Now that you’re all firmly resolved, and well and truly into your New Year’s diets, I thought I’d write a few posts about food. Any objections? I thought not.
And since I have at least eight friends and/or family members who are looking forward to visiting New York in 2013, I’m going to return to that city to talk about a fabulous meal I enjoyed there last summer.
It would not be a stretch to say that, once I knew I was going to New York, what I was most anticipating was eating at Jean-Georges. Ever since my first meal at Market here in Vancouver, after which I discovered Jean-Georges has no less than eight restaurants in New York, I was determined to one day eat at his flagship restaurant in the Trump Tower. Last summer, I had my chance. Before leaving Vancouver, I made reservations for Sunday lunch the weekend we would be in New York.
The décor at Jean-Georges is lovely; very light and airy with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Columbus Circle. We had a great table at the far end of the room against the wall. The furnishings are almost identical to the Vancouver Market restaurant. I especially loved the silverware. Call me old-fashioned, but it’s such a treat to eat with real silver at a restaurant. Feels more like an occasion, in my mind.
We perused the menu, made some tentative choices between ourselves, then asked for some tips about which wines to choose with the courses we were thinking of ordering. Our server offered to check with the sommelier, then came back with his recommendations. Wine at Jean-Georges is served by the glass, which I appreciated as I wanted to vary what I would drink with each course.
After we made our selections, we were offered a choice of four types of bread. Then came a trio of amuse-bouches: a small glass of carrot purée, sea urchin on a small piece of dark toast, and fried okra over a miso purée. These were amazing bites of wonderment. So much flavor in one tiny bite.
For my first course, I had tomato gazpacho, which was poured from a silver pitcher overtop grated fresh, soft mozzarella and a bed of olive oil foam. The gazpacho had a nice spicy touch, and I could taste summer in the tomatoes. My friend ordered charred-corn ravioli, tomato salad, and basil fondue. This plate consisted of small, bite-sized ravioli, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and a basil-based sauce. It was very tasty, and I regretted not ordering it myself.
I wanted to taste one more course and so I ordered a second appetizer: a warm green asparagus salad, with Hollandaise sauce and a truffle vinaigrette, served on a bed of mesclan. This turned out to be my favourite course of the meal; I could eat asparagus every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it. The Hollandaise wasn’t too heavy, and the asparagus was perfectly steamed.
For my entrée, I selected the sesame-crusted salmon, which was served over a grilled eggplant purée and red chili butter. The butter provided a nice contrast, both in flavour and colour. It had a real kick, but was delicious with the salmon, which was perfectly cooked and a lovely pink colour.
My friend ordered the parmesan-crusted confit leg of organic chicken, with artichoke, basil, and lemon butter. She thought the lemon was too strong, but her chicken was moist and tender, just as a confit should be, and the parmesan crust was perfect. (Travel tip: Always travel with a friend who doesn’t mind you trying her food. You get to taste two meals for the price of one.)
Desserts at Jean-Georges are served as tastings: my friend ordered the cherry and I had the chocolate. She got sour cherry crème brûlée and marzipan, cherry sorbet, and deconstructed black forest ― the cream, cherries, and chocolate were served individually on a black slate slab.
My chocolate tastings included white chocolate meringue with a layer of meyer lemon ice and cinnamon over top. I can’t say I tasted the cinnamon and, like my friend with her chicken, I found the lemon overpowering, almost to the point where I felt I was eating a dessert laced with household cleanser. However, Jean-Georges’ signature molten chocolate cake was delicious, with the vanilla bean ice cream on the side.
To go with our desserts, we each ordered a glass of Banyuls Reserva from Domaine La Tour Vieille in Roussillon. I know Banyuls from my visit to Roussillon many years ago, and it was the perfect accompaniment for both the chocolate- and cherry-based desserts.
But wait! There was more! We had scarcely made a start on our desserts when we were served a plate of homemade chocolates, another plate of miniature raspberry macaroons, and Jean-Georges’ homemade marshmallow, which is most definitely a step above the Kraft variety.
Although we had one server who seemed to be in charge of our table, we were waited on by several people throughout our lunch. The service was impeccably timed. Each dish was delivered in unison by two servers, and cleared the same way.
After we had ordered our desserts, I asked to see the main menu once again, and when a server (not one of ours) noticed I was taking photos of the menu, he offered to give me a copy of both menus to take home. As he handed me the dark brown folder, he asked where we were from. He was very excited upon hearing I was from Vancouver, and told us he had a colleague from Vancouver. At this point, my friend jumped in and explained that I had eaten at Jean-Georges’ restaurant in Vancouver, and had been impressed, which was why we were here.
“That’s where my colleague worked!” he said. He then asked how the food compared and whether the meal I had just had was quite different from how food was served in the Vancouver restaurant.
“It’s very similar,” I said. “Just as delicious, but …” I paused as I thought for a second how to explain the difference, then said, “… but this is New York!”
He smiled knowingly and nodded. “Yeah,” he agreed. He reminded me of a young Woody Allen. Right down to his Noo Yawk accent and dark-rimmed glasses.
It was a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon in New York City. Lunch at Jean-Georges is a great deal as it’s prix fixe for two courses, with the option to order additional courses as I did. It was my first experience in a three-star Michelin restaurant, and now I have a new goal: to go back and try Jean-Georges’ seven other New York restaurants.