Goshen Dining Days: Kelly Jae's offers great flavors, as well as a surprise or two

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By: Marshall V. King
mking@flavor574.com

Marshall V. King/Flavor 574

I knew the dishes that were on the Goshen Dining Days menu at Kelly Jae’s Cafe. I didn’t think there would be any surprises.

There were two big ones, but before we get to that, let’s back up a bit.

I’m thrilled that Goshen Dining Days is happening in my hometown. I’m thrilled that Kelly Graff, Elaine Laux and their staff joined the event featuring nine Goshen restaurants.

Graff is a self-taught chef who has offered some of the best dining in the Goshen area for years. Her food is refined, yet not stuffy. It’s always gorgeous and full of great flavors. She uses tapas, or small plates, of food with a variety of influences in her restaurant at 133/135 S. Main St., Goshen.

Kelly Jae’s is offering a $25 three-course dinner. The Jae’s salad is a classic. Field greens, spiced pecans, blue cheese, Asian pears and a balsamic vinaigrette come together to make a pretty plate full of flavor. For some reason, the vinaigrette Friday night seemed a bit less sweet than usual, but it’s still a great salad.

The main course in the special menu is pad thai. Asian rice noodles, tamarind sauce, mung bean sprouts and peanuts come together with egg and pork. You can get a vegetarian version if you want.

This is the prettiest pad thai you’ll find, and it’s well-balanced. It’s a bit spicy. It’s a very good pad thai.

Dessert offers a choice, though there wasn’t one to be made in my mind. The Palazzollo’s gelato available is good, but it’s not made in-house. More on that later.

The creme brulee is another story. I love the creme brulee at Kelly Jae’s. It’s one of my favorite versions of the dish anywhere. The custard is creamy and dense enough, but not rigid. Its burnt sugar topping is browned and caramelized, but not taken so far that the burn dominates.

Here’s where the surprise comes in. Even our waiter Paul Laux, who helps manage the place, was surprised. The creme brulee being offered was “black and white.”

When it arrived at the table, it looked like the usual vanilla bean creme brulee, but underneath the crust and custard was a layer of chocolate ganache.

Few things in this world are black and white. Even this creme brulee is really more gold than white. But this was a delicious surprise, and the chocolate only added to the richness of the dish. That was the first surprise.

The gelato is good, but I’d love it if Kelly Jae’s offered a local version such as the stuff being made nearly across the street at The Nut Shoppe. That would be a beautiful collaboration.

The other surprise had to do with the drink specials Kelly Jae’s is offering. The strawberry mojito blends rum, mint, simple syrup and strawberries in a glass. It’s a great spring/summer drink. Usually it’s $12, but during dining days it’s $8. That’s a great deal.

The bigger surprise has to do with the $10 bottle of Reckless Love Cabernet/Syrah blend from Sonoma. A $10 bottle of wine at a restaurant, where there’s always a markup on the retail price, may be good or may not. You don’t know, particularly when it comes in a gimmicky bottle with a mustache emblazoned on the side. The lettering, by the way, does actually glow in the dark.

The surprise here is that the wine is pretty good. It’s not complex and amazing. But for 10 bucks, it’s good.

So for $35, you can get a lovely three-course meal with a bottle of wine. If you don’t finish the bottle, you can cork it and take it with you. Just put it in the trunk of your car to make sure you’re not transporting an open container.

The special menu at Kelly Jae’s, which benefits the Share the Bounty program at the Goshen Farmers Market, is available during regular hours through Saturday, April 25. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Dinner is served 5:30 to 8 or 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The specials are available in the bar or restaurant.

Marshall V. King is community editor for The Elkhart Truth and food columnist for Flavor 574. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, mking@flavor574.com, and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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