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By Molly McCowan
Walking into Jax Fish House, one is immediately transported into an urban, hip atmosphere. A saltwater fish tank bathed in blue light; a modern, oval-shaped bar; an inviting patio area overflowing with early evening diners.
Even though it’s a bit upscale, Jax is not a pressed shirt and tie affair – the restaurant has a mellow, unpretentious vibe, and our fellow diners were relaxed and laughing over a background music playlist boasting hits by Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Pixies and Modest Mouse (are my roots as a music writer showing?).
Eager to start the evening off right, I ordered a drink accurately titled the Salted Watermelon Smash. A mix of Old Forester bourbon, Peychaud’s bitters, salt and watermelon puree, this drink first struck me as being…salty. After I began pairing it with the food that was brought out, however, I grew quite a fondness for it – it complements Jax’s menu items well, especially the oysters.
And oysters we had – an assortment of twelve of these tasty mollusks, to be exact, served on a bed of shaved ice with Jax’s traditional cocktail sauce. We were taken aback by the diversity in taste and texture between all of them: West Coast or East Coast, saltier or creamier, everyone can find an oyster that they enjoy here.
Next came the main course: Ahi Tuna Au Poivre for me (pictured here); Hawaiian Blue Marlin for my companion. The Ahi Tuna was served rare (raw in the center, but warm) over shrimp tossed in a bed of locally grown purple potatoes, spinach and red peppers. The crunchiness of the tuna’s peppered edges melded perfectly with the creaminess of its center, and the other flavors in the dish complimented it very well.
The Hawaiian Blue Marlin was a treat in and of itself – it had a honey dijon tang to it that blended perfectly with the ginger rice and shredded cucumber that it was paired with. Every bite of the marlin felt like a complete meal – the consistency of the fish was irresistibly smooth, and the flavors of the dish were effortlessly balanced.
For dessert? I tried the Cracker Jax – a plate with caramel popcorn spilling out of a small paper bag complete with butterscotch pudding, a toasted marshmallow and a temporary tattoo of Jax’s fish logo. Eating this dessert was fun, and the presentation made me feel like a kid again.
Jax also encourages diners to feel like kids again by utilizing paper tablecloths and supplying crayons to draw with, proving that the restaurant is not afraid to pair fun with a classy, modern environment. (My companion and I drew our best rendition of a fish in a bowl, complete with treasure chest and bubbles.)
Overall, eating at Jax was a dining experience that I won’t soon forget. The service was extraordinary, and our server was graciously available to answer our many questions.
Furthermore, I was impressed by the restaurant’s effort to use produce and some types of fish from local sources. They work closely with the Lindenmeier Farm as well as other local farms and fisheries. Because the seafood that Jax serves has to be shipped or flown in, the restaurant is making an effort to offset this rather large carbon footprint by also utilizing food picked right out of Fort Collins’ own backyard.
Here’s hoping (and knowing) that Jax will become a longtime Old Town staple.
Jax is located in Old Town Fort Collins at 123 North College Avenue. The restaurant opens at 4pm every day, and is open for brunch (10am-2pm) Saturday and Sunday and lunch (11am-2pm) on Fridays. Find a full menu and more information online at jaxftcollins.brfstage.com. Also, check them out during their daily happy hour (4-6pm), when East Coast oysters are $1 each and selected drink prices are slashed to between $2.50 and $4.