Heather: Bistro Aix was the first “fancy” restaurant I dined at when I moved to Jacksonville. I instantly fell in love. From the blue cheese chips and the best pork tenderloin of my life, to the upscale decor and the way of presenting the bill (in an envelope labeled “the damage”); I was pleasantly infatuated. For the next couple of years, Bistro Aix would become the place to take family visiting from out of town. I have some special memories from inside that restaurant. But the years went by and my habits changed I spent more time visiting new restaurants than relying on the previous favorites. And when I had first heard of Tom Gray’s departure (one of the “can do no wrong” chefs in my eyes), I didn’t know if I’d have a reason to step foot inside Aix again.
But when life throws you opportunities (especially ones involving food), you should say yes. So that’s exactly what I said when asked if I wanted to attend a new menu tasting at Bistro Aix. We were set up in the ONYX room, and immediately given some bubbly while we socialized.
It wasn’t long before we were given an overview for the evening. Bistro Aix is rolling out a new vision for the restaurant, along with a new logo, and a new menu (with some of your old favorites remaining). Everything on the menu can be ordered at lunch or at dinner, which will undoubtedly make for happy diners who want a steak at lunch or a sandwich for dinner.
The bartenders started us out with some delicious cocktails (the Mango-Tini was my favorite – citrus vodka, little mango slices, and a kiwi slice = beyond delicious), and the first course was brought out.
Portioned out mussels and a heaping plate of my old favorite, the blue cheese chips. The chips are every bit as delicious as I remember. A great mix of flavors and just the right amount of indulgence. The mussels included garlic and garnish and were tasty, but I would have loved just a little more flavor to them. Some sort of savory sauce or other binding element would have been perfect.
The grilled cheese and tomato soup shooters were a big hit. Everyone at our table had at least three helpings! The two cheese combination of cheddar and provolone was fresh and hit the mark on comfort food favorite. The soup had the right amount of creme fraiche and was very tasty.
I am a sucker for aioli, so when a tray of truffled parmesan fries with garlic aioli was brought out, I knew I was going to be in foodie bliss. These would be something I’d order at lunch or at dinner.
We sampled three of their pizza options, and the mushroom fontina was the clear winner in my book.
And the overall foodie favorite of the evening was the hand-rolled gnocchi and braised oxtail ragout. I think there was a collective sigh in the room when everyone tried this dish. The oxtail was quite heavenly, and this is on my must order list for future visits.
We were then able to have the pleasure of meeting the new executive Chef Zeke Mears. Not only did he give us his background, but he did it with fire! Zeke gave a beautiful presentation of bananas foster, and it was the pivotal moment when you realized you’re surrounded by other food media people – the camera clicks didn’t stop.
I loved how humble Chef Mears was, it was clear that he loved food and his job. He started out as a dishwasher and then rose the ranks in the kitchen. Eventually he realized that he wanted to go to culinary school, and worked his way up to executive sous-chef at Bistro Aix. Having been an integral part to the restaurant for so many years, he is the perfect person to bring the new vision of the owners to life. I’m excited to visit soon and see everything else he is bringing to the table.
The bananas foster was absolutely delectable. I didn’t expect to be as impressed with it as I was, but I have no shame in saying I went back for seconds. The menu portion size is a full banana and more ice cream. Although I will always be partial to chocolate, this dessert was a good blend of sweetness and lightness.
Many thanks to Bistro Aix for putting this event together. A night socializing with like-minded people and enjoying delicious food is always a good idea.
1440 San Marco Blvd.
Jacksonville, Florida 32207