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Why is it that Jean Georges seems to define the various culinary chapters of my life?

I first became aware of Jean Georges Vongerichten when I was living in New York. I was in advertising…it was the early 1990’s…expense accounts were fat (people in America not just yet;)…and I was just learning what it meant to eat really well. My first meal with JG, as he is known by foodies worldwide, was at JoJo in 1992. Funny because this is also my mother’s nickname for me, but personal coincidences aside, this was the meal that transformed me. Three courses of wonderment later, my eyes were opened to the startling possibilities of cuisine which pretty much put me on the trajectory of culinary exploration I have been on ever since.

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After that was Vong…a Thai French fusion restaurant just 2 blocks north of my office. It became a regular lunch time haunt – and ironically my first taste of Thai food. JG actually worked at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok early in his career so masterfully blended the styles. Little did I know then that the silky coconut milk and lemongrass infused broths and papaya salads would become my daily rations when I moved to Thailand some 10 years later.

Then in the late 1990’s Mercer Kitchen was the place to be – convivial NYers rubbing elbows at its communal tables. In 2004, Spice Kitchen ignited the whole Meat Packing District craze while Perry Street somehow brought a fresh perspective to traditional, old stomping grounds in the West Village. Somehow in retelling this tale, I realize many of my NY eras of living prominently feature JG restaurants. How did this man know exactly where I (and everyone else) wanted to be and what we wanted to eat?

And so it was no surprise that Jean Georges is now writing a new Asian chapter in my life in Asia. In Shanghai, the copper painted ceilings and dark, woody environs of Jean Georges’ restaurant evoke a NY contemporary feel, while the view of the Bund with its meandering Chinese junks on the river leaves no doubt one is in China. It’s romantic, yet co-worker appropriate…exclusive, yet welcoming….posh, yet comfortable. How does JG manage to strike just the right chord every time?

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Paul decides on the 3 course set menu, which is a surprisingly good value at 250 RMB / $37 USD, featuring a nice selection of Asian inspired dishes:

1st course
Tuna tartar, avocado, spicy radish and ginger marinade (PAUL’s PICK)
OR
Crispy Calamari, Yuzu Dip and Pickled Chilli

2nd course
Pan Roasted Red Snapper, Coconut Lime Sauce & Sauteed Green Beans (PAUL’s PICK)
OR
JG Burger with fries (really?!?!?!?)

3rd course
JG Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream (PAUL’s PICK)
OR
Poached White Peach with Berry Sauce, Almond and Sesame

I order a la carte, selecting the Foie Gras Brulee with Sweet & Sour Pineapple Compote (118 RMB / $17 USD) followed by the Pan Seared Salmon with Roasted Porcini, Green Chilli and Garlic (158 RMB / $23 USD) and the Crème Fraiche Cheesecake with Sour Cherry Compote (58 RMB / $8 USD)

Paul loved the tartar, but wished it had been lighter on the ginger and citrus…somehow the tuna got lost in the mix.

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Whereas the foie gras brulee was excellent – simultaneously rich and sweet with the caramelized top, yet when combined with the pineapple the flavour profile is deftly transformed…a rich, creamy mouthful melting into a burst of freshness. Too bad that the presentation was a little less compelling – the circular shape of the foie gras was reminiscent of a sausage patty, but I was willing to overlook this small detail after tasting the dish.

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The salmon was full of punches of lemon mellowed by a brown sauce. I loved the small, artistic touch of a cracker of fish skin perched rakishly on the plate.

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Paul’s fish was also good, but I had clearly made the better choice.

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And then the desserts…I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed by the dainty sizes of the desserts. This food reviewing is tough on the waistline, but then again dessert is typically my favorite part of the meal. Paul’s molten chocolate cake was as expected – deliciously rich and decadent, comforting in its perfect rendition of a crowd pleasing favorite.

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My Crème Fraiche Cheesecake was simply lovely with the sour cherry sauce playing its necessary role to cut the richness of the crème fraiche.

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What can I say, it was a lovely meal. I think next time we will probably not order the set menu, only because somehow the a la carte choices were less predictable and better executed. But all in all JG never disappoints, so it is hard to imagine ever making a bad choice.

When in Shanghai, you simply must get to Jean Georges. And to finish off a perfectly chic evening, head to the neighbouring Glamour Bar.

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Jean Goerges on the Bund
No. 3 on the Bund, 4th Floor
3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road
Shanghai, China 200002
Telephone: +86 21 6321 7733

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