J22 Tap and Table is located in the heart downtown Jamestown on Narragansett Avenue, less than a block from Narragansett Bay. The restaurant is named after the popular racing sailboat known as the J22 and opened in late June. By anyone’s standards, the restaurant is small and only has ten tables and a small bar, which seats 12. The atmosphere is casual, but the space is very cozy and perfect for a cool Jamestown night. The large windows at the front of the restaurant let in lots of natural light and provide a nice view of the action out on Narragansett Avenue.
J22 Tap and Table’s menu is not large, but that is how it should be in a restaurant that wants to be known for sourcing hyper-local ingredients and serving everything fresh. As our excellent waiter, Chris, explained, everything in the restaurant is made from scratch – from the hamburger buns to the fettuccini noodles to the cocktail sauce. The menu changes often, depending on what ingredients Chef Christophe Jalbert has available to use in his small but open kitchen.
To warm us up from the cold, fall night, my friend and I each ordered a beer. I love sampling local beers and was impressed by the variety J22 offered. I started with Wakefield’s own Whaler’s Brewing East Coast IPA ($6) and my friend had Pawtucket’s Foolproof Brewing’s King of the Yahd ($6). Other local beers were available from Grey Sail Brewing, Ravenous Brewing Company and the Proclamation Ale Company. If beer isn’t your thing, J22 also offers a good-sized list of wines, as well as a vast and varied specialty cocktail menu.
Seeing Matunuck Oysters on the appetizer menu, I immediately ordered a half dozen. Although they were listed for $1.95 a piece, we were pleasantly surprised when we got the bill and saw they were only $1/ea. Apparently this great deal is only available before 6pm during the restaurant’s Buck-a-Shuck promotion. If I had known that, I would have ordered a dozen! As always, the Matunuck oysters were amazing. What made them even better was the accompaniment of home made cocktail sauce. The sauce was full of pure tomato flavor with plenty of horseradish kick on the back end. We also ordered a Mixed Green Salad ($9.95) with sliced apple, goat cheese and lemon-truffle vinaigrette. Although the salad was huge, it needed more goat cheese and apple to balance the mound of fresh greens. The dressing was very light but complemented the tang of the goat cheese perfectly.
After reading that J22 sources all of its fresh fish from Pt. Judith (though I am wondering where the salmon on the menu came from), I knew I wanted fish. The fish entrées are served with a choice of sauces (olive tapenade, romesco or heirloom tomato salsa) and seasonal vegetables.
I chose the Yellowfin Tuna ($24.95) with romesco sauce. My portion of tuna was rather large for the price, and was so tasty, it really didn’t even need the sauce. It was seared to perfection and kept rare on the inside, which is just the way I like it. The romesco sauce was a nice blend of roasted red pepper, lots of garlic, ground almonds, a hint of chili and the tang of red wine vinegar. Even though the fish was flavorful on its own, the sauce paired perfectly with it. On the side, there was a medley of mashed butternut squash, baby eggplant, swiss chard and roasted potatoes. Honestly, if you had told me ahead of time those were the night’s seasonal vegetables, I wouldn’t have thought that was a winning combination. Yet, I absolutely loved the vegetables and ate every last bite.
On the way to the restaurant, we passed Windmist Farm and saw their famous Belted Galloway Cows grazing in the pasture in front of the Newport Bridge. If you are not familiar with these beauties, they look like Oreos with their black fur separated by a white stripe around their middles. Coincidentally, the J22 Burger ($13.95) my friend ordered came from this farm, so I don’t think you can get more local than that. The burger was simply topped with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and white onion. After a few bites of the hamburger, my friend said, “I don’t often rave about a burger, but this is one I will rave about.” The homemade brioche bun was soft, the meat was full of flavor and the cheddar cheese was excellent. The burger was served with outstanding hand cut fries and the restaurant’s house made ketchup.
Keeping with the trend of making everything in-house, J22 offered (at least on the night we were there) a trio of homemade desserts. There was Bread Pudding, Berry Tart and we ordered the Pear Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream ($8.95). What Chris neglected to mention to us was that this pie came made to order. We felt like it was taking a while for the pie to come out of the kitchen, but when it was served piping hot and obviously freshly baked, we could see why it took so long! The base of the pie was fresh pears, a little sugar, a little cinnamon, but nothing that took away from the flavor of the pears. The crust was made from puff pastry and was impossibly light and crispy. With the combination of the hot pie and the cold, creamy vanilla ice cream, we found ourselves fighting for every last bite. It was a good-sized portion – more than one person could eat alone.
The term farm-to-table is one that has been used so much we barely listen to it anymore. It is simply a practice that good restaurants adhere to. My friends and I seek out restaurants that serve local products and try to stay away from chain restaurants or restaurants that get their food from the back of a Sysco truck. J22 Tap and Table is a restaurant doing it the right way. Not only do they buy local ingredients, Chef Jalbert has a deft hand in making those ingredients sing on the plate. Food that is fresh and local doesn’t need to be deep-fried or covered in sauce to make it taste good. I will definitely return to J22, and I certainly won’t make the mistake again of ordering too few oysters.
J22 Tap and Table
22 Narragansett Avenue