Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jean Georges : Manhattan, New York

Of our stops on our New York food excursion, lunch at Jean Georges was probably the meal we were anticipating the most. And it certainly didn't disappoint.

Amuse Bouche
- Fish(?), sea salt, chili pepper - A very fresh taste, didn't taste much of the chili pepper.
- Cheese fritter - Chipotle sauce - Pretty surprised by the kick, no holding back.  Nice.
- Tomato, cucumber, vinegar, described as gazpacho - Really light, refreshing.  Intriguing how the tomato flavor doesn't kick in until quite late.

Foie Gras Brulee with Slowly Roasted Strawberries - strawberry juice & balsamic vinegar
- A lovely initial strong strawberry flavor is followed by the rich, deep, creamy foie gras taste.
- It was surprising how sweet, summery and familiar these flavors were.  It's of course executed well, balanced and has that modern, clean mouth-feel, so it's can't be described as homey at all.  But it's more surprising how personable the flavors are here.

Gulf Shrimp w/ Smoked Bacon, Papaya, Mustard & Avocado
- We suspected there was a little horse-radish in the mustard, but this had a decent kick to it as well.
- Everything was very well-executed (as were all of the dishes).  We weren't quite as enamored with this as the fois gras strawberry, I suspect because the combination of ingredients aren't that uncommon.

Grilled Beef tenderloin w/ Crunchy Potatoes and Tomato Compote
- The beef was done the way you want a piece of beef done. Tender, juicy.
- The tomato compote had a deeper flavor, tasting as if a steak sauce had been added in.
- Fried potato - surprisingly very unsalted - a lot of potato flavor came through
- Plain spinach - what appeared to be just steamed unflavored spinach
- Don't get me wrong, I wish I could cook this well, but it seemed to me that the dish was compartmental.  I didn't quite understand how the potato and spinach really went with the steak.  I was also a bit surprised by the relative simplicity and plainness of the fried potato & spinach.  I might understand it if the steak and compote were very flavorful and needed to be balanced out by a staple type side, but this wasn't the case.

Roasted Veal, Braised Artichokes, Parmesan and Lavender
- artichoke, Parmesan, Tomato
- This was more intriguing than the beef tenderloin, with a tartness from the artichokes, a slight lavendar floral flavor, which for the first time was quite interesting, and then a very late burst of Parmesan/tomato flavor.

Summer Dessert
- Plum sorbet - floral, but with a strong plum aftertaste
- Cake - soaked, spongy but slightly wet in a good way.
- Crystalized almonds, peach bits
- Plum soda with blueberries - huh, so this is how soda could taste.  Interesting without the sickly sweetness.  I liked the idea of having a liquid, but I don't recall the plum or blueberry flavors popping out strongly enough for me.

Complimentary Desserts

Chocolate plate
- tahini - sesame paste, choco cig, choco on egg roll
- mint - can taste fresh mint, slightly herby
- apricot - more texture than the taste of apricot
- burgamont - most familiar - like truffles in a box
- ?

Home-made vanilla bean marshmallow cubes
- man, marshmellows with decent flavor. Truly a revelation in how marshmallows could be.

- breaks open, into nice moist, chewy, freshly baked texture

As could be expected, the execution of the cooking was superb and service was unobtrusive, friendly and helpful.  Some of the dishes had novel flavor combinations, but I think I was most surprised by the familiar and comforting flavors.  Of course, this was done with a sensitive hand, so as to not be cloying or overly homey, but that welcoming personableness was there throughout the meal.  (I of course might be overstating the obvious, if one didn't already pick up on the well executed marshmellows, the epitome of child-hood foods)

Jean Georges Vongerichten apparently has a blog,, and his about page helps put our meal in perspective.  He explains that he's taken on a number of international influences, including a stay in Bangkok, which explains some of the unrestrained heat.  Yet he remains "a country boy at heart," being exposed to seasonal flavors and "the warmth of Franco-German flavors" at a young age, which I interpret as an explanation for that thread of welcoming flavors throughout the meal.

Lastly, I will mention that lunch at Jean Georges is quite a good value for a restaurant this caliber, which kind of like having a very solid meal and then topping it off with high quality marshmallows for dessert.

Jean Georges
1 Central Park W New York, NY 10023-7703 (Map)
(212) 299-3900

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