The Modern Dining Room, New York (June 2012)

I didn’t expect The Modern to reach the three-star altitudes I had witnessed earlier in the week. And it didn’t. The lemon verbena and cinnamon-laced popcorn was stale. The yuzu marinade on four formidable langoustines masked any trace of top-of-the-sea freshness the crustaceans once bore; that plate also had a bewildering abundance of cucumber, far more than I knew what to do with.

But there were also moments rich with excitement: a tantalizing cloud of applewood smoke filled the air as a server removed the plate’s carapace, revealing a smoky, caviar-laden sturgeon-sauerkraut amalgam in a flaky tart shell. And that was soon followed by a delicately poached farm egg that explodes across the bowl upon knife pressure as if it were in a Tarantino film. Now I’m not one to profess a meretricious devotion to egg dishes, but the one-sided salt onslaught–parmesan, olive tapenade and Iberico ham–paired with the egg worked wonderfully. Dessert became a delightful ordeal, a hedonistic treadmill, highlighted by a towering pineapple-citrus macaron that went on being a joy for ten minutes.

Service was stellar throughout with my section of the dining room managed deftly by Erin, blonde and bespectacled, with an endearing awkwardness, the kind characteristic of many academics. I’m convinced I had one of the best seats in the restaurant: looked after by Erin, overlooking the MOMA sculpture garden, far away from the blaring bar and next to an investment banker on a date–with nary a chance of amatory success– with a woman palpably oozing boredom as the hours passed; when not enmeshed in the complexities of a course, I was sustained–nourished at times–by the catastrophe-prone confabs of these two. I couldn’t have planned it better if I had tried.

Lemon verbena and cinnamon popcorn

Striped bass with lentils and green apple and goat cheese crusted with ?

Chilled broccoli rabe soup with brunoised daikon

Mackerel escabeche with pickled ramp and basil coulis

Celeriac-poppyseed-crusted foie torchons, balsamic reduction and mango-passion fruit purée

Yuzu marinated langoustines, cucumber, salmon roe, lemon gelée, crisp rice and cucumber juice

Pea soup, barley, smoked ricotta and a pea barbajuan

Sculpture garden after closing

Sturgeon-sauerkraut tart with caviar mousseline and applewood smoke

Seared scallops, cardamon, shallot, rhubarb and sugar snap peas

Farm egg, parmesan crisp, olive tapenade, pimento nage and Iberico ham

Duck breast, duck confit wrapped in fresh pasta, black trumpet, frisee, pearl onions and duck jus

Trio of desserts

Strawberry-vanilla vacherin, poached rhubarb and pistachio ice cream

Pistachio bavarois

Pineapple-citrus macaron with tropical fruit and fromage blanc

Milk chocolate-hazelnut daquoise, confit lemon and raspberry

Chocolate marshmallows

Lemon-rosemary sorbet

Take-home chocolate cakes
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Per Se, New York (June 2012)

*** Update: at the exhortation of chowhounders, I sent a message to Per Se via their website and eventually spoke to the general manager about the experience described below. About a month after our confab, I received a mother of pearl spoon and a picture book called One Day at Per Se. I appreciate the gesture but think it’s a grossly inadequate attempt at a remedy. For the sake of comparison, ulterior epicure experienced a few service hiccups at The French Laundry and ended up receiving a comp on an extended tasting menu at Per Se. I guess I just had the misfortune of not being an important enough patron.

“This is just for you, sir — it’s not on the menu,” the server said as he placed before me a mound of shaved and grilled porcini mushrooms accented with parmesan and a peppery heat that lingered long after the plate had been cleared.

That was but one of the inspired partnerships that I marveled at over the course of two meals at Per Se within a four-day span. The Carême-style extravagance included an extended tasting menu to inaugurate my vacation and a vegetable tasting menu for a valedictory lunch. For the latter, it would be my first time seeing a menu in one of Thomas Keller’s three-star secular houses of worship, and a surfeit of dishes proved too interesting to bypass.

