Jean-Georges Goes Public on the Lower East Side
Our foursome must have the smoked salmon potato latkes with sour cream and chives.
I follow Jean-Georges anywhere. My guy and I divided torrid chicken wings at his Spice Market on the roof of a W Hotel in Istanbul in 2008. Now, new Kultur shock, as I journey to his Public Kitchen on the Lower East Side.
If Jean-Georges can find Istanbul, he can surely locate the new Public Hotel on the Lower East Side.
The menu is brilliantly assimilated Jean-Georges, not the Gallic import innovating on his French heritage. New World Jean-Georges. It’s melting pot New York: Popcorn-cheddar frico with chives and fresh chilis. Gazpacho with cucumber, raspberry and lemon balm. Fabulous smoked-salmon latkes. The four of us divide a crunchy duo, piled high with the cured fish, listed on the menu as a snack.
To navigate the lobby, we pass by a grand display of takeout food to carry away. Photo by Dana Stoddard.
I can go by camel or subway or sign away $35 bucks to a cabby. Ideally, I find a hungry and chatty friend with a car. We park -- miraculously across the street -- and enter through a garden into the lobby of Ian Schrager’s new Public Hotel on Chrystie Street. We wander past a dazzling lineup of prepared food to carry away near the bar. (It seems to be a trend in lodging for millennials).
The booths have marble tables like the walls behind – making it difficult to hear when the crowd is in full din.
A hostess settles us into a wide circle booth in the dining room. It’s unfashionably early and we can hear ourselves talk long enough to debate the menu. But as bursts of uptown wanderers arrive, marble walls amplify the din.
My guy and I had dinner at Jean-George’s Spice Market on the roof at the W Hotel in Istanbul.
Tall women, trailed by garden-variety escorts, stride across the room on high-rise stilettos. I should not be surprised by uptown chic since I’ve been tracking this star chef’s whisk since he was a skinny youth with a pencil moustache in 1990, whipping up a dining revolution. (Click here to read “Lafayette: The Drake’s Progress.”)
Here’s a new look from Jean-Georges for lightly breaded calamari with a ginger scallion sauce.
I persuade my crew to start with pizza. Here’s the mushroom pie with garlic, parsley, black pepper, and an egg.
Tonight we’re sharing fried calamari in a sheer batter scattered across a platter, to dip, or not, in a ginger scallion sauce with a tinge of fermented Szechuan peppercorns. We consider the evening’s special, peekytoe crab and corn pizza, but choose instead the mushroom pie, singed and bubbled from the wood-burning ovens, with garlic, parsley, black pepper, and a fried egg.
Baby beets in three colors are tossed with Tristar strawberries, pickled shallots and chopped pistachios.
The cheeseburger with frizzled onions, grilled lamb chops with fresh goat cheese and seared black bass.
Are we the only diners who share? I have to ask for serving spoons for the baby beet salad – beets in three colors with sweet ripe Tristar strawberries, pickled shallots, and a crunch of chopped pistachios. The pickling juice makes it an especially vivid vinaigrette. But eventually the server is bringing extra soup spoons in multiples.
Photographer Lyn Hughes catches me aiming at the crispy basil pancakes with avocado-lime dip.
Spicy tuna tartare with ginger and yuzu can be piled into bits of the puffed rice cracker.
There is lime-etched avocado with crushed cherry tomato to spread on crunchy basil pancakes. I see no resistance at all from my size-2 companions. Still, I’m the only one left with appetite for the rigatoni with string beans in bright green pistachio pesto after all of us succumb to Chicken Murphy.
Is that a grease smudge on the lens blurring the rigatoni with basil-pistachio pesto? It didn't spoil the pasta.
Is there an actual Murphy? I’ve never before encountered this white-wine-stewed toss of chicken chunks with mushrooms, more fiery pickled cherry-pepper rings and potatoes. Apparently it’s a classic Italian-American chicken dish, executive chef Thomas McKenna notes, pointing out that the kitchen does all its own pickling.
Let’s start with the black truffle pizza, sharing its buried farm egg.
I’d promised my crew I’d order the lobster if it is served out of the shell. I forget to ask. Seems it's steamed and delivered free of its armor with garlic, ginger and Thai chile fried in clarified butter. It’s good that it slipped my mind, since so much of what we order remains.
Roasted Goldbar squash wrapped in fontina-stuffed prosciutto sounds more exciting than it is.
Seared black bass with cauliflower tabbouleh is swathed in a very salty lemon yogurt.
On another evening we begin with black truffled pizza, the salmon-topped pancakes, and four unremarkable corn and basil pot stickers. Lemony yogurt drifting atop the seared black bass is wildly over-salted.
The evening’s special lamb ribs are falling off the bone tender. Perfect for my companion who’s finishing them off because I prefer mine chewy with a little fight. But lamb chops grilled “rare” as I always ask, are cleverly jazzed up with fresh goat cheese, black olive, and miniature pickled cucumbers.
The cheeseburger comes with frizzled onions and excellent fries -- even better with mayo.
Lamb chops grilled rare are deliciously topped with fresh goat cheese, cucumber, black olive and mint.
At the moment the dessert chef is properly obsessed with summer fruit. Even if I weren’t a passionate fan of sour cherries, I’d love the chocolate-glazed tartufo filled with pistachio ice cream and sour cherry sorbet sitting in a sweet and tart syrup of the fruit.
Crack the chocolate glaze on the tartufo to find sour cherry sorbet and pistachio ice cream.
Berries and vanilla swirl ice cream accompany the peach and blackberry cobbler with crumbs of caramelized puff pastry. Share the strawberry Linzer bar with brown butter pastry only if you need to be protected from eating the whole thing. It’s all so good, I only try to imagine what the pastry chef sends out for breakfast.
I don’t like lawn cuttings in my dessert but basil and mint in the panna cotta are exactly what Lyn loves.
I used to make the long voyage to Chinatown from the Upper West Side often in the 70s and 80s when taxis were cheap and Chinatown was in the full passion of evolution. (Click here to read “A Scrutable Guide to New York’s Chinese Restaurants.”) More recently, I came by to explore the herring at the new Russ & Daughters.Now, the trip is a major investment.
The strawberry Linzer bar offers brown butter pastry with strawberry sorbet and strawberry ice cream on top.
Even so, I’ll soon be craving a return to Public Kitchen. Will it be fully booked except at 5 pm and 9:30 pm as seemingly every new hot spot these days? I’ll try to reserve the table, if you’ll give me a ride.
Peach and blackberry cobbler with berry swirl ice cream comes topped with caramelized puff pastry.
215 Chrystie Street between Houston and Stanton Streets. 646 609 9040. Breakfast daily 7 am to 10:30 am. Lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Dinner Sunday through Thursday 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm. Friday and Saturday 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm.
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