Saturday, July 21, 2007

Jean Georges Restaurant (review)

Two of us ate at Jean Georges (the formal restaurant - there is also an informal one) in the Trump Tower, New York City on Friday, July 20 at 8:15 PM. We each had a tasting menu (7 courses, fixed price $150) and we each had the accompanying wine tasting menu (a very small glass of wine with each course, fixed price $120 and $100 for the "Summer" and "Classic" tasting menus, respectively). The total bill was $650 (all prices in US dollars). The amount of food was good - all the courses were very small, so we didn't leave feeling bloated (although we might have done had we eaten the desserts, which we didn't care for).

The room is very pleasant and elegant. The tables are widely spaced and comfortable, with one exception - our table, which was much too close to the table next to us. I shared a bench with the woman at the next table and we all heard every word said at both tables.

The wait staff is extremely knowledgeable and correct, but they were not pleasant or welcoming - when we had questions they answered them correctly but tended to back away as if talking was to be discouraged. We had to ask them to slow down the pace because the first two courses came out much too quickly.

(I didn't have the feeling that we were in the Reject's seats, as the people at the next table were moneyed New Yorkers and the man even seemed to be a regular. I also didn't feel that we got worse service than anyone else... if anything, I think we got better service than the norm.)

I describe all our courses and wines below. Our overall rating for Jean Georges is B- or C+. It's not a ripoff; they are trying to be a good restaurant, but the food just doesn't taste very good. They are particularly inept at desserts (which they tried to make up for by serving way too much). The wines were very interesting and were probably the best part of the meal, although the amount they poured was too little - it wasn't even enough to sip through the course. Also, the "Summer" menu wines were much better than the "Classic" menu wines (although my companion felt that she should have got more than one glass of red out of her seven glasses). At the end of the meal I asked for a list of the wines and then I did a little google research on them... unfortunately, the list is apparently not completely correct, as I detail below. It was also full of typos.

One last thing... despite the problems with the food, we had a really good time. I chose not to complain about some of my dishes (such as the raw egg in my caviar dish) in part because I didn't want to sour the mood. I definitely do not recommend Jean Georges, but the evening was fun and if nothing else, educational.

Here is the meal for each of us ("Summer" and "Classic" tasting menus):

For each:
Amuse bouche: a plate with four tiny items: a baby radish with coriander butter; a cherry that had been marinated in Sake; a clear green tomato gazbacho; and a tiny shrimp-toast. After it was all over we both agreed that this was the best part of the meal (excepting the cherry, which was not enhanced by the Sake).

"Summer tasting menu"
(my companion)

Course 1: A sandwich of slow-cooked egg yolk, American Sturgeon caviar and dill on slices on brioche

My companion was very happy with this dish. I found it too salty.

Wine: Champagne Delamotte, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Brut NV

This was a good champagne but we didn't find it to be particularly exciting. They filled our flutes only half-way, which was not very festive.

(Info: Wine Enthusiast score 93. Rated 91/100. "One of the best buys in exquisitely crafted champagne, this wine smells of fresh bread dough intermixed with buttery citrus. It reveals light to medium body, extraordinary precision, and a lingering effervescence with tiny pinpoint bubbles." - Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate ...The House of Delamotte is the fifth-oldest Champagne house in the region, founded in 1760, and located in the heart of the Côte des Blancs in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Delamotte is small (just 25,000 cases annually) and one of Champagne's best-kept secrets. It is the sister winery of the legendary House of Salon. The two wineries sit side-by-side and are both run by Didier Depond." It costs $39 a bottle.)

Course 2: Sliced hamachi, opal basil, cherry tomato

This raw fish didn't really work. When the man at the next table got it, we saw that he had a layer of something else under the fish. This layer had been left off my companion's plate. Perhaps it made it more interesting.

Wine: Gruner Veltliner, Alzinger Muhlpoint Smaragd, Wachau, Austria 2005

(Info: "Sleek, clear, winsome yet authoritative wines from the kindly hands of the newest Wachau superstar, Leo Alzinger Sr... Every vintage since 1995 is amongst the best collection in Austria. Alzinger’s wines are uniformly threaded into skeins of nuance and even when they’re at their biggest they’re always shapely and lissome. They aren’t delicious because they’re great; they’re great because they’re delicious. (The 2004 is $43.50)")

Course 3: Green asparagus with morels in cream sauce

Lightly cooked asparagus, simple morel cream sauce. My companion could see the reason for pairing these two (they are in season together) but she didn't feel that the cream sauce worked with the asparagus. Note also that we buy fresh Canadian morels in our local grocery store ($5.99 for 3.5 ounces) and make a similar sauce very easily.

