Mike and I have a tradition for our birthdays that I absolutely love. Every year we surprise each other with a reservation at one of the best restaurants in Manhattan. He has taken me to some amazing meals, including Daniel, Le Bernardin, and (our #1) WD-50.
(Have I mentioned recently that I am an incredibly lucky gal?)
This year, Mike surprised me with a reservation at the famous Jean Georges. They have a few different Prix Fixe menus that change often. Here was our menu on August 15th, 2012:
Mike chose the Summer menu. I went with the Jean Georges menu because they informed me that they could not do the Summer Menu without peppers. They could make the necessary changes, however, to make sure I didn’t get any.
Our reservation was for 8:45pm and we sat right around that time.
They had a lot of options for bread, but I really loved the pretzel rolls they served.
And it was a very good thing that I liked that bread so much, because it was a full 45 minutes before our amuse bouche arrived.
The amuse was a carrot suit with sesame and okra and sea urchin. The original had peppers in it, but I got a pepper-less version. The soup, sesame, and okra was very good but the sea urchin had 0 flavor.
For our next course, we sat, and sat, and sat. It was at this moment that my heart sank. I wanted SO badly to love Jean Georges. It’s a New York staple. And shouldn’t Jean Georges have great service? We were so spoiled by our service at Le Bernardin, but this was getting really bad.
It was 55 minutes later that our 1st course came out. It was now almost 10:30pm and we were just starting our tasting menu… le sigh.
Our first course was the toasted egg yolk. This was the one thing off the Summer Menu that I really wanted, so I was very pleased that I got it on my menu. This was absolutely delicious.
It had the texture of grilled cheese with that salty caviar. It was a great combination and a great texture. I loved it and hoped that the whole meal would be this unique and delicious, to make up for the slow service.
Mike’s next course was on the original menu: Foie gras and market strawberry terrine, bitter chocolate and brioche. They said this had peppers in it, but I took a little nibble and I didn’t detect any. And then I took another nibble and another and another. Frankly, I couldn’t get enough of this so even if it did have peppers, I convinced myself it didn’t (if it did, it was barely a trace). The bitter sweet chocolate with the strawberry and rich foie gras. Boy oh boy. This is how foie gras was meant to be.
I got scallops which were very nicely seared with a very slight crisp. The cauliflower added flavor without taking away from the delicate flavor of the scallop. Very nice.
I was then served the following, which while I at first thought was some sort of rose petal soup, was merely a dipping bowl for ones hands. Good thing they told me that before I sank my spoon in! It was a very nice touch.
Mike’s next course was charred corn ravioli with tomato salad and basil fondue. It was a great combination of fresh flavors. Sweet and very nice, though Mike said he wanted more ravioli in the dish.
My next course was garlic soup with frog legs.
They instructed me to dip the legs into the soup. It was actually a great combination of flavors and I really enjoyed the mild garlic soup with the salty legs.
Mike’s next course was trout with charred eggplant and peppers sauce. I didn’t try this one, but Mike concluded that he doesn’t love red fish and this relied too much on the sauce for flavor. There was really a need for crunch on the top because the fish was a bit mushy.
My next course was turbo with wine sauce. The sauce was absolutely incredible. I really loved it.
Next , Mike had the lobster in yuzu, chanterelles, and squash. This was really delightful. Great flavors.
My next course was lobster with tomato broth. It had a mild mint flavor to it. My tail piece was a bit overcooked but my claw was perfectly cooked. It was nothing like Maine Lobster Pound lobster though (then again… what is?)
There was quite a wait between each course even after the initial gaps, so at some point between course 5 and course 6, our waiter brought us a free wine pairing on the house for our next course. That was a very nice touch.
Mike’s next course was the lamb with a smoked chili glaze. It was absolutely perfectly cooked from the looks of it, but Mike said the chili sauce/rub was really overpowering to the flavor and the sides (new onion compote and pole beans) were just “meh.”
I somehow forgot to photograph my last savory course, but it was squab. It had curry, which I’m typically not a fan of, but this one was very good. It was a bit hard to cut but the corn cake with foie was quite good. The lemon with it was too lemony and was pretty overpowering for the dish.
At this point, we were both pretty full (and tired), but our most anticipated courses were yet to come.
On to dessert!
Mike had the cherry dessert tasting which had a few variations of cherry desserts. Mike’s favorite was the cherry almond creme brulee. It also had cherry with champagne something-in-french-with-cherries in the jar and black forest cake with cherries. These were very pretty, but really just okay in flavor.
I got the chocolate tasting which included chocolate lava cake (fantastic), a candy bar (just ehh), apricot with mcadamia nuts and lavender (I thought it tasted like soap, but Mike liked it), and a lemon meringue like dessert (my fave). None of it worked together, but it was a nice assortment.
The candy bar, while so-so on flavor, was really beautiful.
I was beyond stuffed at this point, but a very nice happy birthday present came out (filled with chocolate mousse).
And then a guy came by and cut us some homemade marshmallows.
Which were fluffy and perfect.
And then out came a candy sampler (the wrapped ones had chipotle, but the rest were just okay).
And then macarons, which had good flavor but were a bit too small to be texturally right.
And then I got a goody bag to take home that had some candy “for the lady.” It was a nice treat the day after on our way up to Maine (more on that later)
By the time we finished our meal it was after 1am. Over 4.5 hours. Ridiculous.
And when we sat and thought about it, we realized that our meal was really, really good… but was it great? Was it even memorable?
I couldn’t even put it in the top 10. Maybe not even the top 20. What a bummer. It’s not that anything was bad… in fact, most of our dishes were far above average. But it just wasn’t what we expected from such a famous place. And the service? Way too slow. Ridiculously slow. Bummer. Bummer Bummer.
Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10