The Review Reviews: Jesse’s

Jesse’s woodsy and welcoming facade beckons travelers and Reviewers alike as a steak-filled respite on Route 120

Jesse’s woodsy and welcoming facade beckons travelers and Reviewers alike as a steak-filled respite on Route 120

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” — Mark Twain

To Brie or not to Brie?  From the Parking Lot to the Appetizer

One crisp fall night, four Reviewers piled into a Ford SUV to begin a quest for Jesse’s Steakhouse in Lebanon.  The journey started with a bit of a hitch, as Persikov, the designated driver, took some time to figure out how to turn on the dash and headlights in the rented vehicle.  Eventually, after some experimentation with the buttons and dials, the crew’s concerted efforts seemed to bear fruit, and the gents were off to the much-vaunted restaurant.

Our heroes rolled up to a dimly lit log cabin. As they marveled at the warm woodland atmosphere, the crew was welcomed by a waitress (named Jesse, funnily enough) and quickly led to a table. Kobe Brined did not have a lot of experience in the world of steaks, so Sir Loyn and Waltfeld took it upon themselves to educate the young man. After depositing a lot of information on Brined, Sir Loyn suggested ordering the baked brie (special, $12) because of his strong affinity for French cheese. To add variety, Jesse suggested the calamari fritter ($11).

As Jessie (Kobe Brined hypothesized that all the servers say they are named Jesse as some sort of joke) plated the appetizers, a discussion between our heroes arose about the edibility of the brie rind. The group was not reassured by Persikov’s protests that the rind is actually a layer of fungus used in the curing of the cheese. Rind aside, the brie was simply sublime.  The dish came plated with a baguette that maintained the perfect amount of crunch while being soft inside, and a bowl of jam (although the name of the specific fruit escaped the group). The cheese was just warm enough to spread beautifully across the bread, but not too hot as to burn one’s mouth if one were to get overzealous. The jam was sweet and perfectly complemented the salty and creamy flavor of the cheese. They naturally went together and what followed was pure bliss. This lasted until the heroes’ supply of bread ran out. Once made aware, the waitress immediately brought more as if she knew how painfully our protagonists were waiting to resume the progress on their appetizer. Within two minutes, all that was left was a few shreds of rind and an empty bowl.

The calamari were fantastic. Served in a large basket, the helping was generous. The squid was covered in a light breading that was rich and piquant in flavor. The crumbs stuck to the squid wonderfully while not tasting too oily like many other restaurants seem to have a problem with. “Well fried,” remarked Sir Loyn. The others agreed. The sauces were pretty standard, just your average marinara and tartar sauce. The seafood really stole the show. The crew had no problem finishing every piece of calamari, even the pieces that had the tentacles or concealed pieces of jalapeno peppers.

“Did You Hear a ‘Moo?’”  The Main Course and Dessert

While this was a great start to a great meal, it was time to move onto something more substantial.  The Reviewers decided on their main course entrees, paying little attention to any section of the menu that could not be ordered “medium-rare,” attesting to their presence in the area’s premier steakhouse.  Served with a portion of greens, and a helping of fries, the steaks were clearly the most prominent object on the plates.  Waltfeld chose a New York sirloin ($25) with béarnaise sauce ($1); Brined selected the 16 oz Slow Roasted Prime Rib ($32); Sir Loyn went for the Black and Bleu Ribeye ($30); Persikov ordered the Peppercorn Steak ($26).  The crew’s orders came relatively quickly — one could say that they arrived within the blink of an eye, if that eye was particularly sticky and rheumy — which put it ahead of several other Hanover area restaurants, which shall remain nameless (for example, Jewel of India.)

Persikov was quite satisfied with his 12 oz peppercorn steak.  Ordered rare, the New York sirloin came with a reassuringly cool red center — Persikov recounted several places that had provided him with purportedly “rare” steaks that had clearly been cooked north of “well done” and on the verge of “anthracite coal”.  Persikov approvingly noted the taste as “not lacking umami,” which earned him some reproving glances from the rest of the diners.

Waltfeld thoroughly enjoyed his 12 oz sirloin (despite it being smaller than Persikov’s twelve-ounce). The steak itself was medium and cooked to perfection. It was tender and juicy at the same time. The béarnaise was ordered on the side and was creamy and held incredible flavor. This concoction of egg yolks, herbs, and butter added a whole new dimension to an already flavorful New York sirloin. The green beans and carrots acted as a great palette cleanser to fully enjoy the steak fries. Every part of the dish was separate but acted in perfect harmony to be a complete and enjoyable dish.

