This week in restaurant news, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells reviews Jean-Georges, which was last reviewed by Frank Bruni of the New York Times in 2006 and given four stars. The verdict: Jean-Georges is still a four-star restaurant.
It seems that Wells has begun a trend of re-reviewing New York Times four-star restaurants. His last re-review, in which he gave four stars, was of Le Bernardin, which was given four stars by Bruni in 2005. Could Masa, which was given four stars by Frank Bruni and later demoted by Sam Sifton, be next in line?
Wells says Jean-Georges remains a top restaurant because its chef has the ability of changing the flavor and presentation of his dishes with the changing expectations of diners.
“The kind of comfort Jean-Georges excels at providing makes some diners distinctly uncomfortable,” he says. “Chefs who couldn’t peel a banana when Jean-Georges Vongerichten got his first four-star review (for Lafayette, in 1988) now run adventurous, unluxurious dining rooms where people come for the journey and where the thrill of the ride is more important than the condition of the shock absorbers.”
Vongerichten does this by taking risks that are “almost shocking.”
“Consider the squab dish that just popped up on the menu,” Wells says. “It comes on like jerk chicken, coated in a blackened rub, and while the seasonings are Middle Eastern, the searing heat is almost Jamaican. And here comes the creative leap that separates Mr. Vongerichten from other spice-peddlers: a hot sauce has been splashed around this charred squab, and it is made from flowers. A bright-orange blend of lime, fresh red chiles, and peppery nasturtium petals, it makes the already fiery squab into what may be the spiciest dish ever served in a French restaurant.”
Wells gives credit to the restaurant’s ambience and architecture, which he suggests is a preview to the flavors and presentation guests will experience on their plates
“The restaurant was redesigned in graceful, gentle curves by the architect Thomas Juul-Hansen in 2008 (two years after Frank Bruni’s four-star review, its last evaluation in The Times) and is the most elegant modern dining room in the city. The enormous windows let in the setting sun, and sometimes they catch the moon rising over the treetops in Central Park. You are in the city and hovering slightly outside it all at once. Then the food arrives, the flavors fall into their startling alignments, and there is only one place you could be: Jean-Georges.”
For Wells' full review, click here.