Saturday, January 19, 2008

NYC: Jean-Georges (lunch)

Sports fans dream of meeting a Michael Jordan, Catholics dream of the Pope. For me, J-G V. I'm sure I blushed like a nervous schoolgirl when I shook Jean-Georges Vongerichten's perfectly manicured, butter smooth hand. No exaggeration. Seriously, I don't think many of you understand how much I look up to this guy. I own three of his cookbooks, respect his culinary empire and marvel at his longevity. No flash in the pan (haha, me and my food puns), Vongerichten's been turning out high quality food for the past 25+ years. This was, without a doubt, the most highly anticipated meal of my trip.

For full disclosure, you should realize that I went into this meal as a "known" diner. I wasn't an anonymous Joe Shmoe who made a reservation and showed up for a meal. No, I came with a guy, Jin, who worked at Jean-Georges for a year so we were thrown all sorts of perks. So if you go to eat at Jean-Georges, don't expect the same treatment.

Btw, our menu was decided as follows: I mentioned to Jin that, being my first meal, I wanted to try lots of Jean-Georges' signature dishes...the guy has like 10 of them at this point. I wanted to eat the dishes that formed the bedrock of the J-G empire. So Jin relayed this information to the kitchen and food started to appear.

As far as beverages are concerned, we had some champagne to start, a half bottle of white burgundy, some Sassicaia second label (super tuscan?), botrytised Gewurtztraminer with the foie gras and a Recioto di Soave with dessert. Whew.

The food:

The Egg: Softly scrambled eggs with vodka infused cream, caviar
(Frigging amazing. The texture of the dish is, decadent cream...eggs and the gentle pop of caviar.)

Bluefin Tuna Ribbons, avocado, spicy radish, ginger marinade
(This dish sounds great but the balance of flavors was off...ginger was WAAAAY too aggressive...very hot...left a REALLY spicy finish...slightly Jin put it, someone didn't follow the recipe)

Sea Scallops, caramelized cauliflower, caper-raisin emulsion
(Great...the sauce has such a beguiling flavor...hard to figure out what it is without knowing what's in it...some grated nutmeg on top...I'm gonna make this dish one of these days...)

Skate with chateau chalon sauce
(Usually turbot. The sauce makes the dish...chateau chalon is a tiny area in eastern France. The wines age in a similar fashion to sherry and, as they age, evaporate and concentrate. Pretty neat stuff.)

Tangy Glazed Short Ribs, crunchy grits, herb salad
(Huge slab of meat and as good as the meat was, I LOVED the grits. Make grits. Infuse grits with orange. Take a spring roll wrapper, fill with grits. DEEP-FRY. So, crispy shell, smooth, creamy grits within. Soooo good...and such a simple idea. Herb salad a nice, cleansing counterpoint.)

Foie Gras Brulee, dried sour cherries, candied pistachios and white port gelee
(The dish is built in layers. Brioche on the bottom, foie gras on top of that, cherries and pistachios. Sugar is caramelized around the whole thing to achieve a slightly crunchy crust. More importantly, the sugar adds a touch of bitterness to the dish. White port gelee around everything. Incredible dish.)
Dessert...let's see if I remember...starting in the lower right...chocolate cake with yuzu curd and halva powder, lower left...jicama noodles with citrus and limoncello granite...upper left...pine-nut cake with smoked raisins and tamarind ice cream, upper and fennel palate cleanser

Jin's dessert...all I know is that the lower left is the chocolate, olive, fontina sandwich thing and the lower right is the molten chocolate cake which Jean-Georges is said to have created.
Dessert for us to share...citrus semifreddo...really light and refreshing.

And, now, The Budget College Cook! Here's a guy cutting marshmallows:

Assorted chocolates and macaroons.

And that concludes the food portion of this meal. Whew!!!!


Dining room. Tres chic, non? Wonderful light comes through those windows.

Any complaints? Just one. WHERE'S MY DAMN MENU????!?! This is a restaurant that has received pretty much every award known to man. It strives towards the highest standards for food, ambiance and service. If the restaurant tells me that they will be more than happy to e-mail a menu, THEY SHOULD DO SO. I know this seems kinda anal, but lesser restaurants can easily handle this sort of request so I don't know why JG can't. There. I got that off my chest. Other than that, service is unobtrusive and gracious.

All in all, a memorable meal. Really, really wonderful. Would go back in a heartbeat. Oh, $123 bucks for all of the above, including tax. Expect to pay a little more if you end up going. Like I said, we were given perks.

edit: just thought I'd throw up a link to the NYTimes review of Jean-Georges. Click here.

edit 2: It is now the 31st of January. I've just read through the introduction to this book and it claims that Michel Bas, not Jean-Georges Vongerichten is responsible for the creation of the molten chocolate cake. I don't know who is right but thought I would just point it out.

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