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Before farm-to-table cuisine was a “thing,” Jams — chef Jonathan Waxman’s 1980s-era restaurant — was doing it. “I just did what I was taught at Chez Panisse and other places,” says Waxman. “I thought that was the norm but no one else did. And people seemed to really love it.” Now, 30 years later, the Barbuto chef is bringing his ’80s hit back, opening today in the new 1 Hotel in Midtown. The restaurant is among several celebrity chef–driven ventures for the hotel group (including a recent Miami eatery from Tom Colicchio).
For Waxman, bringing the restaurant back was a soulful move. “I always felt that it was my first child,” he says. “It was a child I lost touch with.” In 30 years, Waxman’s cooking, he admits, really hasn’t changed that much. The California native and Chez Panisse vet, who also owns the 11-year-old Barbuto, has always had an ingredient-driven and simple approach to food. “Jams is food that I would cook at home, but here I’m doing it with a bit more style,” he says. But this time around, Waxman is willing to take more chances, and integrate more global influences into the food. “I think as I get older I start thinking about the bigger picture, he says. “I’m not afraid anymore.” The restaurant is a reminder to diners that true California cuisine is really about integrating influences from all over the world, including Europe and Asia.
The aesthetic of Jams, whose floor-to-ceiling industrial-style windows are engulfed in ivy on the outside, seems to set the tone for the hotel itself — upon approaching the main entrance, you’re greeted by a vigil of candles amid a mini-garden of wood and stone, similar (you’d imagine) to the entrance of a 1970s-era California house party. Inside, the sprawling 110-seat dining space, designed by AvroKo, is dotted with wooden tables, midcentury-modern upholstered chairs and black leather sofa banquettes along the walls. Vintage glassware from Minners evokes more midcentury references and Mauviel copper pots are used as serving vessels for dishes like the lobster with blood sausage, garlic butter, corn and potatoes. The ambiance is warm and casual, and there’s certainly no place like Jams right now anywhere near Midtown Manhattan.
The menu, headed up by chef de cuisine Ginger Pierce, centers around a Spanish charcoal-burning Josper oven (Jose Andres tipped Waxman off to the model). There are homages to dishes served at the ’80s original including the Jams pancakes with red pepper topped with smoked salmon, corn sauce, crème fraîche and caviar, and the roast chicken (an item that Waxman became known for at Barbuto) with Jams potatoes (below). On the bar-snacks menu there will also be a burger — a simple 8-oz. patty topped with farmhouse cheddar and bacon. The fluke crudo with cherry tomatoes, avocado, cucumber and jalapeño in Italian olive oil (pictured above) is a dish that Waxman admits he would have done at the original Jams, but back then, “it would have been clunkier.”
The chef, who admits he’s probably to blame for America’s kale obsession, will also change the menu frequently as seasonal produce fluctuates. But right now, at high season, “it’s hard to edit yourself,” he says. There’s a vegetarian eggplant dish with farro, homemade pita bread and tzatziki, and a tartine topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado. In a few weeks, the restaurant will begin breakfast, lunch and brunch. For breakfast, Waxman plans both a Japanese-style breakfast, a Southern-influenced plate and items like huevos rancheros and smoked salmon with eggs.
In addition to bringing Jams back, 2015 seems to be a year of passages for the chef. Soon, he will close his beloved Barbuto, which has occupied an unassuming West Village corner for the past 11 years, but he will also return home to open a restaurant in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square. Waxman has come full circle, and now New Yorkers can go California dreamin’ any night of the week right in Midtown Manhattan. Check out the full menu below.
1414 Avenue of the Americas; 212-703-2007
Jams Menu Print 8.18.15