When it's time to treat yourself to a dessert at a fancy pants restaurant, many people, myself included, head for the prix-fixe lunch at the three-Michelin starred Jean Georges or slightly more casual Nougatine, generally acknowledged as one of the best dining values in New York. You can't beat the location—right at Columbus Circle and across from Central Park. The dining room's huge windows let in a ton of light and somehow magically seal off the noise from the city.
Jean Georges has their own unique convention for serving plated desserts. You choose from a menu of three or four themes based on either a season or an ingredient, like spring, chocolate, or citrus. Then you receive a large plate with four different takes on that theme. Any one of the four could serve as the sole plated dessert at most good restaurants.
I say go with rhubarb ($16).
The chilled rhubarb soup, served in a small glass, was very sweet and pulpy with the consistency of a shot of fresh squeezed orange juice ordered specifically with extra pulp.
The lemon grass rhubarb creamsicle with champagne mango was my favorite part of the dessert: it's reminiscent of the creamsicles of my youth. The frozen rhubarb was quite tart and contrasted nicely with the sweet, creamy ice cream.
The Alsatian rhubarb tart with basil and rhubarb will appeal to those who want to simply have a slice of rhubarb pie after dinner. This tart leans a little to the savory side due to the basil, and it's baked throughout the day so you always get a fresh slice.
The orange flower yogurt with almond crumble and spiced rhubarb compote reminds me of the textures that make up an apple crisp. The almond crumble provides a solid crunch to go with the soft yogurt and compote. By design, this course was also the least sweet of the group. When you're serving someone four desserts at a time it won't work if they're all sweet.
Executive Pastry Chef Joe Murphy told me JG goes through 80lbs of rhubarb a week this time of year and that the tart is Jean Georges' (the namesake chef) favorite dessert. Ultimately, a dessert at Jean Georges may cost a bit more but you'll never wonder where that money went.