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International Hounds Chowmeeting in NYC, Part 1 - Jean George

Charles Yu Oct 2, 2012 07:40 PM

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!!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  1. s
    sygyzy Oct 7, 2012 12:38 AM

    I am very surprised at your review. I dined in Nougatine and a few weeks ago a friend and I were in for lunch. We both did the 2 plates for $38 plus my friend added two additional plates for a total of 6. We also ordered every dessert. I think JG food is pretty much flawless. Even the more boring dishes like my fish was perfectly executed and elegant; simple and complex at the same time. I actually think their desserts are the weak point. I do agree with you that the service was very mediocre and not what you'd expect from a 3 star place.

    1. p
      Pan Oct 3, 2012 11:05 PM

      I've never been to Jean Georges for dinner, but I've been a few times for their prix fixe lunch, and my feeling is that it's best to stick to non-fusion items. I've found the same thing as you: That their fusion items can be unbalanced in taste. Spiciness is not the only problem; sometimes, I seem to recall that too much soy sauce was used (and everyone, please don't expect me to remember which dishes were unbalanced; instead, I remember great dishes like the skate with Chateau Chalon sauce and, more dimly, some delicious foie gras). My feeling was that my lunches were a solid 2 1/2, maybe 3 New York Times stars, not 4 stars, but I had more pleasant service than you did and always enjoyed the experience.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Pan
        f
        foodwhisperer Oct 6, 2012 10:58 AM

        i.ve never had anything but amazing meals at tasting menu at Jean GeorgeS. It is my favorite restaurant in NYC and I will be going for the tasting menu this week.

        1. re: foodwhisperer
          kosmose7 Oct 6, 2012 01:31 PM

          +1 Me too!

          Btw, foodwhisperer, I love, love, loved Ichimura @ Brushstroke. Thanks for your recommendation! Now I heard that after the NY Times review though, that place is fully booked until December! (weep)

          1. re: kosmose7
            c
            calf Oct 6, 2012 04:21 PM

            It's booked till December?? Yesterday I was thinking of looking into it. Is there no chance for a single diner?

            1. re: calf
              kosmose7 Oct 7, 2012 08:05 AM

              I am a single diner too, and I heard the sushi counter is fully booked until early December. So sad.

              I particluarly love Ichimura's variety of 'neta' not easily found at other Japanese restaurants in New York, as well as Ichimura san's fish aging techniques such as 'konbu-jime (昆布締め, which Pete Wells erroneously spelled as 'kobu-jime' in his review)', or 'shio kouji (塩麹 = rice, kouji-kin fungus and salt) fermentation'.

              1. re: kosmose7
                f
                foodwhisperer Oct 8, 2012 09:17 PM

                Wow, booked until December. I am happy for Ichimura-san, but now he will probably get a different type of clientele. Probably many who will not appreciate his talents. I may have to just hire him from time to time to do private omakase dinners at my home for 5 or 6 people. Many sushi chefs do private parties btw.

                1. re: foodwhisperer
                  kosmose7 Oct 8, 2012 09:24 PM

                  Or join their friends' BBQ/ fishing outings and cook/ prepare sushi for them. Love it! :)

                  1. re: kosmose7
                    c
                    calf Oct 8, 2012 10:05 PM

                    Come to think of it, a casual reader on Chowhound would conclude that NYC has only 3 high-end traditional sushi bars: Sushi Yasuda, 15 East, and now Ichimura at Brushstroke. Is there nothing else?

                    In the meantime, I tried Hatsuhana a few days ago. It very much felt like a "classic New York" experience (even the decor feels that way), different from the kind of refinement or innovation that the Michelin guides prize so much. Yet Chef Seki's cuisine is infectiously endearing and full of personality, and I couldn't help but walk out the door all smiles.

                    1. re: calf
                      kosmose7 Oct 8, 2012 10:34 PM

                      Hatsuhana usd to be referred to as "the best sushi in New York" by tour guide books some three decades ago, when I was a college student. I used to celebrate my birthdays there too. Just as Grand Hyatt Crystal Fountain's sunday brunch buffet was often referred to as "the best buffet in New York". I miss those good old days.

          2. re: foodwhisperer
            p
            Pan Oct 6, 2012 02:30 PM

            Tastes differ. I respect and like Jean Georges but by no means have any of my meals there come close to being among the best I've had in New York. In fairness, though, they were all prix fixe lunches (3 of them, I think), and it's a bit questionable to try to make a 1-to-1 comparison between lunch one place and dinner - let alone a kaiseki or tasting menu - somewhere else. So the only thing I would say is that because I've found some of Jean Georges' dishes unbalanced in taste, I to that extent limit my praise of a very good restaurant.

        2. k
          Kirk_T Oct 3, 2012 10:05 AM

          My wife and I had lunch at Jean Georges last Saturday. Since OP had the tasting menu, his experience probably covers more ground. But FWIW, our dishes or the foie gras brulee, sweetbreads, suckling pig and veal were not spicy, so it's entirely possible to avoid spiciness should future eaters choose to do so. Our dishes also seemed less fusion-y.

          I agree with the OP's assessment of the apple gelee (the crème fraîche on top makes the whole thing work) and fig tart (eh), which I had on the lunch harvest dessert. The standout dessert at lunch, however, was the raspberry tasting. It had an intense raspberry sorbet, macerated raspberries, some kind of sponge cake, and a delicious balsamic meringue.

