Nougatine has closed its doors in Shanghai.
I have been meaning to visit a Jean Georges restaurant for abit, but as many of you know, I am somewhat of a cheap diner, so Jean Georges is naturally out of reach of my budget. Thankfully, Shanghai Restaurant Week lets one have a 4 course dinner at a Jean Georges restaurant for 258RMB — A price that usually will not allow you to dine in the restaurant AT ALL.
Like most of the higher ranking restaurants on the bund, lighting is dim and very low profile. One definitely gets the super high end feel as you walk through Nougatine. The restaurant was half empty when we visited at 20:30 for our reservation. Decor is modern and stylish, with a lounge-like feel. We were seated at a couch table, but we felt the table was a little high for our physique. Music, while tasteful, was a little loud. Nitpicking. All in all, I would rate the decor a 8/10
Service was spot on for a restaurant of this prestige, and expectantly so. That said, extra points go to the server who took the initiative to apologize and admit that they screwed up the portioning of our soup course, and that they would make up for it by offering complimentary coffee for each of us. 9/10
Tuna tartar with Avocado, spicy radish and ginger marinade
This was an interesting presentation of a tartar; You don’t often see a tartar in a pool of sauce. This starter felt quite chinese-inspired because of the ginger marinade. It was pleasantly acidic and bright, which helped balance the rich avocado and bonded the tuna together cohesively. The radish provided a layer of crunch and palate cleansing. Very well thought-out dish. Other than the ‘fine-dining’ portioning, I thoroughly enjoyed this appetizer. 8.5/10
Warm asparagus salad, avocado and hollandaise.
This was de rigeur. Nothing much to talk about, other than the asparagus was well cooked, and the greens were fresh. Hollandaise was competently created, but it is quite a boring dish. 7.5/10
Spring pea soup with Parmesan Foam.
This was actually assembled table-side, whereby the server would serve the plate containing the parmesan foam, and then pour the green pea soup over. I was disappointed when after watching my companion’s soup bowl get filled up, that I only got barely a plate of soup on mine. I thought that was just my luck, but later the server came and apologised, telling me that the kitchen had screwed up the portioning of the soup, therefore I had a lot less than I should have gotten. They would compensate by giving us a round of coffee. Ok, fair enough.
If I had a choice though, I would rather have more soup than coffee; The soup was absolutely delectable. Silky smooth pea puree combined and blended harmoniously with the parmesan foam. The texture was impeccably smooth and absolutely lump-less. The flavour of the pea soup was delicate and then accentuated by the parmesan foam. My only complaint was that the croutons had too strong an olive oil flavour, which kind of jarred the delicate flavours of the soup. All in all, portioning error inclusive, this soup gets a 8.5/10. But for the love of soup, please give me at least a saucer of soup, instead of a plate.
Beef tenderloin with potato puree with soy caramel emulsion.
When I saw this at first, I thought maybe a soy sauce was a lazy and cheap excuse for creating a dish for restaurant week. When the dish arrived, my suspicions were even more confirmed as I laid my eyes and nose on the stream of soy sauce on the side of the steak.
Thankfully after I had a taste, all of my fears were dismissed. The soy caramel sauce was more complex than it looked, although it primarily tasted like soy sauce. That said, the pairing of the sauce with the meat and garnish was very apt. On top of the steak was a somewhat chinese inspired mushroom stir fry, with shiitake and enoki mushrooms, fried with some ginger and i’m guessing, seasoned with soy sauce. Very unusual for a french restaurant to serve this chinese-fusion steak, but guess what, it worked!
The mushroom stir fry was refreshingly tasty, owing much to the mushrooms’ natural umami. The tenderloin was perfectly cooked to medium and all the components basically came together very nicely. This is a dish where the ingredients aren’t of the highest calibre, but through the thoughtful planning and execution of the dish, ordinary ingredients were made extraordinary. 8.5/10
Black Cod with green curry and spring vegetables.
Do not be fooled, while this curry looked green, it tasted like a south indian red curry. I’m guessing the green came from a spinach puree or something. The indian curry spice was very prominent, and quite pleasantly so. The cod was perfectly cooked. However I felt that this pairing might have been a little too rich. Cod is a very oily fish, and pairing with a thick and spicy sauce might have made the experience a little too heavy. I always think that pairing an oily fish with a more acidic sauce/garnish would be better. My partner who had this dish couldn’t finish it, and allowed us to taste the remaining half. 7/10
Jean Georges chocolate cake with Vanilla Ice cream
This was a molten lava chocolate cake. It has Jean Georges name in the dish name, so it had to be a signature speciality. Indeed, it tasted like one.
The chocolate cake was light in texture but packing in chocolate flavour. As I cut open the cake, the molten core of the cake began to flow out gently. The molten chocolate sauce was not overly heavy either, and I found it delightfully balanced. The vanilla ice cream provided an interesting contrast between cold and warm temperatures, also adding a creamy sugar boost that helped sooth every mouthful of cake. This was a very good dessert. 9/10
Port wine strawberries with white chocolate mousse and strawberry sorbet.
My companions’ strawberry dessert was unfortunately a little lacklustre. Generally quite tart and acidic throughout. While it was beautiful to look at, none of us enjoyed it very much. 6/10
All in all, I was happy I could add another A-list celebrity chef’s restaurant to my eat-list. It’s always interesting to see and taste how the big boys compare to the others. I consider myself very fortunate to have eaten from many of the greats such as Chef Thomas Keller and Chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. Jean Georges Nougatine is definitely up there. A 3 course + dessert prix fixe dinner would usually run you RMB698 per person, so the restaurant week set is a complete steal, although we had to gouge on 2 servings of bread to ensure we would be sufficiently filled. Still, Nougatine is well worth the try.