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Nougatine, Trump Tower at Columbus Circle - The Less Expensive Jean-Georges


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We had a lovely lunch though it got off to a bit of a rough start. I've checked and re-checked the website and I did not seeing anything about a dress code, and nothing was mentioned when I reserved or when I confirmed. Alas, my guest's gray pants did not fit the bill the hostess informed us as she suggested we sit in the cafe. Which was loud, crowded and it was unclear who our server really was.

But the food was lovely. We had the bruleed foie gras, the crab dumplings and the yellowfin ribbons to start. The yellowfin ribbons were in a delightful sauce and plated so they looked like a rose. It was lovely. For entrees we had the veal scallopine and beef tenderloin. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly but the veal had wonderful depth of flavor in the sauce that elevated it far ahead of the beef dish. For dessert we split the harvest plate and the chocolate plate. The desserts were enchanting and just the right finishing note.

We got out for $100 each and felt we had just the right amount of food and a glass of wine each.

Next time, we will clarify the dress code in advance though!

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The sequence of communcation went like this:

Jon Karl 8:02 PM "Dude. You there?"

DonRocks 8:20 PM "Yes call"

<ring>

JK 'Hey, so I'm at Essex House looking for a place to have dinner. Where should I go?'

DR 'I think you should meet me in 15 minutes at Nougatine.'

'Huh?'

'I'm in New York.'

'I thought you were coming tomorrow.'

'I thought you were leaving today.'

'What is Nougatine?'

'It's the casual place attached to Jean-Georges in the Trump building. I'm walking out the door now, and I'm two blocks away - see you at the bar?'

'Sure!'

---

Nougatine not only lives in the shadow of Jean-Georges; it pretty much IS the shadow of Jean-Georges. They share many things, among them the entrance, the kitchen, and some ingredients; and yet, that cheeseburger on the menu should be your reminder that you're shopping at Saks Off Fifth (and make no mistake: Saks Off Fifth diminishes the cachet of Saks Fifth Avenue).

The bar was full, but we got the last table in the house. Service was abundant, but inconsistent - my water glass was topped off probably five times during the meal (a little too often), and when Jon said he wanted to order a bottle of wine, we quickly got an assistant sommelier at our table who seemed like she knew what she was doing; at other times, someone had to be flagged down which is remarkable considering how many people seemed to be working here. Still, Nougatine clearly aims to please with an almost overwhelming show of (work)force.

Not surprisingly, Nougatine has a good little wine list, at multiple price points starting at around $40 (you have to hunt at this level). Jon ordered a 2010 Kerner ($50-ish, neither of us can remember the producer) from Alto Adige, Kerner being a grape that you should try as an alternate to Riesling if you haven't. It was nice to get an amuse-bouche (along with a basket of very good bread and butter) before our first course of Tuna Tartare ($16) with avocado, spicy radish, and ginger marinade which theoretically went very well with the Kerner. These ingredients were very similar to a dish on the menu next door at Jean-Georges of "yellowfin tuna ribbons, avocado, spicy radish, and ginger marinade." Nevertheless, this tuna tartare was middling at best, the icebox-cold chop sitting atop an equal amount of mashed avocado, and topped with disks of radishes that worked best as a visual. This would have been fine had it been accompanied with just a drizzle of sauce, but it came with a tableside pouring of an intensely citrus-flavored ginger liquid that was enough to reclassify this dish as a soup, and it just overwhelmed everything. Even with the liquid, it was a decent tuna tartare, but it was nothing special.

On the menu at Nougatine, there are, depending on the day, several entrees priced in the $20s, and listed as being "Slowly Cooked." Absent additional information, I assumed these were cooked sous-vide, and both Jon and I steered clear of them (there are other items clearly marked as being "Pan-Roasted," "Sauteed," "Grilled," etc). I only got a couple bites of Jon's Roasted Organic Chicken ($26), and at first thought the dish might have been a bit bland; the sauce, however, brought everything together and into full Technicolor - this was a dish I'd happily order for myself in the future. But I was busy with my app-as-entree Foie Gras Brulee ($19) with spiced fig jam and toasted brioche. Like the tuna tartare, there is a similar (in this case, identical) menu item at Jean-Georges, and I thought this would be a way to get at more of the Grand Cru pedigree of Nougatine than ordering something that might be (might be) cooked in a plastic bag. And this was a fine course, too - a cylindrical spongecake-like savory with plenty of foie gras mousse, topped with a caramelized disk which literally oozed foie gras through it's pores when I exerted cutting pressure with my knife. The flavors, with the fig jam, all knit together perfectly, and I could easily envision a very similar prep used at big brother next door - you should get this foie gras if you haven't tried it.

Along with the check came some mignardises, four little reminders which, along with the amuse-bouche, sandwiched a very good meal, with million-dollar views of southwest Central Park and Columbus Circle. No, it's not Jean-Georges, but with a little research in advance? You can make yourself a pretty good silhouette of the real thing.

Cheers,

Rocks

PS Welcome to our New York City readers - please click here to become a member of donrockwell.com - it's quick, it's private, and it's free. And it's going to be the most valuable dining resource in New York City if I have any say in the matter! :)

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Rocks, thanks for a very useful report. Exactly what one needs to know as far as whether to order "simpler" or to take some chances. I ate here a few months ago and did order more straightfoward dishes (along the lines of Jon's entree) and they worked out very well, with an added touch of delicacy which made the entrance fee worth it.

Next time you are in the neighbourhood, maybe you should try Boulud Sud, only a few blocks up. See what you make of it. And they have a great sommelier on the floor, who I am sure could speak wine/food language as well.

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Nougatine at Jean-Georges is still going strong, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 365 days a year.

More casual than Jean-Georges, sure, but still the same kitchen, and a definite overlap in the menu items, with the same, great view of Central Park.

https://www.jean-georges.com/restaurants/united-states/new-york/nougatine-at-jean-georges

Screenshot 2019-04-01 at 01.09.03.png

I *love* having dinner with Jon Karl in New York City - Jon is going to be releasing "Front Row in the Trump Show" next year - a memoir of his experience as ABC's Senior White House Correspondent covering the Trump administration, most likely start-to-finish. I have it on good word that Jon plans to make this, not only an interesting read, but also, a definitive reference about the Trump administration for those wishing to research it, 20-30 years into the future. I have absolutely no doubt that he'll succeed splendidly - in fact, I'll go ahead and bet my reputation on it.

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