Jean-Georges: When brunch becomes a picnic

Jean-Georges: When brunch becomes a picnic

The brunch starts off spectacularly - but flags towards the end. However, you'll probably be going back for more just because of the 'Market Table' and the air-conditioned al fresco space


Sushmita Bose

Published: Fri 9 Sep 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 9 Sep 2016, 2:00 AM

"Let's do brunch," someone said - as is wont in Dubai - not for any particular reason, but just because we "hadn't done" brunch in a while. I like the concept of brunch because it's so spaced out, and you can catch up in right earnest over three, four hours; but I'm usually a cop-out when it comes to buffet 'brunching' - I don't like being spoilt for choice (too much of food on display somehow puts me off), and I usually end up having too much hummus and pita bread, and then feel awfully full. So when one of the gang members suggested Jean-Georges Dubai, at the lovely Four Seasons Resort, I jumped: mostly because it has a well-thought-out (going by the online reviews) set menu.
Jean-Georges is the signature restaurant (some call it a chic café, but I'd rather not) of celebrity French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who's now a New Yorker. The pronunciation of his surname has been subject to a great deal of play: mentally, I'd settled for "von-grrr-EESH-ten" but, luckily, it's only his name you need to worry about - if you are looking for directions from the lobby, and, like me, have a "pardon my French" demeanour. Jean-Georges. Jean like how you pronounce Sartre (Jean-Paul), and Georges with a huge emphasis on "zzhhhh".
The inside area is shaped like a curve - very modernist, a lot of wood and stone in evidence; and an overhanging structure that I soon realised was the "contemporary chandelier of flowing white fabric, created by Japanese fabric artist, Reiko Sudoh" (that I'd read up on the restaurant's website). But all of these became will-o'-the-wisp when we noticed the al fresco area - the air-conditioned terrace - and all of us decided, in tandem, to perch ourselves "outside". The brunch just got better: it was going to be like a picnic now.
And so, it came to pass that, on a 47°C Friday afternoon, we were soon animatedly conversing in our little spot in the sun-dappled Jean-Georges space, and not letting the Dubai heat get the better of us.
The 'internationally-influenced' brunch menu is divvied up into three sections: the 'Market Table', main course (choice of one per person), and desserts. I don't want to classify the first section as "appetisers" or "starters" - because they are not. Market Table is a fine selection of gourmet classics (as simple as Watermelon and Feta Cheese with Olive Oil, Crispy Ocean Trout Sushi and Crispy Calamari) made from the freshest possible ingredients. Believe me when I say they're fantastic; one reviewer had once said of Jean-Georges, the chef, "His food took my breath away"; let me say that again - this smorgasbord took my breath away. The standout was the Avocado with Jalapeno Cilantro, Lime and Onion Pizza: the pizza was light, delicate with a defined yet subtle tanginess, beautifully complemented by the avocado. Special salut for the soufflé-like lime-infused yoghurt sauce with sesame that accompanied the calamaris. All portions are for sharing, so they are plonked in front of you, one by one; at the end of it, the table becomes an Instagrammer's delight. Phone cameras were out, and our chatter was suspended for at least five minutes.
The mains, that we tackled after giving ourselves a break, don't quite match up to the fabulousness of the first segment. Don't get me wrong: my Seared Salmon with Basil Vinaigrette and Potato Purée was pretty nice but not genius. Other options included Eggs Benedict with Veal Ham, Hollandaise and Rosemary Potatoes; Rigatoni with Meatballs; Roasted Cod with Summer Squash and Apricot-Lime Emulsion (that one of my friends had and was fairly happy with); and Veal Milanese with Tomato and Arugula Salad (that my remaining friend had, and was, again, moderately happy with).
The desserts were a letdown (on hindsight, the brunch regressed from brilliant, to good enough to ho-hum). We opted for servings of homemade ice-cream, which were slightly bland; the raspberry-chocolatey cake slice we got (for sharing) was quite dismal - a pity because I'd assumed that in a city where every bakery worth its flour makes decent cakes, Jean-Georges' ones would be spectacular (alas, they weren't!). The other gripe was the music was too pumped up for a relaxed afternoon setting (although we seemed to be the only ones who had a problem with the high decibel levels!).
Having said that, I'll happily go back to Jean-Georges for a brunch redux. The Market Table alone is worth at least a dozen trips to the Four Seasons Resort. For dessert, I can just bake my own pineapple upside-down cake.

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