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Restaurant Week: Dinner at Nougatine

For two glorious weeks in the dreadful doldrums of winter (exclusive of Saturday’s), NYC Restaurant Week takes Gotham by storm. Over 250 participating restaurants charge $24.07 for a prix-fixed lunch and $35 for a prix-fixed dinner. Considering the tumultuous economy, Restaurant Week is an affordable excuse to experience that otherwise pricey French spot you’ve been dying to try.

Allie and I had a reservation at Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Nougatine, located within the same space as Jean Georges (at the Trump International Hotel and Tower). After being seated immediately by the gracious hostess, I couldn’t help but gaze out the floor to ceiling windows and admire the snowy view. Located on ground/patio level, Nougatine overlooks majestic Central Park. The atmosphere in the restaurant was cozy, bright, spacious and airy. Tabletops were graced with freshly cut white roses and delicate glass stemware.

The menu revealed that, despite Restaurant Week, Nougatine has a nightly $35 prix fixed dinner. Having learned that tidbit, I knew that I would be in for a great experience. Allie and I proceeded to order the $35 menu, which included an amuse bouche, three savory and one sweet course.
Our meal began with the chef’s amuse: A shot of delicate fennel soup paired with a fried wonton skin that was topped with fresh crab meat and carrot “brittle.” I was pleasantly surprised by how perfect the flavors of fennel and crab came together.

The next course was tuna tartare: Atop a bed of smashed avocado was a hearty portion of fresh, ruby-red sushi-grade tuna topped with lightly marinated radish slivers. The richness of the buttery avocado meat was a great accompaniment to the fish. The radish slivers presented a crunchy texture to the otherwise soft dish.
Following the tuna tartare was another fish course: Straddling a mound of spaghetti squash and a shallow pool of soy broth sat a large filet of skate wing. Having never tried this fish before, I was impressed by its subtle, creamy flavor and texture. My only complaint was that I found the smoky aftertaste of the soy broth too powerful for the delicate fish.

The entrée was our final savory course: Two bone-in chicken quarters were placed atop broccoli rabe and a flavorful lemon truffle sauce. Since the bird was cooked with skin and bones in tact, the meat was unbelievably tender. I rarely order chicken as a main course, but this dish has convinced me otherwise.
The dessert tasting included a citrus semifreddo, homemade vanilla bean ice cream and molten chocolate cake. I found the semifreddo too cold and the texture to be overly crunchy, plus it was not sweet enough. The cake, on the other hand, was outrageously decadent, especially when combined with the ice cream. Warm melted chocolate slowly oozed on to the plate with the lightest pierce of my fork.

Our check arrived with a small saucer of homemade pate de fruits (my favorite) and chocolate covered ginger. But perhaps the sweetest part of our meal was seeing Jean Georges, one of the world’s most celebrated chefs, proudly circle through the lively crowd and dining room.

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