Wine: Sauvignon Blanc, Brander Au naturel, Santa Ynex Valley, California 2006

We loved this wine!

(Info: 92 points (for the 2004 Au Naturel). "California's top Sauvignon Blanc specialist continues on a roll with this wonderfully pure, clean wine. It's crisp and bone dry in gooseberry, lemon, lime and fig flavors, with an intense cassis flavor that's unusual and thrilling in a dry Sauvignon Blanc. You'll savor every sip of this exceptional wine.")

Course 4: Seared sea trout, watermelon, paprika, lime

The trout was mushy, a real disappointment after the fabulous sea trout we ate at Commander's Palace in New Orleans recently. The watermelon was very good. They had marinated the watermelon to make it spicy, and then had vacuum-packed it to remove the juice and condense it - that's the kind of innovative and delicious cooking we expect from a restaurant of this caliber.

Wine: Vogelsang, Heidi Schrock, Weinbaurin, Austria, 2006

When he brought this wine, our waiter described it as a blended wine (the first grape started with "Welsh" but he said it was not from Wales). I am taking the wine names from the list given us by the sommelier and I'm not sure that we got the Heidi Schrock... in any event, this wine was fabulous: full of layers of wonderful flavors.

(Info: "Named "Austria's Wine-Grower of the Year" in 2003 by renowned wine magazine Falstaff, Heidi Schrock is the coolest female winemaker in Austria. Heidi has gathered experience from places like South Africa & Germany and brought it all back to her hometown of Rust. She took over the winery from her parents 20 years ago and has since spend much of her time reviving traditional wines of her Austro-Hungarian forefathers. The family motto states that tradition should be honored but also mixed with progress; for it means keeping alive the fire, not adoring the ashes.")

Course 5: Maine lobster, grilled corn gnocchi, sweet garlic nage, Jalapeno-parsley relish

This dish was delivered to me although it should have gone to my companion. I didn't like it at all. Some of the lobster was tough and hard to cut, and some was unsweet and slightly mushy. The broth just didn't taste very good. We switched plates for this course and my companion liked it better than what she got.

Wine: Viognier, Yves Cuilleron, Rhone, France, 2006

A really, really delicious wine! (I saw the 2005 on another restaurant's wine menu for $47/bottle, so it is not an expensive wine, probably under $20 in a store.)

Course 6: Rack of lamb with Thai pepper and mint, sweet pea puree

This was the second appearance of the sweet pea puree for my companion. She felt that the lamb was pedestrian. There was a nice pile of sweet peas and peanuts on the side. This was just okay.

Wine: Guidalberto, Sant Guido, Tuscany, Italy 2004

Very pleasant red wine that perfectly accompanied the lamb.

Dessert: We had four choices for dessert: chocolate, citrus, rhubarb or summer. Each was a selection of four small desserts.

My companion chose the "summer selection", which had four items: a tomato dessert salad; plum sorbet; sliced peaches with farmer's cheese; and a cooked cherry pudding with cocoa-based mousse on the side.

The tomato salad was not edible. The plum sorbet was so thin in flavor as to be uninteresting. I liked the sliced peaches very much but my companion did not. The cherry pudding was good.

Wine: Recioto De Soave Classico, Gini Col Foscarin, Veneto, Italy, 2001

A lovely white dessert wine!

(Info: Made from 100% Garganega, the name 'Col Foscarin' comes from the hillside where these vines for this wine are grown. Full golden yellow color, Intense and elegant bouquet with a note of ripe citrus fruits and apricot jam. Rich on the palate, full bodied, refined and with excellent persistence. The grapes are harvested in small wooden boxes and only the best bunches are taken for drying. These boxes are put into a special drying room (fruttaio) where there is natural ventilation. After five to six months the grapes are pressed after being selected once again.")

"Classic menu"
(I had this selection)

Course 1: Egg caviar

Served in a brown hen's egg, this is supposed to be lightly scrambled eggs on the bottom, with a dollop of vodka-infused whipped cream on top of that, with American sturgeon caviar on top. Unfortunately, the egg layer was completely uncooked and liquid, which tasted sort of yucky and also the two top layers fell into it and dissolved, making a mess. This course was not edible. I should have said something but our waiter disappeared at this point and a bus boy removed our plates.

Wine: Champagne Delamotte, as above

Course 2: Sea scallops, caramelized cauliflower, caper-raisin emulsion

An odd dish. Maybe I just don't like sweetened cauliflower, but it totally wiped out the tiny partial piece of scallop and didn't taste good at all.

