Am not sure how to start this review... wrote a sentence, deleted it: started again until I had the first sip of wine. You're not having lunch at a three stars restaurant everyday, right? I was overwhelmed! One of only six three stared Michelin restaurants in New York, at Jean-Georges is where I could find a table to celebrate my birthday.
Nestled in the Trump towers in the upper west part of New York facing Central Park, Jean-Georges is supposed to be the restaurant to try for any food aficionado seeking perfection. I personally and honestly wasn't impressed.
What do you expect from a three stars:
- The best food ever
- The best service ever
- Perfection to the utmost levels
- A no mistake service, attitude and attention to details
- Food that's not only good but breathtaking
Before starting this review I can't but mention my first impression:
- For a three starred restaurant, I expected more pampering at the entrance. A higher voice, a bigger smile... it was good enough for a fine dining restaurant not a three stars.
- We ordered wine by the glass, an Australian Chiraz for me which should be open at least thirty minutes in advance. Opened immediately, it needed much aeration.
- Service is good but again not up to my high expectations. Lacks finesse and smoothness.
- As a start a drop of wine fell on the table cloth which was not mentioned or treated.
- Sommelier? Where is the sommelier?
- Table cloth is used and looking very old. Expected a finer material.
- Shouldn't women receive a menu without prices? Shocking for a three stars!
The place is divided into two large dining spaces. A wide dining space filled with round and some couple rectangular tables set set over a grey carpet under a golden painted ceiling decorated with yellow pending lights. It's simplicity and class that ooze around this wide space while keeping it finesse and style. High glass facades give a view on the surrounding neighborhood. A leather bench, design chairs, white walls, no music; just simple focusing on the culinary part.
Lunch starts while the bottle of sparkling water lands on table followed by butter and sea salt. A cylinder of butter served at the appropriate temperature, soft and tender ready to be spread on a choice of bread proposed by the waiter.
White table cloth, a flower pot, Spiegelau fine wine glasses, a bread plate and a table napkin. Original plates are removed simultaneously as you order the food. We opted for the degustation menu.
Loved the butter, fine butter different than your average pre-packed butter. Soft and smooth leaving a very interesting after-note around the palate.
Today, we chose to have the tasting menu. A six course meal prepared by chef "Mark Lapico" working under the patronage of owner chef "Jean-Georges Vongerichten".
Trio amuse bouche for a start, a square plate on which are carefully set a spoon with beetroot and white cheese, next to a sashimi of fluke fish and a mushroom spring roll. With that served in a glass flute is a curry soup which I found to be very and illogically salty. Interesting amuse bouche yet not breathtaking.
Lunch, when things started to become very serious! Toasted egg yolk, caviar and herbs. Yes, a small rectangular toast, a double toast filled with a creamy egg yolk and topped with a mountain of caviar. You put it on your tongue and wait, appreciate its saltiness, the different temperatures, the different textures until you decide to press it up your palate. Boom! An explosion of flavors, a very light and airy toast, cold premium-quality caviar and the heart of yellow egg cream. It awakens your senses, it tickles your palate, it puts you in a good mood, it makes you want to scream... Awesome is not even enough to describe my feeling... I just felt happy like I never experienced happiness before. If I was to put a grade for this plate, it'll be a 14/10.
Now that the cutlery has been changed and chopsticks set, it was time for the second plate. Chopsticks, not normal chopsticks but something very light and classy, sharp on both sides and wrapped with a white paper.
Yellow fin tuna ribbons, avocado, spicy radish and ginger marinade. A round bowl served cold hosts five layers starting with an avocado cream, thinly sliced radish, red tuna and more radish used for the decoration. Grab your chopsticks, one ribbon of tuna, a bit of avocado, one slice of radish and dip in the marinade. A crunch, a bit of acidity, a faded spiciness, tasty tuna; a game of matching this and that in a funny way. Every ingredient adds a plus to the mix of flavors. The end was the best; took a spoon, filled it with all the remaining avocado and sauce and swallowed! That's the real enjoyment, the real mix of of ingredients felt.
