Jean Georges at Nougatine: A Super Supper

Swan Lake is over. We’re exhilarated after watching Vishneva’s thrilling performance. It’s 10:15 p.m., and we’re hungry! Before heading to Lincoln Center, J had eaten a few pieces of sushi, the Puzzle Genius had snacked on a few nuts at his desk, and though M and I had a major lunch at Allegretti, our appetites had now fully recovered. So, where to go for something delicious? Picholine’s kitchen closed at 10, and nobody’s in the mood for Bar Boulud. “What about Nougatine?” I suggest. We’re already walking south on Broadway. Everyone likes the idea, but how late do they serve? Modern technology to the rescue! J whips out her trusty Blackberry and finds the number on MenuPages. No need to dial. With the simple press of a button, she’s connected. How late do they serve? Until eleven. Might there be a table for four available? There would be at 10:30. Perfect!

Nougatine at Jean Georges

Upon our arrival, we receive a very pleasant greeting from the ladies at the reception desk and only have to wait a few moments at the bar before being seated. Our table is situated in a nice nook which reminded M and me of the snug table for two we occupied just on the other side of the wall in Jean George’s formal dining room when we celebrated my birthday in ’07.

J and the P.G. had lunch at Nougatine last year. M and the P.G. had dessert there in May after doing Masa with our friend, u.e. This was my first experience eating at Nougatine, though I’d walked through it — as everyone must — when we’d had dinner and lunch at Jean Georges.

At 10:30 on a Wednesday evening, the spacious room is full and has a nice buzz without being uncomfortably noisy. Tables are fairly close to each other. Linens are dispensed with in favor of woven place mats. A capacious bar takes up major real estate on the side of the room opposite our table. Large front windows face out toward Central Park and Columbus Circle. Interestingly, the open kitchen at the back end, which we had a pretty good view of, prepares cuisine expressly for the formal dining room, while food for the more casual Nougatine is prepared in a basement kitchen.

After perusing the menu for several minutes and discussing the options (the $35 bargain 4-course prix fixe was out for the P.G. because of his dietary restrictions), we decided we’d skip the appetizers and have a main course and dessert.

Amuses

Happily, our hungry foursome didn’t have to wait long for something to eat. In addition to some very good bread (unfortunately, verboten for the P.G.), we were served an unexpected triplet amuse. A small glass contained smooth and tangy gazpacho. A spoon held a tiny chunk of salmon topped with what I think was a black olive and surrounded by some sort of sauce. A tasty combo. None of us could remember the waiter’s description of the third item, a small rectangle, off-limits for the P.G. since it was obviously bread or pastry. There was a topping, but none of us could put our finger on the flavor.

Maine Lobster

The star dish of the evening was, without a doubt, the Maine Lobster, Sugar Snap Peas, Potatoes, Lemon and Lightly Smoked Butter, which both M and J ordered. I sampled several pieces of the generously-portioned lobster on both their plates. Given the $39 market price, the last thing it should have been was stingy. But even more important was the quality. And this lobster was immensely flavorful and succulent! Furthermore, to quote the old commercial, “Le sauce, c’est tout!” I didn’t taste the peas or potatoes, but both M and J affirmed that the vegetables were cooked to delicious perfection.

Pan-Roasted Pink Cod

Despite having a teensy bit of “course envy,” I was more than satisfied with my choice: Pan-Roasted Pink Cod, Artichokes, Peas, and Carrot Vinaigrette. I had briefly considered getting the salmon, but I cook salmon at home a lot. Also, on the rare occasions that I cook cod, it never seems quite as good as when I order it in restaurants. And besides, the cod dish as described on the menu sounded much more intriguing to me than the salmon preparation, especially since it included a vegetable that I have a hard time passing up – the artichoke. And then, there was that carrot vinaigrette…. The thick, generous slice of cod did not disappoint. Golden brown on top, it was cooked to a moist “t.” The artichokes surrounding it had exactly the right firmness, and the smattering of peas were porperly crunchy. I had never had carrot vinaigrette before and found it totally pleasing. All in all, this was a beautifully conceived and executed dish.

Grilled Beef Tenderloin

Meanwhile, the P.G. was busy tending to his Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Garlic, Parsley, and Chili, while also happily accepting “donations” of lobster from his loving bride. After all, he had actively encouraged her to order it so that he could have some. He did part with a small piece of his beef so I could taste it. Nice flavor and done exactly to his medium rare specifications. He pronounced the meat and its accompaniments entirely to his satisfaction.

Sorbets

Time for dessert! M and the P.G. went with assorted sorbets. My small taste of each flavor indicated that they were top-notch.

Jean Georges' Warm Chocolate Cake

I’d had Jean-Georges’ signature Warm Chocolate Cake at lunch in the formal dining room in March. But J had never had it, and since she likes chocolate, it didn’t take much convincing for her to order it. The moist cake oozed warm chocolate from its center, and the vanilla ice cream was the perfect complement. While some foodies find this dessert passé, when done as well as this one, it will never quite go out of style.

Rhubarb-Almond Financier

A financier fancier, I immediately homed in on Rhubarb-Almond Financier with Crème Fraïche and Crystallized Ginger. The little round almond-flavored cake supported a nice mound of rhubarb and sported a crispy, round cap. The rhubarb was sweetened, though not overly so, and the generous portion of crème fraïche added just the right tang. My kind of dessert!

Service was prompt though it lacked the feeling of solicitousness one gets when in the formal dining room. Not a quibble, really, just a statement of fact.

Our supper at Nougatine turned out to be the perfect end to what was a truly memorable evening.

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4 Responses to “Jean Georges at Nougatine: A Super Supper”

  1. ulterior epicure Says:

    Truly thrilled at your thrill. I’m curious what the prices for the main courses are at Nougatine a la carte. Care to share?

    I won’t easily forget our meal at Jean-Georges together in March! I hope it’s an experience we can repeat!

  2. thewizardofroz Says:

    The cod was $22, and the beef was $29. Desserts were $9 each. M had a glass of Chardonnay ($15) and a cappuccino ($6). J had coffee ($3.50). The bill before tax and tip was $189.50.

    ALL meals we have with you are memorable, u.e.! 🙂 Next time at Jean Georges, perhaps for dinner?

  3. Gigi Says:

    Hi RGR,
    Gigi here from CH. HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY!!!!!! I hope you had a wonderful day.

    And I love your blog. I was especially moved by your post about the LES. My dad is originally from NYC. He grew up in the Bronx and went to Stuyvesant High School.

    Will look for you (and your fabulous recs) on CH and will visit your blog from time to time too!
    All the best,
    Gigi

  4. thewizardofroz Says:

    Hi Gigi!

    Welcome! I’m so glad you like my blog.

    Thank you for the birthday wishes. I will be posting about the celebration.

    I will write more about the LES in future posts.

    As it happens, one my cousins went to Stuyvesant.

    It’s very nice to hear that you appreciate my recommendations on CH. However, I have decided to pull back substantially on my participation there; instead, I will be devoting more time and effort to this blog. So, I hope you will stop by here fairly often and let me know what you think.

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