Jeanne & Gaston – Kitchen – Wine – Garden, NYC

March 2, 2013

in Food for Thought,International,National

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212 West 14th Street
Between 7th & 8th
New York, NY 10011
(212) 675-3773
www.jeanneandgaston.com

Food & Service: Walking in to Jeanne & Gaston Restaurant, I realize this is not your traditional French restaurant. Past rows of neatly spaced tables and modern block lights I am greeted by a wall-sized replica of the Wine Merchant Guild painting by Ferdinand Bol.

Stunning Bar and Mural at Jeanne & Gaston

To my right is the bar, which connects to a wall boasting an enormous, cropped self-portrait by Albrecht Dürer…juxtaposed by a wine cabinet that reminds me of my grandmother’s armoire.

The décor at Jeanne & Gaston perfectly foreshadows the meal to come: classic Burgundy cuisine influenced by Chef Claude Godard’s global travels and creative hand with a nod to the restaurant’s namesake, his grandparents Jeanne and Gaston. Chef Godard is a third-generation French chef who serves up traditional French fare at his first restaurant Madison Bistro. He opened Jeanne & Gaston in December 2011 in order to showcase contemporary French cuisine. I hesitate to call it fusion, at least in the traditional sense. Chef Godard’s interpretation of fusion is to “keep your own identity with a light touch from somewhere else.” As I glance at the menu and spot ingredients such as lemongrass, cilantro, and cardamom, I am both curious and excited to see how this evening’s meal will unfold.

Jeanne & Gaston Charcuterie

I ask the waiter to recommend their most popular cocktail, and I am not disappointed as I take a sip of their French Martini. Vanilla vodka, pineapple juice and cassis liquor blends smoothly together to create a nice balance of sweet and sour. Note: We are told that Chef Godard is preparing a special tasting menu for us ( so the portions in the photos are smaller than usual), starting with the Charcuterie featuring a smooth and creamy duck liver pate. The pate melts in my mouth like butter, its richness cut by the acidic vinaigrette and bitterness of the radicchio salad.

The Charcuterie board is whisked away and replaced with a Crab and Avocado Napoleon with Lemongrass and Cilantro. This tower of crab and avocado is layered between thin crispy sheets of seasoned and baked Moroccan warqa (brik pastry).

Jeanne and Gaston Crab & Avocado Napoleon

I am so intrigued by the crispy sheets that I have to ask Chef Godard about them. He explains the influence of Northern Africa and Vietnam due to historical French colonization. He also incorporates flavors of other countries based on his many travels and from living in Johannesburg for three years.

Returning to my napoleon, I relish the fresh flavor of the crab salad with just a light touch of mayonnaise. The avocado reminds me of chunky guacamole with just a mild kick in the back of my throat. I continue to follow Chef Godard, passport in hand, as he introduces the flavors of India in tonight’s special; Halibut topped with Halibut Mousse accompanied by a Mixed Vegetable and Nut Chutney. The buttery fish reduction has a barely perceptible whisper of curry. This dish is all about textures. The halibut is slightly over cooked, but its denseness still contrasts well with the halibut mousse.

Fluffy Halibut Mousse

I expect a whipped cream-based mousse in the French style, and am bewildered when I bite into a fluffy fish ball that makes me think of well-executed, high-end Southeast Asian street food. I notice that the dense and the fluffy textures are rounded out with the crunchy nuts in the sweet chutney.

Chef Godard's Squab Two Ways

I switch to a glass of Jean Marc Brocard Bourgogne Chardonnay Kimmeridgien. Bright minerals, citrus and green apples complement the silky sauce without overshadowing the halibut. Jeanne & Gaston features a varied selection of French wines with a respectable representation of international wines. Many of the wines are available by the glass and carafe. I make my way back state-side to the Sonoma Coast with the red cherry and raspberry notes of a Matthew Fritz Pinot Noir to accompany another special, Squab Two Ways. I cut into the puffed pastry to reveal a boneless leg stuffed with veal. The pastry is slightly undercooked, and I imagine how delectable this would be if the puff pastry was a cocoon of buttery layers. The veal is well-seasoned, delivering a flavorful punch of spices and salt. Nestled next to this is a seared breast drizzled with a sauce made by reducing the squab bones. Equally well-seasoned, the squab breast is appealingly moist and tender. The dish is accompanied with crunchy brussel sprouts. They’re perfectly cooked with a savory clean flavor that would convert any brussel sprout hater.

Ile Flottante Gaston Style...

Circling back to traditional French cuisine, I finish off the meal with an Ile Flottante Gaston Style–soft, airy meringue with crème anglaise and homemade pink praline ice cream. Chef Godard smiles as he talks of pink praline back in Lyon. It is made with red coloring and rose flavor. Because pink praline is not imported in to the United States, he makes it himself for this dessert. I also try the walnut and almond tart with hazelnut praline foam. A shortbread crust cradled the almond cream. I spoon up some foam along with a piece of the tart and eat it all in one bite. The foam is like ice cream, but lighter and not so sweet. Somehow this reminds me of family and home in an apple-pie-and-ice-cream sort of way. It is not a surprise coming from a chef who named this restaurant after his grandparents and who feels that “cooking is cooking…you do it with your heart, not by recipes.”

Jeanne and Gaston offers a $29 prix fixe dinner menu along with a $40 prix fixe option that allows you to select any appetizer, entrée and dessert from the a la cart menu. The weekend brunch prix fixe is $18 for two courses. The garden opens up again in April for al fresco dining.

Jeanne & Gaston's Beautiful Interior

In the meantime, it is used for free games of Petanque everyday from 11AM until sundown. Pastis and hot wine are available for purchase while you play. The restaurant also features a jazz band every Thursday from 7PM to 11PM.

Chef Godard offers hands-on cooking classes for $60 per person:

Souffles (cheese, fish, or sweet)

Monday, March 11 - 2PM to 4PM

Savory and Sweet Tarte Flambe

Monday, March 18 – 2PM to 4PM

Lunch: 11:45 AM  – 4:00 PM, Mon.-Fri.

Dinner: 4:00 PM  – 10:30 PM, Sun.-Thurs.

4:00 PM  – 11:00 PM, Fri.-Sat.

Brunch: 11:00 AM  –  3:30 PM, Sat.-Sun.

Happy Hour: 4:00 PM  – Until Closing, Mon.-Sun.

Jazz Night: 7:00 PM  – 11:00 PM, Thurs.
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Hazel Sy is a writer and photographer always in pursuit of the next culinary adventure. From Dai pai dongs in Hong Kong, a yacht galley in the Maldives, her NYC backyard to her small apartment kitchen, she shares her love of food on her blog TastyPursuits.com. When asked why she started her blog, Hazel says, “I started this blog to explore why the flavors work well together in recipes from my cookbook collection, friends and websites. I then experiment with creating my own recipes based on the flavor principles that I discover along the way.” Please check out Hazel’s great Twitter page at -> @tastypursuits

Message from the Editor in Chief: DinnerReviews.com is pleased and honored to welcome Hazel Sy to our Internet Magazine. Her love and knowledge of food, and excellent writing ability is evident in all of her reviews. We feel very lucky to have her contributions.

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