Jean-Georges Vongerichten expands his empire with two new restaurants at the Four Seasons Hotel on Jumierah Beach Road.
JG at the Four Seasons is split into two concepts. One is the Jean-George Dining Room – his fifty seater, 900 dhs-a-head fine dining gastronomic center that helps maintain his nameand positioning around the world.
The other is the JG Kitchen – an informal, casual-dining space – his commercial avenue that keeps the lights on and the bailiffs at bay. This review is for a quick lunch at the JG Kitchen earlier in the month.
At first glance, the menu seems to be a collection of his greatest hits from various restaurants across his vast empire. I don’t know if that’s a compliment for Dubai that we would getall the best bits from his other restaurants or an insult that he couldn’t come up with a new menu for this market? However, it is a safe, mature choice of global favourites, neverstraying far from comfort and safety.
This starts to beg the question, how many restaurants can you open, before you really should be calling yourself an operator, rather than the chef?
The restaurant industry has never been as popular as it is today, with so many people willing and open to try new flavours and ingredients – what an opportunity for restaurants andchefs to experiment on such a receptive audience; never before has a demographic been so accepting and pliable. One thing is clear though – dishes like marinated olives, crispycalamari and ricotta raviolis are not going to have anyone rushing to the door in excitement.
However, with Colin Clague at the helm, the food is never going to be bad. He did some fantastic things over at Qbara and Zuma, and his name is held in very high regard across theregion. Each dish that came out of the kitchen made no apologies for their simplicity and nor did they have to. The food was simply the result of a well-trained and talented kitchenteam. The dishes were confident, flavourful and full of identity – they knew what they were and what they were meant to do.
The baratta was savory and light, but the citrus topping was too close to store-bought marmalade for me. However, the spiced chicken samosas were a winner – moist, delicate andcrispy. The rigatoni & meatballs and the wagyu burger were also as expected – well cooked and satisfying and the plates went back to the kitchen empty. The cheesecake was so-so. Great texture, but the crust had no bite and was too soft.
While no doubt the menu is a well tried, well rehearsed compilation of great dishes that will hit the mark nine times out of ten, a restaurant experience is always more than the justfood.
Just because you put pizza on the menu, doesn’t mean you are casual and informal.
So, moving to the rest of the experience, the ‘kitchen’ space is an intimate little dining room, with an open-plan kitchen at the back. Glass, tiles, and stone are used in the design,and if it weren’t for the fabric chandeliers, the room would be very cold and hard. Premium cutlery, plates and glassware dot the tables, and I get the feeling there is a dress code. You can see that JG is very comfortable partnering with five star hotels in this sense.
Despite the room being attractive and chic, as long as you’re putting your waiters in waistcoats and ties, your managers in starched suits and then accessorising them with JG cuff-links, you can’t call yourself a “casual, relaxed place for everyday dining.” as JG did in a recent interview. That’s like sticking a Cornetto on the forehead of a cow and calling it aunicorn. Additionally, showcasing Louis XII and magnums of Cristal Champagne in a cabinet is not an ‘everyday dining’ look.
If JG Kitchen is targeting the kind of people that consider cuff-links and Cristal as “relaxed everyday dining,” then they might need a smaller seating capacity – a couple of tables shoulddo it!
Overall, JG Kitchen offers a fresh and uncomplicated lunch – the staff were approachable and had a good sense of humour. The food was tasty and enjoyable and the room certainlywas elegant and classy. However, at 300 dhs per person for a lunch without alcohol, it’s not going to become my everyday dining spot. Nevertheless, I will be back for dinnersometime. And the Serb can pay.