Over the past two years, the dining scene at the Valley’s top resorts has undergone an extreme makeover. The most high profile of those makeovers took place at The Phoenician, where that staid first lady of dining for 20 years, Mary Elaine’s, was shuttered last year. Now occupying the spot where Mary Elaine’s once stood is the far trendier and far less formal J&G Steakhouse.
Gone are the high-backed chairs and linen tablecloths. In are butcher-block tables and modern designs. Out is French cuisine; in is a new take on steak and seafood. But one thing has remained the same — those fabulous views Mary Elaine’s was so famous for.
The restaurant’s interior is swathed in purple and gold, a palette the establishment’s owners say was inspired by steak and wine. A tempesta onyx wraparound bar welcomes patrons as they head into the main dining room. There are also two private dining areas and the terrace has oval banquettes and fire pits.
J&G Steakhouse, which opened in December, is the creation of Michelin-starred chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He has developed a menu in which the classic fare of a big city steakhouse is re-imagined with a modern twist.
After getting over the initial wonder of how the space that had once housed Mary Elaine’s has been transformed, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of food on J&G Steakhouse’s menu. For a steakhouse, it has a generous selection of seafood.
Our dining party started the meal with J&G’s specialty cocktails. While most of the drinks were variations of more familiar libations, such as a grapefruit gimlet, others were of the kind I thought went out with the Rat Pack. Case in point is the Sazerac, made with 100-proof Rittenhouse rye whiskey, Pernod Absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters and Angostura bitters. You don’t want anyone lighting a match around this drink.
The appetizers were an unexpected treat. Many restaurants fail to find a balance with their appetizers; they are either afterthoughts or so good they overshadow the main menu. At J&G, the appetizers are inventive and tasty. The restaurant succeeds in not overwhelming the main courses by keeping portions small. Of the four appetizers we chose, every one was a winner. Special mention goes out to the savory French onion soup, the rich sweet corn ravioli in basil butter and the salmon tartar, served diced with warm garlic toast and mustard oil.
With so much good seafood on the menu, we couldn’t resist splitting our orders into two meat dishes and two fish entrees. First up was the 8-ounce filet mignon, which, good thing for a steakhouse, did not disappoint. The milk-fed veal porterhouse was also a treat. Normally, I won’t eat veal because I don’t like the taste, but J&G’s rendition of the cut may make me a convert. The first fish entrée was a roasted striped bass encrusted with chilies, herbs and lime.But the true star of our evening at J&G was the sautéed Dover sole grenobloise. Carved tableside, the sole was light and flavorful, and was a wonderful alternative to the meat dishes.
Like many steakhouses, J&G is a la carte, so if you want side dishes you have to order them separately. The sides at J&G are pretty straightforward fare, but they don’t take a backseat to the entrees. Of particular note were the roasted mushrooms with herbs — if you have a large party, make sure to double your order.