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Jean Georges or Gramercy Tavern?

steakrules85 Aug 25, 2009 01:14 PM

I am planning my father's birthday dinner and am trying to decide between these two. I know that most people are going to recommend JG simply because of the Michelin stars and the higher Zagat rating. However, Gramercy Tavern is no slouch either. Cost is no issue and the prix fixe menus are similar anyway (98 at JG vs 86 at GT).

I have looked at both menus and am quite torn as to which to pick. The thing is my mother and sister are not the most adventurous eaters in the world. They tend to stick to pasta, chicken, and on the fish front more like lobster, crab, shrimp but are have recently opened up to trying different kinds like halibut, cod, sea bass, etc. They will NOT eat things such as sweetbreads, foie gras, squab, frog legs, or anything too foreign. Needless to say they aren't foodies like myself and are not too adventurous. After looking at the GT menu I am afraid they will be very limited in what they will like. The appetizers really aren't too appealing for them (maybe I can ask the kitchen to make them the mushroom lasagna from the Tavern menu which I have heard people have done).

As far as JG, more of the same. I think they will be fine with the second and third course. However, the first course really does not have much for them. Would they allow them to select two dishes from section two instead of 1 from section 1 and 1 from section 2 perhaps?

And then of course you have to factor in that JG is more formal and jackets required, which can be a pain. But just on a restaurant/food/ overall experience level where would you go?

All feedback is appreciated and welcomed. Thank you.

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  1. ChefJune Aug 25, 2009 01:43 PM

    Personally, I prefer Gramercy Tavern. The food at both places is stellar, but I love the ambiance of Gram Tav. And if you call ahead and let them know it's a special celebration and what your group's limitations are, they will be able to accommodate you all to everyone's satisfaction. I've had a similar experience there.

    One of the problems with on-line menus is that folks tend to get locked into only what they see there. In real time, most places are pretty flexible. In these rough economic times, every restaurant is vying for your business.

    1. ellenost Aug 25, 2009 01:47 PM

      Hi steak! Can you print the menus of the two restaurants and show them to your mother and sister to see which they would prefer? (The first course choices at GT might be a bit risky). The JG menu looks delicious and has a great variety of choices. Hope your father has a wonderful birthday! Looking forward to another great review from you.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ellenost
        steakrules85 Aug 25, 2009 08:09 PM

        Ellen- That is a great suggestion regarding the menus... however, one of the things my family loves is actually being "surprised" and seeing the menu for the first time when they arrive at the restaurant. I'd hate to kind of spoil some of this surprise by showing them the menu ahead of time. Maybe I will just throw out some dishes and see if they sound appealing to them. Nonetheless, it is a definite possibility and good proposal.

        RGR- I have not been to either. Previous "upscale" meals have included Babbo, Del Posto, Craft, and Gotham Bar and Grill. My mother and sister are not complainers at all when it comes to food... they just know what they like and are put off by anything too "foreign" or "exotic" to them. Although they will eat beef and pork, it is not their first choice of preference. Like I said they are more for pasta, chicken, shrimp, things like that. Recently, they have started to expand their tastes a little by trying different fish and actually came away enjoying them very much so.

        My sister had halibut at Del Posto, cod at GBG, and lobster at Craft. My mother had a pork loin at Del Posto, short ribs at Craft, and soft shell crabs at Del Posto. And they enjoyed all of those meals. However, I know for a fact if there were other options on the menu those dishes would not be their first choice. I hate to feel like they are not enjoying their meals to the fullest, however at the same time want to give them a great meal and experience. My father and I are much easier to accomodate. While he won't eat foie gras or sweetbreads, he eats all meat so he usually is easy and can find something no matter what.

        RGR- As far as the Jean Georges menu goes.... the site breaks it up into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. At first glance, I don't think my mother would care for much of the "1st" courses. She loves pasta, however not a huge fan of gnocchi. She may be able to find two dishes from the "2nd" that she would enjoy. This is what I was referring to when I said two courses from 2nd. For the main course they would be fine- they would eat chicken, lobster, red snapper, and bass. At a quality place like JG I am sure they would oblige with substituting for the 1st course though. I will also take your advice about the Nougatine menu and see if there is anything appealing there that they may be able to make for them.

        As far as GT- They do have some pastas on the appetizers, however they contain ingredients they don't eat like lamb. Maybe they can stick to the spaghetti with tomato or like I said maybe we can request the mushroom lasagna ( which I am actually dying to try since I love lasagna and mushrooms lol!)

        I know it sounds like a mini "ordeal" however, I think either way I go I will be fine. My family is very easy to please, however I just try really really hard to make sure every meal is amazing for them. So I tend to fret a little more than I probably should. Anyway, thanks for all the input and recommendations. One great thing is I still have a month to decide where to go and between now and then menus can also change ( although JG seems to stay the same besides seasonal dessert). We shall see.

      2. r
        RGR Aug 25, 2009 01:55 PM


        I'm not sure based on what you've written here if you've been to both restaurants before.

        I could care less about Michelin stars or Zagat ratings. I would recommend Jean Georges over Gramercy Tavern in a NY second based solely on my experiences at both.

        I haven't made it any secret on this board how very disappointed we were with the dinner we had in Gramercy's formal dining room earlier this year. As you know, foie gras and duck are top of my list of favorites. I had them both -- first and main courses -- and both were, imo, disasters! Very odd preparations that didn't work at all for me. Mr. R. fared a bit better. At the very least, his choices -- a pasta dish and the rack of lamb -- worked better. But his view was that, though competently prepared, they were "unexciting." Nothing to criticize about dessert, well-made tart with ice cream for me, and sorbets & ice cream for him. The outstanding item of the meal turned out to be the tiny, seriously delicious pre-dessert..

