Max Chodorow knows exactly where the produce at Jean’s comes from. He even knows the specific route the produce travels to arrive at the NoHo restaurant’s kitchen; he drives all of it there himself from his family farm in New Hope, Pa.
“We still don’t have a produce van. That’s the one missing piece I haven’t addressed yet. I’ve been the guy driving in all the produce once a week,” says Chodorow, adding that he had just re-upped the restaurant’s garlic supply from the farm, which was originally owned by his grandfather.
Jean’s, owned by Chodorow along with Ashwin Deshmukh and Bernardo Metsch, is fully stocked and officially open for service. In the lead-up to its public opening, the restaurant has hosted private events, including a recent fashion week dinner for Frame, building word-of-mouth buzz.
“We’ve been running the place just when we want to basically for three years,” says Deshmukh. “But now it’s time to push the real identity of what it is, which is a restaurant.”
Jean’s is located on Lafayette Street next door to the Public Theater, in a space formerly occupied by concepts including hotspot Butter and Asia de Cuba, which was owned by Max’s father, Jeffrey Chodorow.
“It’s not complicated. It’s not fussy. There’s something for everyone,” says Deshmukh, who’s also a managing partner of Superiority Burger, of the team’s approach to Jean’s. “We want to be really about the neighborhood. We love NoHo. We think it’s the heart of the city and a really special place and really easy for almost everyone in the city to get to.”
The menu is New American, anchored by Chodorow’s farm and locally sourced proteins.
“My intention with designing the menu and the food concept was to be accessible to literally everyone, but to still be appreciated by people who know a lot about food,” says Chodorow. “The food feels very straightforward, but the things we’re doing in the kitchen are not necessarily straightforward.”
Dishes on the menu include a seared local fluke served with wok-cooked kale, chitarra pesto, and a Thai chicken salad inspired by a beloved dish served at Jeffrey Chodorow’s former restaurant, China Grill, in Midtown.
“The original salad is excellent. Everyone in Midtown for business lunches was obsessed with it for 30 years. I wanted to have a little bit of that legacy, but not have it be quite the same. I wanted to do something a lot brighter and more modern and lighter,” says Chodorow, before describing the coconut milk-based dressing that accompanies his composition of poached chicken, napa cabbage and mustard greens, and crispy shallots for Jean’s.
The bi-level, 110-seat restaurant includes a café, main dining room, and cocktail lounge. The team notes that they wanted the space to feel like a “New York restaurant,” rendered through strategic mirror placement, a wall of “found items,” and gold leaf detailing. Most design decisions were done in-house, complementing the personal approach of the entire project.
“[Jean’s] is a reflection of who we are, what our taste is, and what we would like New York to be going forward,” says Chodorow.