March 4, 2015

Dinner At Jean-Georges

All-Star Weekend in New York a couple of weekends ago was totally decadent. I got VIP treatment, was handed tickets to All-Star Saturday Night and the All-Star Game with $500 and $750 face values and got to meet and talk with NBA legends one on one. It was truly a self indulgent weekend for a true NBA obsessed fan. Summer League is never going to be the same again.

While I was in New York, I planned a couple of special meals in restaurants owned by superstar chefs. After all, I'm not just star struck by NBA players and I love to eat. Thursday night we headed over to David Burke's fabrick on West 38th Street and followed that up with a trip to Chris Santos' Stanton Social for brunch Sunday morning on the lower east side of Manhattan. I'd give fabrick another shot but I'd definitely go back to Stanton Social. Get the gyros and the Oreo cookie pancakes.

But if you had told me before the weekend was up I would be eating at a Jean-George Vongerichten restaurant, I would have told you that you were crazy or something really out of control was going on. Rest assured, that's just what happened and I'm as astonished now as I was when I ate my first Jean-Georges food in the middle of last month.

So what, you say? Who the hell is Jean-Georges Vongerichten? Well, he's only one of the most accomplished and well regarded chefs in the world today. The last couple of years when I have made plans for Summer League in Las Vegas I've thought about heading to his restaurant, Jean-Georges Steakhouse, at the Aria hotel but despite the allure and the fantastic reviews, the $125 prix fixe price tag always turns me off (no tip, tax or alcohol included in that price and yes, it's per person). His restaurant at 1 Central Park West in New York is similarly pricey, adding another $3 to the cost of a three dish menu.

But sure enough, Sunday night before the All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden, I had my first Jean-Georges food and it cost me about $20. And that's with tip, tax and alcohol included. How, you ask? I mean honestly if you have to ask you probably are not looking at the pictures on this post, which I am sure is the first thing most people do. As it turns out there are two Jean-Georges restaurants (food stands, if you prefer) in the Garden in the form of Jean-Georges Simply Tacos and Jean-Georges Simply Chicken. I had to partake.

Being a Latin food lover, I opted for the beef short rib tacos from the Simply Tacos stand and washed the whole thing down with an overpriced (hey, it's New York) Budweiser, which last time I checked is still the king of beers for those of you doubting Bud's ability to stimulate your taste buds, no pun intended. I loved the crispy onions, the sauce on the tacos and the lime wedge that came with the dish but the short ribs…well, maybe a little more love would have been appreciated.

The fact that my tacos were not the best I'd ever had is not really the point, nor is the celebrity chef worshipping part of me that has checked off one more dude's restaurants on my ever expanding list of must tries. The point here is that Madison Square Garden has engaged this level of chef to create food stands in their building and I love that. Maybe I ordered the wrong tacos. Maybe I should have headed to Simply Chicken or one of the other thoughtful food stands that the Garden has put in place. I don't know and it really doesn't matter.

Over the last 15 years, I've often entered Verizon Center for a Wizards game hungry and have found little to really satisfy me. I acknowledge some of the recent additions to the food choices over at 601 F Street but honestly, I'm looking for alternatives outside the arena. The Hard Times food is OK inside the arena, the Greene Turtle booth is a must miss and as much as I want to love the bratwurst over on the east end of the lower concourse, the cheese sauce you get is totally tasteless. I'd love to see my home team's arena do what the Garden did. Take it under advisement Verizon Center, please. Maybe they should call Jean-Georges or maybe someone local like Jose Andres. I'd buy some stuff if they did.

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