New York Times food critic Pete Wells reaffirmed his paper's FOUR STAR rating of Jean-Georges yesterday, an accolade Ruth Reichl originally bestowed on the Central Park South institution in 1997. Things weren't as expensive back then; Jean-Georges offered an a la carte menu at the time, and the seven-course tasting was just $75.
That works out to $110 when you adjust for inflation — still tons lower than the current price of JG's seven-courser, which clocks in at $198. So if you bring a dinner date, and you should, because it's Jean-Friggin-Georges, you'll end up spending nearly $700 after wine pairings, tax, and tip.
No, that's not cheap by REAL PEOPLE standards. But among New York's small crop of ambitious restaurants with either three-Michelin stars or four New York Times stars, Jean-Georges is in fact the cheapest, baby, if you go by the starting price of the set menu. Play your cards right and two of you can get in-and-out for under $300.
Dinner at Jean-Georges starts at $118 and that gets you three savory courses plus dessert. That's a lower entry-level price than Sushi Nakazawa ($120), Daniel ($125), Del Posto ($126), Le Bernardin ($135), Eleven Madison Park ($225), Brooklyn Fare ($255), Thomas Keller's service-included Per Se ($310), or Masa ($450) — though to be fair the longer tasting options at Del Posto and Le Bernardin are more affordable than at JG.
Prices go lower at most restaurants during lunch, but at Jean-Georges, they go CRAZY EDDIE LOW. Two courses will run you $38; add-on additional courses for $19 each, or order dessert for $12. And the best part is the lunch menu offers many of the same dishes as dinner — the salt and pepper sweetbreads, the foie gras brulee (for a $10 supplement) or even the famously BADASS tuna ribbons in a ginger marinade.
So bring a buddy and do three-courses each plus dessert and the two of you will be out just $178 after tax and tip, which is $126 less than you'd pay at dinner. Throw in a few half-glasses of wine apiece and you should be able to sneak out for under $300, or heck even $250 if you keep things respectable, playa.
Now here's the thing. Any restaurateur who discounts too heavily during off-peak hours risks alienating the prime-time clientele; "You mean I get the same meal for $10,000 less at 6 a.m.?" But Jean-Georges somehow manages to strike the right balance, retaining the intrinsic value of his dinner price despite the INSANE lunch deal. That's partly achieved by the fact that JG offers more selections and fewer supplemental charges in the evening hours.
So give THE MAN credit where credit is due. The place is never empty at any time, or at any price.
All Jean-Georges Coverage on Eater [~ENY~]