Chez Jacky

The man behind Petit Robert tackles the student niche
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  July 25, 2010
2.0 2.0 Stars

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TRIO DE PÂTÉS: While not competitive charcuterie, it’s a solid mix of lean rillettes, country meatloaf, and rich mixed-liver mousse.

Chez Jacky | 1414 Comm Ave, Brighton | 617.274.8687 | Open daily, 11 am–11 pm | AE, MC, Vi | Beer and wine | Valet parking, $6 | Sidewalk-level access
The once famous Maison Robert in the Old City Hall stood for top-shelf French food. Jacky Robert, nephew and cousin of Maison Robert's owners (and sometime chef at the old place), has taken a more downscale, retro tack with his own group of local French restaurants. His Petit Robert Bistro locations sometimes seem rooted in the early–Julia Child era of pâté, escargots, onion soup, boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, and chocolate mousse. His latest venture, Chez Jacky, perhaps no longer claims even a petite resemblance to the great Maison Robert. Instead, it's a move into a student neighborhood with lower price points and French beer.

Although Chez Jacky is running a series of summer specials keyed to stages of the Tour de France, some of the food seems like French cuisine with training wheels. A few dishes unfortunately even revive the weakness of the old French restaurants in America: too much salt and uncooked wine in the sauces.

That's not to say you can't have fun dining here. The informality of the bright rooms (formerly Zocalo) is attractive. The bread is real French-style baguettes served with sweet butter. And the trio de pâtés ($7.75) is not competitive charcuterie, but solid, especially the leaner-than-usual rillettes, which contrast well with the richer-than-meatloaf country pâté and the truly rich mixed-liver mousse.

But some of the appetizers falter. Herring à l'huile ($6.50) is like bar food: a couple of rolled salty herrings on a warm potato salad with lots of raw onions. It is too salty to eat without a lot of beer, though coupling a piece of herring with a potato is pretty great. And Three Cheesy Shrimp ($8.25) is like inferior bar food. Deep-frying shrimp with or without cheese in a crunchy, cornmeal-style batter is not a French concept, and perhaps the reason ours were over-browned and overcooked.

My favorite entrée was the Half Roasted Chicken ($12.75), actually a fully roasted, just-right half chicken (breast half) with Bordelaise sauce on the side. That's a good place for the sauce, since you can pick out the mushrooms and not be bothered too much by uncooked wine and sharp vinegar in what should be a classic wine sauce.

I also liked the Asian tuna steak ($14.75), which has the crisp outside of tuna tataki. The inside is only a little pink, as many people like their beefsteak, and the rice was the real Thai jasmine variety, but wasn't hot enough at the table to get the full aroma. Beef cheeks Bourguignon ($14.75) sounds like the kind of standout entrée you might pay double for at Craigie on Main, but was unfortunately only good chunks of beef and potato in a big bowl of over-salted sauce.

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