- Restaurant Jeanne & Gaston
- Cuisine French
- Location 212 W. 14th St. (btwn 7th & 8th Avenues), Manhattan
- Phone 212-675-3773
- Directions Hopstop
- Atmosphere pre-war charm meets modern decor/furnishings
- Attire smart casual
- Ideal for small-mid sized groups, 1x1, full bar, outdoor dining, prix-fixe
- Price moderate
Set amidst the always-bustling 14th Street sits an oasis of serenity. A place where the music isn't too loud or offensive. Where the lighting is bright enough to make out what's on the menu, but dim enough to where you can still look sexy on a date. I'm talking about Jeanne & Gaston, a French restaurant that was recently opened by Chef Claude Godard, the same fellow who opened Murray Hill's Madison Bistro some 20+ years ago.
I, along with four other food bloggers, was invited to a dinner tasting at J&G (Jeanne & Gaston). Of course, being one of the first to show, I did what I would normally do whilst awaiting the arrival my fellow invitees: I ponied on up to the bar! Look, this has been an especially stressful week, and I knew that the only thing - short of a tranquilizer - that would aid in calming my nerves would be a strong cocktail.
My next action was something so ballsy - so risqué - that I cannot believe I'm even going to admit it out loud. But I am. Here goes: I ordered a margarita! At a French restaurant.
Looks pretty damn good, doesn't it? Well.........wait for it.........it was! Yep, J&G makes a damn good margarita. The bartender used freshly-squeezed lime juice, Patron (per my request), a splash of triple sec, and house-made simple syrup. And lots of salt. Come to think of it, this was actually better than most of the 'ritas I've knocked back at *Mexican* restaurants. WTF?
As a couple more guests arrived, our hostess, Blanca, took the first three of us on a "tour." As if the lovely interior space wasn't brag-worthy enough, the 'cherry-on-top' was yet to come. Blanca led the three of us towards the back of the restaurant - down a ramp - and in to J&G's not-yet-opened expansive outdoor space! The size, alone, took our breath away. I can only imagine how amazing this area will be for al-fresco dining in the upcoming warmer months!
Shortly after our quickie tour, the rest of the invitees arrived. Blanca escorted the seven of us to a large table, where our wine glasses were topped with either red or white, and dinner menus were distributed. "Our prix-fixe dinner includes three options and is quite affordable, at $40/person," Blanca explained. "Please choose an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert." Everyone exchanged wide-eyed glances and huge smiles. How incredibly generous of J&G! The table soon became abuzz with ideas, optimal pairing debates, and questions about what to order. I, for one, made sure to ask both the bartender and our server which dishes were personal favorites.
After much consideration, I chose the following: Napoleon, Le Bourguignon, and a Praline Soufflé.
Shortly after placing our orders, baskets of fluffy, sliced bread and butter arrived.
First course: Napoleon
Interchanging layers of smashed avocado and a light, mayonnaise-based crab meat "salad" were separated by paper-thin, savory wafer spheres. The Napoleon was crowned with micro greens and the plate was decoratively finished with avocado puree and, what appeared to be, sour cream. A cherry tomato added a bold pop of color.
Like a strong woman, this dish packed an impressive punch but, from the outside, appeared artfully delicate and feminine. Oh, how deceptive! The Napoleon exploded with flavor and texture. It proved to be just the perfect portion and left me, the diner, curious and hungry for more.
Entree course: "Le Bourguignon"
Served atop a bed of fluffy, cloud-like smashed potatoes was a generous helping of 2-day-braised short ribs, drowning in a rich, pinot noir reduction. Chopped carrots and celery dotted the gravy, gifting the entree with bite-sized pops of texture.
The beef, itself, was fork-tender, incredibly moist, and virtually free of gristle (quite the pleasant surprise for this particular cut of meat). With every bite, I could taste the essence of the pinot noir - a constant reminder of the 48-hours in which the short ribs had braised. Delicious!
Dessert course: Praline Souffle
A dense, perfectly browned soufflé exterior gave way to a fluffy, molten center that oozed with the essence of a pecan praline. A small scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream accompanied.
While I appreciated the laborious effort that was incorporated in to making this traditional French dessert, I thought that something - ingredient wise - was missing. I couldn't put my finger on it until I added the accompanying scoop of cold vanilla ice cream and watched it quickly melt in to the hot soufflé. The dessert, itself, was not sweet enough! Hence the single serving of very sweet ice cream. Now, it all made sense.
To conclude: I was very pleased with my experience at J&G, and look forward to returning for brunch al-fresco, once that fabulous outdoor space opens to the public. While I wouldn't consider this to be a destination restaurant, per se, I will contend that the surrounding neighborhood is very lucky to have a solid French staple. With an amazing outdoor space.
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle