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Words by Logan Hollers
Photos by Nicholas Karlin

Here at BYT, we’ve long been fans of Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Adam Morgan. I mean, honestly: where else so deftly pairs dynamite modern American cuisine with one of the best whiskey collections in D.C. / the nation / the world?

While I subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” maxim, it’s hard not to get excited about Jack Rose’s breaking news: the restaurant recently welcomed new Executive Chef Jon de Paz. Take a quick glance at Chef de Paz’s resume, and you’ll join that excitement; an accomplished veteran of award-winning kitchens such as Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, and The French Laundry, Chef de Paz has worked in some of the country’s finest restaurants and has trained under renowned culinary talents like Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller.

Chef de Paz took over the Jack Rose kitchen in late March, and has since revamped the menu, updating the aforementioned modern American fare with his own seasonally-inspired dishes and haute techniques. Chef de Paz’s new dinner menu is already firing on all cylinders, incorporating late spring produce and flavors for the warmer weather season.

BYT was recently invited in for a tasting of some of the restaurant’s new offerings. We were impressed. Very impressed.

Chef de Paz, while ambitious, certainly recognizes that Jack Rose already had some winning dishes: enter an immense wooden slab, covered with some of the restaurant’s greatest hits. Fried chicken skins are the perfect Southern drinking food, fatty and crunchy, and enlivened even more with a spritz of lime. Steak tartare, made luscious with slow-poached egg yolk fudge; creamy burrata with Asian pear, hazelnuts, and honey; and an outstanding platter of house-made buttermilk biscuits with honey butter, pimento cheese, and thick-cut, smoky country ham.

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Bourbon’s the natural pairing, of course, but Jack Rose doesn’t rest on its brown booze laurels – a great beer program and a new cocktail list from the A+ team down in Dram and Grain ensure that you’re well taken care of, regardless of your preferred tipple.

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Salty ham and fried chicken skins weighing you down? Lighten up with a cucumber gazpacho with jalapeno, lime, and mint; the refreshing summer soup undertakes a cheffy transformation with its use of fermented cucumber, giving the bowl a fizzy brightness, vaguely kimchi-esque. Or, opt for the summer squash ravioli, a dish that highlights the chef’s penchant for dishes with multiple uses of an ingredient; the pasta utilizes a squash puree mixed with ricotta for the filling, shaved ribbons of raw summer squash for a vegetal bitterness, and a squash and shallot emulsion to tie it all together.

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Chef de Paz is a master with fish. My top two dishes of the night were the Atlantic halibut, seared hard on one side, with serrano and green bell peppers, a bitter piquillo puree, and a shellfish-laden shrimp stock fumé; and a salmon mi-cuit, cured for an hour then poached, with Yukon potatoes, arugula, and swiss chard. The salmon, especially, was incredible – served nearly raw, the fish was like butter, tender and impeccably sweet.

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Land proteins are similarly impressive. Chef de Paz’s Berkshire pork loin reminds one how pigs are actually supposed to taste… paired with bitter kale that’s been sautéed in pork fat, a white asparagus puree, and an apple and ramp relish, the dish is barely even related to traditional, overcooked, dry white meat.

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Even more robust is the chef’s venison tenderloin, impossibly tender and deeply beefy. Sweet parsnips and a kumquat marmalade lend subtle sweetness, while charred radicchio lends a vital bitter offset to an already decadently rich dish. (It certainly didn’t hurt that our server paired with this dish a cask-aged Old Fashioned, featuring Jack Rose’s own Maker’s 6-year bourbon).

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A huge shout-out is also well-deserved for Jack Rose’s ace sommelier, Zoe Nystrom – few people can make such an esoteric expertise seem so downright fun; her pairings are a huge part of what makes this new menu so enjoyable.

Thought I’m not a dessert guy, even I can appreciate the talent behind the kitchen’s shivering panna cotta and a picture perfect (and perfectly delicious) butter cake with maple ice cream (slash basically a more delicious deconstructed pancake).

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Simply put, Chef de Paz is young, ambitious, and insanely talented. Though he states that he’s “really looking forward to changing the game at Jack Rose,” it’s now too late – he’s already done so. Dinner service at Jack Rose begins every day at 5:00 pm, with reservations available on OpenTable.

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