If you look up the definition of “spoiled” in the dictionary, you will not see a picture of me, but you will see a reference to my existence.
Exactly a week after we went to Le Bernardin, DLS took me to Jean Georges because… much like Le Bernardin, the executive pastry chef of Jean Georges, Johnny Iuzzini, was leaving at the end of 2011. Of course, I’ve actually ‘worked with’ Johnny in the past (click the link earlier, you’ll see) and sampled desserts that he literally made on the spot, but it would be different to eat what he makes at the restaurant, right? Right, and that was reason enough to have dinner here (I had lunch there earlier in the year).
I joked how ‘lucky’ DLS was that Dominique Ansel had already vacated the executive pastry chef position at Daniel – and how lucky I was to have already been to Daniel. Ha!
Our amuse bouche: fluke sashimi with tarragon salt; black mission fig with house made mozzarella; roasted pepper soup with black truffle emulsion. I particularly enjoyed the fluke sashimi, which was nice, bright, and the salt added another layer of flavor to the piece. The soup was also a wonderful sip, and while the fig/mozzarella combo was lovely, it didn’t stand out compared to the other two.
This time, we each did a different tasting menu so we could try more things. We didn’t even ask last time if we could each get a different one, whoops. DLS’s autumn menu began with ‘egg toast’ which had thin slices of toasted bread, sous vide’d egg yolks, topped with a ton of caviar. My bite was pretty salty, even in light of what I had…
My first course on the regular Jean Georges menu, titled simply ‘egg caviar’ was served in an egg, reminiscent of the egg from Le Bernardin. But first bite and I was overwhelmed with salt; I’m no stranger to caviar, and in fact love salt as well, but I just felt overwhelmed with this dish. Even after I tried DLS’s, which was also pretty salty… we both agreed that this was unnecessarily and overwhelmingly salty.
The menu has since changed, so I’m unable to give an exact description, but I believe these were scallops in a green apple and pomegranate sauce of sorts. The scallops were either raw or barely cooked, and fabulous, with a slight sweetness from the sauce. I enjoyed my bite very much! (seasonal menu)
Sea scallops, caramelized cauliflower with a caper raising emulsion… quite tasty, with perfectly cooked scallops, and cauliflower that’d been perfectly caramelized on one side to develop all the sugars, delicious.
From the autumn tasting menu: semolina gnocchi and black winter truffle; literally the pillowy-est gnocchi either of us had ever had, it barely tasted like gnocchi but instead like clouds, just puffs that were barely there. It was almost disconcerting to think of this as gnocchi.
JG’s menu: young garlic soup with thyme and sauteed frog’s legs; the soup itself was magnificent in its garlic fragrance. I really enjoyed it, though I did think at one point that it would make a fabulous sauce for pasta or some other carby item. As for the frog’s legs, I was encouraged to use my fingers and dip the frog in the soup (I was assured that rose water would be brought for me to rinse my fingers afterwards), which I did; frog tastes like a very mild white meat chicken to me, and this was no different. Dipped in the soup, it simply served as another vehicle to ingest the delicious soup. I shared with DLS, of course, and was amused to note that two bowls of rose water were brought over for us to each rinse our hands, with the server smilingly telling us, “I noticed you were sharing, so I brought over another bowl for [DLS] to rinse as well.” Thoughtful, observant and not intrusive. I can get behind that.
From the autumn menu: crispy skin black sea bass, roasted brussels sprouts, and spiced red apple jus: very tender and tasty, though not particularly a stand out.
From the JG menu: turbot with chateau chalon sauce; I don’t know exactly what sauce that is (and I’m sure I can Google it), but I wanted to lick my plate clean. The turbot was firm, a very dense meat, and it was topped with a really nice mix of zucchini and tomatoes… but the sauce, oh the sauce, it pulled everything together, just delicious.
From the autumn menu: poached lobster, saffron tapioca and Gewurztraminer foam: I don’t remember trying this, actually, but DLS said that the foam and tapioca wasn’t that good but the lobster was lobster, and good as far as that goes.
From the JG menu: I was probably too busy eating this, lobster tartine, fenugreek and lemongrass broth, pea shoots. Perfectly cooked, with a delicate yet flavorful broth… I’m not even sure I shared any of this.
From the autumn menu: I don’t think this is on the menu anymore, but I believe it was venison with grilled endive. Very meaty and cooked exactly right… not gamey… a good end to the savory portion of the menu.
The JG menu: broiled squab, onion compote, corn pancake with foie gras: I recall this being really difficult to eat, as I struggled to cut the squab into bite size pieces… a combination of too much to drink and just the awkward shape of the bird makes this a dish I barely touched… though I liked the corn pancake with the foie gras.
Then, the reason we were there: dessert! The autumn menu came with the above: pomegranate sorbet, sweet potato souffle, cranberry parfait, and a white wine tart. The item in the back right – the top part was lovely, like a toasted marshmallow. The others were just… mmm. Not particularly amazing in my opinion.
The JG menu came with the chocolate dessert: roasted white chocolate sponge, chocolate peanut butter ganache, a bitter chocolate sorbet, and…
JG’s chocolate cake. With all this fanfare, you’d think I was about to tell you how amazing it all was… nope. The desserts were all the weakest part of the meal, and actually quite disappointing. I don’t know what it was – did I expect more? I just wasn’t too impressed and both of us literally left most of each dessert on the table. Meh.
Lovely macarons graced our table a few minutes later.
Signature house made vanilla marshmallows, which were lovely as usual – not sticky, and just puffs of sweetened air, really.
Pomegranate and spiced apple jellies, along with jasmine, coconut, praline and hazelnut chocolates – I definitely didn’t touch the coconut one. Then, as the check was paid, our server came over with a small bag containing a small box of chocolates “for the lady to enjoy later” – ha, cute.
I was wholly disappointed that dessert – the sole reason for this particular visit – was such a letdown. Overall, though, I enjoyed the majority of our meal, even with a few dishes I’d rather forget. A few notes, though – now that I’ve gone to three of the top restaurants in the city, and in such quick succession, I do note that Jean Georges was easily the ‘worst’ – that isn’t to say it’s bad, not at all, but relative to Le B and Daniel, I would say it would rank 3rd. It felt slightly less posh/luxe than the other two as well; we had one server for pouring wine, explaining our dishes, and at one point he even served the bread as well – and I hope it’s abundantly clear that I’m not all “I need a team of servers for a table of two” but rather that relative to the other places, it’s something that might be expected at such a place. Other than that, though, service was impeccable per expectations, and we had a lovely time.
Yvo says: The food here was excellent, solidly above average, and though I didn’t like everything I ate, I still had a wonderful experience (and again, sincerest thanks to DLS!). However, given the choice of any of the top Michelin restaurants I’ve visited now (if you include Eleven Madison Park, which I visited when it had only 1 Michelin star), Jean Georges would be last on the list. Any of the other places would be recommended over JG for a special occasion, though it was definitely way cheaper than Le Bernardin and Daniel, so that may be something to consider. Special occasion dining on a smaller budget for sure.
recommended, but if I had to only pick one expensive fancy pants dinner for the year, this wouldn’t be it