Last night, my boyfriend and I dined at Jean Georges to celebrate our birthdays. Needless to say, the experience was terrific, and one that I'd be happy to repeat every day if only I could afford it!
We arrived at 7:15 for a 7:30 reservation and were seated immediately at the east side of the formal dining room. We were seated side by side at a long, rectangular table, which was odd at first but made for a really spectacular service experience. We aren't big wine drinkers, so I stuck with scotch and he was pleasantly surprised by their decent beer selection.
While we did receive a take-away menu for our reference, a lot of what we actually ate was not listed, so please pardon anything I may have left out. Without further ado...
We began with a wonderful trio: A crispy mini-springroll type thing on the right, a creamy soup in the center, and a slice of orange topped with some sort of cheese served in a spoon on the left. Obviously, you can tell that I didn't write down anything about the amuse bouche trio, but I can assure you that it was outstanding.
Jean Georges Signature Tasting Menu
I ordered this tasting menu and was absolutely delighted every step of the way. The first course was the egg caviar, a gently cooked egg served with vodka-infused whipped cream and topped with caviar. The whole thing is served in a brown egg shell. This dish was perfect - somehow light and hearty at the same time.
My second course was sea scallops topped with caramelized cauliflower with a caper-raisin emulsion. What a delicious combination. My boyfriend hates cauliflower, but even he conceded that it was yummy.
The third course was a buttery, rich young garlic soup with sautéed frog legs. Smooth, creamy, and wonderful. The finger bowl with rose petals floating in the warm water was a nice touch, too!
The fourth course was turbot topped with diced tomatoes and zucchini served in a château chalon sauce (best described as a salty, tomato/cream sauce). I normally don't like fish but this was tender and delicious. The sauce may have been too salty for some, but I loved it.
Fifth, I had lobster tartine in a lemongrass and fenugreek broth topped with pea shoots. Although delicious, this star shined a little less brightly than the other courses - I think the lobster may have been ever so slightly overcooked. Still, the combination of flavors worked very well, and I love anything tartine.
My sixth course was broiled squab served with an onion compote, corn pancake, and seared (?) foie gras. Again, this was not my favorite course of the evening, but I think that's mostly due to the fact that I am not much for game birds or foie gras. Still, it was an excellent combination of flavors and textures. Also, this course had a huge amount of food on the plate! After everything that had come before it, I doubt I would have been able to finish it even were I the world's biggest fan of squab.
Winter Tasting Menu
My boyfriend ordered the winter menu. He began with a hamachi (yellowtail) carpaccio topped with grapefruit sorbet and cilantro sauce. It was out of this world - very light and fresh.
Ever the foie gras fan, his next course was a foie gras terrine topped with dried sour cherries and candied pistachios. The foie gras was carmelized on the top side. Even though I haven't developed much of a taste for foie, I must admit it was excellent.
I didn't taste his next course due to a shallot allergy, but it was a wild mushroom soup with five or six different kinds of mushrooms and topped with grated parmesan and chilies that he proceeded to devour.
His fourth course was seared black sea bass over pureed parsnips, covered in fresh chopped coconut and lime and served with a coconut/lime juice concoction, with a mint emulsion on the upper-right corner of the plate. Yum! The flavor combination was hearty and fresh with a little snippy zing at the finish.
The fifth course was a butter-poached Maine lobster served with lemon-paprika puree and salsify tagliatelle. Our waiter must have thought we were daft because we had him repeat the salsify bit over and over. It sounded like "salsa di" to us, but what was on the plate was clearly not a salsa di anything! Anyway, we have since learned that salsify is a root vegetable like a carrot, but it's white. They slice it thinly lengthwise, char it on one side, and then roll it up into a little rosebud. For all that work and explanation, I'm not sure it was worth it, as he didn't eat more than a few exploratory bites! Oh well.
His sixth dish was loin of lamb served over some sort of sweet puree. The lamb itself was excellent, he pointed out, but the puree/sauce that it came with weren't particularly impressive.
Now, here's where I really start to get confused on the details - the take away menu we were given did list dessert, but it didn't fully correspond with what we were actually served.
I ordered from the winter menu, and my boyfriend chose the honey nut menu, both of us being way too stuffed to even attempt the chocolate choices. Each menu consists of four mini desserts that complement each other and follow the basic theme of the group.
My winter menu began with a cylinder of pear and chocolate praline mousse cake with poire william gelée. Wonderful!
Next came a butternut squash soufflé served with prune armagnac ice cream, which was by far my favorite of the four.
Next was a granny smith apple tart(?) with caramel, and the last of the four I can't remember for the life of me other than that it had dried fruit in a sweet broth with something creamy on the side.
All were delicious, and the only thing I didn't finish was the chocolate mousse base under the pear thing - it was simply too rich for me.
My boyfriend's honey nut themed desserts began with a warm orange blossom honey tart, served with charred orange and walnut butter. It was a very nice opening, and he particularly liked the walnut butter.
Next was a cranberry honey nougat glace, served with cranberry-anise star compote. This dessert was very impressive, and was full of flavor. He's not the biggest fan of anise, but it was very subtle, and didn't detract from the overall experience.
Third up was a vanilla panacotta with sharp ginger ice cream. The panacotta itself wasn't that great, but it certainly wasn't bad. The ginger ice cream was the star of this dish, he thought, as it was nice and spicy and sharply contrasted with the bland panacotta. My guess is that that was probably the idea: to set up a nice counterpoint between the two halves of the dessert.
His theme concluded with a wonderful meyer lemon sorbet, served over some very dense honey. He's a big fan of citrus, and had been wanting to have something with meyer lemons since they have been so prominently featured in the last few episodes of Iron Chef America.
He also had a shot of La Combe espresso that he was very impressed with, and in fact wants to go out and buy some at a market in Chelsea that carries it.
We finished the meal with marshmallows in vanilla, espresso, and grapefruit (wow!) flavors, mini macaroons, and little chocolates in interesting flavors such as peanut butter and jelly and black licorice.
As expected, the service was well-oiled and flawless. Questions were answered with a smile and everyone was wonderfully kind.
As you can probably tell from how effusive Ive made this review, we enjoyed ourselves a great deal and would recommend Jean Georges to anyone with an open mind and a full wallet.