Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shapley's - Jackson

Slowly but surely, I’m making my rounds at the various Jackson culinary institutions, next up is Shapley’s. Started in 1985, Shapley’s has carved itself a comfortable niche as one of the better steakhouses in the Jackson area. Granted, it’s not always great being a big fish in a small pond, but for me Shapley’s sets itself apart for a single reason. This is the only restaurant in Jackson where I can get an order of escargot.

Let’s start with that all important gastropod, and the smell of herb butter dominates the table as it arrives.

Here the snails are served in a typical herbed compound butter, but the puff pastry tops are a nice touch. For some reason, despite the smell, there is no real flavor to this plate of escargot. Where is the garlic and herb flavor?

Another detriment to this dish is the scalding heat. It’s comforting to know that these are fresh from the oven, but unless you want to burn the hell out of your mouth, you’ll have to wait for these snails to cool down. It’s hard to be patient when everyone else is enjoying an appetizer, and often times, I suffer through the scalding heat and join everyone else.

Next up is a plate of Hudson Valley foie gras that has been seared and served over a wild mushroom ragout and port reduction.

First off, I know I’ve become spoiled with the bounty of selection in modern day grocery stores and specialty markets, but I’ll never call a button mushroom, a wild mushroom. Anyway, the foie gras itself is a real treat, with a very nice sear. The port reduction is an especially nice compliment to the liver. As a whole, this is a pleasant appetizer, but it’s kept from greatness by the banality of the button mushrooms.

What’s a steakhouse without a simple salad covered in a thick, creamy dressing?

There seems to be a whole cup of parmesan peppercorn dressing on my plate, completely negating any positive effect of the salad. Health reasons aside, it really is a creamy and delicious dressing.

Now, it’s time to move onto the main course. You should know by now, that means sides dishes.

Some people may argue that a baked potato is a better fit for a steak dinner, but a good French fry can make the meal. The French fries at Shapley’s aren’t the end all of the potato world, but the seasoning makes up for any of the tuber’s shortcomings.

In an effort to match the huge slabs of meat, steak houses often feature oddly proportioned vegetables. Shapley’s is no exception to this practice.

I spent a fair amount of time in the produce section and I rarely see a bunch of asparagus this size. Annoyingly, the cheese on this dish was haphazardly placed and it’s melted into one huge clump. The spears aren’t badly cooked, but their seasoning leaves a lot to be desired. Try as I might, I can’t enjoy hollandaise with my asparagus, and the hollandaise at Shapley’s doesn’t help change my mind.

Dinner at a steakhouse without a steak would be a travesty. Luckily, Shapley’s had a special on my favorite cut, the bone-in ribeye.

This ribeye was a sight for sore eyes. With a beautiful crust and plenty of marbling, this was steak was almost too fatty, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.

As usual, I had requested an odd temperature for my steak. I’ve found that requesting between medium-rare and medium gives mixed results. I’m happy to say that Shapley’s passed with flying colors.

With a truly delicious pan sauce, an excellent interior temperature, and a quality cut of beef, this was simply a delightful steak dinner. Sure it’s not the best steak dinner I’ve ever had, but Shapley’s has done a very commendable job.

Like almost any restaurant, Shapley’s has it’s fair share of misses. I realize that escargot is a bit of a hard sell in the odd Jackson market, but they need to revisit their recipe and strive for a bolder garlic and herb flavor. Once again, the wait staff was dumbfounded when I asked if the beef was corn fed or corn finished. I know it’s rare for a restaurant to feature anything but corn fed beef, but I’m waiting for a waiter to know that answer offhand.

Shapley’s has been in Jackson for nearly a quarter century, and for a town that seems to celebrate when a new chain arrives, it’s nice to know that a local restaurant has had the success to not only survive, but thrive.

Shapley's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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