Andrew, one of two captains patrolling the lower half of dining room during lunch, double-checked, “are you a vegetarian?” “No,” I said, and soon learned why he asked, as Tyler–the other affable captain–marked my table with a mother of pearl spoon before my second course; it looked simple enough: two toasted brioche soldiers, Animal Farm butter mixed with whipped crème fraîche, and a generous bowl of white sturgeon caviar. And yet the sensation when all of the disparate parts were combined–crisp and then tender, salty and then creamy–was irrepressibly unsilent with oooooos and mmmmmms echoing as if I was in an amphitheater. It’s the kind of dish that causes you to close your eyes, appreciating, smiling and sincerely hoping you don’t say anything incriminating in your state of reverie.

Per Se’s caviar courses alone are worth the price of admission. I have tried a number of chefs’ signature dishes–Puck’s agnolotti, Boulud’s bass, Achatz’s black truffle explosion, Savoy’s colors of caviar–but none deliver quite like Keller’s oysters and pearls. However, having just enjoyed it at TFL two weeks earlier, I requested a replacement. What I received was one of three standouts during our extended tasting menu: layer upon layer of lushness with uni mousseline atop white sturgeon caviar atop a bonito gelée atop a soy bean panna cotta. Yes it’s indulgent. And if you’re ordering the $295 nine-course chef’s tasting menu, yes it’s even worth the $75 supplement.

As for the other two concitation-inducers during dinner, a leg of poularde was cooked into submission, at which point it was shredded, shaped into an oval and butter basted for 15 minutes before plump Rainier cherries and an assertive aged balsamic fluid gel sidled up next to it on the plate. It was the cable news of chicken cookery, so over-the-top that you couldn’t take your eyes off of it. The other was a dessert: a coconut cloud blanketing ginger purée and feijoa ice cream–think of the sweetest, most aromatic tropical fruit you’ve ever tasted–rivaled in its deliciousness only by Jordan Kahn’s lemongrass pot de creme. You pile up a scoop on your spoon and then ta da, it disappears on your tongue.

Let me briefly get back to the vegetables. There was a smoked buttermilk sorbet that unified an eye wateringly beautiful salad garlanded with Georgia peaches, raw, grilled and dehydrated onions and Hass avocado purée, followed by beurre monté-glazed white asparagus, candied pecans and black truffle coulis, a combination for which I could never tire.

And yet, despite all of that, circumstances surrounding the extended tasting menu conspired to leave me feeling that in their attempt to drape us in delectation, Per Se just didn’t have enough material this time. A salad of veal heart as well as a homogeneously textured turbot course ambled parlously close to my multistory salt threshold. More glaring, though, were the two courses that went unserved: (1) Australian black truffle-adorned English pea porridge with Jidori chicken egg yolk confit, parmesan mousse and whipped lardo and (2) 100-day dry aged American wagyu with fork crushed potatoes, haricots verts and breakfast radishes, both of which appeared on the menus we were handed as we left the restaurant.

You never want to be made to feel like a sucker in a place like Per Se, but that was exactly how it felt. Here’s why. First, in my two previous extending tasting menus, a truffle course appeared, which helps rationalize the $500 price tag, and that night I watched as the treasure chest housing those ethereal tubers made their way over to adjacent tables.

Indeed, once I realized we were transitioning away from savories, I asked our captain, whose name I will omit, “was it strategic to avoid a pasta course?” I cannot adduce his exact words, but he did state unambiguously that a pasta course was never on the agenda, a claim belied by the menus we were handed. For a restaurant as well-run as Per Se, it just seems bizarre that a captain and the kitchen creating the menu could be so out of synch.

