Going into our trip to New York I had an absolute ton of work to do. I really wasn’t all that focused on where we were going to eat or what we were going to do. I had to make sure that I had all of my materials (for work) prepared before we went on this trip. For me, this was a work/eating trip. For my wife this was strictly vacation time.
Since it was her vacation time, she was the one that did most of the planning. During her search for places to eat, one piece of advice continued to be mentioned: Go for lunch at Jean Georges. Sometimes this advice turns out to be the real McCoy, sometimes it’s total bs.
Most of the reviews we read said that you had to eat in the Formal Dining Room; not the Nougatine Room (less formal with a cheaper menu). In the Formal Dining Room they serve at lunch a selection of the what they serve at dinner, only it’s half price. How cool is that? Two courses are $28, each additional course is $12. For dinner it’s $98 for 3 courses. This was a bargain to say the least, relatively speaking.
So we show up a few minutes early for our reservation. We were probably the third party to be seated. The space is decorated in a very clean modern style. To some degree it reminded me of Table 45. We were seated along the wall. Everyone (who was not in the middle of the room), was seated so they faced inward toward the. This was cool because you could see the food as it came out. There were two alcoves that were recessed in to the interior wall. There was a mix of businesspeople, locals, and tourists, not at all uncomfortable.
I opted for the three courses + dessert. Regina said she was going to behave herself and order just two courses + dessert. Here is a description of what we had.
Sweet Pea Soup, with Croutons and Parmesan- fantastic presentation. The bowl is put down in front of you with the frothy parmesan in the bottom of the bowl. The soup is then poured into the four cornered bowl basically forcing the cheese into the corners and enveloping the soup. The croutons hidden in the cheese surprise you because you don’t see them (about size of a ¼” cube). They are the perfect amount because there seems to be a couple in every bite. Awesome.
Foie Gras Terrine, Slow-Roasted Strawberries and Aged Balsamic Vinegar- The perfect marriage of three elements I don’t normally see together. Set on top of a thin layer of Brioche this dish was full of flavor. I could have eaten three of these. Again, awesome.
Parmesan Crusted Confit Leg of Chicken, White Asparagus, Basil + Lemon Butter- This was just as it was described. The chicken was placed on top of the asparagus which was sitting in the Basil Lemon Butter Sauce. The crust on the perfectly cooked piece of chicken was a crispy salty mouthful of joy. If you mix it with the sauce you can hardly contain your taste buds. At this point Jean Georges is batting 1.000.
Warm Rhubarb Clafouti Tart, Strawberry Crème Fraiche- It was good. I guess trying to follow the previous threes dishes was going to be pretty much impossible.
Gulf Shrimp and Smoked Bacon, Papaya Mustard and Avocado
Arctic Char, Asparagus and Mushrooms with Lemongrass Consomme
Pistachio, Sour Cherry Sorbet, Candied Pistachios, Freeze Dried Cherries
I know this may sound like a big Jean Georges love fest. In a sense, they may just be what it is. I don’t think it’s without merit, though. This is the best lunch I’ve had in my life. The first three dishes I had were so good it’s hard to put it into words. With the exception of the terrine it is something that has been on a lot of menus. The service was fabulous, the setting was gorgeous. I have read reviews on Zagat that were less than complimentary. I think there are just people that are hyper critical. There is no doubt (in my mind) that lunch at Jean Georges is the best bargain you will ever find. The price of the lunch combined with the quality and creativity of the food finished my trip to New York memorably.