“No one’s slick as Gaston, No one’s quick as Gaston. No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Gaston’s. For there’s no man in town half as manly. Perfect, a pure paragon!”
For those of you who grew up watching VHS copies of Beauty and the Beast, this is all I can think about when I heard the word Gaston. I digress…..
Having lived on the tumultuous meridian that is 14th street, I was certainly not prepared to dine in a fountain-clad garden in the middle of the week. A quiet exterior, the upfront dining room is plainly posh–a complete foil with the mini courtyard out back. Far from being an obnoxious add-on marketing ploy, the open-air space was comfortable, and somewhere one might actually enjoy a meal. For diners in the coming months, it will be a real treat. (I suspect heating lamps will go up when the temperature dips)
Seated at the long table, bugs and prying neighbours were minimal—gone with a simple glass of red or white. We started off with a charcuterie, with garlic infused meats, prosciutto (because even the French find them irresistable), and home made chicken liver mousse, a fantastic spread. The chef made his rounds and paired the first part of our meal with a roussanne white wine —foreshadowing the next two dishes in the line up.
Then we had a topsy-turvy crab meat salad, striated with brick sheet pastry, which was just shy of a crunch, with a little flexible give. The dish was finished with two crisp and refreshing bites, with suggestions of lemongrass and avocado mousse—both humbly submitting to the strong-arm crab flavour.
As the white wine flowed, we followed up with a diver scallop. Forever resting on a different bed of je ne sais quoi, scallop is a promiscuous ingredient. This particular pair of was atop a thinned out focaccia and cherry tomato tarte tartin provencale, which is both a pleasure to say and a pleasure to consume. The two layered nicely together, with the tomato fortified with seasoning it was able to play ball with the rich yet subtle scallop flavor.
The white was now accompanied by a glass of red, which signalled the heavy hitters. We were treated to a duck magret, crowned with the AOC certification given by the French authorities—the very same legal status given the foie gras ducks. If that is any indication, we were in for a treat. Served uncompromisably medium rare, this bird plated with the majesty of a steak and enchanted with the richness due its kind. A solid dish with no gimmicks, precisely the way I like my French cuisine—sans frills.
In the same vein, I will speak of the soufflé. This delicate dessert is gentle in its creation but an undeniable statement piece. I was told in classes that its flavours have gone in and out of vogue, starting with chocolate, dallying avec le Grand Marnier, and finally flirting with some banana. The meal ended with old-fashioned chocolate, but I am told a raspberry option is also available. Knowing the thoughtfulness that goes into a soufflé, I was impressed with the gentle texture of the one in front of me. It was just reminiscent enough of its deflated cousin, the molten chocolate cake, but delivering its chocolate payload with effortless fluff. Manifique. The floating island, a cold partner to the scalding soufflé was lovely as well, but for me, an afterthought.
Jeanne and Gaston is a pleasant find of a place, utterly unassuming next to the bars and madness. When every square foot is a kidney sold, the sincere luxury of a garden whets the appetite for the perfect summer/fall meal. A nice neighbourhood go-to to keep in the back of your pocket.
What does this rating mean?
The meal was complimentary, though it did not affect my opinion, nor were we obligated to write.
Jeanne & Gaston
212 W 14th St
New York, NY 10011