          Jean Georges was our favorite fine dining lunch spot during our trip, over Bouley, Del Posto, and the City Harvest menu in the Le Bernardin lounge.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Kirk_T
            Charles Yu Oct 3, 2012 03:26 PM

            Wow! Your dishes sounded amazing and totally different from ours! Wish I could have your choices!

            1. re: Charles Yu
              kosmose7 Oct 3, 2012 03:30 PM

              Jean Goerges' Foie Gras with Strawberry Granola is just phenomenal. It is even better than their long time signature dish foie gras brulee, which I had thought was the best foie gras dish until I tried this latest version.

              Crispy Confit of Suckling Pig was also divine. So tender and juicy inside and crispy yet delicately thin skin. Mind-blowing!

              http://blog.naver.com/kosmose7/901492...

              1. re: kosmose7
                m
                medgirl Oct 3, 2012 04:36 PM

                My little sister treated me to lunch at Jean Georges in April this year and we had a great time. I think we had 3 courses: appetiser, main and dessert, They threw in a couple of amuse bouches, so it was a lovely experience for us. We didn't find the service snobby and we definitely fall into the 'wide-eyed diner who doesn't do haute cuisine very often' category. Our main server (captain?) was a lady who wasn't over friendly but was warm and described the dishes to us very pleasantly. I remember my sister had the foie gras with strawberry granola to start and she loved it. I had goats' cheese gnocchi and they were so rich and one of the nicest vegetarian starters I have ever had. For mains I had the confit of suckling pig and it was wonderful. Not spicy, not bland, just perfect. Desserts were good but not memorable. I would go back for lunch at JG when I am next in NYC. Sorry to hear Charles had a suboptimal JG experience.

                1. re: medgirl
                  Charles Yu Oct 3, 2012 06:20 PM

                  Well! This shows in this world of mortals, nothing is perfect!! Ha!
                  Compare to the lunch I had at EMP in April, though both 3*, EMP beats JG hands down by a mile!!

                  1. re: Charles Yu
                    klyeoh Oct 3, 2012 06:58 PM

                    Well, Charles, despite the Michelin folks' protestations that their star-rating is "all about the food", experience showed that, oftentimes, other factors come into play: decor, wine list, that famous "condition of the toilets" thang, etc.

                    1. re: klyeoh
                      huiray Oct 3, 2012 07:23 PM

                      Definitely so. Why else would they have these listings for "Comfort Level"?
                      http://www.michelintravel.com/micheli...

                      Isn't there still the argument about the extent of "Eurocentrism"/"Frenchifiedness" present in the ratings? Even with the ratings for places like Tokyo where the critics are supposed to be "locals"/Japanese who should have less of a Eurocentric bias the issue still surfaces...

                      1. re: klyeoh
                        huiray Oct 3, 2012 10:03 PM

                        Vanity Fair/Eater.com articles regarding the Michelin Guide w/ a fair bit of commentary about the latest NYC rankings referred to here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8718... .
                        :-)

                        1. re: huiray
                          klyeoh Oct 3, 2012 10:54 PM

                          Thanks, huiray, interesting read indeed.

                          "The Michelin guide also created a new type of customer, the foodie trainspotter, people who aren’t out for a good meal with friends but want to tick a cultural box and have bragging rights on some rare effete spirit." - so true :-D

                  2. re: kosmose7
                    k
                    Kirk_T Oct 3, 2012 07:20 PM

                    kosmose7, great pictures. The strawberry dessert picture you have looks like the identical plating to the raspberry dessert we have. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but I think the crumbs at the bottom of the raspberry sorbet especially worked because the additional texture reminded me of eating fresh raspberries with the seeds inside.

                    Agree with you on the suckling pig too. The bacon marmalade on top of the suckling pig with seemingly slow cooked onions giving a sweet and savory mix was a great aspect too.

              2. huiray Oct 3, 2012 07:17 AM

                How much was the meal?

                5 Replies
                1. re: huiray
                  j
                  Japfan Oct 3, 2012 08:08 AM

                  Cant wait to hear more about your other meals...cause i will be there in 3 weeks time.

                  1. re: Japfan
                    huiray Oct 3, 2012 06:22 PM

                    I think you meant to address Charles Yu.

                  2. re: huiray
                    Charles Yu Oct 3, 2012 06:53 PM

                    Did not know the exact amount since my friend treated me as a birthday gift. I believe it was around $800 for 3, all inclusive since wine and lots of bottle water were involved. Tasting menu was $128 per person.

                    1. re: Charles Yu
                      huiray Oct 3, 2012 07:17 PM

                      Thanks.

                      1. re: Charles Yu
                        klyeoh Oct 3, 2012 07:31 PM

                        Wow, that is *so cheap* compared to what we need to pay in Singapore for something similar.

                    2. t
                      thegforceny Oct 3, 2012 07:08 AM

                      Sorry, it's annoying me... it is Jean GeorgeS

                      Jean Georges. You exclusively write it Jean George.

                      (Doesn't get to me as much as Babbo'S but still....)

                      PS Great write-up otherwise!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: thegforceny
                        Charles Yu Oct 3, 2012 07:21 AM

                        Oops!! Thanks for the typo correction!! After all, we are 'International' chowhounders with non English or French mother tongue!!

                      2. ellenost Oct 3, 2012 04:17 AM

                        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!

                        1. klyeoh Oct 3, 2012 01:24 AM

                          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 :-)

                          1. o
                            OverseasEater Oct 2, 2012 11:52 PM

                            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.

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