When I ate this particular lunch at Jean Georges on Tuesday, I realized my blog’s birthday is a year and two days old (if you include the time when I was at Blogger and I moved to my current address here)…it’s just beginning to crawl to its infant stage and hopefully progresses to grow to a slightly normal child. I said “slightly normal” because it’s a food obsessed child. Well, I guess it’s my unintentional splurge birthday present to my blog. Even though, I’m actually the one who is physically eating the food. But still “Happy Birthday!” to my blog. You’re officially a year old. And thank you readers for actually make this blog worthwhile to write about besides my insane love for food.
Anyways, back to Jean Georges. I basically made reservations at Jean Georges in the formal dining room, since I went to the casual section, Nougatine, about four years ago with another friend of mine, Seungmi. This time I invited Ariel. He’s more my dining companion for the splurge places these days.
I arrived earlier than the expected reservation and the hostess walked me to my table, passing the bar/Nougatine dining area to the minimalist, hotel-style room, where everything is done in beige and white, and each table has either a leather banquette or a leather chair. The odd thing I found out was that the table I’m seated is basically a rectangular table where diners sit side-by-side, instead of sitting across from one another. Eventually when Ariel had arrived, I realized that most of our conversations were basically talking out to the void (since we look straightforward unless we turn our head or glance at each other sideways) even though we know we’re speaking to one another. But it’s a small flaw we’ve dealt with.
Since I was waiting for Ariel for a good amount of time since I was early for the reservation by 10 minutes and he’s late by 5 minutes, the waiter let me peruse through the lunch and dessert menus instead of me staring at the diners or the abyss to occupy my time.
After reading these menus for 3 minutes, I’ve already made up my mind about what I want to order. It’s just Ariel that worries me, which I’ll explain a bit later.
Eventually, they served me bread (a choice of French roll, wheat or sourdough) and butter.
While I was helping myself to my roll, the good thing about the butter, besides being a bit fussy serving it, the butter was actually room temperature soft! For once, I’m not served with a frozen, unspreadable puck of churned cream! Too bad the roll was unremarkable though…
Ariel finally graced his presence and the waiter set him up with the lunch menu and bread. After perusing and contemplating the menu for five minutes or so, he eventually ordered the watermelon gazpacho and the foie gras brulée (which is basically two appetizers), while I have the sea urchin and sweetbreads. Yes, I love my animal innards and the innards of prickly marine animals.
A good thing to note was that the waiter was attentive enough to ask both of us, “Do we had any food allergies that the kitchen should be aware of?” We both replied no. I think it’s the first time from the myriad of times that I’ve ever eaten out that anyone asked me that question.
After we ordered, we chat about his visit to Chicago over the weekend and noshed a bit on the bread and butter, which he slathered on thick and heavy on sprinkling the salt on top too. Eventually, our amuse bouche had arrived.
The first thing we’ve tried (we had our own though but tried in unison) was the Mission fig and house-made mozzarella; that was pretty damn good. The slightly chewy, creamy, mild cheese worked well with the soft, sweet, ripened fig, highlighted with tiny zips of lemon zest.
The corn puff, which is basically a fried fritter with corn salt and arugula purée. Once I cut the puff in half, wisp of steam emanating out of it. The light, crisp exterior with the chewy, airy innards, speckled with sweet corn kernels. It was wonderful, especially that corn salt made all the flavors spoke in volumes on my palate.
And last but not least, the shot glass of cucumber soup and yuzu foam. This was making my tongue experiencing euphoria. The refreshing cucumber meets the bright, citrusy, yuzu and the airiness of the foam…oh my goodness. It’s like a non-alcoholic version of apéritif.
That is a shot that I don’t mind taking everyday. Or just give me a meal of those three amuse bouches (in bigger portions obviously) and I’ll be happy. Ariel proposed the same as well.
Our first course had arrived, the waiter arrived and explained each of our dishes (which he does at every course). Ariel’s Heirloom Watermelon Gazpacho, Cucumber, Tomato, Basil soup was presented in a deep bowl filled with chopped vegetation (i.e. tomatoes, herbs, etc.) then the waiter poured the gazpacho into his bowl. It’s kind of cool that they present you the bowl and pour the contents into the vessel. At least you have a vague sense of what’s in the soup besides the gazpacho. Since I didn’t taste it, he told me that it tasted like the normal gazpacho but he likes the Modern Bar Room’s interpretation that he had back in Restaurant Week more than this one.
My Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, Black Bread, Jalapeño, Yuzu was basically finger food, and it was suggested by the waiter to eat with my fingers. The mild, creamy, slightly sweet, sea urchin with the toasted black bread worked so well by contrasting textures (it also helps with that smear of butter under the urchin). The jalapeño pepper and yuzu brought interesting flavors to the party, the spice that kicked in the back of my throat with the citrusy tartness that plays along the sea urchin’s delicate flavor.
For our second course, Ariel’s foie gras brulée was not what I’ve pictured it in my mind when I read it. It’s actually a piece of brioche topped with a round of foie gras, drizzled with 20 year aged balsamic vinegar. When Ariel let me try a piece, it’s not what I’ve expected. It’s creamy, rich, fatty, and everything that is a characteristic of foie gras but the broiche was soft, that it didn’t really give a contrasting texture but the balsamic vinegar did gave it some acidic sweetness to contrast slightly the fattiness of the foie. It’s good but I’m not entirely enamored with it.
My Crispy Sweetbreads, Fragrant Pickled Peach, Wild Arugula, and Pink Peppercorn (instead of being roasted as indicated on the menu) was very, very good. I know some of you are turned off with the idea that eating a thymus gland is disgusting but trust me, if you eat one that is prepared well, you will never be disgusted by it. The crisp coating meets the meaty sweetbreads made me swoon. Even when Ariel tried it, he’s flabbergasted by the thought that sweetbreads can taste so good. The peaches and arugula gave it extra peppery flavor and the peaches gave it an offset of tart-sweetness to the entire dish. I love it.
Since I believe that a meal almost always end with dessert, and we did. I ordered the Strawberry, while Ariel had the Mixed Berry. The names reflect the theme of that particular dessert.
My desserts worships the strawberry. The buttery, dense, orange brioche, filled with almond cream, layered with almond flakes, and topped with sweet roasted strawberries; all sitting on top of strawberry gel. This was gooood.
Then my little bowl of strawberry ice cream with lavender fruit leather was dainty but sublime together. The ice cream is pure strawberry and super creamy, while the fruit leather is more like a crisp, floral tuile that goes well together.
Ariel’s Mixed Berry desserts seem to do well since I haven’t tried any of his. He certainly loved the Raspberry Rose Water Soup, Champagne Sorbet since the Champagne flavor was potent according to him. The tart seemed to be fine when I just look at his reaction to it. I guess they should just make a drink from that first part of that dessert and he’ll be a really happy camper.
After we’re done with our desserts and requested the check, they roll out the cart, carrying a large jar of house-made marshmallows for our petit fours, which also include a tray of house-made chocolate, and mini macarons.
As you might see from the photos, the macarons are tiny. I mean microscopically tiny that it loses the texture and integrity of what a French macaron should be. (Technically, they’re about half an inch in diameter). Anyways, the three flavors of macarons are vanilla, coffee, and poppy seed. Flavor-wise they are spot on: the vanilla is vanilla-y, the coffee has a slight, bracing bitterness, and the poppy seed basically tastes like the vanilla but it has a slight nutty flavor. Texturally, it’s a major disappointment; it’s just dry with a touch of moisture from the creamy filling that sandwiches the itty-bitty cookies.
I just never seen anyone cut marshmallows before me like that. I would just take that marshmallow rope and nosh away if I had that but obviously since it is Jean Georges, it’s all about class and presentation. The marshmallows were good. The three flavors were strawberry, vanilla, and mint. The strawberry didn’t really taste like it had enough strawberry. The vanilla was a bit bland even though there are flecks of vanilla bean sprinkled throughout that cube, but the mint has the most potent flavor of the three. I honestly care less about them if I knew.
The chocolates were very good. I would almost equate them to Kee’s or La Maison du Chocolat since the flavors are so vibrant and fresh. The only problem is that I don’t remember what were the flavors. Pooh. At least I enjoyed them.
Well, that’s the end of the meal. I have never encountered such theatrics of sorts from a restaurant before but I thoroughly enjoyed that experience, despite the fact it made my wallet a bit lighter.
1 Central Park W
New York, NY 10023