        Though I can't say I've loved every single dish I've had at Jean Georges (one dinner and one lunch), overall, I think the food is supereb -- far, far superior to what is being served in G.T.'s dining room. I can't imagine they would not agree to allow your mother and sister to choose two dishes from what you are calling "section 2," which I presume would be the main courses? If that's what you are referring to, hopefully, their choices can be downsized to appetizer portions. Another option to consider is, check to see if you think the Nougatine first courses would appeal to them and, if so, asking if they could choose from that menu. In Nougatine, when it comes to dessert, diners are offered a choice between the Nougatine and Jean Georges desserts. So, I can't see why they would not agree to letting J.G. diners choose from Nougatine's first courses if J.G.'s don't appeal.

        2 Replies
        1. re: RGR
          steakrules85 Aug 26, 2009 07:32 AM

          Hey R,

          I checked the Nougatine menu and it is quite similar to JG. However, I do see they have a simple caesar salad and fried calamari as appetizers. These would be appealing to them, perhaps they would let them order that if they choose to? I do not think they would have a problem with this.......or at least I would hope not if they are the kind of establishment I assume they are.

          1. re: steakrules85
            RGR Aug 26, 2009 08:42 AM

            Hey, steak,

            I looked at J.G.'s menu (which I should have done before my previous response), and I see now what you mean about first, second, third. I didn't remember that about the $98 prix fixe because we did the tasting menu of his signatures.

            True, both menus employ some of the same ingredients. and several of J.G's signature dishes are on both. However, there are many dishes on Nougatine's menu that are much less "haute." For example, when we had dinner at Nougatine last week. Mr. R. ordered the shrimp salad: mesclun mixed with avocado and tomatoes, and five good-sized shrimp plated around the perimeter, all dressed with a Champagne vinaigrette. I had crab salad with heirloom tomatoes (different from what is currently listed on the website). Both salads were simple, yet delicious, but not what you'd find on J.G.'s dinner menu.

            If you decide to go to J.G., I urge you not to miss the seriously delicious Turbot in Chateau Chalon sauce, one of his signatures. Also, having done only the tasting menu, I can't tell you how large regular portions are; however, desserts are the same no matter which menu you choose. Each dessert has four components, making them quite substantial. To illustrate, here's a photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulterior...

        2. f
          fm1963 Aug 25, 2009 03:54 PM

          My vote is Jean Georges.

          But..... not sure how you narrowed your choices to JG and GT, but would you consider La Grenouille to accomodate your mom and sis? It's a gorgeous restaurant with classical (untrendy), topnotch French cuisine. Jackets definitely required but it's so worth it.

          1. s
            sam1 Aug 25, 2009 08:47 PM

            i want to love gramercy tavern but its got such a boring menu and such a fake focus on service.

            jean georges is one of the top 5 restaurants in the city...its a no brainer.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sam1
              foodwhisperer Aug 25, 2009 09:47 PM

              Im with you Sam. Jean Georges is in a different league than Gramercy. Its like Peter luger vs Outback

            2. k
              kobetobiko Aug 26, 2009 03:22 AM

              While I think the food at JG is superior, based on my understanding of your appetizer, I think the standard tasting menu is not going to be enough to make you feel full. GT has bigger portion size.

              Just want to make sure that you are aware of that.

              2 Replies
              1. re: kobetobiko
                steakrules85 Aug 26, 2009 04:20 AM

                I assume you mean appetite. Are the portions really THAT small at JG? I mean I don't like leaving a restaurant feeling sick to my stomach but I like to feel satisfied. I think that after 3 courses and then dessert I should feel somewhat full. No?

                1. re: steakrules85
                  tkm616 Aug 26, 2009 01:26 PM

                  if you have a healthy appetite like me, the portions are perfectly sized to leave you satisfied but not full. if you're the type of person that needs to feel full in order to be satifsifed, this definitely isn't the place for you. it's more about the experience and enjoying the flavors.

              2. f
                fooder Aug 26, 2009 04:56 AM

                I personally agree with RGR in that I've always been disappointed with the food in the Gramercy Tavern main dining room (no problems with the tavern fare though) and that while Jean Georges wasn't some grand Michelin 3 star experience, it was definitely superior to GT. Based on the food restrictions listed, I would have suggested Gotham but it looks like you've been. Other possible suggestions on my mind include Blue Hill and SHO Shaun Hergatt or the Italian seafood places, Marea and Esca. Hope you have a great celebration!

                1 Reply
                1. re: fooder
                  steakrules85 Aug 26, 2009 07:30 AM

                  Yes I have been to Gotham and we had a great time there. I appreciated the fact that their menu was really able to cater to both "normal" and foodie tastes. However, I would want to try something different this time though. Thanks for the recs.

                2. t
                  tkm616 Aug 26, 2009 01:16 PM

                  i've been to both a few times and although i like gramercy tavern, JG would be my choice. the food is inventive and the flavors are complex and perfectly balanced from course to course. also, the service is excellent. the atmosphere is a little stuffy but that's expected with any restaurant of that caliber. the last time i went, they did serve a white asparagus soup with frog legs, but the legs were on the side, and although complimentary, weren't necessary in order to enjoy the dish. anyway, the tasting menus offer enough choices for your family to avoid anything too exotic.

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