Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

JEAN-GEORGES, 1 Central Park West (between West 61st Street and Columbus Circle), Upper West Side

My birthday, as it does every year, just came around. And while it means I get another year older, it also means I get to have a blow out meal and hit one of the high-end restaurants I wouldn’t dream of going to the rest of the year.

This year, it was Jean-Georges, which recently received a second round of four stars from the New York Times. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is one of the city’s most lauded restaurateurs with a range of restaurants around town. His namesake (and one of the few I have not been to) is in the Trump Tower just across from Central Park.

It’s a little different from most haughty French fine dining restaurants since the chef adds some international (mostly Asian) twists to the refined food. Also, service at these types of restaurants often strike me as stuffy, but the young lady who took care of us was genuinely helpful, considerate, and without any pretense. Along with the food, it made for an excellent birthday meal.

Lunch at Jean-Georges is actually somewhat affordable for the food you are getting. Two courses cost $58 and includes a trio of amuse bouches and a round of petit fours. Considering dinner is $138 for just one more dish, I call this a bargain in the fine dining world.

But the difficulty is always choosing from a list of fancy dishes. The appetizers were a little easier for me since one of the choices was Sea Urchin and it cost no extra (unlike the $40 supplement for caviar). I jump at any chance I get to try some amazing sea urchin. It wouldn’t be a birthday celebration without it.

Santa Barbara Sea Urchin at JEAN-GEORGES

Three slivers of Santa Barbara sea urchin roe arrived on a lightly toasted piece of buttered black bread. Sea urchin is so delicate and rich on its own that the key is to not do too much to it. Here, the master chef tops it with a slice of jalapeño and a splash of yuzu (perhaps Jean-Georges’ favorite ingredient since it showed up on three other dishes).

The tangy yuzu and bright, lively pepper balanced the briny, buttery flavors of the urchin. The flavors and contrasting textures was just incredible. I just wished there were three more beautifully composed servings.

All the dishes were phenomenal, including crispy suckling pig and his signature chocolate molten cake but none compared to the simplicity and rich flavors of this first bite. So I’m one year older, but I’m also one more fancy restaurant wiser.

JEAN-GEORGES
1 Central Park West (between West 61st Street and Columbus Circle),
Inside Trump International Hotel & Tower
Upper West Side,
(212) 299-3900
jean-georgesrestaurant.com/jean-georges
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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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