In the food writing world there’s rarely consensus on much. Who’s got the best burger? Ask 10 Jacksonville food writers and/or food bloggers and you’re likely to get 5 or 6 different answers. Where’s the best brunch? Again, you’ll get 5 or 6 different answers. What’s the best fine dining establishment in Jacksonville? I’ve asked nearly every food writer or blogger I’ve come into contact with and I’ve only ever received one answer. Orsay. Located in Avondale, Restaurant Orsay has established itself as the gold standard in high end Jacksonville dining. Seven years ago Jonathan Insetta was fresh off the heels of closing Chew, his award-winning yet ultimately unsuccessful restaurant. A wine rep friend who’d worked as a sous chef at the cutting edge French restaurant Crush found out it was going out of business & would soon be for sale. He approached Johathan with the idea of opening a new restaurant in the same space as Crush. Crush had been a restaurant that through pushing the envelope had changed the way Jonathan thought about food in the formative years of his career as a chef. Jonathan ended up purchasing the restaurant and opening Orsay where Crush once stood. They resurrected the core of what Crush was, putting their own spin on things to develop Orsay into what it has become today. Needless to say Jonathan’s second foray into the restaurant business has been a smashing success.
Not only are we confident that Orsay is the best high end restaurant in Jax, we can attest that it’s become our favorite high end restaurant as well. The restaurant offers an American take on classic French dishes. They’ve got plenty of options for those with a refined palette such as their TROIS FOIE MOUSSE($11)- (Chicken liver, duck liver, foie gras, red onion marmalade) and a few for those who want to keep it simple like their steak frites or a nice burger. We’ve made numerous trips to Orsay over the past couple of years but we’ve been too busy eating to come up for air and write about it until now. For this review rather than discussing one visit like we usually do we’re going to share some of our favorite dishes. Here they are:
Appetizers: Scallop tartare($14)- Cucumber, jalapeno, lime vinaigrette, fleur de sel, house-made potato crisps. How does something so simple taste so delicious? This is an appetizer we’re madly in love with. If you love scallops and you enjoy sashimi you’ll be madly in love with this dish too.
Daily charcuterie and cheese (3 for $15, 5 for $22)-The daily blend of available cured meats and cheeses is one of the best and most interesting varieties in town. We are huge fans of the duck prosciutto which shows up on the menu regularly. The curing process rids the duck of all gamey flavor & produces some incredible salty, rich prosciutto.
Mussels ($13)-Mussels steamed in a white wine, garlic, butter, and thyme broth. Perfectly fresh seafood requires little to no elaborate ingredients to showcase natural flavor. We advise you ask for lots of extra bread, you will want to soak up every ounce of the broth once you finish off the tender mussels.
Mains: Sea Scallops($30)-Sweet corn cream, Congaree & Penn rice middlins, wild ramps, fiddleheads, crudité vegetables, Dijon-sage vinaigrette. Every time I’ve ordered scallops or seen them ordered by someone I’m dining with at Orsay they come out cooked perfectly. The mix of vegetables, the local rice middlins and the Dijon-sage vinaigrette all come together to form a beautiful mix of flavors.
Pan roasted fish ($30)-Anson Mills antebellum grits, creamed corn, Eden Farms bacon, lobster roe butter, upland cress. The type of fish for this entree changes seasonally but you can guarantee it will always be fresh, local, and impeccably roasted. I’ve consistently had the fish with the perfect level of crispy coating on the outside and melt in your mouth texture inside the fillet. The grits and creamed corn blended together underneath the fish makes for excellent texture contrast.
Beef Stroganoff ($22)-Red wine braised beef, creme fraiche, leeks, roasted mushrooms, pappardelle. It seems odd to go to a French restaurant to have the ultimate comfort food, but this is a dish well worth ordering. Huge pappardelle noodles soak up the decadent flavors of the beef and vegetables for a quintessential grown up version of a classic.
Dessert: Wonut ($3 small size, $9 large size but must call in advance)- How does one describe a wonut? There really aren’t words. Wonuts arrived on the food scene a few years ago in Chicago and we rejoiced when we found them by accident on the dessert menu at Orsay. Wonuts marry the best qualities of a donut and a waffle to create a little bite of heaven. Orsay changes the flavors of the wonuts daily so it’s always a unique treat.
House made ice creams and sorbets (3 for $8) -This may be one of the best dessert deals in town. The ice cream and sorbet flavors also rotate daily and are always crowd pleasing. I love that you can have a taste of heavy creamy ice cream and light icy sorbet so that I don’t have to make the difficult choice between the two . We highly recommend pairing the ice creams with the wonuts if you’re looking for a larger dessert.
If you’ve read this article and you’re planning to head over to Orsay let us give you a couple quick Orsay pro tips to make your dining experience a bit better. Stop in early for cocktail hour, which runs from 4 pm to 7 pm daily. Cocktail hour consists of discounted appetizers, half price oysters, and amazing drink specials (don’t miss their specialty pear martini). If you’re wanting to taste a little bit of every flavor Orsay has to offer, this is the time to make your reservations. Orsay’s cocktail hour is probably the best kept secret in Jacksonville. Want to impress a date? Rather than ordering from the menu ask for the chef to create something special for you. Let the wait staff know how many courses you’d like along with any allergies you might have and the chef will surprise you with dishes that will be sure to wow even the most discerning of diners.
We try to be extremely careful about calling anything THE BEST in Jax. We don’t take that statement lightly. I’m fairly sure I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve done it over the 2 years Jax Restaurant Reviews has been in existence. We’re confident when we tell you Orsay is our pick for the best high end restaurant in Jax. From the quality of cuisine and fantastic service to the care everyone involved in the restaurant takes in delivering a consistently stellar experience, we’re confident you’ll find no better choice than Orsay.