The ostentatious Trump Tower looks out over Central Park, and there is a nice view of the park from the ground floor dining room here at Jean Georges in the base of the tower. Chef Jean Georges Vonvichteren has built up a small empire of restaurants but this is the flagship. The 27 page wine list covers the fine wines of the world. JJ Prum Spatlese Wehlener Sonnenuhr was USD 132 compared to a retail price of around USD 40, Vega Sicilia Unico 1994 was USD 900 compared to a shop price of around USD 350 and the great Mouton Rothschild 1982 was listed at $3,450 for a wine that costs around $1,450 to buy. For a sweet treat, Chateau Yquem 2001 was USD 1,500 compared to a retail price of around USD 719. The menu for lunch was just USD 29 for two plates, with USD 14.50 for each additional one, which seems quite a bargain.
Bread was a choice of rye sourdough from the Balthazar bakery, and white roll from the Sullivan Street bakery. I am not sure why a three star restaurant buys its bread, but the bread was decent enough (16/20). Nibbles consisted of duck consommé with a little duck ravioli, beet-cured salmon and, the best of the nibbles: Cheddar and jalapeno fritter, which was surpisingly spicy and very tasty (16/20 overall).
The best dish of the meal was tuna ribbons with avocado, spicy radish and ginger marinade. The tuna itself tasted great, the style of serving was unusual but above all the balance of the avocado, radish and the spicy marinade, with a little soy influence, was pretty much perfect, forming a striking dish (19/20). Also very good was foie gras brulee, smooth and with lovely liver flavour, served with dried sour cherries to provide some acidity, served with candied pistachios and a port gelee (18/20).
Butternut squash soup was enjoyable enough, but could have had slightly more seasoning to lift the rather bland flavour of the squash (16/20). Sesame crab toast was better, served with miso mustard, Asian pear and shiso, providing a nicely balanced dish with strong yet harmonious flavours (18/20). Roasted Brussels sprouts were a nod to the Thanksgiving holiday, served with avocado and pistachios with mustard vinaigrette, but serving them cold didn’t seem the wisest idea, while the mustard vinaigrette needed more punch (14/20).
Much better were seared scallops with caramelised cauliflower and a caper-raisin emulsion. The scallops themselves were sweet and nicely timed, the cauliflower with them a classic accompaniment, and the caper emulsion was a good balance to the sweetness of the scallops (18/20). Parmesan risotto had good flavour in the rice imparted from proper chicken stock, with a mix of mushrooms; the dish suffered a little from being lukewarm by the time it arrived (16/20).
Bacon-wrapped Gulf shrimp had good flavour, served with a papaya mustard that had a nice bite to it, and soothing avocado (17/20). Maine halibut was slow-cooked and was under-seasoned even with a chilli-garlic emulsion, served with cucumber and lime. Here the flavour of the fish was rather indistinct (16/20). Parmesan crusted confit leg of chicken was an unusual dish served with salsify and lemon butter. The chicken tasted fine but was slightly overwhelmed by the Parmesan crust (16/20).
Desserts really let the side down, however. I would have been tempted to score the meal 18/20 despite some inconsistency, as it at least contained one truly superb three star level dish (the tuna) yet the kind of drop in standards that the dessert in particular represent need to be reflected in the overall score. Jean Georges himself was around and in the kitchen today; he was clearly not on the pastry section.
Service was terrific, with a charming waitress and helpful sommelier. The staff seemed to genuinely care about the customer’s enjoyment of the meal.
Here are brief notes from my meal here in October 2005.
In the ground floor of the Trump International Hotel by Columbus Circle, this very fashionable restaurant features an airy dining room with lovely flowers. The food is fairly inventive American, and is frequented by the seriously rich. A tuna tart had good pastry and reasonable quality tuna, complemented by some excellent diced vegetables with a citrus sauce. Free range chicken was well timed, and had a fairly well-made risotto with rather dull shiitake mushrooms.
Passion fruit “sunflower” was a clever idea, a meringue in the shape of a sunflower, on top was with was spooned some fresh passion fruit. Bread was classy, and service was friendly and efficient. The cooking was very competent, though perhaps hard to see where the “better than sex” comment in the Zagat Guide comes from, unless the person writing it has had some very sad personal experiences. I can't work out Michelin's 3 star rating here. In France it would be 2 stars at most based on this visit.