And that scab was further irritated: a few days before our dinner, I received an email from the maitre d’, whose name I will also omit, asking if our reservation could be pushed back three hours on the grounds that it would make for “a more enjoyable experience.” I’m not sure what definition of enjoyable he had in mind, but if I had known it meant no black truffles or dry-aged wagyu, I would have politely declined the reservation time change.*

With a bit of percipience, I did notice a large party in the private dining room finishing up as we were seated, and it’s possible the kitchen didn’t want to be slammed by having both a private party with which to deal and an extended tasting menu at the same time. If that was the case, I would have preferred to have been told as much, and then maybe my dining companion and I could have dined there on another night. Instead we were left with a bowdlerized menu.

So what did I learn after these two meals and an extended tasting at TFL two weeks earlier? (1) The gougères at Per Se are better. (2) As much as I like Per Se’s dining room, it cannot compete with the preindustrial nostalgia TFL evokes. (3) These restaurants, as is the case with many in this genre, attract the type of people who desperately want you and the dining room staff to know they matter because, for example, they spend thousands of dollars at Joel Robouchon’s Mansion (you can also get big leagued by author Andrew Sullivan in a restaurant like Per Se, as I learned). (4) I need a break, both financially and physically, from Keller’s establishments. (5) The relationship between how much one spends and how good a time one has can be non-monotonic. (6) If I do return to either TFL or Per Se, it will almost certainly be for the vegetable tasting.

* The dining room also becomes unusually tenebrous as the evening wears on, resulting in rubbishy photos.

To read about either my extended tasting menu lunch at The French Laundry or my first extended tasting menu at Per Se last summer, see here and here, respectively.

Meal #1: Extended tasting menu

 

Gruyere gougères

 

Salmon cornet

 

Carrot velouté with English peas

 

Soy bean panna cotta, bonito gelée, uni mousseline and osetra caviar
Sashimi of shima aji with coconut tartare and cilantro shoots 

 

Soft shell crab, cherry purée, watercress and preserved horseradish

 

White truffle oil hen egg custard with black truffle ragout (without the chive crisp)

 

Salad of veal heart, compressed cucumbers, bulgar wheat, medjool dates, charred eggplant and a yogurt crisp

 

 

Torchon of foie gras, green tomato relish, yellow peaches, mustard and toasted corn madeleine

 

 

 

Turbot, cannellini beans, picholine olives and nasturtium leaves

 

Butter poached Nova Scotia lobster, applewood smoked bacon, Sungold tomatos and Hass avocado purée

 

Poularde, Rainier cherries, celery, wild arugula and aged balsamic 

Lamb ribeye, sausage, cauliflower cream and spinach

 

Andante Dairy’s Cavatina, braised endive, nectarine marmalade, walnuts and black truffle purée

 

Ginger purée, whipped coconut and feijoa ice cream

 

Toasted oat crumble, boysenberry soda and vanilla ice cream

 

Coffee and donuts

 

Gateau de Fernand Point with a chocolate-vanilla ice cream

 

Birthday treat

 

Chocolate-covered hazelnuts

 

House-made chocolates

 

Fudge, macarons and truffles
Meal #2: Vegetable tasting menu

 

 

 

Overlooking Central Park

 

Glasses of champagne gratis

 

Gruyere gougères

 

Salmon cornet

 

Ajo blanco, Thompson grapes, green almonds, cilantro and pimenton

 

 

White sturgeon caviar, breakfast radishes, Diane St. Clair’s butter, whipped crème fraîche and toasted brioche

 

 

 

 

 

Charcoal grilled Japanese Iwashi, Brooks cherries, caramelized cauliflower, purple artichoke, lily bulb and white sesame purée

 

Cauliflower custard and orange marmalade

 

 

 

Wine/cocktail list

 

 

Sorbet of smoked buttermilk from Diane St. Clair, compressed apples, grilled cippolini pickled beets, polenta croutons, Georgia peaches, Hass avocado purée and toasted pumpernickel

 

 

 

Georgia peach julep

 

Artichoke textures with nicoise farce and tomato

 

 

