Jean-Georges, September 20, 2007

Jean Georges

Had lunch with the new boss to discuss some work things. What better place to feed your head and belly than at Jean Georges on a beautiful Indian Summer afternoon. We opted, for the second time in my dining at Jean Georges, to eat on the patio.

Side note...don't expect the deliciously creamy butter you've come to love and expect when dining on the patio. They serve olive oil in a side dish instead...though you can request butter. I think it has something to do with the melting factor...

Smoked salmon with a grilled corn and cherry salad (or was it salsa). In either case, it was excellent - elevating the relatively pedestrian salmon to new heights. Bonus: you could make this at home!

The entree options were either shrimp and noodles (see below) or a petit filet. I was shocked that JG would serve filet mignon - such a generic cut lacking the flavor of others, so I had to try it. It was satisfying - with the salt flakes bringing out as much flavor of the meat as was possible. Cooked perfectly except I wasn't thrilled by the potatoes.

Now this is a dessert. Pistachio ice cream with Fraises Des Bois (alpine strawberries) and some crumble and I think a yogurt something or other. This was delicious...and almost too goodlooking to eat. Excellent.


Jean Georges, September 14, 2007

Jean Georges

A few quick things to note, before I go into the details of today's lunch. I found out that Top Chef alum Lia, has moved over to Spice Market to get some extra training on spices and such. Why? Because she will be the chef for Jean George's upcoming Mexico City outpost. A bit far away - but can we all agree that it would be terrific to see her open up a new JG Mexican-influenced restaurant in NYC in 3-5 years? Chew on that...

Summer vegetable soup with market beans, tomatoes, basil. This was very light and refreshing and using top notch late summer produce. There was a strong lemon presence. Did they use lemon basil instead of traditional basil or did they overdo it with fresh lemon juice? In any event, a nice start.

Pork loin and pork belly with enoki mushrooms and rice cakes. This was very good. The loin was perfectly cooked but the belly was the most outstanding element. Everything worked on this dish. Fantastic all around.

Banana cake with caramel ice cream. Pretty self-explanatory. And as good you'd imagine.


Balthazar, September 2, 2007


It's taken us awhile, but we finally got to Balthazar for brunch - thanks to Danna's parents who took us out for her 30th birthday. We get our coffee from the sideshop any time we are shopping downtown and I occasionally pick up some bread if I'm heading over to SA and D's. Oh, and the cookbook is great. I've made several meals from it, favoring the short ribs, french onion soup and, of course, the pomme frites.

(Eggs Norwegian, with lox in the foreground)

So, having had great success with making the fries, we had to try to real deal. They were very good and deserve the credit they've gotten. In addition to the side of fries, I started with (not pictured) the french onion soup (also very good) and the eggs meurette, which basically poaced eggs in a red wine sauce with mushrooms, some frisee, and lardons. Solid dish.

Coffee was good as usual, ambiance was lively and service was spot on despite the bustling crowds. It's a great place and it's clear why McNally's place has been such a success.


Insieme, September 1, 2007

777 7th Ave

My lunch at Insieme several weeks back was pretty solid. When I tried to stop in without a reservation for lunch a few weeks later, I was shut out, despite a nearly completely empty room...citing "all tables were reserved." That pissed me off. It was ludicrous to not let me turn a quick table. I'd have been in and out before half the place got filled. Service hasn't been the strongest suit in my experience at Marco Canora's other restaurant, Hearth.

But I trust Marco Canora as a chef, and so I thought an early dinner before seeing A Chorus Line at the Schoenfeld Theater was a good choice.

For whatever reason, I am missing several photos of our dinner, specifically our appetizers. But we'll get to all that soon enough.

Service was off to a terrific start. The well-dressed maitre d' presented us with two complimentary glasses of prosecco in honor of Danna's birthday (the benefits of include the option to give the restaurant info about you as their guest). I shrugged off his desire to explain what prosecco was to us.

We got a bunch of very tasty amuses. So good that we actually started in on them immediately, forgetting to take out the camera right away - so what is missing are two holed out radishes with bagna cauda. Delicious, and got us thinking we need to have that at home again. Danna's mom made it one night - excellent. Other items included an eggplant caponita (excellent) and a fish (cod/salt cod?) puree in a potato, topped with red pepper (ok).

Then they brought out an egg drop soup, which was completely unexpected. Danna really enjoyed hers, I thought it was good, but nothing terribly special.

Danna ordered the Lasagna Verde Alla Bolognese ($16) from the traditional side of the menu to start (still very good) and I ordered the Veitellone Crudo alla Piemont ($16), pasture-fed baby beef tartate with cremini mushrooms and lemon. Unfortunately, I didn't get my tartare. I was served something else and, thinking I simply ordered wrong (its happened before), dug into what would turn out to be a remarkably bland fritto misto (a $15 plate of calves liver, sweetbreads, veal cutlet, veal tongue). What a terrible dish. Did they season it? It was like a really bad chicken francaise. Maybe I just don't get it. Anyway, they fixed the problem very quickly, and allowed us to keep the bollo misto (we passed). The tartare was delicious. One of the best I've ever had. If that's your thing...I'd recommend it.
The lamb dish ($36) on the contemporary side of the menu sounded excellent. Both Danna and I had eyed it and since we were sharing (as usual), one of us would have to get it. It included a chop, the saddle, a sausage in a squash round, and breast with lavendar, chanterelle mushrooms and a broth that stayed on your lips for a long time after eating it. A bit rich, especially this time of year, but still great.

We balanced the meat dish (sort of) with Mediterranean Bass "Saltimbocca" ($30) which was served with baby leeks, savoy cabbage, sage and perfectly wrapped in prosciutto. Expertly prepared. Delicious.

I knew exactly what Danna was going to get for dessert...the Bomboloni ($10) from the traditional side of the menu. These small cream-filled yeast donuts were served with a chocolate sauce. We'd have eaten as many of these as they were willing to give us. Delicious.

I went for the pistachio cake ($10) that was a bit dry, and served with local strawberries. Just okay.

We were given some petit fours that included a chocolate filled pastry (great), a pistachio bar (better than the cake) and mini biscotti, one with a pistachio in it, the other curiously missing one. Coffee was good too.

Overall, a very good dining experience minus the one mixup that, to someone else might have been a really big deal, but not for us. I highly recommend going here for dinner before hitting a Broadway show. You'd be hard pressed to find much better in the neighborhood. And compared to db Bistro Moderne, also in the vicinity, you'll be getting much more for your money at Insieme.