Jean Georges, NYC
March 3, 2009
Several years ago we went to Jean Georges, but were very disappointed and had not been back until we tried it again on February 23, 2009.
There was a warm welcome; we were promptly seated on a banquette in a little alcove. Linda ordered a glass of 2006 Testarossa (Santa Rita Hills) Chardonnay and I had a 2005 Spanish Verdejo. Both were very good.
The menu offers a choice between four courses for $98 or two seven course tasting menus for $148. There were interesting sounding dishes on the regular menu so we chose from that.
An amuse-gueule arrived with a little spring roll, a shot of chicken-Meyer lemon broth and smoked salmon with kumquat vinaigrette.
The spring roll was very peppery, the broth boring and the kumquat vinaigrette very good on the salmon.
Linda’s starter was
Peekytoe Crab Dumplings, Celeriac-Meyer Lemon Tea
This dish was overwhelmed by unexpected hot pepper. When asked about the over-spiciness of the dish, our waiter said that it was due to the fresh ginger. But no ginger was announced and it didn’t taste like ginger.
My starter was
Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Black Bread, Jalapeno and Yuzu
I liked this for the generous quantity of good sea urchin. The toasted dark bread gave a crunchier base than a glob of sushi rice and so was a better texture contrast although the flavor combination wasn’t great. The thin slice of jalapeño went very nicely; it wasn’t overly spicy; the seeds were missing and perhaps it had been softened in yuzu juice, which wasn’t evident to me otherwise.
Linda went on to
Pan Seared Foie Gras, Infused Apples and Lime.
This was an excellent dish with good flavors of foie gras and apple. The lime played its role, but was just noticable.
My second course was
Young Garlic Soup with Thyme, Sauteed Frog Legs
This has been a Jean Georges signature dish for a long time. I was instructed to pick up the frogs legs in my fingers and dip them in the soup and that a finger bowl would be provided. They were crispy and very good; I would have liked more of them and a bit less soup. Its flavor was fresh and good, but eventually became a bit boring and acquired a sweet aftertaste.
Linda’s main course was
Pan Roasted Sweetbreads, Sweet Potato Raviolis, Fresh Black Truffle
The sweetbreads and raviolis were excellent, but the truffle flavor was not evident.
My third course was
Smoked Squab a l’Orange, Asian Pear, Candied Tamarind
The pear was a good offset to the rich meat, but I am always disappointed in a squab dish that doesn’t have a crackly skin. So much orange sauce seemed redundant with the pear and created a sweet aftertaste.
There are four choices for dessert: Winter, Apple, Caramel and Chocolate. Each has four little desserts on a square plate on the same theme.
She liked these.
My desserts were
The two bottom ones were too complicated in themselves for such a complex offering. The popsicle was good. I was instructed to drink the shot glass last in one gulp and to pop the caramel sphere inside my mouth. I did and it did give a gee whiz effect.
Finally there were mignardises: tiny macaroons, fruit gels, chocolates and a piece of marshmallow strip cut from a jar with several flavors. I chose banana.
The cuisine had been good and occasionally imaginative, but most followed ideas which are common in top restaurants. It had unpleasant quirks. There was an unexpected strong hot pepper flavor in the amuse-gueule spring roll and the crab dumplings. This can throw the palate off for the major elements of the dish, the wine and the following dish as well. There was the unwelcome sweet aftertaste in some dishes. I know I’m being picky here, but we have a right to judge to a very high standard. There were no dishes which were even close to being candidates for the composite “meal of the year.”
On our previous visit to Jean Georges we were scandalized by how our table had been squeezed into an aisle and placed directly in front of diners in one of the alcoves, which must have really annoyed them; we were constantly being brushed by waiters passing by. The greed of setting too many tables for the space is unpleasant. The situation was different this time; there were fewer tables and several of them were empty.
But a busy serving table with a lit burner was placed directly in front of our banquette table. It bothered me less than it would most people, because I enjoy the theater aspect of a restaurant, but it is inexcusable in a place with such high pretensions. Jean Georges is also part of a restaurant conglomerate run by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The website, www.jean-georges.com, includes eighteen different restaurants in the group. Above, to the right of the serving table, you can see two of three French winemakers. Jean-Georges himself came out to chat with them, but going and coming he looked neither right nor left and ignored all the rest of us.
Our chief waiter was efficient and helped us with the menu and the wine list, but he was a bit formal and annoyed us with his attitude about the overspiced crab. The waitress who did much of our serving was very friendly and added a bit of joie de vivre to a meal that lacked it otherwise. Here she is with the marshmallow jar.
For this meal Jean Georges was not even close to its ratings. I wasn’t really surprised. But we were not unhappy to have tried it. The prices are reasonable for four or seven courses, even if they are barely Michelin NY two-star quality and not close to French Michelin two-star cuisine. Its location is convenient to Lincoln Center.
For Luxeat‘s review, which has an even lower opinion, click here.