White asparagus, yellow peaches, endive, pecans, red ribbon sorrel, cherries and black truffle coulis

 

 

Porcinis, spinach, petite lettuces, parsley, parmesan, zucchini, Madeira emulsion

 

 

Duck rillettes, preserved strawberries, romaine and sunchoke cream

 

 

Cannellini bean agnolotti, pickled eggplant, green garlic, basil, salsa verde and grated Chevrotin

 

 

Per Se ricotta, English pea barbajuan, picholine olives, pine nuts and mint vinaigrette

 

Blueberry panna cotta, blueberry sorbet, toasted brioche and candied Angelica

 

“Floating islands,” mango purée, coconut tapioca, mango, meringue and coriander ice cream

 

 

 

 Grapefruit and malted milk 

 

Passionfruit and mint-chocolate macarons

 

Butter pecan bon bons

 

 

 

Seems like a reasonable amount of mignardises for one person

 

Candy for the road

Corton, New York (June 2012)

Chocolate-covered scallops, espuma of calf’s brains and foie gras, apple-wasabi sorbet with olive oil, braised pork cheeks and caviar. That’s just a small window into the kinds of combinations that appear in A Matter of Taste, the HBO documentary chronicling Chef Paul Liebrandt’s post-Papillon peregrinations.

During my most recent meal at Corton, there certainly was no shortage of tantalizing dish descriptions: roast chicken ice cream with white asparagus velouté (or “milk” as described on the menu), crayfish tortellini with burnt eggplant meringue. And yet, the food never came close to generating the same level of delight as it did on the first go-round (here), wherein I wrote a real gusher. 

That white asparagus soup was watery, resulting in a Sisyphean struggle just to get it to stay on the spoon. At least on that occasion our table was marked with utensils, which wasn’t the case with the morel mushroom chawanmushi, as we waited and waited some more before spoons finally arrived. And the unpalatable saffron-yuzu mochi is a memory on which I hope darkness will soon descend.
 
Let me not give the impression that Corton has somehow atrophied beyond recognition. There was the seductively salty Scotch quail egg tempered by apricot gelée and an august arrangement of rabbit, including a burger with ramp mayonnaise, tender loin and shoulder meat and a cucumber gelée-topped mousse. In the backdrop hid a tiny supreme of grapefruit that jolted the palate amid the carousel of leporine parts. And pastry chef Shawn Gawle’s graceful sourdough ice cream sitting atop a terrine of smoked maple and sour cherry proved to be one of the tastiest desserts on my trip.

But in the end, the stentorian conversations from some of the larger parties detract from the ambiance. And the uninviting, amateurish service becomes too annoying to brook. I hope my experience was abberational, but I’m in no hurry to find out.

Mornay-filled cracker

Dashi gelée

Red miso financier

Saffron-yuzu mochi

Foie gras-chicken-potato-pimento terrine

 Morel mushroom chawanmushi

Roast chicken ice cream, white asparagus velouté, pickled ramps, hon-shimeji mushrooms and puy lentils

Crayfish tortellini, burnt eggplant meringue, green asparagus, Madras curry, sorrel and lemongrass broth

Scotch egg, rainbow chard and apricot gelée

Duo of wild Alaskan salmon: confit with beet, rhubarb and red curry jus and salmon belly with broccoli

Rabbit burger with a shishito pepper

Rabbit loin, confit squid, shoulder, radish, confit grapefruit and a green chartreuse-rabbit jus

Cucumber gelée and rabbit mousse


                              Grapefruit sorbet, ginger creme, candied ginger, burnt honey sabayon and grapefruit meringue

Smoked maple-sour cherry terrine, coffee sponge cake and sour cherry purée

Guava-lime pate de fui

Chocolate-olive oil truffles

House-made chocolates (forgot to photograph their mastodonic canelé!)

Cassis-violet and pea macarons

Green tea cakes

Eleven Madison Park, New York (June 2012)

“Eleven Madison Park Sodomizes Its Roasted Ducks with Lavender Shrubs: Help Stop the Abuse.”

