February 7, 2010

Restaurant Week: Nougatine

Slowly Cooked Salmon w/ Braised Mushrooms

The double date Restaurant Week dinner that I had been looking forward to for weeks fell way short of my expectations. Since Noutagine is a highly rated Jean Georges restaurant, which even shares a kitchen with the Jean Georges Restaurant, you would naturally assume that something was wrong with our company, and not the food. To the contrary, S^2 were quite wonderful to dine with (as I had already learned from our first eatventure) and my meal left me wanting. There were distinct "winners and losers" on the Restaurant Week menu, which averaged the experience out to "good, but not anywhere near great."

While I knew that Nougatine was the casual dining room of Jean Georges, I had no idea how "casual" it would actually be. The service lagged more than my dial-up connection in 1996. Maybe I'm being a little harsh, but our entire meal took over 3.5 hours. Nearly a half hour was dedicated to being seated, getting the wine list, then getting the menu, and finally ordering. Doesn't a restaurant want to turnover as many customers as possible on a Friday night?

The Restaurant Week menu had four courses plus a standard amuse bouche, which seemed like a good deal. The amuse was shrimp with green apple, creme fraiche, mint and a small apple cider soup. So far, so good. It was refreshing and flavorful.

For the appetizer, I had the tuna tartare with avocado, spicy radish and ginger marinade. The marinade was sharply pronounced in acidity and completely overpowered the bland tuna. The dish would have been more successful if the sauce was just turned down a few notches. B had the butternut squash soup with mushrooms and chives, which tasted really nice. It was creamy and smooth; the perfect consistency. (J-0, B-1)

The next course was a shrimp salad with avocado, tomato, and champagne vinegar dressing. Completely average. There was nothing special about it whatsoever! I felt like I could have ordered this salad from any random restaurant. The shrimp tasted like it was previously frozen. Meanwhile, B had a tasty slowly cooked salmon with braised mushrooms, poblano pepper and dill. The salmon was flaky and buttery; you could tell that it received proper attention. The braised mushrooms also packed a punch of flavor that enhanced the overall dish. (J-0, B-2)

Next came the main course: crunchy baked free range chicken with glazed baby carrots and soy butter. Can we say glorified extra crispy chicken tender? Even though the chicken was cooked decently well and the soy butter added a delicious sweetness to the dish, I once again felt dining dejavu. B's cheeseburger with Russian dressing and crispy onions wasn't a showstopper, but was pretty good for a burger. B said that it was on par with Shake Shack's (meant to be a compliment). The Russian dressing added a nice spicy kick. (J-0, B-2, Draw-1)

Finally, we both ordered the same dessert: vanilla scented creme caramel with cara cara orange. It was served with a flaky danish twist. I enjoyed this simple and modestly sweet dessert. The soft, crunchy twist was fun to eat along with spoonfuls of the creme caramel. The other dessert choice was the Jean Georges' warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream. I don't really care for heavy and rich desserts such as chocolate cake, especially after a large meal. (J-0, B-2, Draw-2)

Compared to other restaurants of this caliber, I was quite disappointed in the originality and quality that was presented. Nothing on the table surprised me and nothing of mine wowed me. That being said, I did enjoy tastes of B's butternut squash soup and slowly cooked salmon very much. Across the table, S got the $68 tasting menu. I had bites of his foie gras brule and roasted red snapper. Both were delicious and nicely presented. So perhaps I was just dealt the wrong dishes tonight. That still doesn't excuse that random shrimp salad on the menu though!

More pics can be found here.


Anonymous said...

I actually had an amazing experience at JoJo's, another JGV resto during RW last summer. Don't give up on JGV just yet!

Anonymous said...

I had a mediocre lunch experience here as well. I felt rushed and agreed with the acidity with the tuna tartare dish. Though I do have to defend the molten chocolate cake though. Try it next time when you're not too full. :)

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