What is there left to say about Jean-Georges? With three stars from Michelin and four stars from The New York Times, not to mention plenty of breathless reviews from virtually every culinary critic who covers the city, the restaurant has reigned for years as the pinnacle of New York dining. Its namesake is Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of the most celebrated chefs in the world, with top restaurants in Shanghai, London and Paris and plans for expansion of the JG brand through hotel partnerships and additional restaurant openings. But Jean-Georges the restaurant remains the crown jewel in the chef’s dining empire.
Located on the ground floor of the slightly gaudy Trump International Hotel, the restaurant itself exudes a humble elegance that made me feel immediately at ease for being in a culinary cathedral. The plush cream-colored seating created a sense that I was there to relax and the service also struck just the right balance between formality and comfort. The attentive staff immediately responded to every request with pitch-perfect courtesy, but happily engaged in friendly conversation whether we asked about the vintage of the Riesling or how long they had lived in New York. Prior to the meal, we even had the opportunity to briefly speak Jean-Georges himself—a cheerful and focused man who seemed genuinely interested in what we thought of the restaurant (though having yet to begin our meal, we could not yet effuse about his work).
My dining companions and I certainly had much we would have said about his dishes. The combinations and textures of the ingredients were near perfect. There was the “egg toast”—two firm egg yolks placed between thin rectangles of brioche, topped with sturgeon caviar—which created bursts of flavor as the fish and chicken eggs exploded and the brioche cracked in my mouth. The Yellowfin Tuna Ribbons sculpted thinly-cut strips of the fish upon a fine paste of avocado and spicy radish with a ginger marinade. Not only did this make for a satisfying combination of flavors, but one of the most unique textures I’ve ever experienced with fish.
Jean-Georges’ dishes combine French and Asian cuisine, preferring thin broths and oils in place of the thicker sauces usually associated with French dining. For example, the wild mushroom tea, which combined a rotating selection of at least eight different types of mushrooms in its thin broth, but was supremely satisfying when poured over the parmesan, chili and thyme base.
The wine pairings selected to accompany each course added another layer of complexity to each finely balanced dish. The Dierberg Chardonney perfectly complimented the creamy foie gras brulee, with a crisp cherry and pistachio top and white port gelee, while a crisp sake was an appropriate companion to the Santa Barbara sea urchin and jalapeno, with tart yuzu juice atop a pair of black bread squares.
The squab with a licorice broth poured on top was a bit too much for my taste buds, and while the syrah it was paired with put in the extra work to balance the bold taste of the game, my antipathy for licorice eked out to make the dish a mild disappointment. I couldn’t help but give Jean-Georges the benefit of the doubt on that one and chalked it up to my own unrefined palate.
We completed our meal with Jean-Georges’ famous warm chocolate cake and fresh vanilla bean ice cream, as well as a selection of desserts from Nougatine, the chef’s more affordable and playful restaurant next door. I finished off the meal with a smooth espresso macchiato that served as the perfect period to the rich, dulcet poem that was my meal to Jean-Georges.
1 Central Park West,
New York, NY