Let me preface this post by saying I obviously I had completely forgotten to check my ISO settings before snapping these pics. My grainy photos do no justice to the dishes at all. However, in my defense, the food was so good, I was rather distracted ^^
Jean George's is a 3 Michelin Stars rated restaurant located right at the foot of the Trump International Hotel. The owner is French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and this restaurant is just 1 of 5 restaurants in NYC with 3 Michelin Stars :) Also - totally random - he is married to Maria Vongerichten, the host of Kimchi Chronicles!!
According to Michelin star rating, it is one of the top 5 best French restaurant in the Americas (US, Canada, and Latin America). It also remains one of the few restaurants in the city awarded four stars by The New York Times. The current executive chef is Mark LaPico. The restaurant has a 70-seat capacity in its Jean Georges dining room. There is also a separate sister restaurant located next door, Nougatine Café bar-lounge, which has a casual dining room. In good weather there is also seating on the Mistral Terrace. The restaurant was designed by architect and restaurateur Adam Tihany.
I booked through Open Table about a month in advance and luckily, there was one 7:30pm slot open. It was all quite painless. I would say if you want to eat here, reserving about one month in advance will allow you to get a good slot.
This was my first experience eating at a Michelin rated restaurant and it truly was an "experience" in every sense of the word rather than a mere "dinner."
|Flower display in the foyer.|
The ExperienceAs soon as you walk in, your reservation is checked and jackets are swept away. You're given a little doohicky that you must keep to reclaim your outwear after your meal. You're then escorted through Nougatine Cafe, where there were lots of young professionals mingling away, and into Jean George's.
The table was elegantly set and everything was monogrammed with little 'JG's. There was a little bunch of flowers at each table with a candle.
Overall, the service was excellent and the waiters were all very attentive. One waitress lady in particular, the one who cut and served us the handmade marshmallows for dessert, was super nice. She dropped one of the "crumb vacuums" (so cool!) on the floor and that got us talking while she was cleaning up. I wish I'd gotten her name cuz she made us feel really at home.... Sadly, our "main" waitress was very professional and competent, but rather cold. She never cracked a smile and sometimes she would give me an incredulous look when I asked stupid questions :\ Everyone else in general was quite warm and friendly though.
Also, I was quite impressed by how carefully they clean up and set tables. I watched one waiter prepare a table for the next guest and he was inspecting every glass and utensil one by one before setting it down! You also never need to ask for refills and when they pour water, they hold a napkin over it to prevent any water from splashing on you ^_^ Everything is also perfectly choreographed. The way they pull off the metal coverings of each dish with a flourish is just great fun to watch :)
We didn't get any drinks, but I did look through the wine menu and my eyes popped out a little over a bottle going for $10,000. One day, one day ^_^
As for the food menu, it was a single page with the Prix Fixe menu on the left and the special menus on the right. I was pondered whether I should try the Jean George's or Winter menu, but ultimately, we went with the Prix Fixe menu because you can pick and choose :) Also, I am opposed to the idea of foie gras, which both menus had :\ On the Prix Fixe menu, you can order 3 dishes: either 1 from each group or 2 from either of the first two groups and 1 from the last group. When we ordered, they asked us if we had any allergies - a nice touch :D
We nibbled on bread while waiting. At JG, they don't leave a basket of bread on the table, a waiter walks around with a selection of bread and places them on your plate. I forget to get pictures, but their whole wheat one was really good. The other types of bread were nothing special.
Before the first course, we got this "starter" plate. So small and cute! I really wish I had taken notes, especially because another 'service' of a restaurant of this caliber is that the waiters describe each and every dish when they present it.
Anyway, all I remember about the drink is that it was refreshing. The thing in the spoon was some kind of raw fish. My favorite mouthful was the beets - crunchy, slightly sweet, and definitely whet my appetite!
Sea Scallops, Caramelized Cauliflower and Caper-Raisin EmulsionMy second favorite course of the day. The scallops were very tender and the cauliflower perfectly cooked. The emulsion was a hair on the sweet side but overall, added tons of flavor without taking away from the scallops.
