Jack Sprat’s Grille
10668 West Pico Boulevard (@ Pelham)
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean.
So betwixt them both, you see,
They licked the platter the clean.
Poor Jack. *shaking head* Who knows why he could eat no fat. Maybe his greedy wife snatches the bacon from the plate, gnaws off all the half-opaque, half-transparent bacon fat deliciously crisped on the edges, then tosses the tiny, hard, dry pork bits at her husband. Whatever the reason for Jack, it is truly unfortunate. Eat no fat. I did that once, for about a day and a half. *shudders* Never again.
So this is the premise for Jack Sprat’s Grille, a restaurant on Pico just east of the Westside Pavilion. Not everything on Jack Sprat's menu is 100% fat-free, but almost everything on their menu is billed as “healthy.” I have tried “healthy” before and though I appreciated that it was good for me, it never tastes great. But Jack Sprat's must be doing something right, since they haven’t shut down yet. I’ve seen the restaurant many times over the last few years, but it never crossed my mind to try it. Passing by it on my way to the driving range, a sing-song voice would play in my head “Jack Sprat could eat no fat,” and that was enough to keep me cruising along without slwoing down.
This time though, no 7-iron. We were headed straight for Jack Sprat’s.
The restaurant looks modest on the outside, with a plain black and white striped awning over a light wood-trimmed storefront. There’s metered parking on the street, but we pulled around into the back parking lot from a side street. I don’t remember if it was a pay lot or free – this wasn’t my idea. The neighborhood isn’t exactly posh. Everything else around the restaurant looks a little old and run-down with strange boutiques that look like they’ve been there doing “business” for 40 years. Trophies. Beads. Vacuum cleaners and sewing machines. Dive-y. Semi-ghetto. So, it was an interesting surprise to walk through the back door of the restaurant into a small but bright, spacious dining room with high ceilings and large windows, clean modern furniture, and a simple casual decor.
It was also surprising to see that the restaurant was so busy, since there is no parking lot visible from the street by which to judge the crowd size inside. We only had to wait a few moments as someone cleaned up a table that had just been vacated by early lunch-ers (do these people eat breakfast at 5 am?). As I sat down, first catching a glimpse of the silver-haired couple sitting near the front window dressed conservative-expensive, then catching a glimpse of the pair of fat plastic bottles of homestyle-fancy mustard on the table, I had a sense of deja-vu. I felt like I had eaten here before, but I was absolutely certain that I had never set foot in Jack Sprat’s before, and I have a good food memory. The server came by to drop off a few menus and right behind her, the busser dropped off..*snap* big, fat, soft pretzels. That was it. I was in the Foodie zone.
Though the pretzels are the same – delicious slathered with the honey mustard – and I did find out later that both restaurants were related at one point, the menu at Jack Sprat’s Grille is slightly different from Foodies. The items are still very all-American, healthy-California with salads, plain roasted or grilled meats, steamed vegetables, and pastas, just arranged and presented differently on the page. I can’t recall the prices from Foodies, but the prices at Jack Sprat’s were high enough to make me take notice. Most of the salads were close to $12, with a tuna salad as high as $15. For that price, the salad must be enormous, in which case, lowfat is defeated. Nonetheless, we ordered a Caesar salad with Cajun blackened tuna. I ordered an $11 appetizer plate of grilled shrimp just so I could try three of their dozen or so sauces and salsas.
On first impression, the salad didn’t look big enough to deserve that $12 price tag. Tasting it too, the Caesar salad was nothing extrordinary, though I will say that if the dressing is non-fat, Jack sure did a decent job. Otherwise, it just tasted like any other Caesar salad. The blackened tuna was dry, which is always a danger with tuna – within 20 seconds it goes from barely pink and soft in the middle to cat food. It tasted like Cajun spiced cat food (not that I have ever eaten cat food).
If my first impression of the salad made me raise a tattooed eyebrow, then the shrimp appetizer wiped both of them completely off my face. The perfect spacing of a paltry five shriveled shrimp around the perimeter of the plate, surrounding a sparse mess of julienned jicama was a failed artistic attempt to make the dish appear full. I grabbed a shrimp and attempted to bite the entire tiny thing off at the base of its tail, but met with quite a bit of rubbery resistance. I didn’t think they could, but apparently, shrimp can get very, very dry when overcooked.
Thank god for three tiny ramekins that had my choices of Jack Sprat’s sauces: kiwi mango, spicy pineapple, and hummus. The two salsas held so much promise, diced fruit sparkling like tropical jewels. But they disapppointed in flavor. Kiwi and mango tasted so distantly of the fruit they appeared to be that if not for their color, I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish between them. Pineapple too was only recognizable by color and fibrous texture, not by any distinctive pineapple flavor. There must be chile peppers or spices in something named “Fiery,” but I noticed neither taste nor heat. The only redeeming quality of the salsas in the end is that they added lubrication to the shrimp to help it down the esophagus.
The hummus was good, but only relative to the salsas. Thinking about it now, it’s sad that I thought grainy ground chickpeas with absolutely no added flavor was “good.” Strange how taste standards change when you’re eating “healthy.” The jicama was crispy-fresh, but unfortunately tasted like plain jicama because it was completely undressed. I left most of the pile of potatoapple pick-up stix on the plate.
I walked away from lunch at Jack Sprat’s Grille feeling healthy, but also a little cheated. Normally, we are willing to thin our wallets for food that is fat with flavor. Today, I had chosen to lay down a fat wad of cash for anorexic flavor. Disappointing to say the least. *sigh*
Now had it been Mrs. Sprat’s Deep Fat Fryer....