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.
Vegetables and seafood were always strong suits at Jean-Georges, and I still remember how delicious the butternut squash soup was back then. Sadly, the soup is not available on the menu, and while squash did make several appearances in the tasting, it never measured up to the soup in my memories. There was a fall squash that was served in a broth, but the soup was thinner than I would have liked, and at times it was surprisingly spicy–almost Thai spicy. The squash itself was fashioned like a spiral lasagna, and it was quite meaty and pulpy, but I’m not quite sure if I loved it. The comforting bowl of honey nut squash ravioli, on the other hand, was a clear winner. Maybe this sounds crazy, but something about it reminded me of the Chef Boyardee pasta that I ate growing up. But top marks still go to that soup.
Speaking of meat. The meat course was a surprising disappointment. The roasted beef tenderloin was extremely tough, and the random kale leaf that was glued to the side of the plate seemed so unnecessary. You know it’s bad when the daikon is better than the meat. The foie gras did its job, but not much more than that. Jean-Georges usually does seafood so well–they always killed it with the bass dishes–but the peekytoe crab dumplings were too light and lemony to bedazzle. It would have been perfect for a lunch at ABC Kitchen, but at Jean-Georges, I wanted something more.
The meal ended on a high note with some strong dessert plates, although the dessert in the vegetarian tasting was significantly better. The coconut semifreddo arrived like a grand faberge egg, waiting for you to crack its beautiful white chocolate shell and scoop out its delicious semifreddo contents. The omnivore tasting served a chocolate course, but the poor thing was completely overshadowed by the beautiful semifreddo snow globe. The meal still concludes with the famous tableside marshmallow service and petit fours.
The dining room at Jean-Georges is really a lovely spot. I personally think it’s at its best in the daytime, where the light floods the room and draws everyone’s eyes out towards Central Park West. It’s also arranged so that you can see the other diners, and at times it can be quite a show. You’re practically guaranteed a sighting of a group of rich asians or an older man on a date with a much, much younger woman.
I do admire Jean-Georges’ attempt to modernize itself. Vegetables are the way of the future, so it makes sense that the restaurant is investing more time in that part of the menu. But they’ve moved away from the heartier, classic French prep in favor of lighter, skinnified techniques. Squash cream soup is now a healthier broth. Beef tartare is now beet tartare. The lighter fare leaves you with more breathing room, but I’d rather be full from the creamy squash soup.
1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023