MARKET by Jean-Georges – Summer Love Tasting Menu

Restaurant: MARKET by Jean-Georges
Cuisine: West Coast/Pacific Northwest/Seafood/Fusion/Euro-Asian
Last visited: September 8, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson/West End/Downtown)
Address: 1128 W Georgia St (Inside Shangri-La Hotel)
Transit: Vancouver City Ctr Stn Southbound
Phone: (604) 695-1115
Price range: $30-50, $50+

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 4 (based on Summer Love Tasting Menu)
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 4.5 
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

**Recommendations: French Toast, Sweet Pea Soup, Almond Layer Cake

Jean-George. *Faint* Okay, I’m back up! But really, he’s one of the world renowned culinary chefs, and to have one of his restaurants in Vancouver, BC is truly an honour. Along with Thomas Keller, Joel Robuchon and Paul Bocuse, there are few names that have such prestigious international recognition. They came before Food Network and the era of “celebrity chefs”, and they have likely influenced every great chef of today.

I must say Vancouver is a challenging city even for a big name chef. If Daniel Boulud’s restaurant Lumiere couldn’t last, it is unpredictable to know what will. Market by Jean-Georges opened late 2009 and since then it’s been drawing local and international visitors alike. With Chef Jean-Georges’ Euro-Asian style, focus on local ingredients and the 100 mile diet, you would think Vancouver would be the ideal market for Market.

However, Vancouver is a tough market full of “foodies”, “gourmets”, or whatever term you prefer to use for food and wine enthusiasts. Already established as an award winning restaurant, it still doesn’t seem like locals embrace or celebrate Market as one of the top in Vancouver. I emphasize the word locals because I am referring specifically to Vancouverites. It’s a food sophisticated and savvy crowd and I can’t deny that “big names” don’t always work here.

Vancouver is a notable food city, but in a blunt way, it’s full of “food snobs” that might turn their heads at a “corporate run restaurant” relying on a brand without the big name in the actual kitchen. I won’t deny that it is a pet peeve of mine a well, but with restaurants all over the world, I’m not going to expect Chef Jean-Georges to be in Vancouver every day.

Market can be seen as a “photocopy restaurant” since there are so many around the world, but many of the recipes are his creations that are executed by the chef de cuisine. It might make Market less special, but it is undeniable that these are plates coming from a world class culinary genius that’s known as one of the industry’s best.

I’ve dined at Market on a few occasions and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet Jean-Georges. Based in New York he’s only in Vancouver about three times a year and I was admittedly star struck even knowing he would be there. Just an insider note and random fact, but he’s actually a fan of Hapa Izakaya, which is one of the restaurants we featured in the Foodie Feast charity event I helped organize early this year.

On this occasion I was invited to try the Market’s Summer Love Menu. It’s a 4 course ($55) or 6 course ($75) prixe fixe tasting menu that is available for the month of August. All of the items can be ordered a la carte as well. If the weather is cooperative I strongly recommend their patio which is stellar during the night or day, although there isn’t much of a view.

The Summer Love Menu features recipes from Jean-Georges executed by Chef Wayne Harris and Chef de Cuisine Karen Gin. The courses showcased summer ingredients, but Jean-Georges notorious East meets West approach was a bit lost in some of the dishes, and I didn’t fall in love with it as much as I wanted to. A couple courses just didn’t seem as unique to the restaurant.

His Euro-Asian approach is one I look forward to since he is one of the few chefs to truly master the idea of “fusion” cuisine. His fusing of French and Asian culinary techniques, quirky love for spice, and interest in lighter flavours and textures is meant to be appreciated by an American palate. The 6 course menu was good, but I’ve had better things here before and I wouldn’t say it was most representable of what the Market by Jean Georges can do.

