Luxurious dining in the Trump International Hotel features a “less is more” approach, resulting in pure, articulate dishes fashioned from just a few distinct components.
Since it opened in 1997, Jean-Georges has always been about reimagining French food in a manner that would be simultaneously accessible and exquisitely upscale. Today, that concept is still executed with the utmost precision, but the restaurant is no longer just a place to take-in laws. At a recent lunch, tables were filled with young couples celebrating an anniversary, a group of women at a bridal shower brunch, and some pairs of well-dressed friends enjoying an extraordinary midday meal, proving that the food at Jean-Georges is just as relevant as ever.
The focus is on the clarity of diverse flavors, with each working independently to achieve some sort of subtle, impossible harmony. A dish like the Charred Corn Ravioli then becomes a choir of many different voices, though if one listens closely enough, individual voices can be deciphered with ease. In a single bite, rich, smoky notes of the corn quickly yield to the bright acidity of the young cherry tomatoes, which then rush to defer to the verdant, vinegary basil fondue that swaddles and finishes the dish.
The chorus of flavors is intended to be just short of seamless, each sensation tamed by a sophisticated, democratic hand that ensures no one note claims complete dominance over another. This is the classic Jean-Georges style, which allows for the integration of influences far outside the French canon, so long as they serve to focus the central, first note of the dish. Avocado and light, fruity passion fruit mustard balance the Sautéed Gulf Shrimp with a distinct Asian bite, but again, the emphasis here is on the quick transition from the parts to the whole.
Jean-Georges also succeeds at framing every individual flavor by utilizing sauces that are light, oily, and broth-based. Ethereal scents are preferred over the round richness of heavy sauces, a technique that works perfectly in the Black Sea Bass, which is crusted with nuts and seeds and rests in a sweet and sour jus that smells of wild, earthy chanterelles.
This style may not impress everyone with a discerning palette, particularly those who taste the pearl onions in the black sea bass or the vinegar in the ravioli too singularly and yearn for a more complex integration of these more off-putting individual flavors. Yet no one can argue that the effect of the basil and lemon butter in the Parmesan Crusted Chicken does anything but enhance the dish as it interjects its bright acidity into every bite. No one can argue that the way in which the crispiness of the chicken breast gives way to the more tender artichoke heart on which it sits is anything but clear and elegant. It is a dish confident in its mastery of each flavor, egalitarian in its approach to execute each with radical transparency and energy.
Lunchtime still sees many returning guests relaxing in the bright and dazzling space, which envisions a modern, green, and serene New York, but the polished and charming staff is certain to make every first-time diner feel just like a confident regular. Of course, it couldn’t be any other way, because the spirit of Jean-Georges is in the finest, equal and elegant treatment of individual components, and in presenting a restaurant that is magically much more than the sum of its parts.