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?
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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.
Read the review of J&G Grill at the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort here.
View photos of J&G Grill here.