About a month ago, I had my first experience with the Jean Georges prix fixe lunch. I was very impressed with the selection, quality, service and price, but didn't anticipate being able to enjoy the experience again any time in the near future, as I work downtown.
Yesterday, I found my next best thing. SHO Shaun Hergatt at The Setai is a bit of an anachronism In These Difficult Economic Times. Expensive, ambitious, elegant, edgy, sleek...this is not comfort food. It arrived right in the middle of most of us freaking right the heck out and not so much in the mood to drop $18 on an appetizer and $30 on an entree at lunch.
However. It also arrived right in the middle of a neighborhood without, in my opinion, a single credible, truly high-end dining option if you don't want steak (and even the steak places are more just solid business lunch places at this point). Now I hope very much that it makes it. Not least because they have seen fit to introduce, in my opinion, the second greatest lunch deal in town for this caliber of food.
$30 for a three course prix fixe. Three choices for each of appetizer, entree and dessert. The options change, I believe, every week. There is at least one vegetarian friendly option for each course. Yesterday, I ordered the gazpacho, the pearl barley risotto and the summer peach soup. My dining companion ordered the same appetizer and dessert, with a bacon-wrapped poussin as her entree. The gazpacho was a rough puree with a simultaneously fresh and hearty flavor. Textural contrast was provided by a base of somewhat firm strands of tomato gelee and a delicate but flavorful crouton.
Another minor anachronism when my risotto arrived--it had copious amounts of foam on it; I was tempted to call 2003! on it, but the foam subsided quickly and lovingly and mushroomingly into the risotto, which was larded with mini-mountains of hen-of-the-woods and was otherwise as I like it--firm to the bite, not soupy, etc. My companion reported that her poussin was very straightforward but intense in flavor and perfectly moist.
Summer peach soup for both of us was what it was--delicious. Dotted with touches of sorbet and other fruits. Coffee and iced tea are served with the full complement of add-ins (including simple syrup for the iced tea--thank you!).
Note that they are still going for a white glove level of service here--soups are finished at the table. A stool was provided for my purse. We were attended to with care and beautiful manners every step of the way. They also offer the regularly priced (considerably more expensive) a la carte menu at lunch, yet not once did I feel that we were receiving anything less than the full experience, even though we were doing the prix fixe and ordered no alcohol. I had also eaten dinner here earlier in the summer and was interested by the food--as I described it yesterday on another thread, it is surprising, delicate, composed and complex. I would have gone back eventually anyway for the right occasion, budget be damned. But now I want to rush back every week. If you're downtown and need a place to impress a client or conduct a discreet business meeting and you just can't take Harry's or one more trip to Bobby Van's and, most of all, you fancy the idea of eating really well in the middle of your humdrum day, I encourage you to give this place a try.
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