We visited Orsay after hearing of its popularity in Jacksonville. The restaurant itself is a large cinderblock building that has been somewhat strangely decorated. A dark-wooded interior predominantly in the Craftsman style is punctuated by rather odd high-style Georgian rococo wall decorations. The dining room itself is pleasant and quiet, if a bit dimly-lit. Soon after being seated a cheese and charcuterie plate appeared on our table. Thinking it was a bit elaborate for a mise en bouche, we inquired of the waitstaff, who whisked the plate away without a word of comment or apology.
We were informed that as of 8 p.m. the restaurant was already out of two cheeses and several oyster choices. The starters that we ordered consisted of French onion soup, pork belly and calamari. As with our mains that followed, upon serving the waitstaff found it necessary in each instance to inquire "who gets the squid? Who gets the soup?" The onion soup was served with an adequate portion of gruyere cheese, but the soup broth was grievously flawed by the addition of copious quantities of balsamic vinegar, which rendered the soup not only very non-French but marginally edible. The only successful starter was the pork belly, which had a nice crackling and was served over barley. The calamari, served with a tomato and basil sauce, was quite unremarkable.
Our entrees consisted of Carolina trout, pork chop and bouillabaisse. The trout was perfectly cooked and topped with string beans and almonds. This dish was one of the few stars of the evening, as was the pork chop, served with diced peppers and au jus. The bouillabaisse was dry, overcooked and uninspired. The vegetable sides dishes, at $8 apiece, consisted of overcooked and soggy brussels sprouts and kale, both seasoned with bacon and excessive amounts of balsamic vinegar and salt, rendering them inedible.
For dessert we ordered a pumpkin bread pudding, which had no discernible pumpkin component, and acceptable ice creams. The espresso was simply awful, no crema, acrid tasting and served in inappropriately large cups. One would imagine that a restaurant with the pretensions and price point of Orsay should at least have a decent espresso machine.
The service was pleasant and enthusiastic, but decidedly amateurish. Several of the appetizers arrived at least ten minutes before the others. Wine as served was routinely dribbled down the outside of the glass. For a restaurant that aspires to be among the top restaurants in Jacksonville, and surely one of the most expensive, Orsay has quite a way to go before achieving its ambitions. At the present time, however, while there will be some successful elements, patrons are unlikely to receive the quality experience overall that they expect.
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