Saturday, July 23, 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different: Jean-Georges in NYC

Ryan didn't want anything for his birthday, so I offered to take him out to a nice restaurant -- I mean, a really nice restaurant -- instead. We decided on Jean-Georges in New York: it's a French restaurant with an incredible three Michelin stars, allegedly (according to whom I have no idea) the #3 restaurant in the United States and #51 in the entire world. That's quite a lot of hype. 

I may never be able to afford dinner there (hell, I had to allocate money from my last three paychecks to even be able to afford what we ate today) but they have a comparably reasonable pre-fixe tasting menu for lunch, so that's what we did. Here are some pictures of world-class food!

First, this morning we got haircuts and then got all dolled up.

Jean-Georges is located at 1 Central Park West, inside the Trump International building (boo) at Columbus Circle. I didn't take any pictures of the inside of the restaurant because I felt like enough of a tourist as it was, but suffice it to say that it was extremely beautiful. Here is a picture I just lifted from the restaurant's web site:


Ryan and I sat on the left side, between the two dark sections (which are actually cozy little cubbies with their own tables.) 

The service was completely incredible. The hosts and the serving staff seemed like they were choreographed -- I didn't see a single wasted movement from anyone who served us. In fact, as we finished our courses, two bussers would come and one would remove each of our plates and silverware in order to clear the table as efficiently and unobtrusively as possible. I can't imagine the experience and training required to get a job in a restaurant like this, but I can say that every single person we encountered was a consummate professional.

All right, so there have been a lot of words so far with precisely zero pictures of food. Let's fix that. First up was a little amuse-bouche, provided to everyone, to prepare us for the freaking amazing food we were about to eat. The first item is a little radish on top of some fresh olive butter. (Yeah, mom -- olive butter. You would have died.) Below that is a corn fritter with some kind of chipotle sauce. Both of them were absolutely delicious.

(By the way: I don't know if there are enough superlatives in the English language to describe food like this, so you all are going to have to accept me overusing the words amazing and incredible like a broken record. Sorry about that.)

Also part of the amuse-bouche was a tiny amount of some drink made out of watermelon and cucumber. It was a little bit spicy from the black pepper and totally refreshing. I'd like to find a way to recreate it.

Next up was the first real course. I've never eaten in such a nice restaurant before, and I have no idea when I'll be able to again, but what really stood out to me about all of the dishes we ate was the absurd quality of all of the ingredients, particularly the fruits and vegetables. I don't know where they get their produce from, but I can imagine Jean-Georges Vongerichten standing over boxes of tomatoes every morning with one of those little jewelers' magnifying glasses. I wouldn't be surprised if they played, like, Vivaldi ("Spring," clearly) for the watercress or some shit.

Anyway, all of that was to set up the fact that I figured a good first course would be something vegetable-based. I got some gazpacho made out of the single best tomatoes I have ever eaten in my life. Good move, Em. 

Ryan, being the number one mushroom fan in my life, naturally got the fresh mushroom salad as his first course. I had a bite of it and it was pretty awesome. I have no idea what they put in that vinaigrette, but I need more of it in my life. 

All right, so here's the second course. I got the parmesan risotto, which was topped with parsley chiffonade, grated parmesan, grated lemon zest, and fried shallots. You can't see them in the picture, but there are artichoke hearts in the risotto.

I don't have anything else to say about this except oh my god.

Ryan got the foie gras, which was topped with nuts and surrounded by dried, ground strawberries. I had a few bites and I think I liked it better than he did, although this was his first time eating foie gras and I don't think he knew what to expect. It was smooth and wonderful. 

Another observation about this kind of food: aside from the precious plating, which is an obvious hallmark of fancy restaurants, what really stood out to me about everything we ate was the emphasis on having different flavors, textures, and even temperatures together in one bite. You're really supposed to use all of your senses to experience this food. I couldn't deal with that for every meal, but for a once in a lifetime meal like this, it really was a thing to behold.

Here's the third course (technically the main course.) Ryan got seared sea bass, which was crusted with nuts, on top of braised mushrooms with shallots and some grape tomatoes. The vegetables were in some kind of demi-glace which was pretty much the most savory, amazing thing I've ever tasted. I was a little envious because it was better than mine. 

However, "better than mine" is really a relative term. Mine was still awesome. I got king salmon with creamed fava beans, watercress salad, and lime. To be completely honest, I don't know what the lacey thing in the middle was, but of course it was good. It was so fresh and summery. 

We couldn't resist getting dessert. Up until now, we tried to each get different things so we could sample as much as possible, but when we looked at the dessert menu we both knew immediately that we didn't want anything other than chocolate, so we each got the chocolate dessert tasting. The middle was a milk chocolate ganache, and we were instructed to dip each of the toppings in it. The toppings are, starting with twelve o'clock:

- Chocolate and peanut crunch (basically, a fancy deconstructed Reese's cup)
- Olive oil powder (I was so fascinated with this! How is this even made? What else is it used for? When you put some in your mouth and swish it around, it turns back into olive oil. It was actual magic!)
- Crystallized rose petals (so good)
- Candied Meyer lemon peels
- Mini lava cake (how is this even possible, I don't know)
- Hibiscus sorbet on top of crushed peanuts
- Chocolate crunchy things (?!)
- The softest, sweetest strawberries I've ever consumed

They also gave us macadamia nut milk as a little palate cleanser. It was really good, dude.

And if that wasn't enough, the server was nice enough to bring Ryan some chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate gift box with a white chocolate placard. Just look at it!

We weren't full until dessert came. Then dessert did us in. This isn't even all of it! They also gave us some complimentary candies and house-made marshmallow, but we couldn't eat it. We had to get it to go. I don't think I've ever had too much dessert before. I didn't think it was possible.

Afterwards I thought about asking the wait staff if they could wheel me out onto Central Park West in a wheelchair, but they were so accommodating that I was afraid they'd actually do it.

Look. It was really expensive, and probably not for everyone. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little uncomfortable and out of my element when we first walked in. I recognize that being able to come here is an experience afforded to very, very few people, and the nagging, Puritanical, middle-class part of my brain wondered if it wasn't a little privileged and wasteful thing to do with that money. But, hell. You only have one life, and Ryan and I are going to remember this forever. 

Happy birthday, kid.


Jill said...

As always, Emily, you amaze me.
What an awsome description of a special birthday meal.
I am so happy that you and Ryan have had the chance to experience it and hope you have many more opportunities to compare this meal with others of the same distinction.

William Yelverton said...

What a tremendous review, and so rich with details and professionally done!
I only have one question: Do they provide rooms to sleep?

Lenor Coggins said...

Now I'm hungry and curious! Well done!