So would read the newsletter headline if PETA opted to take its crackpot antics–protesting outside of restaurants (Melisse), sabotaging restaurants (Son of a Gun) and threatening chefs (Laurent Manrique)–to New York. As is often the case, though, they would be wrong: EMP treats that fowl with the utmost care and prepares it faultlessly.

During my two lunches and over six hours in the high-ceiling palazzo, Executive sous chef Bryce Shuman –charm incarnate–kept his hand on the pleasure spigot and increased the intensity with each succeeding hour. Meals started with canapés that progressed in a cascade of tastes and temperatures: chilled Greek yogurt lollipops studded with fried lentils, room temperature rounds of toasted brioche topped with a sunny side up quail egg and the most deliciously torrid corn soup it has ever been my pleasure to eat.

And then there are the final introductory treats; these are to dramatic what David Hasselhoff is to dipsomania: its very essence. On one visit, the restaurant offered its interpretation of a modern New England clam bake, replete with the aforementioned corn soup, a palate-cleansing bowl of cool viands and a small nugget of zucchini bread that is without tension. On another, Bryce approached the table carrying a cloudy glass enclosure and with an impish grin requested, “No peeking.” The visually stunning tribute to New York fare included, inter alia, smoked sturgeon, a magnanimous tin of caviar and crème fraîche and house-made pickles.

When you finally get to the actual tasting menu over one-hour into the meal, you’re bowled over by the beauty of the kitchen’s offerings. Indeed, the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park seems to be working in HD, painting each porcelain plate with resplendent hues, while other restaurants on my trip seem to have only just discovered VHS.*

There’s tender lobster with elegantly undulating charred leeks, all of which rests on a glistening squid ink-laced shellfish bisque so flavorful you’ll have no choice but to make copious use of a whole wheat roll, the texture of which is tantamount to the most ethereal croissant. A morel composition with al dente peas, gelatinous tripe and fried quinoa encourages you to conduct a series of experiments with your fork. And a chocolate and lavender dessert profits from the faintest dusting of orange zest. And before you leave, your pockets are lined with a collection of confections–granola, a house-made Twix bar, cookies–which have the effect of extending the meal’s thrills for days.

In two lunches only once did a dish venture slightly out of equilibrium when a hamachi crudo was dwarfed by bracingly bitter sorrel and shaved horseradish. This very likely could have been a case of the kitchen revealing that they are, indeed, human.

Gary Vaynerchuk has been wont to say that the internet is dominating and only just hit puberty. Well, Eleven Madison Park, under Chef Daniel Humm and General Manager Will Guidara, has experienced an even quicker maturation, dominating while still in toddlerhood. After enjoying the extended tasting at Per Se and the tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park back-to-back, I asked my dining companion, if you could only return to one restaurant which would it be? “It’d be a coin flip,” he said. If it came to that, I surely hope the folks at EMP tamper with the coin!

* To be fair, I think Per Se deserves the same compliment.

Lunch #1

Applewood smoked apple tea with thyme

Applewood smoked bacon on a sunny side up quail egg on toasted brioche

Black truffle-parmesan cookie
Chickpea panisse with yogurt

Greek yogurt lollipop with Madras curry and fried lentils

Smoked sturgeon sabayon, brunoised sturgeon and chive oil

New England clambake

Clams, red pepper, corn, corn cream, radish, zucchini and tomato snow

Zucchini bread in a corn husk

Corn chowder

“Jack Rose” edible cocktail (apple brandy sorbet, aerated pomegranate sorbet dome)

Whole wheat bread

Hamachi, horseradish, pumpernickle crisps, sorrel sauce

Curds and whey: fresh curds, caraway gnocchi, fiddlehead ferns and spring herbs

Seared foie gras, pickled kohlrabi, pork broth, drops of burnt ginger-scallion oil

