Josh and I both had off from work the day after July 4 so we decided to go for a late leisurely lunch at Nougatine, the more casual restaurant attached to Jean Georges. They have a three course lunch for $26, which is a pretty good deal considering the quality of the food. Josh and I have eaten at Nougatine many times before (we’ve posted about the Nougatine menu/food here), and part of the appeal was that we could choose any two savory dishes from a long list of options. When we tried to place our order this time, however, our waitress told us that we could no longer choose any two dishes from the list, but that we had to pick one appetizer and one entree.
We were sort of shocked and confused because looking at the menu, it still said that we had a choice of two plates, and a dessert. The menu doesn’t even have headers that differentiate between “appetizers” or “entrees”, though the list is divided into two sections separated only by a space. On previous visits, we were told that the small distinction indicated which dishes were lighter and which were heartier, but we had always been allowed to choose whichever dishes we wanted. We had originally wanted one of the lighter dishes and three of the heartier dishes, but we begrudgingly changed one of our selections and continued on with our meal.
After we finalized our orders, we settled in and started munching on the bread, a plain slice of a rustic peasant loaf. It has a slight sourdough tang to it and is tasty enough though nothing really exciting.
Josh and I went halfsies on our meal, starting with a pea soup and the tuna tartare. The brilliant green pea soup was garnished with little croutons, a small bit of brie, and dill, though what stood out most to us was the vibrant flavor of the fresh sweet peas. Each mouthful was a delight, and even though I’m not usually a fan of peas, I apparently love it in soup form. It was a simple dish, yet extremely satisfying.
The tuna tartare was the appetizer we chose when had to change our order. It was prepared in the same way that we had it last year, with avocado, radish slices, and a ginger marinade. I liked that the tuna was carefully cubed, not ground or sloppily chopped into small pieces. The radishes added a nice crunch, while the avocado helped temper the slight spiciness of the dish. It’s a decent tuna tartare, though not the best we’ve ever had.
For our entrees, we selected two different kinds of fish – the red snapper and the cod. We had also wanted to try the roasted chicken with summer vegetables and a light mustard sauce, but when we had to swap for an appetizer, we thought the fish dishes looked more interesting. The cod was pan roasted and served on top of stewed tomatoes, summer squash, and wax beans. The fish was perfectly cooked and well seasoned, and the vegetables underneath were sweet and fresh. It was a seasonably appropriate dish and very well prepared.
The red snapper was also pan roasted and perfectly cooked. It was crispy on the outside and the skin was properly seasoned. The snapper was served with broccoli rabe and a sweet garlic-lemon broth. The rabe was soft but not bitter, and the broth was rich yet bright. I preferred this dish over the cod dish, as it was a bit more elegant and refined, but both were very well done.
There were only two options for dessert, a chocolate cake and a white cake with strawberries and red wine sorbet. They were nearly identical to the desserts we had at the Terrace last year, and we opted for one of each. The chocolate cake was the classic Jean Georges warm molten cake served with vanilla bean ice cream. The interior is a rich, fudgey chocolate river that runs out when you cut into the cake. It’s decadent but a bit heavy, so it’s definitely a dessert you’d want to share with someone.
I was happy to see that they vastly improved the vanilla cake from last year that accompanied the strawberries and red wine sorbet. Last year the cake was a small, dry, flat round, and this year, it was a moist sesame-citrus sponge cake that had body and flavor. Although the syrup that ran off the strawberries was a tad too sweet, I thought the sorbet had just the right amount of tartness, and was very refreshing.
Overall we both enjoyed our leisurely lunch at Nougatine, though we are still disappointed with the change in the menu structure. The food is still tasty and well prepared, and there are still lots of options to choose from, but it doesn’t seem as limitless as it used to. When we left the restaurant, we confirmed with the hostess that this was a new policy, and she said yes, because people used to be confused and would order two entrees. I don’t think it was confusing before, because our previous servers have always told us we could order whatever we liked, but I do think it is confusing now because they haven’t changed the wording or the setup of the menu. It’s kind of sad that they are now going this route, because it makes the lunch seem like less of a deal even though all things considered, it’s still quite a treat and a bargain. Regardless, I’m sure we’ll be back, perhaps during a different season because the summer dishes from this year seemed to overlap somewhat with ones that we had last year. The beauty of this three course prix fixe is that we don’t have to wait for Restaurant Week!
1 Central Park West at 60th St.
New York, NY