Terrace at Jean Georges (Nougatine)

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As a special treat for me, Josh flew home from Vegas on the redeye Thursday night to wake me up on my birthday with a kiss. Unfortunately his plan failed, simply because I forgot to unlock the security chain to our apartment before I went to sleep. Instead, he had to call me and wake me up so that I could open the door for him. Oops!

Nevertheless, he planned a lovely lunch for me at the Terrace at Jean Georges, which is an outdoor café attached to Jean Georges but serves the same menu as Nougatine, the more casual offshoot. We could only confirm the reservation on the day of, since the Terrace is closed during inclement weather, and even though it was cloudy all day, the rain held off to keep our lunch plans intact.

The $24 three course lunches available at many Jean Georges restaurants are truly a bargain. Not only is the food fantastic, but you also get the same impeccable service and fine dining experience at much cheaper prices than ordering off the a la carte menu. What makes the Nougatine menu an even better deal is that you order your first two courses from a long list of offerings that comprise both appetizers and entrees, meaning that you could order two entrees if you preferred, and you would get a substantial amount of food.

On the terrace

On the terrace

Since it was such a cloudy day, the Terrace was mostly empty but we enjoyed sitting outside and watching little birds flying around. While we perused the long list of options, a server brought by slices of bread and nice fruity olive oil for dipping. We munched on these as Josh and I debated over several choices, and finally we asked our waiter for his opinion. He named a bunch of dishes that we hadn’t even considered, so it was back to the drawing board! Eventually we settled on our order, and it just means we’ll have to come back again to try some of the other dishes.

Good bread and even better olive oil

Good bread and even better olive oil

To start, we had the tuna tartare with avocado, spicy radish and ginger marinade. Wow this dish had a lot of kick to it! I was impressed that a restaurant would be so bold with the spice, especially since tuna tartare is usually a lighter, more mellow dish.

Tuna tartare with avocado, spicy radish and ginger marinade

Tuna tartare with avocado, spicy radish and ginger marinade

The spicy radishes were offset nicely by the creamy avocado, and even though the tuna was a bit more finely chopped than I prefer, it allowed the ginger marinade to permeate throughout, binding the dish with a sweet and tangy finish.

Finely chopped tuna and big chunks of avocado

Finely chopped tuna and big chunks of avocado

Our second “appetizer” was the salmon with potato puree, julienned vegetables and basil vinaigrette. This is actually more of an entrée dish, but was recommended by the waiter. The salmon was cooked perfectly and the fresh vegetables and basil vinaigrette made the dish feel light and spring-y.

Salmon with potato puree, julienned vegetables and basil vinaigrette

Salmon with potato puree, julienned vegetables and basil vinaigrette

For our main courses, we selected the roasted chicken and the grilled beef tenderloin.

Roasted chicken with ricotta gnocchi, spring mushrooms and asparagus

Roasted chicken with ricotta gnocchi

The chicken was served with ricotta gnocchi, spring mushrooms and asparagus. This was comfort food at its best. The chicken was tender on the inside and the ricotta gnocchi melted in our mouths.

Beef tenderloin

Beef tenderloin

The beef was cooked perfectly rare to order, pink in the middle with a nice crust on the exterior. There was a chili sauce on the plate that looked like sriracha, but it was much more mild. I wish that it had more of a kick, as the overall dish was a bit boring compared to the flavors and spices of the other dishes we had.

Perfectly cooked beef tenderloin

Perfectly cooked beef tenderloin

For dessert, we selected both of the options available – warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream and vanilla cake with fresh strawberry salad and red wine sorbet.

Molten chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream

Molten chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream

The molten chocolate cake, a Jean Georges signature, was as good as it gets. The warm chocolate gushed out from the light and springy cake, and the vanilla ice cream just capped the whole thing off.

Molten chocolate center oozing out

Molten chocolate center oozing out

The vanilla cake, however, was a complete disappointment. The piece of cake was about the size of a silver dollar and completely dried out. I think it was supposed to be like a strawberry shortcake but it fell short. The strawberries were no better than the frozen kind you can buy at the supermarket, and the red wine sorbet had no discernable red wine flavor. The whole thing kind of tasted like bad strawberry daiquiri mix that you buy pre-made in a bottle from the supermarket. It was just a sad, sad dessert, and not worth the calories.

Vanilla cake with strawberry salad and red wine sorbet

Vanilla cake with strawberry salad and red wine sorbet

Aside from the bad vanilla cake dessert, overall this meal was top notch. Our appetizers and entrees were all skillfully prepared and properly seasoned. The freshness of the ingredients really stood out, making simple dishes seem like such a luxurious treat. The food is familiar and comforting, yet refined. The $24 prix fixe lunch ($35 at dinner) is really a great way to try out lots of different items from a first-class restaurant. I will definitely be back for more!

Terrace at Jean Georges
1 Central Park West at 60th St.
New York, NY

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