Meyer lemon beurre blanc-poached lobster, charred leeks and shellfish bisque

Colorado lamb loin, artichoke textures, fried leek root, green tomato caviar, freekeh and spring onions

Aged and fresh Meridian chérve, strawberries, green garlic and candied pistachio

Egg cream and malted milk

Goat cheesecake meringue, cara cara orange sorbet and gelée and vanilla

Malted sorbet, peanut butter, pretzel shards and dijon

Dark chocolate, lavender sorbet, lavender meringue, orange cream, orange zest and Maldon salt

Sweet black and white cookie
Chocolate-peanut butter cookie

House-made Twix

Just straight fire!

Granola

Lunch #2

Hand-written birthday card

Uni, green apple, celeriac and apple snow

Quail egg,  red onion, endive and everything bagel crumb

House-made pickles

Smoked sturgeon
White sturgeon caviar and crème fraîche

Beets (raw and roasted), goat cheese espuma, caraway crisps and strawberry vinaigrette

Terrine of foie gras, duck proscuitto, greens and black sesame

Confit cobia, roasted garlic and king trumpet mushrooms

Morels, peas, tripe, mushroom purée, mushroom foam and crunchy quinoa

Duck tongues two ways, radish and hoisin vinagrette

Whole roasted Muscovy duck with honey, lavender and Szechuan peppercorns

Roasted duck, mustard, rhubarb and celery


Melisse, Santa Monica, CA (June 2012)

Every so often a dish–and its concomitant sauce–will have a conversation-halting quality to it. On this occasion it was roasted chicken with a viscous and glossy sauce Albufera that implored you to coat each element on the plate in its ambrosial pincers (as for some of the actual pincers served, in the form of Maryland soft shell crab, they, too, were delicious). 

During this most recent dinner, it was indeed the sauces that astonished. In addition to the aforementioned Albufera, there was a porcini velouté finished tableside with a mushroom consommé. Was it thick? Was it thin? It was both, making for an immensely satisfying bowl of soup. Then there was a frothy indulgence of nasturtium-crab bisque that flirted with the fried soft-shell crab. Tableside pours even permeated dessert with a strawberry water completing a palate-cleansing final dessert. Much to my delight, Melisse has halted its chocolate pandering–an over-the-top quartet of chocolate that I always found to be too heavy a note on which to end–replacing it with smaller, lighter offerings.

And I would be derelict if I didn’t mention the front-of-house, which manages to conduct a seminar on leisure each time we visit, making a great meal move slow like molasses (hmmm, never thought I’d paraphrase RZA): Danica, a new addition to the team, happily pours bottles of wine as if topping off a water glass; Brian, the Gregory House look-alike of a sommelier, ambles over to talk about what he hopes will be a show on the Sundance Channel (“Jackass meets No Reservations,” he says); James, the indefatigable and newly minted maitre d’, exudes an infectious enthusiasm that keeps us coming back; and all of this happens while Chef de Cuisine Ken Takayama in zen-like quietude runs the kitchen.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t room for improvement. After all, Chef Citrin’s motto is “In Pursuit of Excellence.” I think the area that could most use an update is the canapés. Now I’m not suggesting they adopt an EMP or Meadowood-style cavalcade approach, but I do think some change would be good, as we’ve been met with the same amuse for two-and-a-half years. Whether they heed my advice or not, Melisse remains the best fine-dining restaurant in southern California.

Congratulations, James! And thank you for another enrapturing evening!

