Jean Georges…so much hype, so much anticipation. Did the restaurant live up to my expectations? I wish that I could say yes….
My husband and I celebrated our second anniversary at JG earlier this month. When I made the reservation, I indicated that we were celebrating our anniversary and the restaurant thoughtfully seated us at a banquet table that was cut in to one of the walls of the dining room. Admittedly, I find it odd to have your dining companion seated next to you rather than across the table, but I appreciated the gesture. The decor at JG is lovely – quite modern, not too stuffy. A snafu early in our JG experience occurred when my husband removed his suit jacket and was asked to put the jacket back on. Rules are rules, but be forewarned. We started with a cocktail for my husband (a white Russian…his signature drink) and a glass of champagne for me (I was delighted to see that JG offered both full glasses and tastes of all of the wines available by the glass – nothing makes me happier than the taste option on a glass of wine).
On to our meal…following an enjoyable amuse bouche (corn chowder, tempura cherry tomato, and some type of sashimi – I will keep track more closely in the future now that I am sharing my experiences with “the public”) and fine bread, which was good but not interesting, we had divine first courses – charred corn ravioli for me and a peekytoe crab and squash blossom beignet for my husband. We were off to a great start. Our second courses, however, missed the mark. I had Artic char with asparagus and oyster mushrooms in a ginger-sesame sabayon and my husband had bacon-wrapped gulf shrimp with wheatberries and zucchini foam (or something along those lines!). I found the artic char to be rather bland and overwhelmed by the sabayon. The courses were quite large and we could have moved on to dessert after our second course. Not that we would have wanted to miss the third course where our meal got back on track (before a disastrous dessert detour, but more on that in a minute). I had beef tenderloin in a miso sauce with brussel sprouts and parsnip puree ($10 supplement for the pleasure). Delicious, perfectly suited to an early fall night. My husband’s dish – black sea bass crusted with nuts and seeds in a sweet and sour jus with gorgeous heirloom cherry tomatoes – was even better. It must be for dishes like the black sea bass that JG has earned his reputation. Simply sublime.
Our brief honeymoon with JG ended with the arrival of our desserts. The desserts are presented in groupings – you receive four small desserts in a themed grouping. I ordered the chocolate desserts and my husband ordered the late summer desserts. Perhaps the pastry chef was having a bad night (I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt), but my goodness the desserts were bad. We each liked one of our four desserts (I also liked one of my husband’s desserts that he did not like). The dessert groupings were presented beautifully, but I’d prefer for the pastry chef to focus on a few excellent desserts rather than a series of marginal desserts. The best dessert that we had was our anniversary “freebie” from JG’s more casual neighbor, Nougatine – a citrus semi freddo with margarita gel, almond sponge, and dehydrated grapefruit. Lest you think that our meal was over, dessert was followed be a series of post-dessert treats, including homemade marshmallows (cut in front of you), chocolate, jelly candies, and tiny macaroons. The only worthwhile treat was the marshmallows and the parade of treats was a bit over the top.
A comment on the service at JG….as with the meal, the service was good not great (although at least the meal had moments of greatness). Among other flaws, the pacing of the meal was off. We sat for almost 40 minutes before our order was taken – our cocktails had long since dried up and our wine arrived after our first course. After our initial wait, our courses arrived in very quick succession – given the size of the courses, we would have appreciated less time upfront and more time between each course. Further, the service was not tight enough to meet my four-star standards – finished plates sat too long, doors were not always held, coffee arrived after our desserts. Perhaps no one could see us in our tucked-away table? Lastly, our waiter was too uptight. I am not looking for a stand-up comedy act in the midst of a fine-dining experience, but I do want a waiter who can adapt his service to the personalities of each diner. We are a young(ish), fun-loving couple – go with it.
We were glad that we tried JG, but we won’t be returning, at least not on our dime. Our closest comparable dinner was a birthday celebration at Daniel two years ago (my 30th, if you must know!). We left Daniel on cloud nine. We were so thrilled with our meal that we went home and printed out the menu from dinner and swore to return. With Daniel’s recent renovations, we now have reason to do so.
DB – 1, JG – 0.