Restaurant Review: BarJme
Dinner at the kitchen counter may never be the same. Award-winning executive chef Jamie McFadden of Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and Events in Winter Park has teamed up with culinary colleagues Harold Henderson, Bryce Balluff and David Olin to create Bar J Me, an exclusive 10- to 12-seat dining experience open on select days.
It’s a chef’s table concept staged at a sleek L-shaped counter in front of the catering company’s kitchen. The interior lights are dimmed so the industrial shelves packed with the accouterments of the trade do not detract. All eyes are focused on the kitchen as the chefs prepare each course.
Small tasting plates are presented with an explanation of the food. Questions are encouraged. I was pleasantly surprised at how intimate the dinner was. Conversations among individual parties and new friends made at the counter were easy and enhanced the evening.
McFadden was initially inspired a few years ago by the gastropub dining trend. And momentum grew when the Cuisiniers team would cook together late at night back at their home base.
“We would be through putting things away and hungry,” says McFadden. “We’re chefs. We play with our food. We would experiment with whatever was on hand and come up with some really intriguing flavors. Eventually we knew this was a great concept for a dining experience.”
Seatings vary depending on the catering company’s demands but that just adds to the exclusive feel. You can’t drop in without a reservation. And all openings are posted at Cuisinierscater.com, Jamiemcfadden.com or BarJMe’s Facebook page.
It took a couple months to snag two seats in August and it was well worth the juggling. The tasting menu builds from a breakfast, lunch and dinner theme.
Breakfast included foie gras French toast fashioned from challah, candied bacon, rosemary-infused maple syrup and a bit of gastronomic wizardry in the form of fried egg foam; Scotch quail eggs encased in house-made sausage were plated with parsnip puree, kale chips, a carrot and cardamom puree; and beet-cured salmon with dill horseradish, crème fraiche and beet caviar.
The “Midday Munchies” menu reinvented the fish stick and cheese steak sandwich. For the sticks, a delicate shrimp mousse stood up nicely to the deep fryer and came with vegetable chips and smoked habanero remoulade. The Philly standby was turned inside out with tender brisket, gruyere cheese, sherried onions and finely diced bell peppers. We finished our “lunch” with duck carnitas — a crispy duck confit with lime crème fraiche and rich avocado and well-placed sparks of heat. Dinner plates were equally inventive with pickled celery meatballs, squid ink paella with smoky tomato sofrito and braised pork belly with a killer kimchi applesauce.
Dessert rocked with two mini ice cream cones: A honey-nut tuile cone with baklava walnut ice cream and a prosciutto cone with cantaloupe sorbet and lemon whip.
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The Dish on Dining
Bar J Me
Where: 5470 Lake Howell Road, Winter Park (in a plaza near the intersection with Howell Branch Road)
When: Times and dates vary
How much: $95 per person
Beverages: Bring your own wine with no corkage fee
Extras: Interactive experience, good for groups and private parties
Credit: American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa