The opening of Estelle Wine Bar & Bistro at The Westin Jackson less than a year ago has already uncorked a vital addition to the capital city scene.
It’s a fresh embrace the minute I cross the threshold. The contemporary, airy interior is grounded by comfort
that’s an invitation to linger.
Cool grays and warm woods find an easy balance and the lounge bench, deceptively plush, could convince me to stay for just one more, no arm-twisting required.
Executive Chef Matthew Kajdan’s years on Jackson’s restaurant scene and the cooking love in his bones come together for food that honors the best of local ingredients. His culinary credits include Bravo!, Nick’s, Mermaid Cafe, Broad Street Bakery and most recently, Parlor Market.
With Estelle, “We wanted to have the modern bistro feel,” he says. Contemporary American cuisine with regional influences rules the plate.
“I’ve been cooking Southern food and Southern European food my whole entire life. So, we just refined it a little bit, and lightened it up” — vinaigrettes instead of butter sauces on some items, for instance.
A standout is the grilled redfish, served in a pretty tower that’s a heap of flavor. The citrus vinaigrette “makes the whole dish,” Kajdan says. Its tangy kiss is a bright spot in a dish loaded with them — creamy avocado and intense tomato jam in a lively dance with sweet, flaky redfish and the gift of sauteed lobster. It’s become a best seller and a magnet for diners.
The dish has a European flair with a Southern finish — indicative of the influences that’ve always simmered in Kajdan’s skillset. He grew up in Madison, horizons broadened by the French and Dutch lineage on his mom’s side, the Polish heritage on his dad’s side and a Mississippian’s love of hunting and fishing. The lobster is a nod to childhood trips to Maine — “the lobster was just killer.” It shows up, too, in the lobster deviled eggs, adding special depth along with pickled onions and a snappy radish round. And again on the lobster roll at lunch.
The gist is a food-forward focus, keeping things simple and ingredient-driven, “nothing crazy fancy, but just modern American bistro food.” Appetizers can range from hummus with feta flatbread from the pizza oven to the heavier duck sausage with grits and kale.
Light lunch and dinner options find a niche in Jackson, where more robust cooking often reigns. “I have a very masculine palate as well,” Kajdan says, smiling, “but you have to have a lighter touch” and Estelle delivers that with great salads (kale, Caesar, Tuna Niçoise) and plate lunches (some not so light, too, he concedes/promises).
Tuna Niçoise tops local tender greens with herb-crusted yellowfin tuna, olives, cherry tomatoes, fingerling potato rounds and boiled egg with a Dijon dill vinaigrette. Kajdan raves, too, about the fresh kale salad with blue cheese, strawberries, candied pecans and balsamic dressing, as well as Estelle’s artisanal pizzas. Meatier options include a butcher stack burger, duck breast, steak frites, prime ribeyeand more.
“We try to keep things nice and light and fresh — and local, of course,” he says, with sources such as Remington-Lott Farms, Home Place Pastures, Salad Days, Bobkat Farms and even smaller farms. “They take such pride in growing these vegetables, and you can tell the difference.” He’s eager to see spring vegetables arrive from farmers to feed inspiration for seasonal tweaks.
Signature and craft cocktails, plus local spirits and beers, contribute to the lively bar scene.
Estelle, located at The Westin Jackson hotel at 407 S. Congress St. in downtown Jackson, forges its own identity. “Everybody’s local,” Kajdan speaks for himself and his team, “so, you get that feel when youcome in.”
Well-situated to feed and refresh concert- and event-goers headed to Thalia Mara Hall, the Mississippi Museum of Art and more — at the start or end of the evening, maybe even both — Estelle’s valet parking is complimentary for diners.
Toast that convenience, and try to make it to the show on time — if that comfy bench will let you leave!