Fancy Lunch at Nougatine at Jean-Georges

When Sarah and I decided to do lunch and a show, I never thought we’d end up having one of the best meals of the year. But Nougatine simply stunned us.

The room is all lit from the big windows that look onto Central Park. And the crowd is somewhat ladies who lunch, somewhat business people, somewhat tourists.

That’s Sarah’s cocktail, a cucumber martini:

I started with an non-alcoholic passionfruit-lime soda:

We ordered from the $26 prix fixe menu. Here is a JG classic, tuna tartare. It’s now on menus all over the city, heck all over the world, but when you taste this version, you can see why everyone copied it. It sings with flavor:

Tuna tartare, spicy radish, avocado, ginger marinade:

I went with the panzanella salad.

Officially: Heirloom tomato panzanella with feta, arugula and basil vinaigrette:

It looks rather a mess, but it was so delicious. The tomato sat on one big piece of bread that had been soaked in sherry or red wine vinegar. That and the spicy arugula made the whole dish taste like gazpacho, but then the feta comes along and throws you the tangy-sweet curve. So good.

For the main, I got the salmon.

Slowly cooked salmon, heirloom cherry tomatoes, crispy rice, miso-yuzu broth:

The fish was lovely, but the broth and the rice stole the show. The rice was packed into little squares, and it must have been fried or seared to get the tops crispy and the inside soft. Incredible. And may I just point out the technique of the lovely dice of the miso. Wow. I’m so impressed with everything about this dish: the flavor, the textures and the presentation.

Sarah went with the chicken.

Roasted Organic Chicken, Summer Vegetables, Light Mustard Sauce:

I didn’t go as deep on this dish — I only had a few tastes — but it also far exceeds the bar. The vegetables had crunch but they weren’t too raw, the chicken was juicy on the inside and so crispy on the outside, and the sauce was mop-upable. And just look at those colors. Divine.

Right, Sarah?

Just in case you thought it was easy to choose what to order, I snapped a photo of the menu for y’all:

A little closer:

For dessert, we got one of each, natch.

Jean Georges’ Warm Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

This is another one — warm molten cake, copied all over town. This one is best.

Summer berries, lemon verbena ice cream:

Perfect. Just perfect.

We’re both very happy.

One of the best meals of the year, for sure.

The 411 on Nougatine: 1 Central Park West, New York. 212-299-3900.