D’Jango, pronounced Jango (the D is silent), is a Des Moines area French restaurant that started it all for the Iowa Food Blog. Sometime in 2012, a good friend of mine encouraged me to try a number of different local Des Moines area restaurants, and it was D’Jango that we tried first. After trying D’Jango, we were hooked on local restaurants, which led to starting the Iowa Food Blog to share these local gems. Because of this, D’Jango has always held a special place with us.
So when we recently had our babysitter watch our girls, we decided to revisit our old favorite.
For those unfamiliar, D’Jango is located on the first floor of the historic Hotel Fort Des Moines, which in itself is quite remarkable. The hotel, built in 1919 and added to the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1982 has had many famous guests including twelve US Presidents and Charles Lindberg, among others. The atmosphere is wonderful, classic, tasteful, and timeless. Tall ceilings, worn floors, and beautiful woodwork. It reeks of a place that is just begging to talk and to share its stories.
The service at D’Jango is always impeccable. The staff is well trained, very prompt, attentive, polite, thorough, knowledgeable, and accommodating. Never have I had to ask for a refill. Their timing is always spot on, and their presentation is professional as is their demeanor.
We’ve found with restaurants there is eating and then there is dining. You eat at McDonald’s–it’s functional and efficient, but you dine at a restaurant like D’Jango–you want it to be an experience, to be drawn out, a chance to visit with someone. So when dining at D’Jango, we always take our time.
We decided to begin with their Cheese and Charcuterie Flight. Many restaurants around Des Moines feature these flights, but our favorite is from D’Jango. First off, the presentation is different than what others are doing. Rather than served on a typical plate, they’ve opted for a piece of tile. Also different than many others is they let you decide which meats and cheeses you want. At D’Jango we’ve had fun with this including selecting only meats and cheeses from Iowa. This night we chose what sounded best to us. For cheese, we selected a Manchego from Spain, a Taleggio from Italy, and a Gruyere from Switzerland. And for meat, we chose Prosciutto and Cuppa Piccante from La Quercia in Norwalk, Iowa, and a D’Artagnan Le Saucisson-sec.
Besides their Cheese and Charcuterie Flight, often times we opt for their poutine… can’t beat gravy with cheese curds over hand cut fries.
For drinks, we went with their Devereux and French Pearl.
The complimentary bread is worth mentioning. Besides D’Jango and a few other restaurants in Des Moines, George Formaro also owns South Union Bakery, which in my opinion is the best bread available in the area. This means that a major upside to dining at any of his restaurants is you know the bread will always be amazing.
For dinner, Lissah chose their Fillet à Rossini, which is a beef tenderloin with foie gras, truffles, and demi-glace, and then it’s served with Dauphinoise potatoes. We’ve had these potatoes before and they are absolutely incredible. It was also served with broccoli spears.
I decided on their Hanger Steak with Duck Frites and ordered a side of grilled asparagus. This is a post of reflection, and I’d be leading you astray to leave out the fact that until 2012 I’d never heard of a Hanger Steak. It wasn’t until I’d heard about Alba’s Hanger Steak that “Hanger Steak” entered my lexicon. The beef comes from the Plate, which is just behind the front legs “hanging” above the ground. And apparently for years it was thought to be a very undesirable cut of meat, but if my research yielded any truth, it turns out it was known to be the best cut by butchers and the cut they would take home to their families by choice…” of course you don’t want that piece”.
D’Jango has shown me that not much goes better with a steak than some great fries, and D’Jango fries that are fried in duck fat, “duck fries”, are nothing short of perfect. I also love me some asparagus, so anytime a credible restaurant has it on their menu you know I’ll be ordering some. And ordering some I did.
It goes without saying that the vegetables we received throughout our meal were prepared well. But what’s really impressive is how all the vegetables we were served were perfect. But it should be no surprise as another business that George owns is Gateway Market. It appears that George has learned how to leverage his previous investments and successes — after mastering bread and dough with South Union Bakery he opened Centro which is known for its pizzas. Own a number of restaurants that feature dishes with lots of fresh ingredients? Start a grocery store.
D’Jango is a restaurant that I’m proud to have in my backyard. It’s a safe recommendation to anyone looking for a nice place for lunch or dinner. And it’s a place that will always hold a special place for my wife and me.