Jean Georges, NYC 2
September 25, 2012
When Linda and I last went to Jean Georges, more than three years ago, I wrote: “For this meal Jean Georges was not even close to its ratings.” But the very high ratings continue. It is one of the seven three-starred restaurants in the 2012 NYC Michelin Guide. For The New York Times it is one of only six four-star restaurants. It has the second highest food rating in the 2012 NY Zagat. Steve’s OAD Guide calls it the sixth most important restaurant in the U.S.. Marc Shepard’s New York Journal gives it its highest rating. So when Blair, who had not been before, and I went for dinner on August 5, 2012, we were curious what we would find.
We were seated at a comfortable corner table. We ordered glasses of Doyard 1er Cru Cuvée Vendémiaire NV Brut Blanc de Blancs while we looked at the menu. There is a four-course prix fixe with wide selections for each course. There are also two tasting menus. The Summer Menu, with seasonal produce, looked interesting, but seemed also to rely on luxury ingredients: caviar, foie gras, lobster etc. We selected Jean-Georges Menu, chef Vongerichten’s assortment of signature dishes.
The genial sommelier helped us with the wine selections. He apologized for recommending an Italian red wine in a French restaurant, but his choice was very good with the cuisine. The excellent Chassagne-Montrachet had the richness to stand up to the earlier courses. The Brunello was rich, good and just right with the squab.
The amuse-gueule was a plate with a compressed chunk of watermelon topped with a dab of Roquefort cheese; a little cup of popcorn soup with a dab of miso on the rim; a dill cucumber slice.
The first course was
In the shell is a warm, loosely scrambled egg topped with vodka and lemon whipped cream. Above is a generous dollop of Santa Barbara sturgeon caviar. Fortunately we still had some Champagne in our glasses to finish with this course.
Sea Scallops, Caramelized Cauliflower and Caper-Raisin Emulsion.
Seared slices of big sea scallops were topped with caramelized slices of cauliflower. The emulsified sauce of capers and grape juice underneath had an unusual dusky flavor that added needed interest. It was all dusted with nutmeg that added an aromatic touch.
Young Garlic Soup with Thyme and Sautéed Frogs Legs
The soup had the mild, aromatic flavor of young garlic enhanced by the fresh thyme leaves. The frog’s legs were crisp and good. They were picked up and gnawed on. More than three would have been nice.
Turbot with Château-Chalon Sauce
The piece of turbot was nice, but did not have the gelatinous texture which is prized in turbot. Nonetheless, the sauce made the dish quite rich. It was based on vin jaune, or yellow wine, from the Jura mountains at the eastern edge of France. This wine is aged for over six years in casks where the yeast film on top gives it a nutty, sherry-like flavor. A traditional use for vin jaune is in a sauce for chickens from nearby Bresse. It worked very well here. The diced zucchini and tomatoes provided color and a little fresh, summery accent.
Lobster Terrine, Lemongrass and Fenugreek Broth, Pea Shoots
It was not evident why this was called a terrine; the top piece of lobster might be called a roulade. The sourdough toast round was soaked in the pungent lobster shell broth flavored with fenugreek and lemon grass which gave it a vaguely south Asian feel. The pea shoots and a sugar snap pea added good color and freshness.
Broiled Squab, Onion Compote, Corn Pancake with Foie Gras
The squab was meaty and rich with a crisp skin. Underneath were the confit onions and a sauce of squab stock with evident star anise. The fluffy corn pancake was topped with a small piece of seared foie gras.
A cheese cart was offered, but we declined. It looked good.
Chocolate Dessert Tasting
A large square plate with four square sections held four different chocolate creations:
Warm chocolate beignets.
Powdered white chocolate on lemon sorbet.
Vanilla bean ice cream on chocolate bits; Jean-Georges’ molten chocolate cake.
A bitter chocolate and peanut butter ganache cake topped with a passion fruit gel, candied corn, walnut and other goodies.
The four desserts became progressively richer with good dark chocolate.
Cassis macaron and a spicy gel.
More goodies including a vanilla and oat cluster.
Finally there was a big jar from which we were served very light vanilla bean marshmallows.
Our meal was very good, better than the previous one. One item was outstanding and memorable to me, the Château-Chalon Sauce. There were no dishes which were failures or which had missed in the preparation or the quality of the ingredients. But Jean Georges still didn’t come up to the very high expectations I have for a restaurant with its ratings. There was a lack of spark, the wow factor. It lacked the panache of Per Se and Eleven Madison Park and were not close to Europe’s best. I know that we had the classics menu, but that cuts two ways. We weren’t expecting cutting edge cuisine, but these are Jean-Georges’ creations which were the foundation of the universal top ratings, which have been in place for many years.
The ambience and service were much improved over the last time. Our main server, Amy, was genial, knowledgeable and efficient. The sommelier was very helpful. The room was quiet. The clientèle, despite many violations of the announced dress code, seemed attentive and appreciative.
To see Linda’s and my meal here over three years before click here.