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March 30, 2010

Mimi Recommends

Jean-Georges in TriBeCa

Considering how much excellent, authentic Chinese food there is in New York City, it may seem unwise to offer up fashionable and expensive versions of mostly standard dishes. Yet four-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is doing just that at his suavely stunning TriBeCa restaurant, 66. Even with some dishes better realized than others, there are plenty of reasons to raise high the chopsticks.

I would go just to see the spare and sensual settings of architect Richard Meier. There's a sexy lounge with cushy seating and pristine Saarinen tables, a long bar under festive red banners, and three dining rooms (one facing the glassed-in kitchen and live exotic fish tanks). The lighting is romantic, but should be brighter at tables, the better to see the elegant china, the pretty food, and the menu, to say nothing of the check. A better-informed staff would also add to the considerable pleasures.

Mr. Vongerichten conducts 15 Chinese cooks, orchestrating culinary chinoiserie such as plump appetizer dumplings (those filled with chives, scallops, and water chestnuts, or shrimp and foie gras, outclass others) and equally delectable starters: orange-glazed squab with crystalized tamarind; gingered, steamed lobster claw; crispy frogs' legs; and two-flavored shrimp, one glassily white and crisp, the other lacquer-red within a pungent sweet-sour glaze.

So far, main courses are less intriguing. Outstanding exceptions are peppery chili prawns with lily buds, little boneless slices of roast pig with crackling, and lamb chops with chilies, garlic, and lemon. Disappointing dishes include several with candy-sweet sauces that compromise otherwise impeccably fried black bass and a boneless fillet of lemon-sesame chicken breast. I hope Vongerichten gives up on Peking duck. His version doesn't begin to match the many excellent traditional versions around the city.

Among the beverages, the Rieslings have the sunny astringency that's just right with these delicate seasonings. And the fruit sorbets and chocolate-filled fried wontons are sure to impart sweet memories. Dinner, $70. At 241 Church Street; 212-925-0202.

Restaurant prices reflect a three-course dinner for two, excluding beverages and gratuity.