One would be forgiven for mishearing the name of Jenna Kinard’s new Southlake hotel resto and thinking instead of the aberrant felines from the pretty much universally unpopular musical Cats. Jellico’s is named for the town that sat where Southlake sits now, and, according to the PR folk, the food is described as both “reimagined American cuisine” and “an upgrade” from the fried-chicken-and-waffles stuff from the late, lamented Max’s Wine Dive, which is where Kinard made herself a name in the Fort before heading on to Hotel Drover’s 97 West briefly. Jellico’s bill of fare includes charcuterie plates, horchata ice cream, and tuna crudo. Also, chicken-and-donuts grace the brunch menu, if you were beginning to think the chef has risen above her Houston upbringing.
On the night my party of three visited, the service was absolutely impeccable –– truly worthy of a white-tablecloth restaurant downtown. Server Joshua provided the right amount of information and guidance without resorting to a cheerleader-y “Oh, great choice!” whenever we made a decision. There was a weekend happy hour that we narrowly missed –– if you’re going, get there before 5 p.m. on a weekend. Both our cocktails had special requests, which were met perfectly –– and it turns out that the Mint Condition, with its cucumbers and fragrant botanicals, actually does taste better with gin than vodka.
For starters, the deviled eggs could politely be described as dainty. Were they quail eggs? Nope, according to Joshua. Just five halves of tiny hen’s eggs, dwarfed by a chicharron the size of a quarter. The menu disclaimed miso and Korean gochujang chile in the whipped yolk, along with the more traditional chives. The nearest we could come to the flavor profile was an extra spicy Cali roll –– not an overwhelming endorsement. Every nouveau American or Southern cuisine place has a take on the Sunday picnic favorite, and I just didn’t prefer these.
The actual entree menu at dinner (or brunch, or breakfast for that matter) consists of seven or eight choices. Supper items include steak, a burger, a vegan option, chicken, fish, and pasta. Joshua described the mushroom ravioli as “more of a butternut squash ravioli” and said we’d barely taste the mushrooms. Turns out he was right: The enoki mushrooms added a meaty component and a firm texture to the middle of the ravioli, but the slightly sweet butternut squash was the star. The pasta was firm without being chewy, and the fried sage, honey, and walnut brown butter sauce was absolutely plate-licking good.
The roasted chicken was the best thing we ate. A leg and thigh quarter came spatchcock-baked on a bed of perfectly cooked pumpkin risotto. The bird was beautifully seasoned and provided a little extra kick to the risotto that, despite the alleged addition of truffles and asiago cheese, lacked salt when sampled solo.
The seared halibut in a white wine garlic sauce tasted fine, with shaved, braised Brussels sprouts adding a nice texture and tang. The dish came with tiny diced potatoes that looked like the white fish and had the same texture, which was disconcerting. All in all, the flavor was fairly bland, and it was the dish we liked least.
For dessert choices, we picked the panna cotta and the s’mores Pop Tart. The latter shows how creative Chef Kinard can be. An impressively flaky pastry with a decadent scoop of chocolate ganache came topped with melted, toasted marshmallow and hazelnut crumbles. A dainty portion of luscious horchata ice cream was the dessert that we didn’t know we needed and wanted more of. By contrast, the coconut panna cotta was difficult to eat from its adorably tiny mason jar, as chunks of mango, passionfruit, and kiwi got in the way of the not very coconut-y cream.
The restaurant looks generically pleasant, if a little dimly lit for an evening. There’s nothing spectacularly memorable or horrible about the bar or service area that stands out. Fair enough –– Kinard and her team probably had very little to do with the décor. Both the ravioli and the halibut were served in pottery bowls that looked unfortunately like pet food dishes. Some of Kinard’s reimagined Southern bites are exceptional, and I’m glad she’s come home to Tarrant County, even if it is a hike to Southlake.
Deviled eggs $10
Mushroom ravioli $24
Seared halibut $39
Roasted chicken $28
S’mores Pop Tart $12
Panna cotta $9
Mint Condition $14 each