Sweet Sounds Downtown with a Great Dinner at Jeffrey's

"Sweet Sounds Downtown" is a Westfield institution also known as the "Jazz Festival". And every year I look forward to it when it starts in early July and I'm really annoyed if I have to go on a business trip and can't be home Tuesday night to go to Westfield for this event. So between 4th of July and Labor day every Tuesday there are usually 4 or 5 stages around downtown Westfield where there is life jazz type music from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. What I like in particular is the fact that you can just wander around, check out the different bands, if you like it stay a bit longer, if not move on.
The first evening is always a special event. This year it was particularly special as Tuesday 2007-07-03 was also the day before the holiday and so it was technically a Friday.
Some really good friends that we met in Westfield years ago and that in the meantime had moved to Michigan stayed at our house for a few days. What better opportunity than to go to "Sweet Sounds Downtown", meet with some other friends that live here and have a great dinner. For a Jazz Festival day I like Jeffrey's in particular as you can sit outside and it is close to the "stage" in front of the Bombay store across the street to listen to the music. For all the other stages that night the restaurants with outside seating were a bit further away.
I blogged about Jeffrey's before and the last time I was there I was a bit disappointed about the pretty average chicken croissant. Nevertheless, we had outstanding dinners there before so we didn't mind to try itagain and we were not disappointed tonight.
Everybody was pretty happy with their main entrees. Well prepared, high quality, good flavor and texture and a nice layout on the plates. I had the Kobe Burger from the lighter fare menu that is served outside and at the bar. And it is certainly worth the premium over the regular burger. It came medium well exactly the way I like it with a slightly crisp but not chewy outside that keeps the juices (and the flavor) of the meat inside. And the toppings (blue cheese and bacon) were added in a way that truly combined the different flavors into something that creates an almost overwhelming taste experience. My friend who had the regular burger was equally satisfied. And the burgers are pretty good deal for dining. (Sorry not available in the dining room).
The dishes from the dining menu are usually a bit more complex, unusual and higher priced. A plate of asparagus risotto for $23 seems a bit expensive even for Westfield but you get something pretty special.
On the other hand the appetizers were pretty underwhelming. We had onion rings and jalapeño poppers. The poppers were pretty average and rather bland. No particular taste or texture. I'm not sure if they are home made or just fried from a deep frozen package. The onion rings were a disappointment. The batter was more doughy and not crisp and crunchy at all. No particular spices or flavoring detectable. Finally the onion rings disintegrated almost immediately when you touched them. One of my criteria for judging good onion rings is how well the batter and the onion stay together as the pleasurable experience comes from the combination of both. Jeffrey's onion rings pretty much failed that criterion.

So far, entrees excellent, appetizers disappointing. So what else is good (or bad) about Jeffrey's:

  • The Service: The service was as always very friendly, very accommodating, listening to the customers and trying to be attentive and efficient and even proactive. And it would have worked, hadn't they been overwhelmed by the busy evening (see below).
  • The Beer Selection: Jeffrey's offers frequently changing selection of local and other unusual beers on tap at reasonable prices. To explore some new beers alone is usually worth a visit.
  • The Wine Selection: The wine menu and the wine cellar is quite impressive. A few years ago Jeffrey's father gave me a tour of the cellar. In addition to some really interesting high-end wines, Jeffrey's also has a good selection of mid-priced wines and a really good "value" selection. For $24 to $30 you can find a good bottle of white and for a little bit more a bottle of red. And these are not cheap ones that retail for 4.99 but good wines that are adequate matches for the food.
  • Menu Variation: In addition to the normal menu (that also changes once in a while) they have a good list of daily specials that are often innovative and worth exploring.
  • Desserts and after dinner drinks: The desserts are very special. There is always a "Crème brûlée" of the day and home made sorbets are also changing frequently. Finally, they have an amazing variety of after dinner drinks including black sambuca which is somewhat difficult to find.

What is not so good about Jeffrey's

  • The Service I: As hard as they were trying that evening, they were a bit overwhelmed. And they were telling the customer that they didn't expect it to be so busy. Come on! It is the day leading up to 4th of July, the weather is beautiful and it is the first Jazz Festival event in Westfield. How can you be surprised by the fact that you get a lot of business that night? Something must be wrong in the way how Jeffrey's does their staff planning. OK, they dealt with the situation gracefully (as they have done many times before) and even Jeffrey himself came out to clean tables. Still, plan better and your customers will be happier. It is just not very professional and it is also unfair to the waitstaff to have them be overwhelmed.
  • The Service II: It helps if the waitstaff knows a little bit about the items on the menu. When I wanted to order my second beer, I asked what lagers they had on tap. The wait person didn't know at all but was quick to check with the bar tender. When he came back he quoted the selection among them a "Black Wheat Lager" which sounded pretty unusual and interesting. So I ordered it as I do like dark lagers and I assume a black lager would be a dark one. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a blackberry wheat lager. Besides the fact that in general I believe it is not really such a great idea to add fruit flavors to beer, in particular to lagers, this was far from what I expected. It was just a very basic light lager with some blackberry aroma. I don't think it is too much to ask for the restaurateur to spend a few minutes with the wait staff before the evening begins to introduce them to what is on the menu.

Besides these minor issues we had a great dinner at Jeffrey's and a great evening in Westfield. And I'm sure we will be back.

Signing Off - The Westfield Blogger

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