Article published by: Helen Goelet, Planet Jackson Hole.
Is it Asian? Asian fusion? Modern? Modern fusion? Those are the questions everyone has about The Kitchen, one of Jackson’s most unique and evolving restaurants.
When you walk through the restaurant’s heavy glass door, the modern architecture, warm lighting and the sounds of clattering pans from the open kitchen create an unidentifiably exciting feel. And when manager Jeremy Weis welcomes you with his friendly Midwest greeting — “Hi, how are ya?” — you can’t help but feel welcomed and relaxed.
The dining room is intimate but still feels spacious, thanks to the high archs of the ceiling, the dark wood floors and the open kitchen, which bustles with the controlled chaos of the chef and his team.
Over the past three years, this restaurant — a part of the Fine Dining Restaurant Group — has been run by three different chefs, each with their own vision, style and background.
The restaurant’s flexible format gives an enormous amount of creative license to their Chef de Cuisine, every modern chef’s dream opportunity. At The Kitchen, one can be creative with flavors, styles and techniques in ways that would never be allowed in a traditional kitchen.
In turn, that creative license comes with an incredible amount of responsibility. The openness can be overwhelming and the limits endless.
Luckily their newest kitchen leader, Quincy Cherrette, is up for the task. Chef Cherrette took the helm in December, and is tasked with transforming the restaurant with his own style and vision to create a new culinary experience.
Cherrette began his career in Jackson before moving to Denver to pursue another passion — butchery — before reentering the restaurant world.
These days, Cherrette has a passion for fermentation and exploration, which fits perfectly with The Kitchen’s style.
That exploration goes beyond food. Bar manager Kristen Hawley makes a mean cocktail, and it’s no secret that The Kitchen’s cocktail menu is one of the best in town.
I ordered the “Root Down” on a recent trip, and when the deep pink drink with pink rim salt arrived in front of me, I knew I’d ordered the right thing. Made with reposado tequila, red beet shrub, citronage, cayenne and lime, this drink hits all my favorite flavor profiles.
The shrub gives it just a hint of pickle to balance out the citronage, and I love a little heat with my tequila.
The split menu is divided into three parts: raw, first and mains, and is perfect for sharing. The best way is to start with a few raw dishes, then firsts, and finish with mains. Well, maybe not finish. Executive Pastry Chef Chad Horton’s desserts are a must, so be sure to save room.
Of the raw options I sampled, the beef tartar was a clear standout. The key to a good tartar is the freshness and flavor of the meat, and the other ingredients should only come into play to accentuate flavor. The ginger, lemongrass and smoked trout roe gave this dish an Asian twist, and are three very strong flavors. Luckily Charrette’s proportions didn’t overwhelm the dish, and instead let the flavor of the meat stand at the forefront.
I fully expected to be wowed by the luxury shrimp, but it was surprisingly not my favorite of the firsts. I didn’t get to try the roasted bone marrow which I will certainly be trying next time around, my favorite of the firsts wasn’t, shockingly, the luxury shrimp. The Japanese cucumber salad was the winner — and while it was more of a palate cleanser than dish, it had excellent flavor and texture.
Pickled in a house brine, the cucumbers are sweet and fresh, and the sesame seed topping set the dish above and beyond. The pop of the seeds in contrast to the pickled cucumber was a pleasant texture contrast, but the nuttiness of the seeds rounded out the whole bite.
Charrette’s exploration of plating and flavor run throughout the menu, but those expert qualities stand out clearly in the mains, which are also his boldest dishes.
From braised bone-in short ribs served over polenta, bok choy finished with a lemon grass ginger gremolata, to a pan seared red snapper with forbidden rice and green curry, his menu merges flavors and techniques from east and west, and The Kitchen’s new head chef knows how to add his own twist to the presentation and concept.
Of everything on the menu, though, the seared sea scallops were a clear winner. Served on a celery root puree, the scallops perch artfully atop a thick slab of pork belly and are garnished with thinly sliced jasmine tea pickled pears.
The pears cut the fattiness and thickness of both scallop and belly nicely, while never taking away from the clean flavor of the scallop.
Charrette’s new Kitchen is an exciting experience and not one to miss. I’m sure he’ll be running all sorts of fun specials throughout the winter. PJH