On the table:

Apricot Mojito – 4/6

  • Havana Club Anejo Blanco Rum, Apricot, Mint, Lime $13
  • Since it was white rum it was lighter and floral compared to a dark rum, which made this cocktail go down even easier.
  • The freshly squeezed lime juice was most prominent and the brightness of the muddled mint made it a perfect summer cocktail that was also lightly carbonated.
  • It seemed like there was some grapefruit flavour which gave it a desired bitterness and maybe even some orange notes.
  • It was very citrusy, very tangy, and almost tart, and the apricot flavour didn’t really come through so I’m not sure how ripe they were.
  • It was fruity, but not juicy, and I wouldn’t have minded it a notch sweeter from the apricot to balance out the intense amount of lime juice.
  • There were some apricot wedges in the drink , which were still crunchy and quite sour, so they held their shape, but weren’t that pleasant to eat.
  • I’ve tried the BC Blueberry Sangria, and a couple of their evening cocktails, and so far I’ve never been disappointed by any.

Complimentary Bread & Butter

  • I’m pretty sure it was a sourdough baguette, or bun, served warm and I’m not sure if they’re made in house, but I would think so.
  • It was very rustic, very crunchy, pretty hard, a little tough and chewy, and it wasn’t as sour as a typical sourdough, so that’s why I question if it was one.
  • Sourdough is made best in the right climate, so it’s actually a challenging bread to perfect.

MARKET (Scallop) Sushi 4/6

  • Crispy Rice, Spring Onion, Chipotle Emulsion
  • This was different, but it also reminded me of the sushi pizzas that hit the Vancouver scene two years ago – see the one from Sushi Sky here and Goldfish Pacific Kitchen here.
  • The crust of the sushi pizzas would be executed very similarly to the base of this crispy rice sushi.
  • It was well balanced in textures and flavours and a great start to the multi-course menu.
  • This was the only fusion course that really celebrated Asian ingredients and showcased the Euro-Asian style that has become notorious with Jean-Georges.

  • It was nigiri sushi, but with deep fried sushi rice.
  • The sushi rice was lightly crusted in what seemed like finely ground rice crackers and perhaps a bit of potato or rice flour.
  • The scallop was apparently honey glazed and I think topped with a bit of Maldon salt, but I couldn’t really taste either. I wouldn’t think the honey was necessary anyways, since scallops are almost naturally sweet when they’re raw.
  • The ratio of buttery sweet scallop sashimi was well balanced with the rice, and the contrasting textures of crispy rice and creamy scallop was ideal.
  • What I really appreciated was that the sushi rice was not soggy or bland. It was warm, moist, and well flavoured with a nice tang from the rice wine vinegar.
  • The creamy chipotle emulsion gave it a good kick and it was quite spicy, but not overpowering.
  • Traditionally it would be wasabi and I would be very curious to see a wasabi emulsion, although this was still great.
  • The slight crunch of raw spring onion just helped cut through the richness and separate the layers and I was getting a hint of lime somewhere which kept things bright and fresh.
  • See the version of this at Jean-Georges in New York here.

**Sweet Pea Soup6/6

  • Parmesan Foam, Sourdough Croutons
  • It’s also available as a main a la carte $9 (bigger portion)
  • It was presented almost like a latte and the teaspoon looked like it was holding mini brown sugar cubes.
  • For what it was, it was a 6/6 and my favourite course in the Summer Love Tasting Menu. But could it get better? Possibly!
  • For a vegetarian this could likely be the best it gets, but for a non-vegetarian I’ll trade in my croutons for crispy bacon bits or even better crispy pancetta!
  • Nonetheless, this was brilliant and I’d order it a la carte. It’s not surprisingly one of the house favourites too.

  • This was incredible! It was served hot and each layer of the soup was perfectly seasoned.
  • It was well composed with two simple ingredients, peas and Parmesan, which are always classically paired.
  • The first flavour is of sweet green peas and the peas tasted like they were picked that morning.
  • It was frothy and creamy, just like a latte, and the Parmesan foam really gave it that salty bite and nuttiness.
  • The vibrant green pea soup was actually quite thin, so the Parmesan foam gave it desired texture and almost a powdery or soft granular mouth feel.
  • It wasn’t a thick and ultra creamy soup, but it was rich in flavour more so than texture.
  • The Parmesan foam is what really gave it that richness even though it was aerated.
  • The soup wasn’t spicy, but there was a gradual heat and it did get noticeably quite peppery half way through.
  • This added spiciness to something that would usually just be sweet was very Jean-Georges.
  • Along with the crispy bits of sourdough croutons, which I could have use more of, it was a perfect soup with simple ingredients, but unique qualities.

