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Jean Georges: A vote of confidence

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Jean Georges: A vote of confidence

Caseophile | Jan 9, 2004 12:52 AM

For at least a few months now, I’ve been cautioning potential visitors to Jean Georges about what seemed to be progressively severe and increasingly bizarre problems with the service there. I finally managed to return there myself this week, so I can finally add some actual data to the discussion.

The bottom line is that things went smoothly, and nothing shocking happened. The front desk staff was very courteous, and my table was ready when promised. As I walked through the dining room, I was struck by the fact that there was only one staff member I recognized, a captain who’s been there for years, and whom I like a lot. I’ve never been enough of a regular at JG to be sure that these were actually new employees. But I think that many of them, at least, may be. Of note, the wine-thieving captain was not in the dining room that night.

My captain was definitely someone I haven’t seen at JG before. He was older than some of the whippersnappers that used to work as captains there. I would describe his manner as professional and businesslike, to be contrasted with, for example, the energetic, tipsy, flirtatious swagger of that young wine-stealing guy. His orientation to the menu was definitely adequate, although I wouldn’t say he knew it inside and out, as could someone who had been at JG for a long time. But the meal moved very smoothly, and I suppose the captain deserves some credit for that. Courses arrived exactly when they should, at the right temperatures, and descriptions were adequate. The food quality was, on the whole, as good as ever. Although, as an aside, I would recommend against the current raw tuna appetizer, if you’re going soon. It really didn’t work for me.

The only glitch of the night was that someone forgot to send the marshmallow cart by at the very end of the meal. It’s not a big deal. After the three-part amuse, appetizer, main course, cheese, four-piece dessert, and mignardises, I didn’t really require marshmallows anyway. But, since I was taking notes, I noted it.

Chef Vongerichten was present, and this surprised me, as I’ve never actually seen him in the dining room at this or any of his other restaurants before. He made numerous trips out to introduce himself to diners who seemed, as far as I could tell, not to be personal acquaintances or important food-business types.

My sommelier deserves special honorable mention. I wish I had asked his name. He’s a youngish American man, with slightly curly light brown hair, I think, maybe. He displayed admirable command of the menu, the wine list, and the subject of wine in general. He clearly dedicated a lot of energy to making sure that every table had a good wine experience. I was very impressed indeed. In the past I have always recommended strongly against ordering wine pairings with the tasting menu at JG, because usually one just received a glass of whatever white was sitting around open with the fish course, whatever red was sitting around open with the meat course, etc. In fact, I don't think a sommelier was even involved. I think a waiter used to just grab a bottle of something vaguely appropriate and pour it with each course. However, this new sommelier was really doing some thinking cooking up some good pairings for the tasting menu at a nearby table. So I would reverse my previous recommendation. If this guy is my sommelier again, I’ll probably try ordering the tasting menu just to see what he comes up with. Now, how useful is that advice to you, since I can't even manage to describe the man properly? Not very useful. Sorry bout that.

So, in summary, things went just fine at JG for me this week, with the minimal exception of that little problem with the marshmallows. I have the feeling that there may have been a lot of new faces in the dining room, though I can’t be sure. If true, this, along with Chef Vongerichten’s very high-profile presence, raises the possibility that a conscious effort was being made to right some wrongs. I really can’t say for sure. In any case, I'll be back.

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