J&G Grill Brings Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Superlative Technique to Bal Harbour

J&G Grill Brings Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Superlative Technique to Bal Harbour
Chef de cuisine Richard Gras and spring pea soup with sourdough croutons.

I openly admit it: I have a chicken bias. Whenever I see poussin priced above $20, I immediately wonder what could possibly be done to the ordinary bird to warrant such a high cost. So when I checked out the menu at J&G Grill, I was surprised to see a Parmesan-crusted version with lemon and basil — a pedestrian-sounding offering more fit for a mall restaurant chain — retailing for $24.

But that's the thing about Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the legendary French master behind New York's Jean Georges (one of only a few eateries to hold a four-star New York Times rating) and a small empire from London to Shanghai, and now in Miami at the St. Regis Bal Harbour. Vongerichten takes what's simple, what's expected, and then brushes the protein canvas with so much technique, so much straightforward flavor, and such perfection in the preparation that you are converted after the first bite. In this case, an unbelievably tender breast and thigh are covered in a crunchy layer of salty cheese, intensified by the pure spark of fresh lemon juice. I understood immediately why it's also on the menu at Jean Georges in New York alongside more complicated dishes: Even though it's just chicken, this is what great cooking is all about.

The man entrusted with Vongerichten's vision at Bal Harbour's J&G Grill, chef de cuisine Richard Gras, has significant experience in the hotel restaurant culture. He spent ten years with Ritz-Carlton at its Half Moon Bay in northern California and at the chain's Amelia Island outpost. Executing a mix of fine dining, room service, and poolside menus requires strong kitchen management, but does Gras's training necessarily lend itself to the heightened cuisine required by a Jean Georges chef — especially considering all the hotels where he worked are U.S.-based while Vongerichten's cuisine is Asian- and French-inspired?

Sautéed Florida pink shrimp with key lime yogurt and red radish.
Sautéed Florida pink shrimp with key lime yogurt and red radish.

Location Info

Map

St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort

9703 Bal Harbour Blvd.
Miami Beach, FL 33154

Category: Hotels and Resorts

Region: North Dade

Details

J&G Grill

305-993-3333
jggrillmiami.com

Lunch Monday through Friday noon to 3:30 p.m.; dinner daily 6 to 11 p.m.; brunch Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; bar menu available from 5 p.m.

Sautéed Florida pink shrimp $18
Salmon sashimi $14
Spring pea soup $10
Milk-fed veal chop $46
Soy-glazed short ribs $28
Parmesan-crusted Ashley Farms chicken $24

Happily, the answer is a resounding yes, with so few and such minor missteps at J&G Grill that I hesitate to even catalogue them. Each menu item sampled was an effective rendition of Vongerichten's singular take on globally inspired modern American cuisine.

The thoughtful range of appetizers fosters a let's-try-them-all mentality. Starters are small but shareable, from a peekytoe crabcake (more accurately described as a solid baseball of lump crabmeat) to thinly cut fettuccine, with a touch of Meyer lemon, Parmesan, and black pepper, that instantaneously transports diners to the coast of Capri. The delicate texture of the sautéed local pink shrimp was preserved beautifully, cooked just past translucent. Tart key lime-infused yogurt fizzled like Pop Rocks on the taste buds, and paper-thin slivers of red radish added a slightly bitter contrast.

When a barren bowl arrived with a few croutons scattered along the bottom, the table didn't exactly explode with excitement. Yet pulses picked up when a waiter poured a steamy stream of brightly colored spring pea soup over the small squares of bread, sending them swirling about as the bowl filled. The soup itself was marvelous; the inherent sweetness of the peas meshed with a remarkably refined texture that felt more like clear broth on the tongue.

There are more conceptual surprises, such as J&G's "salmon sashimi," which is not exactly what the name implies. Skinny slices of immaculate salmon lay curled like blankets over a small square of compacted rice that was fried until crusty, resembling a hush puppy. The ratio of salmon to fried rice was a bit off, and the rice absorbed too much of the oil it was cooked in, leaving small greasy puddles behind on the plate. Nevertheless, it was a delicious little bite.

Entrées are evenly split between land and sea, and the fish and seafood selections are primarily Asian-influenced. A local snapper crusted with nuts and seeds is served with a sweet-and-sour jus; Maine lobster is sautéed with ginger, scallion, and mint; and roasted mahi-mahi wears a black bean vinaigrette. French technique sneaks in on the animal flesh side. Purple and green nuggets of firm cauliflower provided a multicolored bed for a thickly cut veal chop, while slender slices of pistachio helped to form a fantastic "pesto" that soaked up the rose-hued meat juice (which appeared readily with every slice of the knife).

Soy-glazed short ribs came perched atop a mound of spicy jalapeño and apple purée. The beef required only the softest nudge to completely fall apart on the plate. Every forkful was easy to scoop along with the smooth purée, and a crisp herb crumble scented the entire dish with the fragrance of green rosemary.

The dining room is overly clean-cut and left me feeling a little cold. Although the Miami Herald's review crowed that the restaurant "whispers luxury and telegraphs simplicity," the high ceilings are reminiscent of a performance space, and the chatter bouncing off the walls was overwhelming. A bland color scheme of gray on taupe and the female servers' kimono-style wraps reminded one of my dining partners of an Asian airline's VIP lounge. The banquettes are too large for two, and tables are placed quite far apart. It seems like a restaurant designed with the hotel's special event planning in mind.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
1 comments
kramer
kramer

great article. I like the culinary observations. I do not however agree with the overly formal service, or the 'over-usage of last names' comments. This is Miami afterall--great consistent service is mia in MIA. I think using someones last name in an effort to make a guest feel 'known and welcome' is not a problem with 99% of guests that frequent chef forward restaurants. I do not think this restaurant is trying to be a formal fine dining experience (hence the word "grille" in the name)....but rather, excellent fine dining food in a highly trained, warm, sophisticated but not stuffy environment :).

As for the unlit pool, and dark view after the sun goes down, (something I myself could not help but notice too), I was told that they are respecting the area turtles natural habitat.

 
Loading...