I recently returned from my trip to China. Alas, I had one meal in Shanghai to myself - and so I went to the gilded storey that is 3 on the Bund to pay visit to one of my favorite chefs - Jean Georges.
First, let me say that the interior design is drop-dead get-out sexy. It's very very very dark inside - like almost goth - with black hard wood-paneled floors and sumptuously thick dark velvet curtains. The design is a very modern take on early century Shanghai - a sleek mix between European and Chinese aesthetics.
The staff is very friendly and accommodating. Helen, the manager is terribly hospitable and kind - and very good at what she does. She moves about, on the fringes keeping a studied watch over diners and their every need.
The food: is almost exactly like JG Shanghai. In fact, the JG Tasting is identical to the NYC offering. The other tasting, the "Seasonal Tasting" is more individual to this location.
What surprised me about the menu the most is that it hasn't changed - for nearly two years. I know this only because I dug up an article I had bookmarked in the February 2005 issue of Gourmet
. There is a feature section all about the new restaurants in Shanghai - including the then-recently opened 3 on the Bund complex. In his article, published months after he had dined there, the writer mentions at least two dishes that are still on the menu today - the frog legs with spring garlic soup and also the scallops, from Dalian, which are still on the menu.
I would think that JG would have changed the menu within these two years. I guess you don't fix what ain't broken.
My two guests had the JG tasting (7-courses), and because I had already had that in New York, I went for the Seasonal Tasting (6-courses) and supplemented the Egg Caviar to stay on pace. Also, as I'm not a huge fan of warm preparations of foie
, I asked to exchange the foie
for the scallops.
Everything was up to par, although personally, I though some of the plating and table-side saucing got a little sloppy. My only complaint on my dinner were my scallops, where were slightly more cooked than I would have liked - but certainly acceptable. I'm very finicky about scallops - I'll be the first to admit my obsession. I especially like the raisin-caper emulsion that the two ivory-coloured gems came with.
My favorite course from the Seasonal Tasting was the the lump crab salad (which is also on the a la carte
menu. A generous mound of lump crab topped with shaved asparagus sat in a shallow pool of slightly sweet melon broth kicked up ten notches with a bang of mustard. When I asked Chef Johnson what kind of mustard he used, he laughed and said, "Coleman's yellow." Hey, don't knock what works. It worked.
Another highlight was my sea bass - perfectly crisped skin - elevated on a row of confit'ed
golden squash sections nestled in a pool of spring garlic puree (if Chef Johnson's lurking on this site - I'd appreciate knowing what else, if anything, was in this puree). Basil broth was poured, at the table, round the fish to make a magnificent dark emerald-green moat. The fish was delicate, the sauce, saucy - the garlic and the basil broth playing together like a pestos of all pestos. This was great.
For desserts: I had had the chocolate tasting, so I let one of my guests, who adores chocolate have at it. My other guest chose the "Summer" tasting, which left me with "Passionfruit." None of us were disappointed... least of which me, as my dining companions had gorged themselves full and I got half of each of their desserts. I loved every single iced treat that came - and interesting ones too: Sichuan pepper ice cream, white peach sorbet, cacao bean ice cream, and my favorite - a white pepper sorbet shocked with fragrant orange blossom. (But nothing beats my tried-true prune armanac ice cream at JG NYC).
From my passionfruit tasting, my favorite was an unlikely banana flambe
tart - I'm not a huge banana fan, unless, of course you pair it with chocolate and drizzle it with passionfruit.
I also had no trouble helping my guest finish her Vietnamese coffee Liegeois - think Vientmanese coffee (essentially espresso with sweetened condensed milk) with chocolate cream hit with a shot of liquor (was that vodka? Borghetti? Ricardi? Kahlua?). Who needs a straw... let's do shots!
I got a chance to chat with Chef Johnson before I left. He's a very humble man - and helpful too! He gave excellent suggestions (though I had no time to put them to good use) for local eats. He's trained all over the world at some of the finest kitchens - lucky guy. I hope him continued success at JG Shanghai, and wherever he might go in the future!
The view was spectacular. SPECTACULAR. Diners who are lucky enough to get a window table have a breathtaking view overlooking the Bund out onto Pudong - the "pearl" tower and the Hyatt towering off to its right. The brighltly lit shoreline - agog with flashing neon billboards and larger-than-life adverts is just electrifying (no pun intended).
I left walking on cloud nine. It was a far cry from some of the more rural meals I had on this trip - where, under oppressive heat and humidity, I was literally sweating into my food.
One note: there is a large square oil painting of two elderly people sitting with rice bowls at the entrance of the Jean Georges Shanghai. One faces it when leaving or walking down the avenue-wide hallway between the bar and the lounge. I would appreciate knowing the artist, if anyone has a clue. What I would give for that painting!!
You can see all of my food photos and read my commentary here
on my flickr account. Click on the individual photos for a larger view and to see notes/comments.
I will also be posting these pictures later when I get to the Shanghai portion of my trip on my thread about my trip to China, found here