Ogden Eclectic 

Discovering new American cuisine amid American mediocrity on Harrison Boulevard.

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Harrison Boulevard in Ogden is not known for fine dining. Cluttered with strip malls and big-box retail stores, it’s a franchise-food lover’s fantasy. But finding food on Harrison that isn’t previously frozen, prepackaged and ultimately supersized is like trying to find a bone of compassion or humility in Dubya. Not likely.

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So the eye-catching sign for Jasoh restaurant on Harrison made me do a double take as I drove past. It advertised “new American cuisine,” which in my mind usually translates as “pretty food, architecturally stacked vertically and most likely finished with truffle oil and/or a rosemary spear.” Squid ink is also a strong probability. Wood-fired ovens are de rigueur in new American cuisine eateries. Anyway, I was intrigued by the discovery of such a beast in the wilds of Harrison Boulevard.

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Jasoh is an oddity in other ways, too. Situated adjacent to a covered parking structure, it looks from the outside more like a lending institution of some sort than a restaurant. Located in what was probably previously an office building, Jasoh restaurant looks cold and clammy'that is, until you get inside. The interior is a large, lofty space with a very contemporary look but warm at the same time. Original art is hung high above diners’ heads, and the restaurant in general looks more Haight-Ashbury than Harrison.

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We were promptly seated on a Saturday evening at Jasoh and given plenty of time to peruse menus and wine lists since our server was missing in action. It turned out that she was over in the corner of the restaurant singing with a couple of strolling musicians. At a table next to us, two women of a certain age were actually weeping at the sentimental tune our server was crooning. There were two bottles of wine on the ladies’ table, a teary reminder that alcohol is, essentially, a depressant.

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At any rate our server eventually joined us, along with a trainee, explaining that this was her last night at the restaurant and the first time she’d ever sung in public. I’ve not the slightest idea why she chose her last night of employment at Jasoh to launch her singing career nor do I really care. I was just happy to finally have a server.

nn

Julia'who is pursuing the honorable path of social work, as it turns out'wound up being a terrific server. Our wine was swiftly opened and poured and before we knew it, appetizers appeared. A word to the wise: Unless you are absolutely gaga over greens, don’t order salad as an appetizer at Jasoh. Don’t misunderstand: My pear and chevre salad ($7.59) with pistachios and a lovely Sherry vinaigrette was quite pleasing, although a bit expensive. But if you order an entrée which also includes a house salad, you’ll discover that the house salad at Jasoh could easily serve four people. That’s a substantially significant salad serving. So I recommend beginning dinner with Jasoh’s crisp risotto cakes ($8.99) layered with creamy gorgonzola cheese and garlic-tomato-mushroom sauce. Crab cakes ($9.69) made with chunks of rock crab sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning and served with a red pepper coulis were very satisfying as well.

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Not so satisfying at Jasoh were the strolling musicians. I felt like I’d walked into a Saturday Night Live skit as a father-son bluegrass duo wandered the restaurant playing tableside in tuxedos. And the tuxedo-clad pair was loud. Communication with our server or my dining companion was out of the question whenever the bluegrass boys were within 15 feet of our table, which was (too) often. How they achieved Ted Nugent-worthy decibel levels with acoustic instruments remains a mystery.

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Jasoh is named for chef/owner Jason Hess. He might be familiar: Hess is a Salt Lake City guy who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and worked at various restaurants in Park City and along the Wasatch Front. He also cheffed at one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio. The guy has chops.

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Although tempted by Hess’ economically priced ($10.59) “clay pot” specialties such as his pot-roast-style Milanese beef and clay-pot chicken with onions, peas, carrots and mashed potatoes with gravy, I was more intrigued and ultimately happy with a duck dish: crispy Peking-style duck lacquered with a blissful citrus sauce. I’m pretty sure passion fruit was involved. Whatever that magical sauce contained, it and the tender duck were divine. Unfortunately, jerk chicken and shrimp ($19.99) at Jasoh didn’t stack up. Aside from being pricey'$19.99 for a chicken breast and a trio of shrimp with boring sautéed veggies and Wasabi mashed spuds'I could just barely detect any hint of Jamaican jerk seasoning in the dish. It was a goat cheese-stuffed breast of chicken with three garlic-butter topped shrimp, and it would have been perfectly fine had it not been listed as jerk chicken and shrimp. I’m typically crazy about jerk-seasoned chicken, pork, fish and seafood, but I expect to be able to taste the seasoning.

nn

Jasoh is one of those restaurants perhaps best described as eclectic. The menu is wide-ranging, from wood-fired BLT pizza to braised lamb shank with creamy polenta. And the prices are wide-ranging as well. It’s hard to understand how the house specialty clay-pot dishes on the Jasoh menu can be so fairly priced while a seafood special that I nearly ordered (until I asked the price) would have set me back $37. But if you happen to find yourself on Harrison Boulevard in Ogden hankering for new American cuisine'without truffle oil'this is the place.

nn

JASOH
4590 S. Harrison Blvd.
Ogden
801-399-0088
Dinner from 5 p.m.
Monday-Saturday

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