Slowly Cooked Steelhead Salmon – 3.5/6

  • Warm Potato Salad, Sugar Snap Peas
  • It’s also available as a main a la carte $25 (bigger portion)
  • Personally, if I’m having any fish, I have to have the skin and it bothers me when they remove it.
  • The skin and layer between the skin and flesh is where all the flavour is. When skin is seared to a crisp, not only does it enhance flavour, but it gives texture and locks in all the natural oils. I really missed it here and was actually surprised it was removed.
  • The salmon was a good portion and it was flaky, moist, and quite oily and fatty despite having no skin.
  • It was well seasoned with salt, black pepper and perhaps a bit of whole grain mustard. The flavour was slightly more complex than salt and pepper alone, but the mustard was quite faint as well.
  • The crunch of local sugar snap peas was bright and sweet in flavour and having it topped with freshly grated horseradish was what really made this dish pop.
  • The freshly grated horseradish is not that spicy and it’s much more well rounded than the preserved version.
  • I thought it was a lovely addition and it brightened up the flavours of every component with its feathery light texture and I even wanted more of it.
  • I did want more of an Asian aspect to this so even freshly grated wasabi would have been a nice switch up from horseradish.
  • The warm potato salad was a French version, not the American one, so it’s vinegar based instead of mayo based.
  • It was made with Yukon Gold potatoes and the outside was very starchy, fluffy, and creamy, and the centre was still a bit firm.
  • The potato salad was very tangy and it tasted like it was dressed with an intense lime and lemon vinaigrette and some olive oil.
  • They were almost like Greek potatoes and the lemony flavour just absorbed all the way through.
  • I later discovered from chef that the potatoes had been bathing in Gewurztraminer and that’s what made them so incredibly acidic. I was surprised because I couldn’t taste any alcohol, but it made me want to do a wine pairing for this course.
  • I found the potato salad a bit too sour though and almost overwhleming against the salmon.
  • However, it was well seasoned and I could taste some celery salt which was a nice way to incorporate that familiar celery flavour that is usually found in a potato salad.
  • I’d say a smaller appetite would be ready for dessert at this point, but a bigger one could continue… I continued.

Grilled Lamb Chop – 3.5/6

  • Mushroom Bolognese, Rapini, Pecorino Romano
  • It’s also available as a main a la carte $36 (bigger portion)
  • The Italian approach to the lamb chop was unexpected, but it was a good last course before dessert. It had the strongest flavours, but it wasn’t as unique.
  • The rapini was tender yet still crisp and they were lightly sauteed in olive oil and I think some chili flakes because they carried a bit of heat, smokiness and spice.

  • I could smell the intensity and tang of the mushroom Bolognese as soon as it landed on the table.
  • It was a very finely minced and executed Bolognese sauce.
  • It had a few slices of crimini (?) mushrooms, finely ground beef, roasted and stewed tomatoes, sweet onions, fresh basil, and perhaps some carrots, celery and even red pepper to develop the flavours and give it aromatics and a bit of sweetness.
  • It was garlicky, but not spicy, and the mushroom juices were infused into the sauce and it was a dominant flavour, which is good since it was a “mushroom bolognese”.
  • The bolognese sauce was sharp, acidic and a bit salty but it stood up to the lamb flavour well.
  • Being a lamb chop it wasn’t going to be as tender as a rack of lamb, however it was a higher quality chop from the rib and it was a fair size.
  • Even with a steak knife it was a bit tough to cut through, but once I got through it, the inside was moist, juicy, buttery and tender.
  • It was medium rare, but the meat wasn’t as well marbleized as I would have liked and it was a bit too fatty for me. This is a common characteristic of lamb chops, so it’s not too surprising at the same time.
  • The glistening pieces of fat were obvious, but at least they were creamy and not chewy.
  • The lamb had good flavour and a mild gaminess that wasn’t too pungent, but there.

