“Interesting. Oh, that’s so interesting!”
This was the single most common phrase uttered when my parents joined me for dinner at Jasper’s Corner Tap and Kitchen late last month. Nebraskans in their late 50’s, my parents had never visited the Tenderloin. Even if they had, though, Jasper’s may have seemed an anomaly. The avant-garde gastropub went through a menu makeover when it was re-written by executive chef Adam Steudle last November. Newer concepts like vegan ramp hush puppies and fried rabbit and waffles received mixed reactions from locals looking for steak fries and sliders from a hotel watering hole.
[jump] Jasper’s is proud of their selection of 18 draft beers, which is supplemented by a mediocre cocktail list that includes a clarified milk punch reminiscent of honeysuckle and clover flowers and a Moscow Mule that was heavier on ice than flavor. While the Parson’s water promised an “interesting” and heal blend of chamomile syrup, basil, lemon and blackberry, it lacked any distinct flavor.
While bison meatloaf may have been a bit much to bring into the neighborhood, I found most of Jasper’s options to be nosh-worthy, if a little novel. For as many untraditionally vegan options as are on his menu, Steudle is a chef who is all about animals. He holds a nose-to-tale philosophy and as someone who confits roughly two-dozen ducks a week, ends up with a lot of duck grease on his hands. Steudle uses it to fry crispy house tater tots, which are served with a spicy curried ketchup that I could have eaten by the spoonful and a savory house sauce comprised of a dozen different seasonings blended into mayo.
Oddly enough, the buffalo wings are vegan, made with cauliflower battered and fried in tempura-style. Aside from the lack of bones, the texture is surprisingly passable and the flavor nearly identical to what you’d find at any barbecued wing joint. Despite this, the wings are frequently sent back. “Just try it,” Streudle pleads. I’d have to say the same.
Outlier among the appetizers was a refreshing tuna tartare. Served with avocado and tomato, it was the antithesis of just about every other item we ate that evening. Strongest parental reaction went to the roasted bone marrow — God’s butter, as Steudle calls it. Served with chimichurri sauce and a handful of toast points, this savory bit of fatty filling seemed a bit overpriced at $12.
Large plates included a British game pie of braised rabbit and mixed vegetables, the focal point of which was a massive piece of bone planted in the middle of the pie like the base of a flag pole, and duck confit hash. It is unfortunate that the house-cured confit duck in this dish was hidden beneath a mountain of fingerling potatoes; with a better ratio of meat to starch, it would have been an excellent antidote to a dreary day.
Dessert options included an Earl Grey crème brûlée, which was fragrant and aromatic with a thick crust of caramelized sugar (the thickest that my mother had ever seen). By contrast, the chocolate bourbon crack tart (whose playful neighborhood nod I had to explain to my drug-free dining partners) was a hockey puck of butter and sugar, topped with a mountain of whipped cream that seemed to be compensating for the weight beneath. Most interesting of all, though, was the liquid nitrogen caramel corn I snagged from a nearby table.
As of April 20, Jasper’s has released their springtime menu, which includes a buffalo chicken po’ boy (made with actual chicken, rather than cauliflower), Kentucky fried rabbit, cauliflower steak, watermelon salad and rhubarb cake. There are also some less unusual items, like the fish and chips, pork chop, and Angus beef burger you’d expect to find on a bar food menu.
Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen: 401 Taylor Street, 415-775-7979 or jasperscornertap.com