Jean-Georges

1 Central Park W. New York, NY 10023(212) 299-3900jean-georges.com

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I know a lot of people say this restaurant is hit or miss, but for us, it was a HUGE hit. I mean every course was excellent on two different tasting menus. A feat for any restaurant with just one tasting menu, much less two. In fact, I have yet to experience the same success rate anywhere else in the world with the exception of Bouley, but even that was only one menu, not two.

But it wasn’t just the food, the service was impeccable. The decor, nice. And the wine list extensive. Sure it’s pricey, but it’s a meal I will remember for the rest of my life. Partly because it was such a simple tasting menu for a French restaurant. Nothing complicated or elaborate, nothing drowning in sauces. Just really fresh ingredients that shined on their own- complemented only by other ingredients that raised the dish to a sum greater than its parts. I would share the details more thoroughly, but the menu constantly changes, and what we had is long gone, sad to say. But trust me when I do say this, it is twice as good as its competitor across the street, Per Se. I’ve been there too, and it pales by comparison.

Okay, okay… So I’ll give you one dish as an example. The Caprese Salad. Nothing more than a gigantic beefsteak tomato with the circumference of a softball, topped with crumbed feta and garden fresh raspberries. This is all then drizzled with one of the best olive oils and an aged balsamic that turn what is seemingly banal into simply bang on.

And to cap the night, they offered dessert flights. A series of five mini berry desserts all on one plate . Or chocolate, etc… We were so torn, they brought out all three for us to enjoy at no extra charge for my wife’s birthday. And a happy one it was. Primarily because we were still able to fit out the door.

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The Ultimate Caprese Salad

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Jeans Georges – New York, NY

I know a lot of people find this place very hit and miss, but for us it was more of a grand slam. So many great dishes. And among those was one very simple classic, done with such an inventive culinary twist it left an enduring impression. Obviously in such a basic dish ingredients are key, so let’s just assume they were impeccable. But what one shouldn’t assume is that it was just tomato, basil and mozz, because you’d only be 33% right. It starts with a gigantic beefsteak tomato. Gigantic in both size and flavor. But then, it is topped with a layer of finely crumbled feta. And on top of that, raspberries? Now, of course there was also a wonderful oil and balsamic. And, there might’ve even been finely chopped basil to brighten the berries. But whatever it was, the one thing it wasn’t was forgettable.

Piccolo – Venice, CA

On a presentation level alone I have to tip my hat to Piccolo, because they break the mold and throw out the plate when it comes to their caprese. Served upright as a parfait, this tower of Summer bliss leaves nothing to be desired. And what may at first seem like a gimmick quickly translates to sheer oral pandemonium as its flavors ping pong around your mouth like the gold medal round of Olympic table tennis.

Capo – Santa Monica, CA

This is the most traditional of the lot, but even Capo takes a slight detour from the norm, opting for a ridiculously creamy burrata in lieu of your standard mozz. The tomatoes are also something special. A medley of heirloom in a host of flavors, shapes and colors ranging from sweet to meaty to “no, I’m not sharing.”