BY ELENA MANCINI
The cuisine of Burgundy occupies center stage at Jeanne & Gaston, a West Village yearling that breezily weds French country charm with urban understatement. The restaurant is refreshing addition to a neighborhood that in certain respects suffers from a glut of generically trendy and overpriced restaurants, and is a keeper for its inspired menu that features Burgundy specialities with a twist as well as a number of brasserie favorites in an elegant, unpretentious downtown setting and favorable pricing. Casting the spotlight on his Burgundy roots is chef-owner restaurateur Claude Godard. Godard hails from a long line of chefs, starting with his great grandfather. From early on, food played a central role in his life, and with Jeanne & Gaston, Godard pays homage to both the cuisine of his native region of his birth and to his restaurateur grandparents, after whom Jeanne & Gaston is named.
A member of the Maitres Cuisiniers de France and inducted into l’Academie Culinaire de France, highly prestigious culinary associations, Godard completed his formal training at the School of Culinary Arts in Paris and worked with a number of renowned chefs in France,including Alain Dutournier and Jean-Pierre Vigato. From these chefs Godard took away the emphasis on the freshness and quality of ingredients, and this constitutes the backbone of Godard’s culinary approach. Godard enjoys cooking with fish and seafood. He cites Paul Bocuse as a vital influence on him for his democratic approach to chefing and opening the kitchen doors to chefs of his generation with his lighter style of cooking.
In the late nineties, a combination of curiosity and ambition inspired Godard to leave his native France to come to New York City to ply his trade. Upon arriving to New York City, Godard dove right into his dream and opened his first Manhattan restaurant, Madison Bistro in 1998, which is still going strong today. In hindsight, the extremely shy and humble Godard admits that going straight to opening his own restaurant might not have been the easiest way to go about establishing himself in New York City, but the exceptionally talented and multiply occupied chef (In addition to serving as Executive Chef at both of his restaurants, Godard is also the wine director and pastry chef of Jeanne & Gaston) has no regrets.
Following are a number of the dishes from Jeanne & Gaston’s seasonal menu that I particularly enjoyed:
The Escargot a la Bordelaise (13.00) – plated in a traditional escargot platter and bathed in a rich coat of piping herbs and spices, the escargot were fragrantly fresh, yielding to the bite and seasoned to perfection. The flavors and textures reached a pitch that quietly transported me to the charmed corners of Western Europe.
Simply put: the Quenelle (20.00), prepared with Pike Mousseline in Nantua Sauce was outstanding. What I found particularly extraordinary about this dish, apart from the freshness of the ingredients and the harmony of the flavors was the fact that the perfectly executed cloud-like texture of the quenelle was so flavor-rich. It was geniously served in a thick wine sauce with cremini mushrooms. Executed in this way, would cause me to order this dish again and again and again.
The Duck Magret was served with a side of tempura vegetables and a mango emulsion. The duck was hearty, moist and velvety tender. A perfectly crisp side of mushroom and asparagus tempura accompanied the duck along with a spoonful of mango chutney. The mango had a lovely cleansing effect and brightened the dish like a burst of summer.
The Poached Chocolate Mousse Pear was a glorious fall dessert. The presentation of this dish alone was mirth-provoking. However, the real reward was delivered by the supple chocolate mousse filling couched into a firmly poached Anjou pear–resulting in a truly elegant and satisfying pairing.
A great way to experience Jeanne & Gaston is with a three course $40.00 prix fixe, which includes all menu items–an incredible deal not only for Manhattan, but for the caliber of the dishes.
In addition, a 3-course $29 pre-set prixe fixe dinner menu has been recently introduced.
A full bar and wine list offer specialty cocktails, and global wines by the bottle, glass and carafe with a focus on French wines.
Every night features Happy Hour from 4:00 PM until closing on specialty cocktails and select wines by the glass.
For Chef Godard’s recipe for Chicken Crepe Roulade, click here.