International Hounds Chowmeeting in NYC, Part 1 - Jean George
As a member of the CH fraternity, one of the benefits I have grown to cherish and enjoy is the opportunity to share great food and conversation with fellow 'International' chowhounders in chowmeets at home and abroad.
During the past five years, fellow Singapore chowhound 'Fourseason' and I have been holding such meets annually in NYC, Hong Kong and Singapore. This year, our path once again crossed in the Big Apple. During the course of a short weekend, we cramped in as many Michelin star establishments into our itinerary as possible, starting with lunch at Jean George.
Our party ordered the new Fall Tasting Menu which comprised of the following:
- Japanese inspired Amuse Bouche Trio of Miso infused Carrot Compote and Canapes of Santa Barbara Sea Urchin and marinated Flounder.
- Toasted Egg Yolk, Caviar and Fresh Herbs.
- Hamachi Sashimi, Avacado, Yuzu, Radish and Ginger.
- Charred Corn Ravioli, Tomato Salad and Basil Fondue.
- Poached Arctic Char, Grilled Eggplant, Thai Green Curry Sauce.
- Rack of Lamb, Smoked Chili Glaze, New Onion Compote, Pole Beans.
- Late Harvest Tasting Quartet of Green Apple Gelee & Creme Fraiche, Concord Grape Crumble,
Poached Bosc Pear and Fig Pudding.
Due to the extreme fusion nature of the food, it turned out to be one of the most difficult meal I have reviewed and critiqued! Overall the meal can be summarized as follows:
Service: Professional but with a touch of snobbish attitude.
Plate Presentation: Simple elegant but nothing eye-popping or leading edge artistic.
Food Execution: Main ingredients such as the fish and meat were meticulously prepared and perfectly cooked.
Food Taste 1 - Dishes without Sauce: The Toasted Egg Yolk & Caviar combo or the Hamachi Sashimi were either too one dimensional or extremely bland. Le Bernadin can do a better rendition of the latter!
Food Taste 2 - Dishes with Sauce: Most dishes were multidimensional, offering some interesting and bold taste sensation. Initial 'First Bite' yielded a spectrum of flavor that bursted inside the mouth. UNFORTUNATELY, a heavy handed Spicy/Heat Component then kicked in which partially numbed the taste buds!!
These were true for the a) Corn Ravioli ( Gorgeous sweet mellow cream corn taste matches perfectly with the Basil Fondue. However, it was marred by the overly salty, tart and spicy tomatoes ). b) Arctic Char ( Sweet tasting and perfectly cooked piece of pristine fresh fish overwhelmed by the spicy sauce ). 3) Rack of Lamb ( This 'one single chop' rack!! was again perfectly cooked. The Smoked Chili Glaze and the Onion Compote, with their combined sweet, salty and spicy taste profile, was super delicious. Sadly, the heat from the chilies lingered on and on and ultimately numbed further taste sensation! ).
Food Taste 3 - Desserts: Though impressively presented, the quartet were rather mediocre in taste. Apart from the refreshing Green Apple Gelee, the others like the Grape crumble or the Fig pudding were dull and overly sweet. Lastly, the Pear was awkwardly seasoned and the sauce addition rendered it even 'weirder tasting'!!
I am at a lost as to how to rate this meal. Overall, most sauced dishes possessed a few extremely flavorful stand-alone components that 'wowed'! However, when combined, they became non-cohesive, clashing rather than bringing about harmony. Whilst Fourseason tolerated the spicy overtone of most dishes and found them enjoyable, I, on the other hand found the 'heat' a bit overbearing. As for the non-sauced ones. We both questioned as to their one dimensionality or blandness?!!
Irrespective, we both agreed, based on the meals we had, Jean George is a 'Solid 1*' But compared to other 3* we had dined in, JG definitely fell short!!
Three days after the meal, I am still wondering!! Why were all the dishes so spicy??!! Time for Jean George to stop thinking about his time spend in Thailand!!
Interesting read. As mentioned in another thread I have an upcoming reservation for lunch at JG in Nov.
Based upon your review I think we will stick to the 2-plate menu as a sampler.
Wished I was there with you guys, Charles. Unlike you, though, I wouldn't have minded some chili spice kick in my food these days :-)
Disappointing to hear this about JG. While I'd always loved the food (haven't dined at JG in more than 5 years), I had found the service a bit stiff (only exception was when I told our captain that we'd just taken a cooking demo class at Macy's DeGustibus with Johnny Iuzzini; after that service became very warm). I've been thinking about a return visit to JG, but after reading your report, I think JG now drops to a lower spot on my list of restaurants to visit. What a shame!