The Other Side
While I have spent the last few months “behind the scenes” at Jean Georges, Saturday I experienced some of what I have been learning and helping to create. My parents came in for the weekend to visit and were able to procure a reservation for Saturday night. Being a foodie, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to dine at Jean Georges. Over the summer, we dined at Nougatine before I started my internship, and I also had a small lunch at JG (as we like to call it) with a friend before returning to school. With those previous experiences in mind and also the glimpses I get as I go through the savory side, I knew dinner would be unreal.
Unreal, turns out, is putting it lightly. My parents and I took dinner as a potential once in a lifetime meal and decided to go with the seven course winter tasting menu with accompanying wine pairings. The amuse of beet cured salmon with blood orange, a jalapeno fritter, and a duck consomme with gruyere ravioli started our night. As I finished the last bit of consomme with the ravioli, I worried that after this meal, food would never be the same again, in either taste or presentation. This fear grew as each course came and I kept stating “this is my favorite, no I like this one even better!”
The first dish of egg toast with caviar and dill is something I often see the sous chefs preparing during the day. I’m still amazed that the yolks are never broken while the buttery bread is grilled before being topped with salty caviar. Next was a tuna tartare on a gingery sauce with avocado and enveloped on one side with a crispy, salty tapioca (I believe) cracker. Semolina gnocchi with black truffle was next, and they literally melted in your mouth. We then received a complimentary dish of sauteed foie gras with yuzu scented broth, apple foam, and apple cracklins. The apple added a nice sweetness to the foie and the cracklins gave some texture to its softness. A fish dish then arrived of steamed black sea bass on purple potato butter with poblano peppers and charred eggplant. Maine lobster with passion fruit foam and spinach was brought out next, and then the server added a “finishing touch” of crispy matchstick potatoes. The main entree then arrived of roasted venison on a quince-madeirea condiment with broccoli rabe and cabrales foam. While each course was paired with a perfect wine, the syrah with this dish struck me the most, with a pepperiness evolving when sipped.
Then, after all this, desserts began to arrive. I had told my chef the night before of our plans to dine at Jean Georges, and he made sure we were well taken care of in the dessert department. We first received three desserts from Nougatine: the carrot cake with cream cheese ice cream, carrot ginger gel, carrot chip, rum raisins, and brown butter; a pear-walnut vacherin; and the newest addition of a meyer lemon curd and vanilla ricotta tart with black tea sorbet. Each was delicious, and I have to admit I was quite happy that the carrot cake was one of the desserts we were sent as I most likely made every component on the dish in production, and know I made the carrot cake batter. My parents were then shocked to see more desserts come out…16 in total as each of Chef Luzzini’s fourplays consist of four desserts based on a theme. The chocolate fourplay is a cube of chocolate pain perdu with licorice jam; a rice krispie praline filled with gianduja jasmine mousse enclosed in a chocolate ricotta shell; a mini chocolate Jean Georges cake with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate crumble; and finally a peppermint broth with chocolate noodles and white chocolate sorbet with cacao nibs. The apple tasting is an apple confit tart with cinnamon meringue; an inverted candy apple; pistachio sponge cake with sauteed apple and apple pistachio sorbet; and a housemade apple soda with apple foam and pomegrante seeds. Spice is thai pepper creme caramel; pumpkin pie cubes with sea salt; mango lhassi; and a sticky bun with crystallized ginger and pecans. Finally, there was the late harvest tasting of microwave cake with cranberry accompaniements of foam, paper, dehydrated and rehydrated cranberries; maple pudding on spiced shortbread with pain de epices ice cream; poached pear with beet flexicurd; and pomegrante soda with yogurt pearls. As a finishing touch we received mignardise of vanilla guimave (housemade marshmallow), blood orange and spiced pear pates de fruit, and assorted bon bons along with a small box of chocolate to bring home.
While I often taste bits and pieces of components I help make or observe being made, I don’t often get to try everything all together, especially not in terms of the entire fourplay. After sampling each Saturday night, my amazement at what Chef Luzzini creates grew even larger and made me more happy to be learning at Jean Georges. Everything fit together on each plate, and while alone components taste good, when combined to make the final dessert, they just sing. Some of the desserts were true “a-ha, I get it know!” moments for me. Even better, was watching my parents (and diners around us) experience these treats and their amazement at my explanation of how some of the desserts are produced.
Two days later my mother called me as I was about to enter the restaurant to tell me how she and my father are still raving about their meal. Our statement at the beginning of the night of once in a lifetime was right, and to date, the most amazing meals of all of our lives. I hope one day to be able to create such masterpieces but until then, learning from the best is a good start!