Jeanne & Gaston is an under-the-radar contemporary French bistro on the southern edge of Chelsea. It’s in the upmarket casual idiom that, for Italian cuisine, has become so common that another one opens every week. But as it’s French, Jeanne & Gaston is a far scarcer breed, and therefore worthy of some attention.
This is the second restaurant for chef Claude Godard, whose first spot, Madison Bistro, opened in 1998. The two places are extremely similar, though the careful eye might detect a few slightly edgier dishes at Jeanne & Gaston (named for the chef’s grandparents), which opened in December 2011.
Budget-conscious diners will smile at either establishment, where the three-course prix fixe is just $40, with about a dozen choices of both appetizers and mains, and half-a-dozen desserts. (A few items have $2–3 supplements.) If you prefer to order à la carte, most appetizers are $13, mains $26, desserts $10.
The menu offers a mix of classic French bistro cuisine, specialties from the chef’s native Burgundy, and a few of his own inventions. It is very good for the price point.
The restaurant’s hidden ace is a delightful 40-seat outdoor garden with its antique sculptured limestone fountain, cloistered between two residential buildings and closed off with a wood fence. You should by all means dine there if the weather permits. And if not, there is always the 32-seat dining room, which is charming and unobjectionable, but could be faulted for a lack of personality.
We dined at the publicist’s invitation and did not pay for our meal. The chef served a five-course tasting menu with portion sizes adjusted, for which I believe he ordinarily charges $55.
Baguettes (above left) are made in-house and were served warm. The charcuterie plate (above right) came with prosciutto, garlic sausage, and chicken liver mousse. I’d give it a pass next time, as cured meats of comparable quality are available all over town.
The dish of the evening was the Napoleon (above left), which the chef says is his own creation. It was certainly new to me: a tower of wafer-thin pasty discs with crabmeat salad sandwiched in between and an avocado mousse around the edge of the plate.
I also enjoyed the sea scallops (above right) with “Tarte Tatin” Provençale. The scare quotes are on the printed menu, so I assume irony is intended, perhaps because tarte is usually a dessert.
The chef serves Duck Magret (above left) at both of his restaurants. Uptown, he serves it with potatoes; here with vegetables tempura and a mango emulsion. “Magret” refers to the force-fed ducks that produce foie gras, so you know it will be fatty and flavorful. I was not fond of the vegetables, which were a hair too greasy.
We finished with a duo of desserts (above right), a chocolate soufflé and the chef’s interpretation of that old classic, the floating island. You won’t go wrong with either one.
The price point at Jeanne & Gaston is both a strength and a limitation—the latter because there’s only so much you can do for forty bucks. But. Seriously. Forty bucks for three courses or $13/$26 for appetizers and entrées à la carte? If it were served in a garage in Brooklyn, they’d be lined up out the door.
Jeanne & Gaston (212 W. 14th Street between 7th & 8th Avenues, Chelsea)