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Deer Valley • We sat cocooned in J & G Grill's dining room, surrounded by the textured stone walls and the warmth of a roaring fireplace. Everything from the plush upholstered seats and leather booths to the color of the walls is neutral. That's so the restaurant's decor doesn't steal the show from the massive windows framing Mother Nature's stunning display of full moonlight on snowy Deer Valley slopes.
We took in the scene, talking about the funicular ride (the only way to get to the restaurant) and sipping a wickedly good house bloody Mary ($14) through a wide black straw, which mingled the flavors of the fresh tomato juice, celery and wasabi foam, adding a pinch of Worcestershire and Tabasco whenever we needed an extra kick.
The cocktail exemplified what we expected from the latest outpost of Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and the restaurant's team. It's what anyone would expect from the beating heart of luxury, the St. Regis Deer Valley resort.
The hit-or-miss nature of the service and the food is a shame, considering that when it's a hit, the dishes can be downright sublime.
I wanted to love J & G Grill as much as I love the fine-dining restaurant Jean-Georges in New York City. But much of what's offered isn't up to the fabulous bloody Mary or a well-executed Cracker Jack-like caramel sundae with candied popcorn ($9). You would think the price point would be a guarantee against the carelessness that abounded during some visits.
Parmesan-crusted Niman Ranch poulet rouge ($29) was so salted if you closed your eyes and took a bite it tasted like ham. A simple salad of Boston lettuce ($9) came with a few wanton slices of radish. If we looked carefully, there were pockets of the mustard vinaigrette within the grooves of butter lettuce, barely covering sad arugula leaves. Service was adequate, but all too often there were long pauses between sightings.
The biggest disappointment: an entrée of sautéed lobster ($46). The side dish of butter, green onion and ginger cabbage was aromatic and elevated the humble cruciferous vegetable. But the lobster's flavor tasted of nothing more than the raw flour we saw dusted on its surface.
Sure, J & G Grill has a talented brand-name celebrity chef (aided by chef Matt Harris, who runs the local show), but this is a resort restaurant. Most folks are here for the powder and luxury accommodations, not necessarily the food. No one seemed to blink when the fries with the hanger steak frites ($31) were unremarkable, or that the truffle mayo that came with the juicy, fresh burger ($17) was more tangy than earthy, dank and mysterious like the prized spore itself.
The menu selection is meant for après-ski, more approachable or familiar than say, Vongerichten's signature (and gorgeous) melding of French and Asian flavors. This is the food for people who don't cook for themselves and who don't realize that mouth-watering rice cracker-crusted tuna ($16) and chile emulsion shouldn't remind you of cold fried chicken with fry sauce.
For people who do love good food, admire Vongerichten's work, and want to see what Harris's team can really pull off, there's an excellent starter of mussels mariniere ($18). Served in a gorgeous pot mimicking the shape and color of the mollusk, the broth is suffused with butter, herbs and shallots, blunting any overbearing brininess of the shellfish. The mussels are tumbled in the pot, their iridescent shells agape, useful as a spoon to slurp up the beautiful broth. It's large enough for an entrée, but convivial to share as an appetizer.
There's a light, almost mousse-like goat cheese fondue ($10) for leaves of crunchy Belgian endive leaves, beets and grapes. Short ribs ($48) are braised into soft, sticky glory with a tangy glaze and plenty of cheddar grits and an aromatic fresh herb salad. The tai snapper's ($33) sweet and sour jus was perfect for the firm, white-fleshed fish, flavorful and ethereal. Side dishes, too, like a perfectly prepared broccoli rabe and creamy soft Beehive Cheddar macaroni and cheese (both $9), were delicious and, when ordered in pairs, could constitute a meal in of themselves.
J & G Grill might not exactly be what chowhounds and restaurant groupies expect. Locals, in particular, will have better luck and price points once the snow melts and the tourists go away, thanks to prix-fixe dinner specials and great local ingredients prepared exceptionally well by Harris.
Until then, utilize a bit of strategic ordering. Order a bloody Mary. And admire the view.
J & G Grill
Food • HHH
Mood • HHHH
Service • HH
Noise • bbb
The stone-rich, neutral-toned décor is luxe. The views are stunning. The food can be hit or miss, but when it's a hit, it's sublime. Mussels mariniere, tai snapper in sweet and sour jus and salted caramel popcorn sundae are memorable.
Location • 2300 Deer Valley Drive East, (in the St. Regis Deer Valley), Park City; 435-940-5760
Online • http://www.jggrilldeercrest.com
Hours • Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Children's menu • Yes
Prices • $$$
Liquor • Full bar
Corkage • $25
Reservations • Not accepted
Takeout • No
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • Yes
On-site parking • Valet
Credit cards • All major