176 Perry Street, New York NY 10014 (at West Street; map); 212-352-1900; jean-georges.com
Setting: Modern, sophisticated restaurant
Setting: Precise, professional, and friendly
Must Haves: Fried chicken
The Deal: $35 for three or four courses (menu changes weekly)
Notes: Available from 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. - 11 p.m., 7 days a week
Perry Street is about as far west as a restaurant can get and still be in Manhattan. During my meal, my cell phone kept losing connection with the network; when it reconnected I worried that I might be hit with roaming charges. But even if that happened I would still be ahead of the game because the Perry Street $35 prix fixe is a real bargain. Crafted by Erik Battes, who at the tender age of 24 years old has already worked at Jean-Georges and is now the head chef of Vongerichten’s Perry Street, the menu offers three or four courses (it changes weekly) And don't think that this is a dumbed down Restaurant Week-type prix fixe; it is actually offered year round and often features dishes from the à la carte menu. In fact on the day I dined there it featured what I feel is the most compelling item off that menu—a new age riff on fried chicken. But let's start at the beginning.
Beets and ricotta is a fairly ubiquitous combination these days, but most menus rely wholly on the creaminess of the cheese and the tartness of the beets to achieve balance. That balance is also struck at roasted beet carpaccio but by dotting the the dish with wasabi and dousing the delicate slivers of beet with elderflower-infused red wine vinegar, new dimensions of flavor are realized. Texturally, the buttery, croissant-like black bread adds a nice crunchiness. The dish is also beautiful to behold.
The slow-baked cod is cooked in butter at 200 degrees achieving a delicate, flaky flesh. Served over an aromatic black bean salad dotted with carrots, ginger, scallions, and creamy avocado, it has a complex broth of premium saki, truffle juice, soy and rice vinegar, and a cilantro purée.
The fried chicken is a sensational dish. A de-boned chicken is seared then roasted and finally coated in a flour-based batter infused with Thai chile, Szechuan peppercorns, and ginger that has been charged through a carbon dioxide siphon so as to produce a foam before being deep fried. The result is an incredibly crisp skin. It comes served over a plank of roasted sweet potato with a tart lemon confit and a viscous smoked chicken gravy. Despite the use of Thai and Szechuan ingredients the flavor profile of the dish in its totality is very American, hinting at barbecue and Soul food.
The carrot cake cream cheese Bavarian accompanied by a spiced fruit salad was far lighter than one might expect. The spongy cake topped with an airy whipped cream cheese provided a nice balance for the acidic fruit.
Perry Street offers some serious cooking in a sleek, contemporary room. The service is precise and polite, but there is a casual feel to the experience of dining here. It might rightly be called Jean-Georges-light in the best sense of the term. If you can venture to the most western edge of Manhattan you will be rewarded with some inventive, but more importantly delicious, cuisine in an inviting setting. Not getting cell phone reception there might just be a blessing.
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