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Heirloom tomatoes, stone fruits, and burrata at Le Jardinier
Heirloom tomatoes, stone fruits, and burrata at Le Jardinier

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After 21 Years, a Joël Robuchon Protégé Gets His Own Luxurious Stage in Midtown East

Le Jardinier from chef Alain Verzeroli opens tomorrow with light, seasonal fare

Alain Verzeroli is ready to finally channel his own name. For the last 21 years, the chef worked underneath legendary late chef Joël Robuchon, maintaining three Michelin stars for 11 years at his Tokyo restaurant before moving to New York City to help Robuchon with his upcoming restaurants here.

But tomorrow, he’s stepping out of his late mentor’s shadow to open the first of his own two restaurants in a luxury Midtown East building — at 610 Lexington Ave., at 53rd Street — from real estate mogul Aby Rosen. Le Jardinier arrives Tuesday, a little more casual than the tasting menus that made Robuchon famous. The 62-seat restaurant is on the ground floor, with an a la carte menu with a lot of vegetables. Shun follows next month, a more formal restaurant on the second-floor that combines Verzeroli’s experiences in both France and Japan.

Both are a culmination of his knowledge and experience from working at Robuchon’s fine dining restaurants over the last two decades, but here, Verzeroli is ready to show his point of view — less fussy French recipes and more good ingredients cooked precisely, but simply.

“I’m having the opportunity to develop something that is more linked to my personal life and my beliefs,” he says, “and I’m super happy to go more in this direction.”

A wide, bright dining room with lots of plants and big windows.
The dining room at Le Jardinier
Bavette au jus, turnip horseradish, and broccolini at Le Jardinier
Bavette au jus, turnip horseradish, and broccolini at Le Jardinier
Strawberries with strawberry mousse and granita at Le Jardinier
Strawberries with strawberry mousse and granita at Le Jardinier

At Le Jardinier, that means a light menu that, though not vegetarian, is more focused on vegetables and seasonality. Right now, dishes include poached white asparagus with puffed buckwheat seeds, a blood orange reduction, and pickled white strawberries; or fingerling potato gnocchi with watercress, parmesan, and radish.

Each meal begins with a shot of juice instead of an amuse bouche like at L’Atelier, and the breads and sweets are lighter, too — all the breads from head baker Tetsuya Yamaguchi are gluten-free and five of the seven desserts from executive pastry chef Salvatore Martone are, too. The ice cream is vegan, using cashew and coconut milks as a base.

“I think it’s what most people want now, something light and seasonal with good ingredients,” Verzeroli says.

The wine list is split between traditional Old World wines and newer, biodynamic and organic options. Cocktails — like the Citron Presse (Meyer lemon vodka, lemon juice, shiso leaf, yuzu bitters, tonic water) — come from Dushan Zaric of Employees Only.

The bar at Le Jardinier
The bar at Le Jardinier
A sunny corner booth at Le Jardinier
A booth at Le Jardinier

When Shun opens upstairs, it’ll be more “luxurious,” Verzeroli says. He differentiates the two as saying Le Jardinier will serve gluten-free bread with olive oil, while Shun will be traditional bread with butter. He’s bringing in all his tableware from Japan and planning a very “minimalist” aesthetic. The menu will be even more hyper-focused on seasonality.

“In Japan, you really focus on the ingredient first and build around. People are very linked to the natural pace of seasons. I would like these two restaurants to be linked to nature and the natural rhythm,” he says. “During winter upstairs, I will not allow myself to buy any tomatoes. Let’s focus on the natural ingredients of this time.”

Alain Verzeroli at Le Jardinier
Alain Verzeroli

The restaurants are opening inside new luxury condominium 100 East 53rd Street, developed by Rosen and designed by award-winning architect Norman Foster. (None other than Amal and George Clooney are reportedly buying there.) Rosen also owns the Seagram building across the street, which houses the Grill and the Pool.

Both spaces, designed by Joseph Dirand, are filled with light, with tons of plants decorating Le Jardinier and a minimalist, cush design at Shun. Bar Shun, also on the second floor, is backed by a large bar in a high-ceilinged small salon.

At 100 East 53rd Street, Robuchon was supposed to take over the restaurant spaces before he died in 2018. Hospitality group Invest oversees his L’Atelier restaurants in Chelsea as well as these; Verzeroli was already tapped to be the culinary director in Midtown, so it was natural for him to take over. For the chef, it’s an opportunity to break out on his own after years of learning from Robuchon.

“I feel excited. I have a new energy flowing in, because now I’m more free-spirited, maybe more true to myself as well,” he says.

Le Jardinier will be open Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

The dining room at Le Jardinier, outfitted with granite countertop tables and tan furniture.
The dining room at Le Jardinier

Le Jardinier

151 Northeast 41st Street, , FL 33137 (305) 402-9060 Visit Website
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