I had lunch this past Saturday at Jean Georges, and my companions and I were thoroughly disappointed with both the food and service. We had the $32 taste of autumn menu (choice of 2 menu options), plus dessert and tea/coffee. In general, we found the food to be pedestrian, banal, over-salted, and occasionally inexplicable. Service was officious and perfunctory.
To start off, my friend and I had the cherry yuzu soda, which we'd had previously (and loved) at Perry Street- and it was still delicious here. My husband ordered a passionfruit whiskey sour, but received a passionfruit soda. We found ourselves unable to get a waiter's attention for quite some time, and then when we did finally get some service, the drink was whisked away with barely an apology (we sort of assumed that in this stratosphere, we'd have gotten to keep a drink that had already been tasted!). The bread was very good, as was the butter and the salt, presented nicely in a salt dish with a mother-of-pearl spoon.
The amuse-bouche consisted of a goat cheese fritter, fluke sashimi, and a broccoli soup. The goat cheese fritter was decent, but on a whole this course was unmemorable. Bouche was not amused.
For appetizers, my friend had the scallops ($8 supplement), I had the skate, and my husband had the crabcake. My friend felt that the major flavoring in her scallops was salt. The skate itself was bland, although the garnish was somewhat interesting. It just didn't cohere as a dish. Finally, my husband's appetizer, described as "crispy crab," was a mediocre crab cake doused in wasabi, which destroyed any taste the crab cake might have once held.
For entrees, my friend was quite happy with her slow-roasted salmon, I was reasonably content with my red snapper, but my husband found his beef tenderloin to be boring and not a particularly good cut. The entree was certainly the best part of my meal. The delicate flavor and creaminess of the red snapper was lovely contrasted against the smokiness of the crisp nuts and seeds and was well melded by the flavorful broth poured over the top. However, my husband's caramelized tenderloin, was entirely ordinary. The meat itself was merely broiled and somewhat dry. It was presented upon a heap of brussel sprouts, pecans, and avocado. The vegetables were indeed tasty; however, their flavor was largely overpowered by the chef's inexplicable infatuation with salt. Overall this was something trivial to make at home with greater success. I suppose that two out of three was an improvement over the first course, but disappointing for a four star restaurant!
As far as service went- everyone seemed to be reading off a script. It was all quite rote and unwelcoming. My favorite part was the waitress who refused to point to or show me to the ladies' room until she had set the table for dessert. And, for the record, the facilities were somewhat lacking- one stall in the ladies' room for a fairly large restaurant.
Desserts- lowlights included the appalling fennel and seaweed garnish on an otherwise perfectly nice green apple sorbet, a spice cake that reminded my husband of one he'd made in junior high home economics, and a bitter blackberry strip that seemed to be an adaptation of a fruit roll-up. Originality was attempted in the sweet-pea sorbet, which sounded suspicious and for good reason. Think ground frozen pea mush. My friend was overall pleased with her dessert, but complained that her pumpkin ice-cream had virtually no flavor.
Highlights? The included chocolates (reminiscent of Maison du Chocolat but not quite as good) and the chocolate cremeux on my dessert (tiny but quite fabulous). The little macarons were also interesting and had a very lovely and light red-hot-like flavor. This worked well, but this was not enough given the expectations!
As an accompaniment to the finale, you are also offered fancy marshmallows cut off with scissors by a surly gentleman severely intent in performing his grave task and moving on as soon as possible. Yes, they are fancy...but they are also marshmallows (sweet, pillowy, juvenile). To be fair, there was clearly an attempt to infuse these staypuffs with vanilla bean to add value, however, the occasional clumps of the black vanilla bean scrapings were somewhat unsavory. Really? This merits four stars? My husband's coffee was good, and the tea was fine (although I was rather surprised that there were all of three choices- English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and chamomile, much like my diner down the street.)
I am disappointed because I'd done a lot of research into picking JG (also considered Eleven Madison Park and Del Posto). I really enjoyed Perry Street, so I thought JG would be similar but more spectacular. I have a baby and I don't get to go out to nice restaurants very often. I love food and I appreciate a great meal, and this was definitely not it.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010
1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023
85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011
176 Perry Street, New York, NY 10014