1 Central Park West, New York NY 10023 (map); 212-299-3900; jean-georges.com
Setting: A wonderful room, especially at lunch when the light streams in
Compare to:Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Per Se
The Deal: 2 courses for $29, each additional course $14.95, dessert $8
This column is all about finding bargains among New York's top restaurants, and indeed, at $29 for two courses, the lunch menu at Jean Georges certainly qualifies. Even if you add a dessert from pastry wunderkind Johnny Iuzzini for a more-than-fair $8, you are still under $40. An easy recommendation.
Especially because it comes with not one, but three amuses—a Long Island fluke tartare, carrot and miso soup, and 7-grain toast topped with a pungent mustard butter with radish. The desserts are a bargain as well; each selection comes with two desserts on the plate, followed up by macarons, marshmallows, and chocolates.
But I am going to suggest that you break the bank on this one. Take a half day off work, reserve a late lunch table and add a course or three (each course costs an additional $14.95) plus dessert. And since you don't have to go back to work, why not throw in a few glasses of wine? The beverage menu offers numerous wines by the glass, including the option of half-glass pours, all attractively priced: glasses run $10-20, half-pours $7-11. The sommelier will be more than happy to help you pair them to each course.
At dinner three courses cost $98—which includes many of the same dishes that are served at lunch. Even with wine and dessert thrown in, you could come in under that amount at lunch and have a meal that is amongst the finest in the city.
Start things off with a Peekytoe crab salad or the absurdly decadent foie gras brulee—a dish that is as much confectionery as it is savory. You could follow up with an expertly cooked red snapper with a crisp nut and seed crust—but don't miss the golden knuckles of perfectly breaded and fried sweetbreads.
Dessert is broken down into themes and each plate comes with two offerings. "Chocolate" features a caramelized honey ganache alongside Jean Georges's warm chocolate cake; "Citrus" offers a matcha semifreddo with a Meyer lemon shaker tart.
There is another benefit to dining during lunch: the restrained, muted, modern room, which I find deeply comforting, is lit by the sun—accentuating the vibrant colors of the food. Also, reservations are far easier to get. Even with two courses, you will have a wonderful lunch—but the food is so creative and so perfectly executed that it practically demands further exploration.