“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.”
— Adelle Davis
Zac Jack Bistro — Everyday gourmet cuisine
Back in July chef John Evans, co-owner and chef at Zachary Jacques Country French Cuisine near Diamond Springs, opened Zac Jack Bistro at 3275 Coach Lane in Cameron Park. Since then I have eaten there a half-dozen times and always really enjoyed the food, service and atmosphere.
The restaurant is a family friendly (yes, there is a kid’s menu) bistro, serving upscale food at affordable prices in a pleasant atmosphere. Breakfast is served daily, starting at 8 a.m. and continuing until 2 p.m. At 11 a.m. the menu expands to include more lunch items like croques (French grilled sandwiches), several varieties of unique wood-fired pizza and more. At 4 p.m. the dinner items are added, including small plates (appetizers) and entrées.
“It was the perfect opportunity,” said Evans when asked why he opened a second restaurant. “Here was a place that was fully equipped, had an open kitchen and a wood fired pizza oven, every California chef’s dream. It also seats 105 inside and an additional 45 outside, which will be usable this winter when the fire tables shortly arrive.”
When asked if there were any difficulties in opening a new restaurant, Evans replied very frankly, “Of course there are problems in this area. We don’t have a large culinary draw, in other words, there are not a lot of experienced chefs or servers around as a large number of our young people leave the area to find work. When you get good people you do your best to keep them.
“The first four weeks a restaurant is open you are continually educating your staff and fine tuning the menu to the kitchen and your customers. They are the worst days, but is the time when you learn who your clientele is and listen. We were surprised, but delighted, to find that about 70 percent of our customers are women.
“When people ask me about the restaurant industry, I tell them it is what I call ‘controlled chaos.’ You are never sure how many customers you are going to have, you are never sure if your suppliers are going to get your order to you on time or complete and a lot of things can go wrong in the kitchen and dining room. You can’t be running down to the grocery store all the time to get supplies. Murphy’s Law is an everyday situation. If something can go wrong it will. You have to be prepared at all times and love the business. I find it exciting.”
Everyday gourmet cuisine means simply that Zac Jack Bistro serves large portions of delicious California cuisine, prepared using classic French cooking techniques and farm fresh ingredients. The breakfast menu includes such items as cinnamon swirl brioche French toast, banana boysenberry pancakes, apple wood smoked bacon and eggs, a half-pound ham steak and eggs, boar bock sausage and eggs and filet of beef, hash and eggs.
Lunch includes soup (try the two-day, slow cooked French onion soup), a number of delicious salads, gourmet pizzas from the wood-fired oven and a number of croques, including short ribs and cheese, with blue cheese slaw, crispy onion rings and Bordelaise dipping sauce (very delicious); mushroom ragout and cheese with black truffle aioli, shrimp remoulade grilled cheese with apple bacon guacamole and more.
The dinner menu includes the pizza, salads and croques, along with a number of small plates, or appetizers, like shrimp “Mac ‘N’ Cheese,” house cured green olives and seasonal vegetables, house made sausage trio with baguette, Basque style chicken wings (loved those, too) and cheese board and more. The entrées include crispy sauté salmon (outstanding, crisp on the outside, moist inside), brined wood oven roasted chicken, boneless red trout almandine, beef boneless short ribs (so delicious it will bring a smile to your mouth), a gourmet burger made with American Kobe beef and one of my very favorites, a grilled brined boneless double pork chop (prepared, very tender and moist).
If you have eaten at Zachary Jacques then you are familiar with the signature dessert, Gateau Saint Honoré, a rich, pastry-cream filled cake. In addition to other outstanding desserts, Zac Jack serves several different decadent varieties of these, designed for one, but get two or three spoons and share it.
Lynnette Evans, co-proprietor, has created an excellent wine list with selections from El Dorado County, France and around the world, along with foreign and domestic beers, to complement the meal.
Zac Jack Bistro is open daily from 8 a.m. until closing and can be reached at 530- 676-2969. Check on the two for $20 lunches and Tuesday “Ladies Night Out” specials.