January 29, 2011

Nougatine at Jean Georges Restaurant: The Verdict

The menu for Restaurant Week 2011 at Nougatine at Jean Georges, according to their website:

I was going to order the tuna tartare, the salmon (I love sugar snap peas, and salmon is pretty good too), and that sour cherry soup… what in the world is that?! I planned to find out, even if I couldn’t have eaten it if it contained dairy. I would have had just one slurp. (I swear!)

But I couldn’t. Because this was the actual menu:

Granted, the website did say that menu items were subject to change. But really? You change EVERYTHING, except one dessert, and then don't even provide a second dessert option? Lame. Neither white bean soup nor shrimp measure up to tuna tartare, in my semi-humble opinion.

Good thing I informed the waitress that I can’t eat diary when ordering, because instead of the regular amuse-bouche she brought me the following:

While everyone else had a creamy shot and cheesy biscuit, what you see in my spoon was, basically, guacamole with chili oil and radishes on top. Delish. I love guacamole. Perhaps I’m easy to please when avocados are in the picture. The chili oil and crunch of the radishes were very nice.

In the glass was some sort of brothy concoction with black truffles “that we are serving in the main dining room,” as I was informed by the waitress, with barely suppressed snobbiness. Now that was interesting (not the suppressed snobbiness—I was getting used to that already—the black truffle concoction). I had never had truffles before (though I’ve tried a “truffle” oil that tasted like nothing, and a pasta dish “with truffles” that tasted kind of gross at a place that was too cheap to believably be serving truffles). The black truffle amuse-bouche tasted like something new. It was, as they say about truffles, "earthy," in an interesting, alluring way. I can’t quite compare it to anything else. I liked it though, and look forward to trying it again.

For my appetizer I had the white bean soup. The soup was standard, good, except when I got a bit of bacon and/or chili oil in a spoonful, which made it very good.

Already having my mind set on the salmon, I ordered this:

Though the waitress seemed ever so slightly put off when I informed her of my dairy allergy, she did seem to take it semi-seriously. Thanks be to posters! So she informed me that the salmon comes with some sort of dairy on top (no point in listening to the depressing details of what I can’t have—it’s easier that way), and I asked her to just leave that off. Even so, the salmon was excellent. Wonderfully, amazingly, perfectly cooked—somehow cooked all the way through but still juicy.

It was paired with carrots poached in (what tasted like) apple cider vinegar, with dollops of (what tasted like) olive tapenade and some kind of foie gras paste. The FG paste was delicious with the carrots, the olive tapenade a little bitter, and the carrots by themselves too tart from the vinegar. It was an odd pairing, the carrots and the salmon. Maybe the dollops of dairy tied it together. As for the green oily, herby stuff, I could not tell you what that was. Maybe cilantro pureed in oil? Maybe not. Whatever it was, it was nothing special.

For dessert I requested a non-dairy sorbet. I don’t know if you’re technically allowed to order off menu during RW, but sorbet must be cheaper than chocolate cake, right? (Which is what I asked the waitress when she balked a little at my request.) I’m pretty sure the sorbet (which tasted exactly like strawberry jelly) had milk in it. It was just too creamy. As my lactose intolerant Graybeard has taught me, when you give up milk for long enough, you start learning to detect its presence in foods—it’s hard to equal the rich creaminess of milk.

Overall, I would say that Nougatine broke even. The good and less-good balanced out, so I wouldn’t write it off forever, though it is not going on the top of my list for special occasions, at least not when I'm fortunate enough to have so many other incredible restaurants in the city, some of which even try to impress us philistines during Restaurant Week.

1 comment:

  1. Gotta love that they had a women whose sole job was to make sure that the doors into the casual dining area were opened and closed in coordination with the doors to outside so that the eliminated any breezes or drafts. I caught one swift Arctic breeze at the beginning of the meal but that's it. And, I'm pretty sure that JG himself winked at you outside the coat check...