Wednesday, May 03, 2006
new york city : post 1
Over the coming days, I will be writing five posts about my dessert experiences during a five day get-away to New York City. Upfront, I would like to thank Gwenessa, Phillip, Matt and Michael, who indulged me in my sugar-induced adventure around New York.
When I was planning my trip to New York, I decided that I wanted to try at least one high-end restaurant. There are many highly regarded chefs in New York; so the decision was difficult. After talking with friends and completing two weeks of research, I decided on Jean Georges, the premier restaurant of famed chef Jean-George Vongerichten. I made a reservation for lunch, because it's much cheaper than dinner and is easier to get space. Generally, reservations need to be made about a month ahead, especially for dinner.
For lunch, Jean Georges has a very reasonable prix fixe menu. For US$28, diners are able to choose two courses from an extensive and appealing list of about twenty items. The items are widely varied and include lobster, beef, lamb, scallops, and sea bass. Before one is served the two courses, an "amuse" or appetizer is offered. The amuse that I had included three items: a white asparagus soup with a raspberry infusion; a small toasted appetizer topped with crab and watercress; and a small spoon of fava bean compote. The quality was excellent—a perfect way to start lunch. The two courses that I ordered were pan-fried scallops (which were perfectly tender) with braised cauliflower and a Dijon mustard sauce and sea bass in a tasty light soup with baby vegetables. Both dishes were wonderful, and I found myself in happy bliss.
Of course, I had to order dessert, especially as the pastry chef is Johnny Iuzzini. Iuzzini, who is 29, has worked at some of the top restaurants in New York: Payard, Daniel and Jean Georges, to name a few. With such an impressive track record, my expectations were high. I wasn’t disappointed. All the desserts on the menu are tastings, and with my lunch companions, I had the pleasure of trying two. The first was a duo of an Alsatian rhubarb tart with elderflower gelée and an almond meringue with a rhubarb and lemon grass sorbet. The second was a quartet! It included: crème fraiche cheesecake with Meyer lemon jam; chartreuse ice cream; blood orange sorbet in a tarragon sauce; and finally a kumquat strudel (which escaped my photo). At US$8 each, they were surprisingly inexpensive. I thought about ordering the two other desserts on the menu but resisted. The flavours, colours and textures were well integrated, creating dessert tastings that were solid in technique, pairing, taste and presentation. In short, Iuzzini’s desserts were spectacular!
When I thought our meal was about to end, our server wheeled out a small cart. On it was a wonderful assortment of mignardises (which are included in the prix fixe). We were served miniature macaroons the size of dimes, a small plate of wonderfully flavoured chocolates (licorice, earl grey, and coconut) and a trio of flavoured marshmallows (vanilla bean, coffee, and grapefruit). Did we eat them all? You better believe it!
If the excellent food and beautiful décor wasn’t enough, the service at Jean Georges was impressive. The staff was knowledgeable, helpful and extremely professional. Our lunch was brilliant. The next time I am in New York I will definitely book again.