Sea Trout and Oyster Tartar, Lemon, Horseradish and Chive
Well, now I know what a 'tartar' is... It's just a mash up of a bunch of stuff, in this case, raw sea trout and oyster with - you guessed it - horseradish, lemon and chive. It tastes exactly as it sounds :\ The bread was lightly toasted and reminded me of pumpernickel. I prolly wouldn't order this dish again. Crostini dishes are just really boring to me...plus I felt like I was eating ground up sushi...
Butternut Squash Soup with Black Trumpet MushroomsStartling salty. This was the disappointing dish and quite frankly, my mom could make better butternut squash soup :\ I don't have much to say except it was a salty soup devoid of complex flavors.
Roasted Parsnip Ravioli, Coconut Jewels and Beet VinaigretteI never understood what food critics meant when they said a certain dish completely changed the way they view food. Well now I do.
This dish blew my mind (I was literally speechless for a few seconds) and made me see each ingredient in a new light. For example, the parsnip, in my mind, is a unassuming vegetable - one that stupid bunnies like Peter Rabbit steal from Mr. McGregor's garden out of boredom. Rabbit food. I NEVER imagined, never fathomed, how good parsnips could be! The slightly sweet, yet wholesome, earthy parsnip flavor folded into perfectly al dente ravioli shells juxtaposed perfectly against slightly tangy beet vinaigrette... And the coconut jewels! They look like pieces of the cheap lychee jelly you buy at Asian marts but oh no, these were exquisite slivers of jelly that had the most refined coconut flavor imaginable. You can barely taste the coconut yet the taste lingers on the tongue! *sigh* I probably sound overly dramatic, but this dish seriously made me realize how friggin delicious parsnips, beets and coconut can be! And the dish is so perfectly composed...I dunno how to describe it, but I would pay the cost of this meal twice over to get more of these parsnip raviolis....
As I mentioned before, each course is presented quite dramatically. But the main course - the meat dish - gets an even more dramatic treatment. They bring out the meat in separate little pans and make a show of cutting and arranging the cuts on the plate at the table. In the pic above, the waiter is just about to slice the beef.
Roasted Loin of Lamb, Crunchy Polenta, Red Wine-Smoked Chili Glaze
This was my first time trying lamb and jeez, I dunno if I will try it again :\ It's a rather tough meat, 5 minutes in, I was literally sawing at it to get a bite. I liked the taste of lamb well enough but the toughness was just awful. The polenta was rather boring, it tasted like fried bread or something and it was not crunchy. I quite liked the chili glaze though! It added a lot of flavor and made eating the lamb and polenta worth it. The glaze somehow alternated between being quite sweet to spicy hot - it was yummy :)
Caramelized Wagyu Beef Tenderloin, Delicata Squash Confit, Mole with Sherry VinegarVery tender beef - this meat dish was definitely better than the lamb, though the I preferred the chili glaze. The squash confit was yummy but nothing to write home about I think. The squash I slice and warm up in the toaster oven at home tastes the same.
These are "palate cleansers!" They aren't part of the menu, just something they bring out to clean your palate for dessert. These were little sorbets - each a different, slightly tangy flavor - nested in very delicate caramel crisps. Lots of fun to eat and very refreshing to taste - it definitely got me thinking about dessert!
Now my favorite part of dinner - dessert!!
I love how you actually get 4 mini desserts. As a person who likes to try one of everything, it would've killed me to just get one dessert. I had a very hard time resisting getting all four themed dessert sets as is.
Orchard Dessert Tasting
Poached Pear, Rose Whipped Cream, Passion Caramel, Crushed NutsThe poached pear was delicious. The caramel was perfect blend of spices and the crushed nuts sprinkled on top were addictively crunchy. The middle held a surprise - a mouthful of rose whipped cream! It had just a hint of rose and the taste contrasted perfectly with the pear.
