SURE, THERE ARE A few things that might cause a bilious skeptic to raise an eyebrow (or two), and maybe even emit a sad, resigned sigh, when planning a first visit to Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ambitious new downtown seafood restaurant, the Fulton. Like many large-scale projects around Manhattan these days, the 200-plus-seat restaurant is situated in a new real-estate development, in this case at the end of the refurbished Pier 17 down by the old South Street Seaport. There will be a food hall in this boxy, somewhat antiseptic mall-like structure one day, along with other enticements (yes, Mr. Chang will be opening a restaurant too), but right now the entrance is a little hard to locate (it’s obscured by various construction projects, not to mention that rumbling Mad Max flyway known as the FDR Drive), and when you arrive for dinner, you might find yourself wandering up and down escalators, like I did, through crowds of dazed-looking thrill-seekers and tourists, before you sit down to eat.
As anyone who’s followed his long and storied career knows, Jean-Georges has a knack for taking tired old formulas (French cooking, Asian fusion, farm to table, etc.) and imbuing them with his particular elevated sensibility and style, and this new exercise in mall branding turns out to be a little different from all the others. The large, double-floor space has been fitted out with aqua-green banquettes and buoy-shaped lights, among other nautical touch