Wine: Savennieres, Chateau de Chamboreau, Roches aux Moines - Cuvee d'Avant, Loire, France 2001

My first sip had an unpleasant aftertaste, like gasoline or maybe fingernail polish remover. This aftertaste diminished somewhat but never completely went away.

Course 3: Young garlic soup with thyme, sauteed frog's legs.

The soup was pleasant but a little bland. The tiny frog's legs were crispy and very lemony and quite nice.

Wine: Pinot Auxerrois, Albert Mann Vieilles Vignes, Alsace, France 2006

The waiter described this red wine as a "thin skinned grape that should be served cold." It was interesting. I enjoyed trying it very much (but might not order it if I have the chance). It tasted a bit like a Beaujolais Nouveau. Once again I'm not sure if the sommelier gave us the correct wine when he gave us a list of what we drank.

(Info: This goes for about $13 a bottle in a store. For info see the Albert Mann web site.)

Course 4: Turbot with Chateau Chalon Sauce

The turbot was very plain but well cooked (nice and firm). The sauce was okay but didn't really hit the spot. It had an odd sweetness to it. This course was just okay.

Wine: Chardonnay, Patz & Hall, Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley, California, 2005

Nice oaky chardonnay.

(Info: "Rated: 91. Bright yellow. Restrained, pure nose hints at lemon ice; quite Chablis-like. Juicy, sharply delineated, if more tropical fruity in the mouth; but the flavors of pineapple and guava are refreshing rather than heavy. A nicely gripping chardonnay that conveys an impression of texture without weight. Finishes fresh and persistent." About $35 in a store.)

Course 5: Lobster Tartine, lemongrass and Fenugreek broth, pea shoots.

They mixed up this course (giving me my companion's dish), something we didn't realize until we checked the menus later. However, we both disliked the dish we had been presented so we switched and I ended up with the Lobster tartine. The broth was very tasty, not unlike something you'd get in a Thai restaurant. The lobster claw was not sweet and was a bit mushy, like a lobster that has been in a warm water holding tank for too long and then overcooked, but overall I enjoyed this dish.

Wine: Trousseau, Frederic Lornet, Arbois 2004

Again, I'm not sure that the sommelier gave me the correct name for this one. What I got was a white wine that was served fairly warm, which was suitable. It was an interesting wine and I'd like to try it again, so I'm sorry I don't know what it was (the Trousseau appears to be a red).

Course 6: Broiled squab, onion compote, Corn pancake with fois gras

Good squab (although the skin was not crispy). The corn pancake was mushy and sweet (not very good). The Hudson Valley fois gras was bland... I'm a huge fan of fois gras and had some great Hudson Valley just recently, so I'm not sure how they could mess it up so... it was nearly raw, which I like.

Wine: Syrah, Qupe Bien Nacido Vineyard, California, 2004

Nice full-bodied red.

(Info: Rated 92 points. $28/bottle.)

Dessert: I chose the "chocolate selection", which was a chocolate cake/souffle with vanilla ice cream; a salty chocolate "donut"; a chocolate brownie-like thing; and a little glass of two-layered chocolate liquid. I didn't care for any of them. The donut and brownie-type thing were both excessively salty and weird tasting. Between the two plates there was too much cocoa powder used.

Wine: Banyuls, M. Chapoutier, Languedoc-Roussillon, France 2004

A red dessert wine, it was okay, not exceptional.

(Wine Spectator said: "Fig and dark plum flavors dominate this rich and ripe dessert-style red. Balanced and fresh, with a good structure and a mint chocolate finish. Drink now through 2008. 270 cases made." About $17 a bottle.)

For each:
Friandises: homemade marshmallows (vanilla, strawberry and peppermint); homemade chocolates; homemade berry and orange jellies; and tiny macaroons (about the size of my small fingernail) filled with cream.

Great selection! However, we only enjoyed the macaroons. The jellies were very good but didn't go well with coffee. The rest just didn't taste very good. Even the little chocolates were odd-tasting.

On leaving they gave us each a tiny gift bag. In the bag was a fancy little box. In the box were two tiny chocolates (like the ones that came with the friandises). This seemed a tad precious.



MP said...

About the wait staff being "not pleasant or welcoming"... I note the July 27, NY Daily News article "Famed N.Y. Chef Sued for Skimpy Wages". said...

You jean george,have lost youre touch with the menu. I can't belive you are even still in business.

Graeme said...

OK, this is a little weird. My mother's name is Jean, and my dad's name is George. I didn't even know they had a place in New York.