Here is when things became interesting ma bizarre at the same time. Noticing my photos and my notes, the waiters suddenly became smiley and more attentive, the wine drop on the table got covered and waiters stood behind me to read what I was trying to right. I wished if this attention was given to every customer not the ones writing reviews.
Third course: diver scallops, caramelized cauliflower, caper-raisin emulsion. A grilled yet tender scallop offers grilling flavors and is laid on a bed of sauce and topped with a caramelized cauliflower. The plate doesn't look too appetizing to start with, sauce is poured like mustard on fries. Good quality scallops and well cooked cauliflower; good enough, mustard flavored sauce but nothing super exceptional about it. The risotto with oranges, pepper and herbs is a good as any risotto with enjoyable orange flavors. Is it a three stars quality? Surely not!
The main plate: crispy back sea bass with roasted Brussels sprout and spiced apple jus. A green cream, a piece of roasted bass and mini sprouts before the sauce comes to enchant the ensemble. A fish that's moist and well cooked, hot mini sprouts loaded with juiciness and a full bodied cream on the side. The juice makes all the difference embracing the whole. A tasty creation with touches of lemon and acidity, enjoyable textures of the skin and sprouts with the cream to balance everything. It's good... not impressive.
Now that the bread plate was removed a new cutlery set, it was meat time. -A meat knife by "Le Thiers" is used-. Spice crusted venison, red cabbage and chestnut purée. I honestly didn't feel a thing! A dry meat, -ordered medium rare and received medium well- topped with unpleasantly spicy spices wth a sandy texture, served with a red cabbage salad on the side and a chestnut purée. That's it, no life, no enjoyment, no challenge, just meat and a side mix. I'm honestly deceived about this one.
The tasting menu being finished, I couldn't but try one more kind of the menu considering I won't be coming here often. The foie Gras brûlé with lime poached apple, tarragon and roasted apples. An oval plate has a circular portion of foie Gras brûlé surrounded by a poached apple infused with lime and decorated with a purée of lime apple and toasts on the side. Toasted fingers of brioche bread ready to be spread with apple lime, a chunck of foie Gras and a thinly cut apple circle. What a creative combination, to say the least. The premium foie Gras, the crunchy yet soft apple, the one-of-a-kind full bodied apple/lemon cream and the soft tender fingers. Combine the whole and enjoy a well balanced and beautifully textured bite. Sweetness combined with acidity, zesty touches, crunchy bread and the caramelized sugar to make all the difference.
When a dessert is much more than a simple dessert, when a dessert is a masterpiece; red, green, brown and pink, different colors combined into a beautiful art piece. Apples rolled on a pencil sharpener and dried, the inside of a cinnamon sponge cake exactly feeling like a sponge, two kinds of homemade sorbets, crunchy biscuits, a poached pink pear and much more than that. Everything is fabulous, the mix together is really the work of a master. I'm not sure if the pastry chef is even more compétant than the chef himself... and the enjoyment lasted, different temperatures, different textures, a journey... the apples prepared in different ways, the unique sorbet, the crunchy biscuits, the enjoyable sweetness, the aromas and flavors... it's a trip around the world guaranteed.
Reconfirming the strength of the pastry chef, the waiter offered me a chocolate cake for my birthday, a chocolate mousse cube with a sphere in its heart hosting a liqueur. A fine dark chocolate crafted into a ribbon over a chocolate mousse loaded with flavors. Bravo chef, cherry on top of our lunch.
Three hours passed and lunch was not finished yet. Coffee, a tasty espresso followed by the chocolate tower of mignardise and the homemade marshmallows cut live on a serving table in front of you.
Let's recap. We chose to have lunch at a three stars, paid $250/person but honestly I was not impressed. After my last dinner at "Laserre" in Paris, an experience I found to be memorable, I'm not sure how Jean-Georges gets a three stars. Service is not up to standard, finesse missing in every move, cutlery set un-homogeneously, good food but honestly not outstanding and surely not worth the $250 price tag.