New York’s Best Lunch Deal is at Jean-Georges (But We Ate at Nougatine)

At the very tippy top of the New York restaurant pyramid sits Jean-Georges. It’s up there with Daniel, Per Se, Del Posto, Eleven Madison Park and Le Bernardin; the only restaurants that currently have four stars from The New York Times.

What separates Jean-Georges from the bunch, though, is that you can eat lunch there for $28. Let me say that again. You can eat lunch at one of New York’s only four-star restaurants for $28.

That’s an important thing to know because many food lovers write off the four-star dining experience as “too expensive” or “too fancy.” And, in many cases, that’s very much true. There’s no denying that the lunch that Craig and I enjoyed at Per Se several years ago was very fancy and very expensive.

Which is why the Jean-Georges thing is so remarkable. For $28, you sit at a table laid with the same tablecloth, silverware and glassware you would get in the evening. The service is equally attentive. The bread that’s served to you from a man with a bread basket is the same bread that you would eat at night:


And this is four-star bread; with a dark crust and a tangy, sour interior. You can eat as much of it as you want.

Last week, my friend Shirin and her co-worker Ina met me for lunch at what I thought was Jean-Georges. I suggested it because it’s such a great deal that I was ashamed I’d only taken advantage of it once (with my first book’s editor).

Only, at this lunch with Shirin and Ina, we didn’t take advantage of the Jean-Georges deal. We took advantage of the Restaurant Week deal at Nougatine; the restaurant that you walk through to get to Jean-Georges proper.

It’s funny because it wasn’t until I got to that last paragraph that I realized we hadn’t really eaten lunch at Jean-Georges. I mean: it’s the same kitchen, the same staff, the same bread, etc. But this post, it turns out, isn’t about lunching at Jean-Georges; it’s about the Restaurant Week deal at Nougatine.

Which is excellent! For $24.07 (even less than the other deal) you get three courses: appetizer, entree and dessert.

Shirin and Ina each ordered interesting sodas (not included in the $24.07) that they really enjoyed. Here’s Shirin with her berry soda:


Here’s Ina’s ginger soda:


They both raved but I did the responsible thing and had a glass of wine.

My first course is the one you see above; it was calamari dusted with basil salt served with a citrus chili dip. It was zesty and spicy and surprisingly light, despite being deep fried.

Shirin enjoyed an artichoke with mustard mayonnaise, chervil and lemon:


And Ina had “Warm Beets and Rich Yogurt” with field mache and lemon:


As you can see, this is all very beautiful food for $24.07.

For my entree, I had salmon served with a bright, acidic passionfruit sauce:


I really liked the way the salmon played off the passionfruit; the fattiness of the fish was cut by the sharpness of the fruit.

Ina enjoyed a slow-cooked skate wing:


Which we all agreed had the prettiest presentation.

Shirin went rogue and ordered off the prix-fixe menu for her entree. She had the lobster burger:


I couldn’t believe that her lobster burger came with cheese on it (I think it was gruyere). My Jewish ancestors were rolling over in their graves! (That’s double traif: shellfish with cheese on it.) But I took a bite and it really worked. The burger was nice and light and you really tasted the lobster flavor.

So if you were doing the $28 lunch deal at Jean-Georges, you wouldn’t get dessert included. Just two courses. And it’d be criminal to miss out on Jean-Georges’s famous desserts (executed by Johnny Iuzzini from “Top Chef Just Desserts.”)

At Nougatine, you have two choices: berries or the famous Jean Georges molten chocolate cake with a warm center. (They invented that there.) The choice seems obvious, but since Ina and I were each entitled to both, we got one of each. Here are the berries:


They were light and refreshing but no match for the molten chocolate cake, which is justifiably famous:


You New Yorkers who want to experience a four star restaurant but have never been, take advantage of all this. Our lunch at Nougatine was so good, I thought we’d eaten at Jean-Georges. And a lunch at Jean-Georges is still a possibility for $28. Go there and let me know what i missed.

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