After much procrastination, I finally tried George--George Brown's new restaurant in the former Riviera location on Inwood, just south of Lovers. I procrastinated because I saw mixed messages in the reviews, which seemed to be positive, but peppered with meaningful complaints about dish conceptualization and execution.
After looking over the short menu, I opted for the five course tasting menu. (More photos are available at the link below.)
The first course was an endive and frisee salad, dressed with tangerine vinaigrette and hazelnut cream, topped with toasted hazelnuts and chunks of cured foie gras. I thought the salad was slightly overdressed, but not enough to become a real problem. I loved the combination of flavors (sweet, salty, bitter) and textures (crunchy, creamy). A very good salad course (though the portion was a bit large for a tasting menu).
Next out was a salsify bisque, garnished with chervil, saffron oil, and a large oyster. Though I thought the oyster a distraction to the dish, the soup was enjoyable in its simplicity. Another good course.
Third course, pictured below, was a tempura of black sea bass with pickled Brussels sprouts. The tempura batter was crisp and mostly greaseless. But the fish was totally flavorless. The pickled sprouts were so briny that I stopped eating them after the first few. In this course, I felt that no dish component was good on its own and there was no synergy between them. Fixing the sprouts' salinity would have kept this from being a bad course; but much more would need to be done to make it good.
Fourth course was a blackened quail, topped with toasted pepitas and plated with a cider sauce. This tasted like a by-the-numbers dish from a mid-range Southwestern restaurant (e.g., Star Canyon shortly before it went under). It wasn't bad. But it wasn't memorable or delicious, either. Just ho-hum.
Dessert was a competent bread pudding with a smear of chocolate, a puddle of creme anglaise, and a few Kirsch-macerated cherries. Like the quail, this was an average, totally forgettable course.
I was particularly struck by the inconsistency of the meal. If everything was of the quality of the two good courses, George would be a good restaurant for the price point (i.e., upper mid-range). If the quality of the two so-so dishes prevailed, it would be about average for the price point. If everything were as poor as the third course, they would have closed their doors already. If this is how it is every night, dining at George would be like a blind-folded Easter egg hunt in a cowpat-dotted pasture. Luck be a lady.
With one meal, of course, I don't know if my experience was representative or not. But, given the experience (and a competitive market), I may not make it back anytime soon. I'll be interested to hear about any experiences fellow Chowhounds have there.
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