As you know the Covid pandemic hit lots of restaurants hard. Well, here is one that launched in 2019, closed in 2020, and has bounced back in midtown Manhattan. My friend Bob was a fan of its branch in Houston, and they’ve got a Michelin star, so there was nothing stopping us from making the trek to midtown to check it out. It had been open only a few weeks when we went.
The owner and Culinary Director Alain Verzeroli has been a part of the Joel Rubochon empire and spent over 18 years in Japan with the brand. This is his first solo project, which really encapsulates his past: a French style of cooking combined with a Japanese aesthetic. His flavors are rich and decadent, yet the plating is intentionally minimal. The philosophy of the restaurant is a focus on vegetables, and there are a myriad of wonderful vegetables in every dish, but it seems par for the course to me, as so many restaurants in NYC now include spectacular vegetarian dishes. So judging by the menu, I wouldn’t say this would be a place specifically for vegetarians.
The space is beautifully designed, in a kind of slick fashion. We did appreciate the plush banquettes, and foliage throughout. The name of the restaurant translates to “gardener,” and the space did remind me of Le Pavillon with it’s plantings, but on a much smaller scale. (In photo above, note the ceramic asparagus fork rest.) There was a zen feeling upon our early arrival (5:30) with soft music and hushed speaking tones, which dissipated a bit once the room got more crowded. Service was a little spotty, I believe they are still working out the kinks at this early stage. Overall it was an upscale experience, and I plan to go back again should I find myself in the neighborhood.
Let’s talk about the food! Superb dishes all around. I loved the amuse, which was a freshly juiced mix of ginger, carrot, apple, and kale. I almost feel like every meal should start with this. Right, outside beckoned with greenery surrounds.
Left, Bob ordered the Burrata, Honey Crisp Apples, Marcona Gremolata, and Black Mission Figs. We were supposed to share our appetizers, but he elected to stay with his selection because he was enjoying it so much, and I agreed, because I was really enjoying my scallops.
Fantastic hot, pull-apart bread, with exceptional olive oil. Right, I got the Maine Scallops, Roasted Cauliflower, Yuzu Vinaigrette, Capers. I never knew that cauliflower came in red.
There is a serving of bass, buried under the broccolini here: Montauk Bass, Charred Sweet Potato, Lemongrass, Broccolini. Bob is happy.
If there is one thing I can go absolutely ga-ga over, it was this chicken. Green Circle Chicken, Vin Jaune, Baby Artichokes, Wild Mushrooms hit the spot. I don’t know what the chef did to make those pieces of chicken so tender, juicy and extraordinarily delicious. I savored every bite, cutting it into small pieces to make the experience last. Probably one of the best tastes of chicken I’ve ever had. Left, I loved that the menus had an actual leaf on them.
Our table was in the open part of the dining room, and did have greenery to create a sort of barrier behind our table.
The bar beckoned… and we did have another glass of chablis before heading out. According to the website, the bar’s cocktail program is led by Bastion Collection bartender Ruben Rolon, who recently received the Michelin Guide’s 2022 Florida Exceptional Cocktails Award for his beverage program at Le Jardinier Miami. So next time, we will be sure to sample a cocktail.
I wish them luck!
Le Jardinier, 610 Lexington Ave (SW corner 53rd St)