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Review 28 Jan 13

Jerry: It’s All About the Food

Economic transition winners and fine cuisine mingle freely and unexpectedly in a posh New Belgrade restaurant that defies expectations.

Duda&Vlada, Pavle Golicin
BIRN
Belgrade
Restaurant Jerry.

Food review:

Built after World War II in the Communist era, New Belgrade was for decades not much more than a dormitory for workers. Things have changed since then and the former dorm has become a booming business district. Business expansion was closely followed by blossoming eateries, most being fit only for a quick lunch break and not worth crossing one of the few, busy Belgrade bridges across the River Sava for.

Glancing from the outside, Jerry seems one of the many. It occupies part of the ground floor of yet another new commercial/residential building in a block previously occupied by the Chinese Embassy, before a NATO projectile made it move in 1999. The street is still aptly named Ulica Trešnjinog Cveta - Cherry Blossom Street.

Jerry’s name and the Chihuahua logo have a distinctly unsettling note about them, if you are after fine dining. It sounds like a pet grooming salon, not a restaurant, and the range of sumptuous cars on the parking lot was not exactly inviting. Nevertheless, the venue came as a recommendation from a friend and we decided to give it a go.

The interior is modern, completely new, as expected, and pleasant in general. In aesthetics and the quality of the finish, it is comparable to modern, well-executed living quarters – pleasant to dwell in, nothing to write home about.

The patrons are also as expected, after witnessing all the black cars with tinted windows outside. Loud men in expensive garments do not equate to style, nor do appropriately over-dressed ladies – a glimpse of the new economic elite, the elusive “transitional winners” so typical of Eastern Europe.

We telephoned a day in advance and were told that there was no, and generally is no, need for reservation. So, we were surprised to find the restaurant packed and apparently without even a small table to accommodate us and get an uneasy “wasn’t-my-fault” reaction from the staff.  In no mood to come back later, we asked to be seated in the lounge area, intended just for drinks (and cigarettes, as the eating section is smoke-free). It turned out well, as we were quite comfortable and had more space and privacy than those seated in the dining area.

After this tricky start, as described above, short on patience and with fading curiosity, we were in “brace-for-collision” mode. Instead, we had a good time with some really good food; easily good enough to write home about.

It started with pirogue-like buns, some dips, bread with walnuts and cranberries – all part of the restaurant cover. We had a carrot potage to compliment the cover, not intentionally though – the waiter misheard our order. It came sweet and smooth, a proper warmer for a cold day. It was hard to exercise restraint and not over-indulge in pirogues, nice as they were, but irresistible with a warm potage.

 “Intelligent vitello tonato” caught our eye on the starters’ list and we were eager to see in what way they would reinterpret this cold, elegant antipasto. It came in a glass, with alternating layers of thin French baguette slices, cold sliced veal and creamy tuna sauce, topped with some rocket leaves. Intelligent or not, we got to the bottom of this glass with ease.

Another starter, traditional Greek Halloumi cheese, was served with a small package of baby green beans wrapped in thin bacon, laid on a bed of tomatoes and rocket. Nice and refreshing general Mediterranean taste, this starter was something like an Italian visiting Greece.

We consulted the waiter about the mains and received some concrete and deliberated advice; the confusion from the start finally vanished, at high time – but in time.

The first recommendation was arguably the best dish we sampled – beef steak in oil and balsamic vinegar. It was not a classic grilled steak by any account and we were delighted to try something new. Relatively thin slices of pre-grilled steak were soaked, deeply, in a mixture of oils and balsamic vinegar. It worked well and tasted a bit like cold roast, a bit like medium-rare steak; interesting and enjoyable.

Tuna steak with pine nuts on a bed of rocket promised and delivered. A decent-sized steak, marinated and grilled to medium-rare consistency - the only way to have fresh tuna and appreciate it fully. The third main dish was also up to par – the leg of chicken with crusty vegetables and chanterelle mushrooms was a very tasty, juicy and well balanced dish. We failed to spot chanterelles, but took no offence – the dish was good as it was.

We cleaned our plates, the mains were that good. Not surprisingly, there was hardly any enthusiasm left for dessert – so we had crème brulée. It was enjoyable, with signature crust and all.

Food not only tastes good here, it comes in eye-catching arrangements, on proper, modern and expensive plates and with appropriate cutlery. If you have an eye for tableware, you will appreciate the solid selection at “Jerry”.

The service was something of a mixed blessing. Confused upfront, a bit hard to attract throughout, but also helpful and with some good advice when it came to the food, where it matters most. Still, there is room for improvement in the service department.

Everything considered, the quality of the food in “Jerry” surpasses all the other aspects of the place. It does mean that we had a good time, hope to come back and would definitely recommend the restaurant. In the end, it is all about food.

Restaurant Jerry.

Wine review:

Jerry is definitely not one of those places that I would usually go. Hidden in New Belgrade, in a labyrinth of blocks of buildings, typical of the Soviet Socialist Realist style and lately of the new business quarters developed during the transition (for what, I keep asking myself).  But, after being recommended by a trustful gourmet friend, I decided to cross the river and try to find my way to the restaurant in Cherry Blossom street; nicely named after the Chinese Embassy that was once there. 

Approaching the restaurant, as expected, it was clear that the view is not the strong point. However, you don’t lack for parking space, which is too often the case in the old town. But, don’t get me wrong, this is not a story about cars; I just wanted to say that even before my entry, my expectations were pretty high.

And Jerry rose to the occasion. The staff, though consisting of young waiters who constantly made unnecessary moves, were pleasant and ready to answer questions from the beginning till the end. Wine came in the appropriate glassware and, as I took it by the glass, was served in front of us.

The well-developed wine list consists of some 70 labels. Their food and beverage manager has obviously paid attention to it and tried to match it with the food offer. Nicely done. Although you can find only a couple of New World labels, all major European wine regions are represented by typical examples. The mark-up is at the usual level for Belgrade and you can find wines starting from 15 euro.

What needs improvement is the selection of wines by the glass. Only a few are available, which limits the wine and food pairing possibilities, especially if you are in non-drinking company and so can’t order a bottle (or two). Nevertheless, I managed to cope with this challenge, starting with Prosecco by Marsuret, as I always like to kick off with bubbles, and then go for local producers. So, I then ordered a Pinot Blanc, by Zvonko Bogdan, which properly matched the vitello tonnato, and a Zavet (Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet), by Podrum Janko from nearby Smederevo, in order to be on the same footing with the beefsteak in oil, garnished with grilled vegetables.

Jerry proved to be a breath of fresh air on the gastro scene in Belgrade. It offers quality ingredients, adequately presented dishes and no “fusion-confusion” cuisine. These might be simple truths, but not many people in this business follow them. 

This time, they were already out of the veal cheeks in Port wine when we came, so I would gladly come back to Jerry to try them. It might well be their signature dish. 

Jerry

Trešnjinog cveta 11

Tel: 011 6302459                         

Price guide: 2,500 – 2,900 dinars [€22 - €26] per person for three courses without wine

Wine price range: 1,500-40,200 dinars [€13 - €362, €13 - €202 excluding Champagne]

 

Pavle Golicin holds M.A. from the University of Gastronomic Sciences, Polenzo (Bra), Italy, established by the ‘Slow Food’ movement. Pavle specialised in enology and he runs his wine school in Belgrade as a part of ‘Blatobran’ creative studio. He has a particular interest in the experience economy.

 

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