Over the past couple of months we’ve been admiring the culinary creations of The Florida Yacht Club on their Instagram account @feedyourcreation. So when we were invited out to The Florida Yacht Club by executive sous chef JoJo Hernandez to experience a few of he and Executive Chef Stephan Bechan’s creations for ourselves we were a bit like kids at Christmas. Okay maybe more like fat kids on Thanksgiving? To say we were excited was an understatement. When we arrived it was apparent to us that Chef JoJo was just as excited for us to experience what they have to offer as we were to experience it. If every chef had as much passion as Chef JoJo we’d never have to write a bad review.
Prior to enjoying dinner we were taken for a tour of the club. My oh my…..What a view!!! The view of downtown from the top floor of the club is positively breathtaking. With a view like that a culinary team has a high bar set for them to complete the experience and we found out that without question the chefs at The Florida Yacht Club were up to the task.
We were given the choice of ordering from the menu or allowing the chefs to create something for us. Any foodie who orders from the menu when given that option really isn’t a foodie at all. You know what we chose. The first course was the Salmon duo- Salmon sashimi with pickled vegetables in a yuzu soy vinaigrette aside Salmon tartare topped with a crisp bread chip. The yuzu soy vinaigrette built a layer flavor on top of the naturally mild taste salmon sashimi. The pickled vegetables on top added yet more layers of flavor and gave a texture to each bite that allowed you to forget that you were eating fish all together. By my count each bite packed 4 different flavors each layered on top of the next.
The 2nd course was Oyster stew topped with a fried oyster. Think of the best clam chowder you’ve ever had. Now change the flavor to oyster. Add firm but tender vegetables and then a hint of bacon. Top it with a wonderful oyster crunch and voila! That’s The Florida Yacht Club’s oysters stew in a nut shell. It’s to die for!
Course 3 was the fall spice duck with apple butternut hash and garlic orange gastric. There are a lot of restaurants around Jax adding duck to their menu. All too often though, restaurants fail to get a nice line of char across the top to accentuate the innate flavor of the duck. Prior to this meal I think we’re 1 for 6 in Jax on getting duck that’s excellently prepared. Most of the time it comes a bit limp. The top should be crisp and should have a nice intact and flavorful fat layer. This duck was cooked perfectly! There was the nicest char across the top I’ve ever seen. The duck itself was amazing. The complementary flavors from the hash and orange gastric were divine. The apple butternut hash had a flavor you don’t often come across in your everyday dining. It marries the mild flavor of butternut squash with a touch of sour apple which when covered with the garlic orange gastric offers the perfect blend of sweet and sour to tickle your tastebuds. Match that wonderful blend with the savory flavor and light char of the duck and you’ve got a true culinary adventure in one small plate. For me this dish was the highlight of the meal.
Next up was the in house ground steak meatloaf atop house made angel hair pasta, eggplant ratatouille chianti marinara. For this dish they actually grind up beef tenderloin themselves to create the meatloaf. The meat was good and the pasta was excellent quality. Rich and flavorful with just a touch of spice and a light chianti undertone. The chianti marinara really set this dish apart.
Course 5 was 24 hour braised short ribs, sesame jasmine rice, and Chinese long bean stir fry with kim chi vegetables. This dish was decent. If I were served it out to dinner at an Asian restaurant I’d have been fairly happy with it. It however paled in comparison to the other dishes of the evening.
For dessert we were served Granny Smith apple pie with house made caramel ice cream, and strawberry Brûlée, sprinkled with white chocolate crunch pearls. This apple pie was very very good. The caramel ice cream was fantastic and even had a dollop of actual caramel underneath it. As a white chocolate lover the white chocolate pearls really completed the dish for me making it all just a touch sweeter than it otherwise would have been.
Our trip to The Florida Yacht Club was nothing short of spectacular. Too often in Jax we see excellent chefs take the easy way out and play it safe with foods that they know people will enjoy but provide them no culinary challenge. Old favorites seem to be the norm rather than the exception in Jacksonville’s restaurant scene. At Florida Yacht Club the old favorites are available for those who prefer to play it safe. While for those willing to wade out into the deep water a true voyage of flavor awaits. If Jacksonville’s culinary scene is to continue to grow and move forward, we’ll need more Chefs like JoJo Hernandez and Stephen Bechan. Thanks to Florida Yacht Club for allowing us to experience what they have to offer. If you ever get the offer to join a member for dinner make sure to take them up on the offer.
Note: The Florida Yacht Club is a private club and not open to the public. They do however accomodate special events like weddings, birthdays, etc. with a member sponsor.