In 1991, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten opened his first restaurant, JoJo, on New York City’s Upper East Side. Vong followed soon after in 1992, and then Jean-Georges— Vongerichten’s celebrated eponymous eatery—in 1997.
I recall the dates because I left New York City for Utah in ’92. Today, the Alsace-born chef’s name is stamped on restaurants all over the globe, and his 29th restaurant—J&G Grill at the St. Regis Deer Crest Resort in Deer Valley—recently opened with a noticeable bang.
Envious chefs salivate over the gargantuan exhibition kitchen at J&G Grill. “It’s the biggest of all my restaurants,” said Vongerichten, proudly. And indeed, the St. Regis spared no expense in building Jean-Georges’ (everyone calls him by his first name) dream restaurant. It sports a long, communal table that seats 22, a chef’s private table for 10 on the terrace and a spacious main dining room for 75. Adjacent to J&G Grill is a 4,600-bottle wine “vault” and the St. Regis bar.
J&G Grill is contemporary but very warm, with lots of tan, cream and brown throughout—gorgeous. A double-sided wood-burning fireplace separates the kitchen and counter seating from the main dining room, which sports highly polished Venetian plaster, herringbone carpet and stacked gray quartz stone. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer stupendous slopeside views of Deer Valley. Jean-Georges went out of his way to incorporate local materials like the gray quartz into his restaurant.
And Jean-Georges is all about attention to detail. He gave me generous amounts of time during his restaurant’s opening week, and one morning, as he was showing me an auxiliary kitchen that services deck diners, a box of pine cones arrived. “I don’t want flowers from Holland on my tables,” Jean-Georges said as he ripped into one of the boxes. The pine cones serve as table centerpieces at J&G Grill. Jean-Georges was so excited about the arrival of his cones that he went from table to table, where diners were enjoying breakfast, and placed each pine cone personally.
Jean-Georges describes J&G Grill as his “best of” restaurant. He has hand-picked favorite dishes from his diverse restaurants and assembled them on one menu. That’s lucky for us, since the menu spans a culinary universe ranging from the Southeast Asian flavors Jean-Georges has become so famous for, to classic French fare such as J&G Grill’s perfect French onion soup ($11). And the prices, surprisingly, aren’t as steep as at many high-end Park City restaurants. At J&G Grill, you’ll find $10 pizza on the menu, $12 mussels mariniere, a $14 turkey burger and entrees that generally run from about $24 to $36.
Splitting a charcuterie plate (three meats/$16) seemed like a good way to begin dinner. The charcuterie was plentiful, but not especially interesting: bresaola, prosciutto and speck. The speck and bresaola were dry and tasted as though they’d been air-exposed for too long. An appetizer of mussels mariniere was a heaping two-tothree dozen black Maine mussels in a lovely, fragrant broth with grilled pesto bread for dipping. Unfortunately, at least half of the mussels had just barely begun to open. I suspect Jean-Georges would be appalled at the lack of quality control there.
That’s the bad news: two less-than-exceptional dishes among well over a dozen that I tried. As mentioned, the French onion soup at J&G Grill is as good as it gets. A pizza with Fontina cheese and black truffles (real truffles, not truffle oil or essence) is a sinful pleasure, as is a simple presentation of risotto with shaved white Burgundy truffles—one of the most delicious dishes you’ll ever encounter.
Service at J&G Grill is nothing if not attentive. I was commenting to my wife that a menu description of Casco cod “with spices” ($27) didn’t really tell me much. Which spices? Well, a server overheard my observation and rushed over to fill me in on every spice in the dish.
What J&G Grill has in common with every other Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant is a delicate touch in the kitchen. Jean-Georges’ dishes are complex, but not complicated. Lobster tastes like lobster, enhanced by basil-butter sauce and seasonings but not buried in them. Stunningly simple boneless, parmesan-crusted Niman Ranch poulet rouge ($22) with lemon sauce actually tasted like chicken—moist and flavorful, on a bed of lemon-basil-butter artichokes.
With 4,600 bottles of wine to select from, you can, of course, wreck your budget ordering wine at J&G Grill. But it’s not necessary. Wines are offered by the glass, and St. Regis’ director of wine Paul Fried is happy to find something to sip to fit any budget. “It’s easy to buy expensive wine,” Fried said after I asked him for something in the not-so-expensive $40-$50 per bottle range. At the other end of the spectrum, you can also enjoy Tokaji Aszu Essencia, by the glass, for a mere $140 per.
You probably shouldn’t visit J&G Grill expecting to find Jean-Georges manning the stove. With 29 restaurants and another scheduled to open this month, he’s a busy guy. On the other hand, he told me that he loves to ski and that J&G Grill is the only one of his restaurants located at a ski resort. So, if you encounter an immensely creative, uncommonly talented, genuinely nice guy in chef’s whites on the slope, it might just be Jean-Georges.
2300 Deer Valley Drive East