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Image 1: With quite a few hours of layover at JFK, it was difficult for me to settle on the airport fast food especially since there were many Michelin 3-star within just a 45-minute taxi ride away. With my small carry-on suitcase, I decided to wrap up my US fine dining trip by going straight to the Trump Tower at the Columbus Circle to meet my foodie friend, Seth. This was our first time meeting up even though we knew each other via email for years.
Image 2: For those of you who think I am overdoing it on fine dining, well, wait until you hear this - There are people who visited all 3-star in the world; there are people who visited all World's 50Best; and then you have Seth, who doesn't need to travel because he knows he has the best within walking distance from his home and he overkilled it. This lunch with me at Jean Georges was his 1342 visits! Basically, a few times a week for over 10 years.
Image 3: This place got packed up pretty quickly! Full house every Saturday lunch in both the main dining room and Nougatine, the casual dining area. They have the last lunch sitting at 3pm and the first dinner sitting at 5pm! Despite the non-stop turnovers, the service was friendly and smooth throughout our meal.
Image 4: Just as we were about to finish our cocktails, our server arrived with five choices of fresh bread ranging from basic sour dough to bacon brioche.
Image 5: Then some amuse bouche comprising of three items: a mini green pea tart, a shot of spiced broccoli, and a sushi of pickled rhubarb but using sticky rice. The first two items were refreshing but the sushi was the worst items of the meal with an odd combination of sharp rhubarb and overly sticky rice.
Image 6: To compensate, my first course was served shortly after and it turned out to be the best dish of the meal. Foie gras brûlée decorated with rhubarb gel and tiny pieces of dehydrated pineapple. This little cylinder of foie gras terrine was resting on a buttery brioche. The whole thing was then lightly coated in sugar before being blow-torched all around to create a brittle shell, and finally garnished with Sichuan pepper.
Image 7: The dehydrated pineapple was clever - capturing the tropical fruitiness without being watery which would have ruined the dish. This divining dish alone justified my taxi ride from the airport! Rich and smooth foie, sweet and crispy caramel, together with exotic flavour from pineapple and stimulating spices, it was a mouthful of harmony in both flavour and texture. Incredible!
Image 8: Next was Risotto of Nishiki, short grain Japanese rice, with chunks of Peekytoe crab garnished with fine strips of nori and finished with a squeeze of key lime. Wow, almost as good as the previous course. The rice was nicely cooked, smothered in a flavourful but not overly rich cream with a hint of lime acidity that brightened up the dish further. Very comforting and delicious food!
Image 9: I didn't want to overload my stomach before the long haul flight, so I opted out from the meat and went for two fish courses instead. This Roasted Hake was carefully cooked in a aromatic spice broth retaining the delicacy of the fish topped with spring vegetables, ferns, asparagus, and edamame. Good course again! The food at Jean Georges just wouldn't go wrong!
Image 10: The second fish was Black Seabass with thin nuts and seeds crust served on sweet & sour broth with a mix of baby onion, peas and mushroom. The broth didn't sound appealing but it was actually wonderful - a light version of Thai curry with an elegant balance of fruitiness. I had to soak up every drop using my bread and needless to say, the fish was beautifully done with a moist centre. Loved every part of this course!
Image 11: There were a few dessert choices and I went for the Chocolate which consisted of four parts. A silky milk chocolate mousse topped with Piedmont hazelnuts, smoked salt meringue and candied orange. Then, on the left was vanilla ice cream with chocolate crumbs and on the right was yuzu sorbet with white chocolate crumbs.
Image 12: And the main component of this dessert was the signature dessert of Jean Georges - A warm molten chocolate cake. What a seductive dessert to finish another satisfying lunch!
Image 13: Finally, a good selection from the petits fours trolley: house-made chocolate, coconut-chocolate macaron, almond nougat and mandarin pates de fruits.
Image 14: Just like how the meal ended last time, they cut out a few cubes from their big jar of home-made roll of marshmallow. I was sad to reach the end of my US trip but glad that it ended at a high note! Seemed that I liked every dish that came out from this kitchen on both visits though they were seven years apart! Moreover, despite the busy lunch service with high turnover, at no point did I feel rushed by the staff.
Image 15: Not many fine dining restaurateurs can deliver such a consistency for both the service and the food for over this long period of time. Jean Georges is truly an expert in this field and his success can be seen by the presense of his restaurants all over the world while maintaining the standards at his flagship restaurant. Truly an ideal spot for high quality food with comfortable surroundings, and at a good price for lunch!