Is This Manhattan's New Power Dining Spot?
Alain Verzeroli never intended to open his own restaurant after 21 years working for Joël Robuchon—the most decorated Michelin chef in history—but when the revered master passed away last year, Verzeroli started from scratch.
Enter mega-developer Aby Rosen: Verzeroli proposed a new two-restaurant concept for Rosen's new luxury condos in midtown Manhattan. To absolutely no one's surprise, Rosen agreed, and now Le Jardinier is open for business, and already attracting a high-powered crowd.
After an 18-year stretch at Robuchon's Tokyo outpost, Verzeroli imagined a different vision for his venture with Rosen, the real estate tycoon who infamously evicted the Four Seasons from his Seagram building (though the longtime power-lunch spot moved to a new location, it recently announced its closure after just one year).
Joel Robuchon in Paris, 1987
"For years I worked only in fine dining, but customers are changing, habits are changing," says Verzeroli. "I would like to define a new sense of fine dining that is less formal, less stiff."
"For years I worked only in fine dining, but customers are changing, habits are changing."
The two agreed that upstairs at Rosen's midtown development would be Shun, a more elevated experience with two private dining rooms and a grand bar, serving contemporary French fare with Japanese influences. On the ground level would be Le Jardinier, a more accessible take on French cuisine.
Chef Alain Verzeroli
Though meat and fish are on the menu, Verzeroli wanted a cuisine heavy on greens (after all, "jardinier" means gardener). "I wanted to put the vegetable back in the center of the dish. On the menu I always put the vegetable first, even if the dish has proteins," he says. "It's healthy but at the same time it is something you want to eat, and it's not overly complicated. With each recipe I try to have one unusual item."
Guests start off with a shot of juice, rather than a typical amuse bouche. You might follow with a cucumber crudo or white asparagus, enhanced with blood orange and accompanied by a pleasing buckwheat puff.
Heirloom tomatoes with burrata. Le Jardinier's in-house bread program is gluten-free.
Crudo cucumber appetizer
The accompaniments are also light. The gluten-free bread is baked in-house by another Robuchon veteran, the baker Tetsuya Yamaguchi, and served with olive oil. Five of the seven desserts from executive pastry chef Salvatore Martone are also gluten-free, and the ice cream is vegan.
Lemon meringue tart
The 62-seat dining room is also plant-focused, and recalls a lush garden, the greenhouse-like vibe courtesy of Joseph Dirand, the so-called French "designer to the stars."
The bar at Le Jardinier
"I wanted this sense of calmness, an escape from the noise and the vibrant city."
"I wanted this sense of calmness, an escape from the noise and the vibrant city. I want it to be a real rest for the senses and for people to feel closer to nature, in a way, through the cooking and the decor," says Verzeroli.
When Shun opens upstairs, it will be more “luxurious,” Verzeroli says. And perhaps suited for those seeking a more traditional fine dining experience—the bread, for starters, will be served with butter.
The dining room at Le Jardinier
Le Jardinier, at 610 Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street, is open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and an extra half hour later on Fridays and Saturdays. Shun will open in late June, and both will open for lunch in September.
*This article originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors