June 18, 2016 / Leave a Comment
After starting a busy pre-World’s 50 Best day with brunch at the James Beard foundation, I was determined to squeeze some Jean-Georges magic into the NYC itinerary. Sadly by the time we arrived, the three star Jean-Georges kitchen was closed, but we were still able to dine at the adjoining Nougatine at Jean-Georges, a slightly more casual option at Trump Tower, 1 Central Park. It’s ideal for a catch up with friends, business lunch or mid-sightseeing pitstop.
Offering a fantastic lunch set menu at $38 (USD, before state tax and gratuities), Nougatine is a great choice to sample a little bit of Jean-Georges without breaking the bank.
What I ordered:
Sweet Pea Soup, Sourdough Croutons, Parmesan
Fresh Spaghetti with Asparagus and Morel Mushrooms
Meringue, Strawberry, Sorbet
Sweet pea is, might I say, so hot right now and I find it hard to pass over on a menu. I also have a new found love for soups, so this dish was the ideal choice for me. Poured at the table, the soup had a thick and slightly grainy texture, with delicious (and plentiful) croutons and a great savoury kick from the parmesan foam. Perhaps not the best soup I’ve had in it’s category, but certainly very enjoyable. The bread for the table (much like Babbo) fell into the impossible to tear/chew category so it was left on the plate. America is sadly not kicking goals in the bread department this trip!
My main had similarly green influences – fresh spaghetti paired with lovely asparagus and wonderful morels. The secret weapon of this dish was a creamy asparagus pesto hidden underneath the tangle of pasta, taking a fairly simple dish to something a little more special. Pretty good.
Dessert was however a rather boring affair – well executed, but almost embarrassingly simple. This is clearly where they’ve scrimped to be able to deliver a 3 course meal for $38 – I guess corners had to be cut somewhere. Flavours were nice, but hey – it was strawberries, strawberry sorbet and a meringue. Even just one more interesting component would have elevated this dessert to something more memorable. I can’t really complain too much though – the two dishes I had would have come to $39 already if ordered separately, so this dessert was essentially free of charge. Not bad in that case, but I’ll admit I had higher expectations given the location, though not from the very simple sounding description (the alternative dessert option offered was equally simple – chocolate cake).
The surroundings aren’t bad – the decor is nice, for sure, but not supremely comfortable – our curved bench seat didn’t work with the position of the table settings and was too far away from the table to feel relaxing. Similarly the service was adequate, but not great. Nougatine is good, but it stops there. There are constant reminders that it’s a diffusion restaurant and not the real deal – perhaps this puts it at an unfair disadvantage. I think I’d prefer a restaurant with it’s own identity, than one that feels like a watered down version of the real thing. The cuisine here would please most hungry diners, but hardcore foodies might be a little bored. Next visit, I must ensure I arrive on time for my Jean-Georges reservation!