Boulder residents and tourists alike are so eclectic and diverse that it pays not to judge a book by its cover. That young man sporting Grizzly Adams’ beard and his be-dreadlocked wife could just as easily be young eco entrepreneurs as CU grad students, and the older couple in their matching North Face jackets might just as easily drop $500 on a bottle of wine as order water with their meals.
So at restaurants like Jill’s in the St. Julien, one must wisely reserve judgment. There’s no dress code, and patrons range from middle-aged business people and young, yuppies to tourists and hippies. The ambience is warm and modern, creating a comfortable space to sit down for a meal without being intimidating.
The menu is as eclectic and wide reaching as the patrons, covering three meals a day as well as Saturday high tea and Sunday brunch. The cuisine is billed as contemporary American “with a Mediterranean accent”—wood-fired pizzas, various pastas and dishes like the Colorado rack of lamb served with white polenta and house-roasted peppers. On the other hand, mixing high and low—pizza and burgers for less than $10 across the page from steaks and seafood for more than $30—left the menu feeling slightly quixotic, perhaps a quality of being, at its core, a hotel restaurant that must cater to the aforementioned variety of patrons.
We started with the most irresistible item on the appetizer list: hand-made tater tots with truffle parmigiano-reggiano aioli. The six tots were perfectly formed little cubes of mashed potatoes fried golden and served in a little pool of the addictive aioli. They were overly salted for my taste, but a clever haute twist on a freezer-aisle classic.
I was pleased to be able to get small versions of the meal-sized salads; though, they fell a little short of expectation. Both the goat cheese salad and the 900 walnut salad had excellent ingredients, but neither were dressed well. I enjoy a salad that lets the greens and other ingredients speak for themselves, but to my mind, both would have benefited from a kiss of a well chosen vinaigrette.
The main courses did not disappoint. The ricotta and fig preserve stuffed ravioli was a masterpiece. The layers of flavors covered the spectrum from the creamy sweetness of the fig and ricotta filling to the rich, savory brown butter and sage sauce all the way to the salty parmigiano-reggiano sprinkled on top. My dining companion ordered the Cuban panini and especially enjoyed the traditional Cuban bread and the relish of pickled vegetables.
The dessert menu called to us and we were wooed by the banana split for two. Like the tots, the split took a common Dairy Queen menu treat and elevated it with high quality ingredients including Nutella, caramel bourbon and vanilla gelato covered in clouds of chantilly cream and drizzled in butterscotch and chocolate as well as fresh bananas with a crunchy caramelized veneer.
The crowning touch at Jill’s is the excellent service. Our server was both knowledgeable and attentive, providing flawless service in a dance with the other servers in the room. This attention to detail was the gilding that elevated this restaurant well into fine dining status.
The minor flaws I noted didn’t overshadow the pleasure of dining at Jill’s. The experience is as promised: elegant yet comfortable, an ode to the high-class traveler, the local foodie and everyone in between. In this case, judging a book by its cover may not be a bad idea.
Jill’s Restaurant at the St. Julien
900 Walnut, Boulder
Bottom Line: Excellent food, service and ambience.
Editor’s Note: After visiting Jill’s we discovered that they are in the process of releasing a new dinner menu; however, many of the dishes reviewed here will still be available at lunch.