The very strict policy of tasting menus at Jean Georges...am I overreacting?
Hi everyone. Since I have recently booked Jean Georges, I read over the tasting menus online, excited for our anniversary celebration.
My boyfriend hates the taste of caviar (no matter how many times or how many varieties i have fed to him) and I called to make sure there would be able to be a substitution. In both tasting menus, it is in the first course.
The woman on the phone quite bluntly stated that unless there is an allergy, this is against their policy and it would be difficult to do so. I emphasized to her that both tasting menus offer caviar in the first course and my boyfriend just doesn't eat it. So she put me on hold for 7 minutes and returned saying that "probably" the kitchen could make a substitution (but reminded me once again that this is against policy). Then I asked if we could add a dish to our tasting menu. I'd like to try the foie gras brulee. She told me that this was also against policy and that depending on the manager that night, I may or may not be allowed to do this.
I could order a la carte, but getting 7 courses a la carte is significantly more expensive than the tasting menu option.
I understand that tasting menus are carefully structured and thoughtfully prepared. And that adding and subtracting dishes may disrupt the rhythm of the kitchen...But I've been to many fine dining restaurants in my life in many countries, and have never received such attitude about replacing one item or adding a supplement.
I've read about the willingness of places like EMP to cater specifically to the tastes of customers in the gourmand menu, so this kind of attitude from Jean George annoys me...
I was very polite and patient on the phone- For a restaurant of this caliber, I would expect for her to have been equally friendly.
Am I overreacting?
The attitude you encountered was unhelpful, unreasonable, and generally untypical. You did the right thing in calling ahead to indicate those preferences, and restaurants - especially of that calibre - are usually much more helpful than that. You are not overreacting. Consider canceling and going elsewhere and letting the organization know why,
Hostesses generally don't know much about the dining room beyond the table layouts. Either call again and ask to speak to the manager or Maitre 'd, or just deal with it when you get there. I've always found them extremely accommodating - and let's face it, it's the most expensive stuff that you want to skip. it's not like you're asking for a double order of caviar!
JG's response is strange (especially for a restaurant of their caliber). I've made similar requests at EMP (gourmand menu) and Momofuku Ko (my sister doesn't eat pork), and neither of those restaurants had a problem with substitions or omitting the pork. Maybe you should try EMP or Ko instead.
Considering that even Per Se has no trouble with substitutions, I would say this was a bit much on the part of JG. Other posters' comments that the waitstaff is likely to be more accommodating are probbaly accurate. However, the one time we went to JG we were told that we could not have the tasting menu (our reservation was at 10) and were treated less well than patrons surrounding us (no marshmallows for YOU, Brooklyn nobodies!). It left a bad taste in our mouths and we have no plans to return. Have dined at virtually all of the other top tier restaurants in NY (as well as in several other cities) and have not encountered such shabby treatment.