Brined’s first introduction to the world of steak could not have been more eye-opening. Brined wept for the eighteen years he lived without knowing the joy of a good steak. After wiping his tears, he bad to check his eyes to ensure that he wasn’t just seeing things upon noticing how much pinker his steak was than his companions’ steaks. The group expressed concern about the rarity of the steak, worrying that it had been served raw because of how pink it was.  (“Did you hear a ‘moo?’” asked Persikov when Brined poked the steak with a fork.) Brined’s sixteen ounce prime rib, served au jus, was actually served medium rare as requested, with an accompanying horseradish sour cream that added a tang to the already tasteful steak. The crew later found that Brined’s steak’s vibrant pink color is a characteristic of prime rib cuts. Brined reports never having a more satisfying dining experience, and is lobbying for a donation campaign to provide every Reviewer a steak a day.

Sir Loyn made a wonderful choice. Instantly upon its arrival, all of his angsts about ordering two different cheese in the same meal were put to rest. The smell emanating off of the meat was intoxicating and he could barely contain himself enough to wait until the plate was placed firmly on the table to start eating. This was a large steak, but Sir Loyn was sure that by the end he would be craving even more. The flavor lived up to, and far exceeded the smell. The distinctive taste of the cheese complimented the savory meatiness of the steak without overwhelming it, and the steak was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. All sixteen ounces were consumed within a few minutes. Conversation at the table almost ceased as they were all too focused on our steaks to utter a sound.The four Reviewers began talking again once the steaks had been demolished and started making inroads on the vegetables and starch side dishes.  The discussion veered from college football to recent political events, until Sir Loyn interrupted, asking “What is this?” as he prodded a bowl of a thick red sauce provided with his dish.  Confused, Brined informed him, “It’s catsup.  You eat it with your fries.”  Waltfeld pondered, “How do you explain catsup?  It’s tomatoes and … stuff.”  (Persikov remained silent, remembering how Sir Loyn’s habit of trickery had nearly convinced him to purchase a swift to deal with the office’s fly infestation.)  Sir Loyn curiously dipped a French fry into the mystery substance.  “Tastes vinegary,” he remarked, his straight face curling into a massive grin as Waltfeld and Brined realized they had been had.

Finally, our heroes made room in their stomachs for dessert. After all, after such a filling and satisfying meal, how could they not be craving even more? The desserts were all variations of the popular “dessert shot” concept. The squad was met at the table by their waitress who was armed with an impressive array of different flavors. Sir Loyn naturally went with the key lime shot. What came was a glass filled with alternating layers of crushed graham cracker and lime filling topped with a whipped cream. Although his stomach was in excruciating pain from having contributed to the completion of three separate courses, Loyn pushed on until all that remained of the order was a glass with some filling on the sides, and a few scattered crumbs in front of his spoon. Waltfeld attacked his shot in a similar fashion. He opted for the classic carrot cake shot. It was topped with a sweet cream cheese that mixed perfectly with the carrot cake underneath. Under that cake layer was another layer of cream cheese. The varying layers created an awesome taste and texture that it felt like eating a whole slice of carrot cake. Brined, ever on a quest to find the most indulgent chocolatey treat, chose the chocolate peanut butter cup dessert shot. This dessert shot is best described as a layered Reece’s Cup with a glass wrapper. In short, it was heaven in a glass.  Persikov’s shot was a cup filled with a homogenous dollop of chocolate mousse.

There and Back Again

After such a satisfying meal, the crew was ready to go home. The ride back started uneventfully, with everyone praising the wonderful dinner. Then, bright red and blue lights flashed in the background. Persikov pulled over thinking the officer needed room to pursue some delinquent in crime-ridden downtown Hanover. The policeman also parked on the side of the road and demanded to see Persikov’s identification. The group worried that the policeman had caught them in one of Hanover’s infamous speed traps until the flashlight beam came back to their rented Suburban. “Sir, are you aware that your taillight is off?” Persikov slapped his forehead in frustration.

(The crew learned something that night. Apparently, to answer the old joke, it takes four Dartmouth students and a police officer to turn on a lightbulb — the policeman to figure which dial to turn and four granite-brained imbeciles to ask, “Am I being detained?”)