Goat cheese and pistachio-coated grapes and spherical grapes

Badminton-garnished Kusshi oyster

 Tai snapper, squid ink-onion purée, verbena, cucumber and cucumber consommé

Soft poached egg, lemon crème frâiche, cauliflower purée, American osetra caviar, chives

Porcini velouté, porcini, haricot verts, mushroom consommé

 Duo of foie, blood orange, rhubarb and kumquat

 Soft shell crab, asparagus, carrot, chickpea and crab-nasturtium bisque

 Scale-on tilefish, English peas, fava beans, fava bean purée and sea vegetable broth

 Whole roasted chicken, white asparagus, morels and sauce Albufera

 Cote de boeuf, squash blossom, porcini, spinach and herb jus

Our menu taped on the pass
Cave-aged Gouda, Manchego and Petite Basque

Quince paste and chestnut tree honey

Textures of chocolate and caramel

Black sesame cake, chamomile ice cream, strawberry shards, strawberry water

 Chocolate chip cookies, strawberry-melted chocolate and foie gras macarons, canalés, cherries and golden raspberries

Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, MI (June 2012)

After amassing thirty Michelin stars across fifteen restaurant visits in three weeks, I knew I would need a gentle return to the real world and thought the Roadhouse would be just the place.

I must admit it’s refreshing to be able to walk into a restaurant without having to make a reservation one, two or even three months prior to a meal. That, of course, involves tradeoffs. By 7pm, they had already 86-ed the mussels and the paella. On the other hand, for the price of some restaurant entrées in LA, San Francisco or New York, I was able to order three courses, the first two of which were large enough to constitute lunch the following day. And I’m happy to report the burger was cooked medium rare (as requested), which seemed to be a bit of a challenge during my previous visit last July. Their desserts are almost entirely on the stodgy side–the kinds of desserts that give the Midwest a bad rap (e.g. a donut with whipped cream, gelato and a bourbon-caramel sauce)–though the vanilla gelato is actually really tasty, but do avoid the raspberry sorbet, which is grittier than kitty litter.

 Roasted beet-goat cheese-arugula salad

 Grass-fed burger with Vermont Cheddar, sweet potato fries and spicy mayo

Chocolate and vanilla gelato and raspberry sorbet

Jean-Georges, New York (June 2012)

Four courses. And four separate exercises in deceptive complexity, perhaps none more so than the terrine of foie gras and seared scallops. The puck of cholesterol is veiled by a litany of crisp viands: pumpkin seeds, granola and almost undetectable flecks of fleur de sel. Then there’s the salty-sweet amalgam undergirding three molluskan coins; the sauce on first glance may seem to be plated heavy-handedly, but trust me, you’ll want to sop up every last drop. And I succumbed to the herd of independent minds–blush–and ordered the molten chocolate cake and couldn’t have been happier because it was delicious, tout court.

Almost as enjoyable as the food were my dining companion’s reactions: the sealed lips ceding to a gaping smile, the inquisitive stare yielding to eye-widening disbelief. It was his first time in a three-star Michelin restaurant and gave me a glimpse into what my expressions must have been like at Per Se last July.

With Shahin, our omnibeaming captain, handling our table, there weren’t any toe-stubbing moments during lunch proper. I will say, however, that I was a bit put off by the discrepancy between the $98 six-course lunch tasting menu the reservationist described thirty days before our meal and the actual $130 price tag that doesn’t even include Egg Caviar,* but it’s not enough to prevent me from re-visiting Jean-Georges’ flagship nor from recommending it to those looking to experience a three-star Michelin restaurant at an affordable price. 

*Carrying a $30 supplement, it’s one of five items that carry a surcharge. 

 Fluke sashimi with miso, serrano and cantaloupe, mozzarella with strawberry and strawberry-balsamic, and watercress soup with radish and creme fraiche

Foie terrine, pumpkin seeds, granola and sour cherries
Yellowfin tuna ribbons, avocado, spicy radish and ginger
Sea scallops, caramelized cauliflower, nutmeg and caper-raisin emulsion

 Crispy sweetbread, maitake mushrooms, chives and hibiscus
Crispy crab, pink peppercorn, mustard and tropical fruit

Vanilla bean ice cream, molten chocolate cake, Meyer lemon granité, powdered sugar and vanilla cream

Vanilla marshmallows

Strawberry-coconut macarons

House-made chocolates