First Bite: Chez Jacky
EATING AT CHEZ JACKY makes you happy. Maybe it’s the jovial round of “bonjours!” upon entering. Maybe it’s the menu of French classics like paté, onion soup, mussels poulette, and coq au vin, all priced under $15 – a near miracle, given the quality.
But mostly, I think it’s the butter: pooled over potatoes, blended into hollandaise, and melted with garlic in sauce for escargots. It’s the golden thread that weaves the menu together, and you’ll enjoy your meal tremendously if you just give in. Skip lunch that day, or eat a salad, but don’t resist.
There’s also wine, mainly French and affordable, and a comfortably nondescript dining room, bistro-ized by handwritten blackboards advertising plats du jour. Owners Jacky Robert and Loic Le Garrec, who have done well with three Petit Robert neighborhood bistros in the South End, Kenmore Square, and Needham, seem to be targeting this area’s student-heavy population with an even more casual approach. Entrées are served family style, and you’re encouraged to choose from a long list of sides that includes potatoes dauphinois and ratatouille. Adding sides brings the cost up a little, but at $4.25 each, not by much.
The effect is one of hearty welcome, whether you’re a BU junior just back from Paris or a family with a toddler in tow. Most of the food is quite good, if not groundbreaking or terribly delicate. Generally, the heartier the dish, the better it will be.
The spicy lamb stew, for example, was perfectly zingy with tomato sauce, and enriched with navy beans and sausage. Trout amandine had just the right toasty almond flavor, and the fish was both crisp and moist. The aforementioned escargots and dauphinois are rich enough to make you silly, but you’ll think about the flavors the next day and sigh with pleasure. Less successful was the tuna tartare, given an Asian spin with too much sesame oil and soy sauce. Desserts, too, disappointed – profiteroles made with dry pastry, and an île -flottante (soft meringue) in a pool of bland custard. But even if you order a dud, the penalty is slight. And you can always soothe your wounds with butter.
1414 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton, 617-274-8687, chezjackyboston.com.