Telephone: (503) 327-8637
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Rostra rating: 4
Located in the original St. Jack location on SE Clinton, Jacqueline is a romantic and intimate space with brick and wood floors, subtle white wall paper, and artsy pendant lighting. Although the nicely separated tables set amidst circular mirrors on the wall and lots of candles in small glasses everywhere are very inviting, Team Mago prefers Jaqueline’s impressive zinc clad bar (a survivor from St Jack?).
Jacqueline’s staff, however, are the jewel in the crown. They remember walk-ins that they are forced to turn away from a prior night and welcome them with open arms and the best seatings they can manage on short notice. Also, it is quite clear that the wait staff are briefed on the dishes and taste them prior to going on shift.
With the exception of venison tartar, gnocchi, and roast chicken, Jacqueline’s menu is all fish, seafood, and veggies. Oysters are a deal at happy hour for a buck, but better at La Moule, which is just up the street. The eye dropper condiments that come with the oysters struck me at first as gimmicky, but the bespoke Tabascos are actually quite good — especially the green version when mixed with tarragon vinegar (an excellent staff suggestion).
Salt cod fritters with black futsu squash mousse and vadouvan were a revelation. While the fritters needed a bit more fryolator time, this allowed the ethereal, rich, and sweet black futsu squash mousse spiked with a French derivative of masala to steal the show.
The grilled octopus and pork belly duo with gochujang caramel and seared savoy cabbage was a major league home run composed of two of my favorite proteins. The octopus is sous vide in beer and then grilled, while the pork belly is roasted then grilled. The seared cabbage with copious fresh mint, that killer Korean pepper paste sauce, and the slightly caramelized cipollini don’t hurt either.
In mid-January 2018 Jacqueline inaugurated the Monday Fish Fry, which is a great deal — especially when combined with their 5-7 PM happy hour. For one thing, with $4 drafts all night long, one can have buck a shuck oysters, fish fry specials, and drink cheap without having to lower one’s standards to the usual $2 Rainier pounders that lubricate happy hour on all the other days of the week.
The fish fry menu involves fish and chips (well, fries actually), lobster buns, clam chowder, and fried oysters, but by early February these had been replaced by composed oysters because, our waiter told us, “they weren’t selling very well.” Having eaten other fryolatored fare at Jacqueline’s, I cannot believe that this had anything to do with how they were cooked. And the replacement, a hama hama composed oyster with pomelo, fish sauce, and cilantro was an acid vs. umami duel fought to a delicious draw.
The fish and chips were seriously amazing, especially the Rainier-battered cod, which was the best fried fish I have ever ingested, full stop. The accompanying “brew city fries” seemed like they had been battered prior to their baptism in oil, but our waiter informed us that they come frozen and dusted with potato starch. The effect is very pleasant without the usual protected sex aspect of typical battered fries. These babies were good enough to go up against the gold standard a few blocks up Clinton at La Moule where they would (in Team Mago’s humble opinion) lose on a split decision. The malt vinegar eye dropper was pretty silly, but the tartar sauce was spot on, and the accompanying slaw was a) exemplary and b) should have been served with the lobster bun (see below).
A bespoke steamed bun with a very generous basic load of lobster chunkage, salt and vinegar chips (also bespoke), fennel, and aioli was Team Mago’s least favorite. In general this dish needed more aggressive seasoning. Utilizing the lemon wedges that came with the fish and chips helped, and maybe the chips were there to provide textural contrast and acid, but if so they were a total bust.
Shrimp sausage with pork belly, Brussels sprouts, turnip, nuoc cham, and crispy shallots was a subtle masterpiece. Basically a deconstructed Vietnamese salad roll, this dish possessed very sophisticated flavor and texture profiles.
MagoGuide was also happy to see a 3% health and wellness charge added to our bill. Leave it to Portland to come up with a free market response to the healthcare madness emanating from DC!
Jacqueline is mainly a wine place but their three taps are well curated. The short but excellent wine list (seven wines by the glass are on offer) is heavy on French and Spanish whites offset by a nice selection of Willamette Valley’s finest, but the real treasures are the pink bubbles (that would be brute rose for you wine snobs), although sadly none is available by the glass.
Mago Tip: Want to founder on buck a shuck oysters? Sure, who doesn’t? Start at 5 p.m. at La Moule, where the limit is 2 dozen and then segue to Jacqueline at 6 p.m. for another hour of oyster OD wherein each diner is allowed a dozen. You can obviously game the system by selecting companions that do not like raw oysters but like you enough to order them. If you make it to 7 p.m. and through your legal quota of (at least) four dozen, then go home, take a nap, and head back to La Moule for another couple dozen starting at 10 p.m.