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Le Jardinier in New York City reopens — complete with a Michelin star

The French greenhouse restaurant in Midtown reopened in September two and a half years after COVID forced it closed

Le Jardinier reopened its Michelin-starred New York City location last month two and a half years after its forced closure.

The restaurant was forced to close in 2020 when COVID struck the industry, less than a year after the restaurant first opened in May 2019. Although it would be years before the restaurant would reopen to the public, the operator didn’t sit still for that whole time.

The Bastion Collection, which operates vegetable-forward Le Jardinier, opened Houston and Geneva locations of the restaurant during the extended shutdown. These new locations have different menus of local and seasonally driven cuisine.

In Houston, the restaurant is attached to the Museum of Fine Arts.

“Right now, there's a [Yayoi] Kusama exhibit, and we have a … very dark champagne cocktail with a glitter ball that dissolves in it, to really marry the artistry of both sides,” said Michelle Upton, executive vice president of The Bastion Collection.

The Bastion Collection now collectively holds eight Michelin stars including at Le Jardinier in Miami, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Shun, Café Leonelli, Frohzen and La Table.

“I think it's really exciting to take the Le Jardinier brand to other locations and tap into what’s seasonal and what’s local and really execute that as exceptional culinary experiences for our guests,” said Upton.

For the location in New York City, the original opening team was brought back for its reopening this fall. That included chef de cuisine Andrew Ayala and corporate pastry chef Salvatore Martone along with bartender Ruben Rolon. Ayala had been working with the Le Jardinier team to open the Houston restaurant, and Rolon is permanently located at the restaurant’s Miami location but joined the team for the reopening.

Ayala may have left for Houston but in his heart, he knew he would return to New York City.

“I just remember, walking down Lexington [in 2020] and there’s nobody, it’s like a ghost town,” Ayala said. “There’s nobody, everything’s closed. So everything was kind of just up in the air. But really, that didn’t stop us. We still expanded. We went to Houston. I was in Houston for eight months. And it was great. It’s a great city. I loved my time there. But I always knew in the back of my head I needed to come back here… I just feel like we had a lot of unfinished business.”

He returned in November of last year to get to work on reopening Le Jardinier — at a time full of staffing shortages and supply chain challenges, especially for a business so reliant on fresh vegetables and local produce.

“Sometimes there’s mother nature and the labor shortage so you do have to play around with the products and ingredients, select something that’s constantly available. Otherwise [something] might be great one day, one week, and then just stops production, or they stop growing it. There have been a lot of hurdles that we still feel, we still have to go through even today,” said Ayala.

But the challenges haven’t stopped the team at Le Jardinier from cooking Michelin-star-worthy dishes. They received news on Friday that they would be maintaining their star.

Ayala’s favorite dish on the menu is a simple seasonal one: The burrata with stone fruit, cherry tomatoes, and bee pollen. The accouterments change six or seven times a year, but the burrata remains the same. This varietal is Ayala’s favorite because “it awakens your palate.”

Other dishes include Marinated Heirloom Beets with smoked labneh, pomegranate and lime; Citrus Cured Fluke with butternut squash, green grapes, sesame seeds and Royal Kaluga caviar; and Bavette au Jus with Brussels sprouts and a horseradish and turnip mousse.

The menu in New York (and the ingredients) give Ayala more room to play around with than in Houston, where there are only really two seasons, and the product doesn’t change as seasonally. New York has all four seasons, and a variety of available fruits and vegetables all times of the year.

“I guess the technique and the foundation is all the same, but they have all their own personalities,” Ayala said.

So what’s next for Le Jardinier? Maintaining its exceptional service, according to Upton.

“Our focus with reopening is really on making sure we’re providing the best experience for our guests,” she said.

TAGS: Chefs
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