J&G Grill at the St. Regis Deer Crest Raises the Bar for Park City Dining
Recently, Casey and I were invited to the St. Regis Deer Crest in lower Deer Valley to experience the much talked about J&G Grill. Mark Kohler was our host for the evening, and he was eager to show off what the St. Regis has to offer to the Park City dining scene.
J&G Grill is the latest restaurant offering from world-famous chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Of his almost 30 restaurants located around the world, J&G Grill is the first in the Mountain West, and the only one located at a ski resort. An avid skier himself, Jean-Georges designed J&G Grill to be the perfect retreat for skiers at Deer Valley by combining the best dishes from his restaurants around the world into a single menu. In his absence, Chef de Cuisine Matt Harris takes control of the spacious kitchen and prepares a menu that very well could be the best in Park City.
Casey and I pulled up to the valet parking area of the St. Regis hotel, which is located at the base of the Deer Valley ski area. In true St. Regis 5-star style, just getting to the restaurant is an experience unto itself. After your car is driven out of site by one of the friendly valets, you enter the lower lobby of the St. Regis. Walking up a flight of stairs brings you to a comfortable sitting area, complete with a roaring fireplace, where you can wait for the next funicular to take you up the mountain side. Funicular you say? Well, it is basically a tram-like capsule that lifts you up the mountain on a roller-coaster-esque track. Once you take a seat inside the warm, leather appointed capsule, just hit the “up” button to begin your journey. The windows give you an excellent view of Park City at night, as you climb higher and higher. If just getting to the restaurant was this cool, we couldn’t wait to see what was in store for our evening.
We met with Mark, and he gave us a quick tour of the restaurant. In addition to the main dining room, J&G Grill also features a lively bar with a large mural of Park City’s mining days, a dine-in wine cellar with over 4,000 bottles, a kitchen bar where you can eat while watching your next course being prepared, and the chef’s table that will seat over 20 guests. The space is truly magnificent with slate rock columns, a large fireplace, and floor to ceiling windows that overlook the ski slopes.
We then met with Chef de Cuisine Matt Harris, who would be our culinary guide for the evening. He explained that his philosophy behind the menu is to showcase as many local ingredients as possible, while maintaining the world-renowned reputation of Jean-Georges. He spent many months, before the restaurant opened for business, working with local farmers, ranchers, and bakers to find the very best Utah has to offer. This not only provides the freshest ingredients possible, but puts a unique local spin on many of Jean-Georges’ most celebrated dishes. Matt’s passion for the food really came through in the short time we were able to speak with him, and I could tell he is never truly satisfied with the menu; he is constantly introducing new suppliers and seasonal menu items.
We began our evening with a round of champagne flutes, to toast the incredible winter season we’ve had in Utah so far. We then ordered a few of the J&G Grill signature cocktails from the bar menu. Casey went with the Cucumber Martini (Hendrick’s Gin w/ cucumber and mint) and I selected the Ginger Margarita (Sauza Hornitos Reposado, lime, ginger, and ginger salt). These cocktails are actually prepped by the kitchen, which ensures fresh and bold flavors. The Ginger Margarita was just amazing; I cannot stress how good these would be after a day of skiing. Apparently the St. Regis signature Bloody Mary is also worth going back for, as each St. Regis around the world puts a unique spin on this cocktail (which is said to have been invented at the St. Regis in New York).
While we were sipping our cocktails, the first course of the evening was brought out. Again, in true St. Regis opulence, the plates were brought out by 4 waiters, who placed them in front each guest at the exact same time; just incredible service, especially for Park City. Our starter course was the signature Jean-Georges dish, “Egg Caviar”. This consists of a lightly scrambled egg (with plenty of cream), topped with creme fraiche and osetra caviar. This is all served in the egg shell, and has to be eaten very delicately. It is hard to describe the consistency of this dish, but it is incredibly smooth and creamy, and a fantastic way to start a meal. I just wish they offered it on the regular dinner menu.
The next course was the Rice Cracker Crusted Tuna appetizer. This was presented with an excellent bottle of chardonnay, which went great with the citrus-chili emulsion. We then moved on to the Butternut Squash soup, which could be the best I have ever tasted. The soup bowls were brought out with a mix of mushrooms and herbs at the bottom, and then the piping hot soup was poured in, right at the table. This lets the vegetables maintain their original flavor, which really enhances the overall profile of the soup. Again, simply fantastic all around.
Our fourth course was a lightly sauteed Maine Lobster, with just a hint of tempura batter. Mark informed us that the J&G Grill gets all of its lobster from a single woman named Ingrid Bengis in Maine. Jean-Georges went up and down the coast of Maine looking for a single source of fresh seafood he could rely on, and he found that in Ingrid.
The lobster was followed by a bottle of red wine, which went well with our next course of Filet Mignon medallions. They were perfectly cooked; a thin crust on the outside, while still being perfectly pink and tender inside. This was served with a shishito pepper and oyster mushrooms. Casey could not partake in the beef course, so the chef prepared a dish of Crusted Yellow Fin Tuna, that was presented in the same manner. Casey was raving about this dish.
After we finished our bottle of red, we were ready to call it an evening with full stomachs and great memories. However, Matt was not done with us yet. We were poured glasses of port wine, and then the desserts were presented. We each received our own Salted Carmel Sundae, with peanuts and candied popcorn. Wow – what a dessert. There is something about the combination of sweet and salt that just works so incredibly well. I may take another ride up the funicular just for this. If that wasn’t enough, we were also brought a Warm Chocolate Cake with a molten center and vanilla ice cream, along with a Creme Fraiche Cheesecake with plum sauce. I can still taste all of these desserts as I write this. What an incredible end to our evening.
As Casey and I rode back down the funicular to our awaiting car, we could not help from gushing over the dinner we had just experienced. Casey was born in Park City, and she could not imagine that a hotel like the St. Regis would ever exist in this formerly sleepy little ski town. Park City has definitely grown up in recent years, and the addition of spectacular restaurants like the J&G Grill helps to elevate it to world-class levels. Watch out Aspen.
If you are interested in experiencing J&G Grill for yourself, you may want to check out their special New Year’s Eve Prix Fixe Menu. They also offer special off-season tasting and discounted menus for locals, if you can wait until spring.