If you have never been to Orsay, or have not been for a while, it’s time to make the trek and experience one of Jacksonville’s most enjoyable restaurants.
Our agenda started with a tasting of Seared Duck Breast paired with a bottle of Alto Moncayo/Veraton 2013 Garnacha. While this could have been our only course, making for an enjoyable, albeit short, evening, we wanted to see what else was available. As soon as we were handed the menus (yes, there are several, including vegetarian and gluten free versions), it was immediately apparent that the night had only just begun.
The duck arrived beautifully presented on a plate of lentils with carrot purée, duck au jus, and a garnish of crispy fried carrot curls. The tenderness of the meat contrasted nicely with its crunchy salt and pepper crust, while all of the flavors and textures on the plate worked together in remarkable harmony. If you enjoy duck, it’s worth noting that Orsay sources the best from Maple Leaf Farms, and prepares it to exacting specifications.
The wine, a velvety 2013 Veraton Garnacha (grenache) from the Spanish winemaker Alto Moncayo, was the perfect accompaniment, displaying bold spice coupled with rich chocolate and black fruit notes. In spite of its high alcohol level (16%), it was exceptionally smooth and quite enjoyable. We were unanimous – agreeing that a better match for the meal could not have been found.
Since no visit to Orsay is complete without having one of their wonderful pâtés, we decided upon the Pork Mousseline as well as a few selections from their cured meats and cheese menus. Once served, we found ourselves in agreement once again, noting how well these additional dishes paired with the wine.
Of course, we were constantly awed by the dishes that arrived on neighboring tables, especially the fresh oysters, shrimp and scallops. While we did not indulge, we were informed that Orsay is the place for oysters; serving in excess of 66,000 of these briny beauties per year.
Of note throughout the evening was the obvious level of effort that was taking place behind the scenes, in the kitchen, and the depth of knowledge every member of the staff brought to the table. Executive Chef Brian Whittington explains, “A dinner at Orsay can be a very educational experience. When we get patrons to understand and trust our cooking, we know they’ll enjoy whatever they order.” When you consider that the restaurant has earned the coveted Snail of Approval Award from Slow Food First Coast, finding satisfaction at Orsay is certainly reasonable.
Of course, a dinner at Orsay would not be complete without a selection from their impressive wine list that features over four-hundred and ninety varieties. It’s no surprise that Wine Spectator is in agreement, recognizing Orsay with its prestigious Best of Award of Excellence.
If you are one of the many who acknowledge French technique as the pinnacle of culinary achievement, you can understand why Orsay is so highly regarded. Of course, there’s an unmistakable touch of the South, adding to the wonderfully delicious, distinctive and lasting impressions.
3630 Park Street in Avondale, (904) 381-0909.
Article written by Jeffrey Spear
Photos by laird
Get recipe for Orsay’s Seared Duck Breast with Lentils & Carrot Purée
Pair it with Alto Moncayo Red Veraton 2013
Grapes: 100% Garnacha
Description: Loads of blackcurrant and black cherry fruit, with licorice, lavender and touch of graphite and earth. Plush, pliant and round. Mineral-accented dried strawberry and cherry liqueur flavors and dark chocolate flavors. Finish is long and sweet, with soft tannins and repeating spiciness.
Bodegas Alto Moncayo started in 2001 as a collaboration between importer Jorge Ordoñez, American importer Dan Phillips, Australian winemaker Chris Ringland and others. Located near the town of Borja, the 210 acres of vineyards are head-pruned, old Grenache vines planted at 3,000 feet above sea level in poorly nourished soils of slate, clay, chalk and quartzite. They make a number of cuvées, the most famous being the more expensive Alto Moncayo and the Aquilon. Their inexpensive offering is the Veraton, a 100% Grenache aged in 60% new French and 40% American oak for 17 months.