chicken can also be chicken piccata as well, but in my mind there is a distinct delineation between the two methods of preparation. Nomenclature issues aside, the biggest issue I had with this dish (besides the portion size) was that there was just too much sauce for the platter.

As was quickly evidenced by the cooling sauce, the sauce proceeded to get lumpy and oily at the same time: the butter was falling out of emulsion and the gelatin in the chicken stock was beginning to solidify. Here is a shot of the broken sauce:

There was literally more butter than finished sauce on my plate. I don't know if they tried to emulsify too much butter into the final sauce and it split as it cooled or if they heated the sauce too high after incorporating the butter. Either way, this was a gloopy mess and really detracted from the nicely cooked breast.

The one shining star of the dinner was the side of pasta:

The homemade angelhair pasta was at the same time tender and yet had just a slight firmness to it when bit, a perfect al dente. While the red sauce was definitely tomato-based, it was clear that after the homemade meatballs were cooked off, they were nestled in with the tomato sauce and simmered for a while to infuse flavor. I didn't get a meatball with my pasta, but I was fortunate to discover a small piece of one lying at the bottom of the plate. I just managed to put two and two together.

The last thing I wanted to mention was the service. While there was only one server in the bar area, there were really only three or four tables at any given time that she needed to take care of during my visit. While the food didn't feel rushed, my server gave off the impression that she was rushed. She'd come over to take my order and the minute it came out of my mouth she was gone before I had a chance to ask her any questions. Maybe that was just her style. I guess what surprised me is that I didn't feel engaged as a customer.

With the portions that I was given, I did manage to eat my entire meal and left full. However, for $17, I expected to have enough food that I could've taken home half for lunch the next day. From a food value perspective, Jimmy's did a poor job.

Jimmy's food was hit and miss. The bread was nice and the homemade croutons added a necessary bright note to the salad. The chicken breast was very moist and the side of pasta and red sauce was quite tasty. But, the absolutely pitiful state of the piccata sauce and the fact that I wasn't even really served chicken picatta go a long way toward my recommendation of sticking with the homemade pastas and avoiding some of the entrees.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

For $17 I sure hope that was dinner and not lunch!

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