Warm Chocolate Cake5/6

  • Vanilla Ice Cream ($8 a la carte)
  • For a “Summer Love Menu” I was expecting the dessert to showcase local summer fruits, but this “molten chocolate cake” is the Jean-Georges signature that he apparently invented.
  • It was a classic chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and as unoriginal as that sounds, it ended up being perfect and not sharable because it was too good.
  • Any warm dessert served with ice cream is usually a solid bet for me, and as simple and predictable as it was, it was perfectly executed and delicious!
  • It was a rich dessert, but light in texture and not too sweet.
  • The house made vanilla ice cream was bursting with vanilla bean seeds and the flavour was incredibly floral and almost like a custard.
  • The ice cream wasn’t as creamy as expected though, but it wasn’t hard either. It was a bit thin, but the flavour was intense.
  • The scoop sat on top of crumbled almond cookies which gave a nice crispy texture along with the perfectly made caramel brulee crisp.

  • This chocolate cake was a molten chocolate lava sponge cake and it’s possibly the best lava cake I’ve ever had.
  • The chocolate cake was so light, airy, fluffy and moist and bordering on a souffle meats a half baked sponge cake.
  • The cake could have been flourless or made with ground almonds because it was incredibly soft and delicate and almost creamy with bittersweet cocoa flavours.
  • With a gentle poke of my fork out released a pool of warm and creamy, velvety, silky smooth chocolate that also wasn’t too sweet.
  • The chocolate lava was the sweeter component, but it balanced out the lightness of the cake.
  • Together with the vanilla bean ice cream, I’ve never seen a boring couple like chocolate and vanilla so happily reunited.
  • See the version of this at Jean-Georges in New York here.

Brunch Menu at Market by Jean-Georges

The Summer Love 6 course tasting menu ended at the Warm Chocolate Cake, however I can’t help but to feature one of my favourite brunch items. I actually really enjoy the brunch here although it is a bit pricey. The brunch price fixe menu is 3 courses (choice of 2 plates and a dessert) for $35, or you can order a la carte.

I couldn’t resist but to highlight the Market’s infamous French Toast. This isn’t even a Jean-Georges recipe, but in fact it is created by Chef de Cuisine Karen Gin, who worked at his New York restaurant for a year before taking lead at Market in Vancouver.

**French Toast – 6/6

  • Roasted Apples, Crispy Bacon $18
  • The regular order a la carte will come with 4 of the pieces you see above. One is about the size of 2-3 mini donuts.
  • This is almost like having a donut for brunch, but even better because it’s made from quality ingredients and it has bacon.
  • It’s less dense and sweet than a donut, which makes it more dangerous because they’re easier to inhale.
  • Pork and apple are classic pairings. Maple and bacon are truly Canadian. French Toast and apples aren’t unusual, and having them altogether is brilliant.

  • It’s a sweet and savoury gourmet French Toast with a house made brioche bread that soaks for 24 hours overnight in an egg batter.
  • These cubes of lightly sweetened and eggy buttery brioche are deep fried until crispy yet soft, fluffy, pillowy and incredibly tender and moist in the centre.
  • There’s no obvious spices, but lots of flavour and their flash fried in hot oil, but not oily or greasy.
  • It’s not too eggy and it has a nutty caramelized maple syrup crust, but no nuts.
  • It’s almost like a deep fried bread pudding, but much lighter and more like a crispy souffle that just melts in your mouth.
  • It’s sweet but not too sweet and it just carries a maple syrup scent.
  • The tender wedges of tart and caramelized sweet apples and salty strips of crispy thick cut bacon makes this an epic start to any morning.
  • I’d order this as dessert and the only other French Toast that has been so memorable is the Apple Pie Stuffed French Toast from Be ‘wiched.

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