Add: 4/F Three on the Bund, 3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road, Shanghai 中山东一路3号，外滩3号4楼
Tel: +86 (21) 6321 7733
Hours: [lunch] Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; [brunch] Sat-Sun 11:30am-3:00pm; [dinner] Mon-Sun 6:00pm-10:30pm
Price: [lunch set] RMB298/386; [lunch tasting] RMB998; [dinner set] RMB698; [dinner tasting] RMB1298/1498 (+10% service charge)
Visited: May 2016
Will return: Definitely
Before its renovation late last year, Jean-Georges’ dining room was solemn and dignified. The black-panelled walls, somber carpeting, dark leather armchairs, and heavy velvet drapes were every bit the seasoned war-horse that forayed into Shanghai’s then-fledgling fine-dining scene 12 years ago. But 12 years later, the old-boys’-club atmosphere was starting to feel weary, out of touch with the chic and modern design favored by diners in recent years.By Robert Young [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
So the design overhaul, completed this March, could not have been better timed. The black panelling and navy carpets were replaced by white walls, semi-transparent glass, and walnut wooden floors; the dark leather armchairs gave way to sleek, cream-colored creations with golden metal details; and the heavy drapes were taken off to let in an abundance of natural light, complemented by the soft, warm glow from the minimalistic, candle-like lights overhead.
The sleek marble bar and chic lounge are also very inviting.
The redesigned space is more chic, more relaxed, and – in Chef Vongerichten’s own words – more “today”. And it is certainly much more befitting for Jean-Georges’ brand of fine-dining, which has never been classic, old-school French cuisine. Instead, Jean-Georges distinguished itself by modernizing traditional French flavors and techniques with Asian influences. And I was glad to see on my latest visit that even though several of the dishes I had were new and unfamiliar, the Asian – and in particular, Japanese – influences remained a strong and integral part of the meal.
Starting with their popular Walnut Raisin Bread. A crowd favorite for a reason.
Next, a trio of amuse-bouches: fried Chinese rice cake (a.k.a. Ci Fan Gao) with avocado, herring sashimi with Japanese soy sauce, and a bonito mushroom broth.
The Fried Chinese Rice Cake with Avocado was one of the most ingenious dishes in the new menu. The crispy shell encased a sticky, tangy Arborio rice that contrasted wonderfully with the creamy avocado, and the barest tickle of heat from the mayo brought this little cube to life. Who knew this everyday Shanghainese breakfast could be transformed into something so glamorous?
The Herring Sashimi with Japanese Soy Sauce assaulted my palette with a rush of briny freshness.
Served in a cute little glass, the Bonito Mushroom Broth had an incredibly concentrated and profound flavor, with the umami of the bonito transitioning flawlessly into the earthiness of the mushrooms. However, the shape of the glass made it rather difficult to get to the foam on top.
A signature from the old menu, the Toasted Egg Yolk, Caviar and Herbs was a luxurious symphony of rich, smooth egg yolks, sweet, crispy toast, and salty bursts of caviar.
One of the most notable additions to the menu is the madai (a.k.a. red sea bream) imported from Japan, served in two ways. The simple Madai Sashimi, wearing flecks of sea salt, olive oil, and rings of preserved chili, had an undertone of heat and acidity that enhanced the natural sweetness of the madai. The umami built on my tongue with each bite, and crescendoed with the Madai Broth, fusing perfectly with the enticing fragrance of ginger, dill, lemongrass, and celery.
The Green Asparagus with Morels and Asparagus Jus was an epitome of elegance and simplicity. The asparagus were flavorsome, and the morels were tender, if sometimes coarse. But the simple vegetables were made exceptional by the light but vibrant asparagus jus and the tangy, slightly frothy hollandaise. Each bite coursed with the freshness and energy of spring.
Interestingly, the Black Cod in the tasting menu was served with Fragrant Coconut Juice, Parsnip and Lime, instead of Jean-Georges’ famous jade emulsion. Sitting on an island of sweet and earthy parsnip purée, the buttery, golden-crusted cod wore a crown of crunchy pickles, accompanied by a vibrant sauce of mint and lime that cut through the richness of the cod and the parsnip, swimming in a coconut broth that was poured table-side but somehow perfumed the whole dish with its tropical fragrance in a matter of seconds.
The biggest surprise of the meal came from the Roasted Rack of Lamb with Broccoli Pesto and Dried Onions, but not from any of the three components in the name. Sure, the lamb was tender and succulent, even if it was a step beyond the medium-rare that the server had suggested; the broccoli had just the right touch of char-grilled darkness; and the dried onions added an interesting texture. But it was the tiny pool of amber liquid I thought at first to be the roasting jus that made me sit up, for it turned out to be a wildly acidic and slightly minty dressing that sent a bolt of lightening straight across my palette. Add the spicy green powder to the mix, and this dish was definitely firing on all cylinders.
The Chocolate Dessert Tasting looked like there were a million things going on: a quenelle of hibiscus sorbet, a peanut chocolate crumble, two slices of poached pear, a peanut caramel mousse hidden beneath a chocolate shell, some olive oil powder, a few petals of crystalized flower, slivers of lemon confit, and Jean-Georges’ signature dark chocolate lava cake, all crowded around a swirl of milk chocolate ganache sitting on a bed of passion fruit gelée. And the most bizarre thing wasn’t the sheer number of components on the plate, but that no matter which components I chose to pair together, it worked.
This complicated dessert was paired with a simple Macadamia Nut Milk.
Ending the meal with a selection of petit-fours.
My lunch at Jean-Georges was a perfect reflection of the new decors – or perhaps I should say, the new decors have finally come to express how Jean-Georges has always approached French cuisine: stylish and refined, but clean, relaxed, and decidedly modern.