Quince Confit, Apple Vinegar and Crème FraicheProbably my least favorite dessert. It sounds a bit dumb but the flavor reminded me of tangerines more than anything else. It was basically a pastry topped with cream and fruit; it was overshadowed by the other 3 desserts.
Green Apple Gelee, Tatin Compote, Crème FraicheLove the little mason jar the gelee came in. Very distinct granny smith apple flavor - it was like eating a pureed caramel apple. You really have to dip your spoon all the way to the bottom to get full effect.
Pomegranate Sorbet, Red Wine SyrupMy second favorite dessert on this plate. The pomegranate sorbet tasted distinctly like the fruit and the red wine syrup really played up the tangy fruitiness resulting in a very refreshing flavor. Great aftertaste!
Winter Dessert Tasting
Butternut Squash Sorbet, Espresso Syrup and Pumpkin Seed BrittleReally delicious. Probably my favorite off the Winter tasting. Distinct, sweet butternut flavor that played with the slightly bitter espresso coffee taste very well. The brittle was a lovely (and tasty) touch. Tasted like caramelized pumpkin seeds, unsurprisingly. Overall, a unique, flavorful dessert.
Cranberry Bar, Carrot Meringue and Clementine Granite
Everyone's least favorite. For me, likely because I dislike cranberry and frankly, it was just a forgettable flavor :\ I could barely taste the carrot...
Cinnamon Bourbon Ice cream, Pecan Pie Custard, Shortbread Crust
I liked the whipped texture of the ice cream and the shortbread crust. It wasn't as stellar as the butternut sorbet in terms of flavor though, I think.
Roasted Chestnut Cake, Cassis Jam, Maron Glace
This was my second favorite dessert among the four. It had an lovely, subtle chestnut flavor that was truly reminiscent of 'winter.' The reason it wasn't my favorite though was because it tasted very much like the Korean sweet potato cakes you can get at Shilla bakery.... It tasted good but didn't strike me as creative.
While we were enjoying our dessert courses, they wheeled over a cart with a huge glass jar filled with white powder. Tucked in the powder was this long rope of marshmallow and they cut us two pieces. It was my first time trying a non-store bought marshmallow and I must say - there is a difference! Very airy and fluffy, it practically melted in my mouth. The marshmallow flavor is also much subtler and complex than store bought marshmallows. I felt like I was eating a cloud ^_^
A nice surprise! Like the marshmallows this isn't something you order:
- Square chocolate with green streak - don't remember :(
- White rectangles - They looked unappetizing but they were quite good. I couldn't put my finger on the exact taste, but I could tell there were pistachios invoved ^_^
- Orange peels - delicious! Sweet, yet tangy orange flavor.
- Macrons - cannot for the life of me remember what they tasted like, but I remember liking them!
- The rice crispy balls - by far away my favorite on the dish. Addictive crunch and unforgettable flavor - certainly the classiest rice krispie treats I've ever eaten ;)
- Rectangular chocolates covered in toffee - Rather standard tasting in terms of chocolate, but very good. Basically dark chocolate covered in little nibs of crunchy toffee.
We didn't finish all the chocolates and they offered to box up the rest. Interestingly, they don't give you the boxed dessert at the table, they give you another little plastic tag and when you get to the front desk to pick up your coat, along with your coats, they bring you bag with your boxed up leftovers PLUS little 'goody bags'! The rectangular chocolates were the same ones on the dessert plate; the squares were very dark chocolate. It was a really nice take home surprise ^_^ Totally unexpected!
Final WordsThe whole dinner lasted just over 3 hours. Though on the surface the restaurant may seem pricey, considering the food, the service, the atmosphere, and time spent, it's not really that bad, especially if you forgo alcohol. The experience was worth every penny and I'm glad I got to taste and see food created by culinary masters. It really drove home to me that like painting, it's not the paintbrush that makes beautiful art, it's the artist. I ate so many things at Jean George's that I didn't realize could taste so good - parsnips, orange peels, beets, marshmallows - to eat something crafted with such passion was an honor and a reminder that even the most humble and simple of things, such as a beet, can become something unforgettable when made with love.