Jean-Georges, New York City
I had heard the name many times, but didn’t give it much thought when selecting what special spots I would treat myself to in New York City. It was the suggestion of a food writer friend and his insistence that even a lunch experience would be outstanding at Jean-Georges that put it near the top of my list.
Located in the Trump International Hotel & Tower on the edge of Central Park at Columbus Circle, the dining room windows provide a glimpse of all the beauty, grandeur and hustle of New York. But inside and in the hands of a truly professional restaurant staff, the outside world fades into the background as the warmth, elegance and superiority of this culinary refuge takes you in.
Much smaller than I expected, the dining room and its beauty was a gift to be unwrapped. Dining alone, I had the pleasure to take in the décor, layout and finishings piece by piece.
So much of the menu read like a list of my favorite dishes, it was difficult to decide on just a few. So allowing the chef to do that for me would be just the answer. The six-course tasting menu was only $98. I thought that was a bargain even before I had those sizeable portions placed at my seat.
The first course was definitely the most unique. From the description on the menu I had little sense of what to expect but imagined something listed simply as Egg and Caviar must have some sort of catch. The brown egg sat delicately upon salt within a bowl just large enough to hold it. The narrow end of the egg had been removed as with a tiny reciprocating saw and the edges of it were piped with a fluffy white filling. The dark, decadent caviar was perched on top.
Thankfully the server offered the chef’s suggestion for the best way to eat it. I followed his instructions slowly pushing the caviar and puffy stuff down into soft-boiled egg. It began to meld together with the warm runny golden yolk enveloping the smooth vodka lemon whipped cream. It was heavenly.
Next came tuna in a style I had never before seen. Rather than tradition slices, the raw tuna was cut into “ribbons”. These deep red strips were about 4-5 inches long twirled together like a fresh pasta display and mounted on creamy chunky avocados and thinly sliced radishes. The shallow pool of ginger soy marinade finished with chili oil was clean and bright. Amazing this combination was fresh and comforting all together.
Light coming through windows even on a cloudy day was uplifting. Beauty of the tables with heavy china, small autumn arrangement and a tiny silver bowl of salt brought a feeling of warmth. Lamps made into a minimal chandeliers hung high.
The risotto course was an unexpected pleasure. Made with Compte cheese from Alsace, France and tiny diced pears, it held the richness common in risotto dishes but with a pronounced airy delight of fruit.
The fish course may have been the best I have ever encountered. Skatewing was steamed and served atop spaghetti squash and bathed in an Yuzu soy broth. It was garnished with sesame pumpkin seeds and Thai finger-chili chives. The first bite brought a smile to my face that soon turned to audible laughter at the joy I was experiencing. It was truly an emotional moment – to be partaking in this level of simple yet incredible food made me overjoyed.
A pear horseradish puree accompanied the magnificently grilled beef and the Compte cheese beignets. The 36 month aged, Gruyère style cheese made the savory pastry enliven the taste buds. Absolutely grand!
Of course! Dessert was not one, but four items. All meticulously perfect, I indulged in a chocolate souffle with Madagascar vanilla ice cream, sweet potato souffle with date anglaise, pear chocolate mousse cake and a grape spritzer.
But the finale of the handcut housemade marshmallows was perhaps the greatest confectionary treat. With care, the server used tongs to pull the ethereal rope of white sugary excellence from the glass jar and snipped it ever so delicately with glistening scissors. Just sublime.
No words can describe my dining encounter. In this case, perfection was simply exceeded.