After our lunch yesterday, I'd hazard the answer is yes. For just under $30 ($29, to be exact), one has the chance to dine at a three-starred Michelin restaurant; a place that received last year's James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurant of the Year and four stars from the New York Times. And if you're lucky, you might witness some star power during your lunch (all we got was David Cassidy). But enough accolades, let's eat!
Trio of Amuse Bouche at Jean Georges
It may not surprise you that the $29 two-course menu at Jean Georges is more than two courses. (In fact, if you counted each single dish, you're looking at an eight-course tasting menu.) The meal starts of with a trio of amuse, meant to be consumed counter-clockwise: first, a cube of "concentrated watermelon," topped with a shiso vinaigrette; to its right, a poached quail egg with bacon and salsa verde; and at the top, a shot of corn chowder with keffir and lemongrass.
The watermelon tasted, at first, like...well, an intense cube of watermelon. But then the slight note of shiso hits, and the watermelon is all of the sudden playing with a slightly-spicy mint flavor, and you have a perfect bite of summer. The other two were just as clean, with three notes each, pairings that at first glance seem unusual, but upon tasting make perfect sense: egg, bacon, and salsa verde; corn, keffir lime, and lemongrass.
The prix fixe lunch menu gives you a choice of any two courses, which are arranged on the menu in order of size and heft: the lighter, greener courses at the top (sashimis, salads); the heavier, more meat-oriented at the bottom (roast veal, chicken leg confit). Towards the middle, a course neither me or my wife could resist:
Foie Gras and Strawberry Brulee at Jean Georges
Again, three notes, which harmonize wonderfully: foie gras (savor), strawberry (sweetness), and balsamic (acidity). Flavors that pair fairly often in other places (we've all seen strawberry+balasamic or foie+balsamic before), but here made all the more powerful as a trinity. The small cylinder of foie gras, which has roasted strawberries throughout is topped with a crackling crust that bubbles and breaks like the best creme brulee should. The top moment of our meal.
But then, with the entrees, a less stellar turn. (Why does it seem to be that universally, starters and first courses outshine entrees and mains?) For my companion, poached skate wing:
Poached Skate Wing with Chateau Chalon Sauce at Jean Georges
Before tasting a bite, I wondered, isn't it still a little early for those tomatoes? The answer, sadly, is yes. But it's not too early for the zucchini, and the skate itself was nicely done, with the sauce retaining a welcome amount of its white wine origins. Although it didn't wow like the first two courses of our lunch, it still impressed--rich, without being heavy; a wintry dish refashioned for a hot summer day.
Roasted Sweetbreads with Pickled Peaches and Wild Arugula at Jean Georges
My main dish, roasted sweetbreads, was a change of pace. For one, those peaches are pickled with lychee, and combined with the arugula provide a biting counterpoint to the rich, creamy sweetbreads. I'm used to having my thymus glands with some sort of cream sauce, so this was an unexpected (and welcome) change. Again, three notes, in harmony: sweetness, savor, and acidity.