Friday we had reservations at Nougatine, the “casual” dining room of Jean-Georges. Of course, New York casual is not LA casual. Everyone was so stylish I could have snapped a photo in any direction and printed it in a magazine. I asked a man in a suit where the restroom was before I realized he didn’t work there. I was still coming off of working the graveyard shift and had not adapted to the time change. I had rolled out of bed and rushed to Nougatine on an empty stomach. So I was not interested in the prix fixe menu that had previously looked so appealing.
Bob ordered from the prix fixe, and I ordered an artichoke as well as a crab salad and ice cream/sorbet medley, and asked the server to let the chef decide the order in which the dishes should come out. Bob’s salmon confit was lovely, tasting very much like lox and served with toasts.
My artichoke arrived first. I was very pleased. They had cooked the hell out of it – exactly how it should be. At some point in the 80s, LA restaurants decided everything should be cooked al dente, especially vegetables. They have never quite recovered and continue to serve rock-hard artichokes. The homemade mustard mayonnaise was intense with lemon and horseradish. The horseradish began to sting about halfway through my artichoke, and I wondered why the chef had chosen such a strong dish as my starter.
When my crab salad arrived, I understood. The server poured the sauce over, which was made from lemon, horseradish, and reportedly melon, although it was lost in the horseradish. They really love horseradish. A lot. The peekytoe crab was sweet and cold, but the occasionally overwhelming bites of horseradish started to make my head swim. Halfway through the course, Bob and I switched plates. His chicken was moist with a crispy, salty, almost southern-fried skin. It was exacty what chicken should be. Bacon and olives are an unlikely duo, but were addictive and kept the chicken from being too mundane.
For dessert, Bob chose the chocolate biscuit with chantilly, which was like an upscale Devil Dog.
I went for the selection of ice creams and sorbets. Unlike Los Angeles, no one feels the need to tell you what is on your plate. There is a hesitation on their part to impose that can leave one feeling a little abandoned. I was also the only person in the entire restaurant drinking iced tea. In spite of the busboys waging a silent war on empty water glasses, it was hard to get refills for my tea.
Anyways, I am happy when they don’t tell me what is on my plate because then I get to guess. The first sorbet overshadowed everything else – it was a lime/mint bursting with flavor. The second sorbet was a mild cucumber, which was unusual and fun. There was vanilla malt ice cream and a strawberry sorbet. The final ice cream stumped me. The flavor was so mild, I could hardly taste it after that crazy lime/mint. I knew it was a fruit because it made my sour recepters twinge. I finally gave up and asked. The server had to check with the kitchen, which surprised me. I guess nobody ever asks. It was rhubarb. Although 4 out of 5 ain’t bad, I felt like I had lost the game.
(Thanks for the tip, JG!)