Posts Tagged ‘Eating Out’

The Colors of Jean-Georges

A name like Jean-Georges Vongerichten connotes an air of fanciness – maybe even a bit pretentious – and preciseness. He delivered all of that upon our first approach to the entrance with the name in gold letters mounted upon a marble wall. It wasn’t easy to decipher that the restaurant was inside the Trump International Hotel and Tower, and we looked quite silly walking around the building trying to figure out where to enter.

After being greeted at the front desk, where it was reminiscent of checking into a hotel (oh right, we were in a hotel), we were seated at the bar since we were early and not primed to dine yet. The Nougatine room was sleek modern and offered a view into the working kitchen. I swiveled in my cushioned stool, bobbing my head left and right searching for a star-struck glimpse of Chef Vongerichten. ‘Is that him?’ I thought. It could’ve been, but my uncertainty brought my attention back to the pretzel sticks and spiced nuts on the bar. Something about the hard, tiled floor left me hoping we weren’t going to be seated in this area for dinner. It wasn’t $128/per person kind of nice, even though the front wall is entirely window looking upon Central Park across the street.

With relief, we were led into the carpeted restaurant and seated side-by-side on a curved couch-style bench, but our backs were facing the only decoration – the outdoors. It lacked color with the linens, window dressings, and chairs being mostly all white and taupe. Again, it felt a bit like a gala in a hotel. It having been September, it was getting to be dusk early, and so our outdoor painting was removed when the curtains were drawn. Optimistically thinking, the lack of color may have been intentional so as to let the true star of the evening burst decor…the food! All presented on white plates, each dish was an exploding art palette.

The prix fixe menu gave us each a choice of three items plus a dessert theme. And here were our selections.

SEA SCALLOPS – Caramelized Cauliflower and Caper-Raisin Emulsion

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YELLOWFIN TUNA RIBBONS – Avocado, Spicy Radish and Ginger Marinade

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BUCKWHEAT CRACKLING GULF SHRIMP – and Silky Carrot Cocktail Sauce

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ROASTED HAKE – with Basil, Crushed Tomatoes and Olive Oil

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CRISPY CONFIT OF SUCKLING PIG – Baby Beets and Ginger Vinaigrette

This was the whooah dish of the evening for me.  I vividly recall the crispy pork confit of ABC Kitchen. It’s branded in my tastebud memory. This was a larger tasting of heavenly crispiness.

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BLACK SEA BASS CRUSTED WITH NUTS AND SEEDS – with Nuts and Seeds, Sweet and Sour Jus

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I chose the FIG theme, and the following four desserts were brought out on a platter:

Concord Grape Sorbet, Fig Soda, Sesame Nougat
Fig Financier, Raspberries, Ginger Syrup
Warm Brioche, Port Poached Fig, Pistachio and orange Flower Glaze
Spiced Fig Jam, Soft Chocolate, Almond Milk Sorbet

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He chose the SUMMER theme, which rewarded him with:

Sparkling Plum Soda, Riesling and Raspberries
Frozen Apricot Parfait, Candied Corn, Orange Sponge Cake, Currants
Stone Fruit Gelee, Almond Crunch Ice Cream, Honey Whole Wheat Cake
Warm Pain Perdu, Blueberry Jam and Lemon Thyme Roasted Peaches

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I’m not sure where to rank Jean-George among my Michelin-starred male culinary lovers, but if I were rich, I’d certainly give him another whirl soon. He made the top 5 with Eric, Daniel, David and Mario, but he might have to duke it out with Bobby for that slot soon.

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Back to Bocconi again and again*

It’s a typical Friday evening, heading home from work. I make the anticipatory and, at the same time, dreaded phone call: “Where do you want to have dinner?” There’s always an attempt to suggest restaurants to which we haven’t been locally, but at the end of the work week, comfort always seems to win. While many aspects of my life are regimented, I like my food and travel to be multifarious. So when the answer from either one of us is ultimately, “Let’s just go to Bocconi,” there’s an air of ambivalence.

We try to fight that response, but deep down, both of us know that our mouths and stomachs will end up

Pear Salad with endive, radicchio and a balsamic reduction

Pear Salad with endive, radicchio and a balsamic reduction

much more than satisfied and our pockets won’t be heavily emptied, which weighs greatly in the dining decision for many people. In order to reject the repetition in some fashion, I insist on ordering something different each time. Could it be some sort of nefarious attempt to sabotage my will to return so quickly? Am I hoping that the next dish just might not be that good or that Chef Mario will have an “off” night? Maybe it’s more because there are numerous specials that consistently have been winners, and I have yet to try them all.

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Veal Milanese

Perusing the menu, I’m perplexed that I had always overlooked the veal milanese, topped with an arugala and cherry tomato salad. The fear of non-tender veal must have always blinded the item from me. I can’t believe what I was missing, especially after my eyebrow raised and furrowed when told that the breading is made from chopped pretzel. I resolved it might be unusual, unconventional, and not as pleasing as my preconceived image of a wiener schnitzel breading. I sat corrected and embarrassed for pre-judging and not having confidence in such a consistent chef. After all, I thought, this isn’t Bouley or Le Bernardin where alteration from tradition is demanded. Tender was the veal!

I admit, we have betrayed Owner/Host Frank on many Friday nights, but most times, when we solicit such an inexpensive harlot that Yelp reviewers speak so highly of, we’re the ones who leave feeling cheated – our desirous tastebuds left unfulfilled. The adage goes “you get what you pay for”, but that’s why we love Bocconi. It breaks the expression because you get more than what you pay for in quality, quantity and a wealth of hospitality. Shhh, don’t tell them.

Save room for the bananas flambé. The tableside prep fascinates the young and not-so-young alike.

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* My addendum to previous post More Than a Bite at Bocconi.