The New Jean-Georges Vegetarian Tasting Menu

beet carpaccio

I used to love coming to Jean-Georges for lunch because of its amazing lunch deal. Back in the day, you could get two courses for $38, which is insanely reasonable for a fine-dining, Michelin star restaurant, and you could add on a dish for just $19. But the days of the value meal is long gone. Now you have to pay a pretty penny for a seat at the table. It’s tasting menu only, which will run you $68 for the four course option or $178 for the six course option. The vegetarian versions cost $58 and $128.

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The Perfect Meal, Per Se

Per Se – it really needs no introduction. No. 11 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. 3┬áMichelin stars. 29 rating in Zagat (30 is the highest, which indicates “perfection”). The accolades go on and on. Clearly one reserves Per Se for the most special of occasions–like our 2 year wedding anniversary!

So did our meal live up to the expectations? The answer to that question is yes, in the way that a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House lives up to your expectations. What I mean by that is, you appreciate the level of skill and talent involved, you admire the beauty of your surroundings and you certainly don’t regret having attended. But at the end of the day, you would prefer to let your hair down and go see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs play at a smaller, scruffier venue. The performance was technically perfect, but lacked soul.

I know comparing a performance of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to the Met is like comparing apples to oranges, so I’ll use Blue Hill at Stone Barns as a basis of comparison for Per Se. Both Blue Hill and Per Se are highly acclaimed, service-oriented restaurants that offer elaborate tasting menus. At both places, the service is attentive without being too formal or fussy, the plating is beautiful, the surroundings are gorgeous and the flavors are inventive. But I enjoyed Blue Hill much more and would rank that as my favorite meal ever. Per Se, not so much. I’m glad I went but I don’t want to return.

I think the problem was that the majority of the dishes weren’t mind-blowingly good. For $295 a person, I would require that each course or at least the majority of them be spectacular. I wanted my taste buds to be completely won over and wanting more, but at the most they were slightly piqued and then lost interest.┬áThe meal started out on a very high note with the impressive “oysters and pearls” course, but it soon lost momentum as every subsequent dish failed to make a similarly memorable impression.

I don’t want this post to appear too critical of Per Se, because I did enjoy my meal and was very impressed with the whole experience. It definitely made the top 10 of my favorite formal restaurants. Per Se actually offers three different tasting options–the traditional 9-course at $295, a 7-course for $235, and a 5-course for $195. We opted for the 7-course option, since the only difference between that and the 9-course option was one less dessert and fish course.

But even so, there are so many other in-between courses that make “7-course” a bit of an understatement. The dessert portion of the meal, for instance, is an elaborate, drawn-out affair where additional plates of macarons, chocolate truffles, donuts, iced caramel semifreddo, mini ice-cream sandwiches and a complimentary anniversary cake arrived unannounced alongside the single scheduled dessert. I imagine it’s sort of how Katniss felt when she ate at the Capitol for the first time–mesmerized and bewildered by all the luxurious excess. I don’t think words are sufficient to describe our meal–click through the visuals below.

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