Per Se – Part I

7 Oct

I recently returned from a visit to New York, and while I was there, I wanted to treat myself to something truly spectacular. For some people, this might be a gorgeous outfit or a piece of jewelry, a stay in a fabulous hotel or a night at the theatre. For me, it was a meal at a truly exceptional restaurant. I looked at quite a few – L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon, Daniel, etc. But there was one place I really wanted to go… Thomas Keller’s Per Se. I have read all his books, and the French Laundry is on my list of places I want to go before I die. But since I was in NYC, rather than California, I decided Per Se would do 😉

Reservations at Per Se are notoriously difficult to get. One has to book two months in advance, and offer a credit card deposit. However, I figured out that Per Se releases their lunch cancellations on the Monday before the weekend of – they only serve lunch on weekends. So, the Monday before I went to New York, I looked on Open Table, and lo! Lunch was available for Saturday at 12. Perfection!

I have to say, I am glad we went to lunch rather than dinner. While dinner might have been more romantic, and reviews have told of the spectacle of watching the sun go down over Central Park, the meal itself is so phenomenal – so full on hedonistic – that if I had tried eating it for dinner, I would not have been able to sleep until 4 am. I was also really intrigued to note that Per Se offers lounge dining, first come first serve, from an a la carte menu which reflects some of the dishes served in the Chef’s Tasting Prix Fixe menu. Next time I am in New York, it might be a pleasant splurge…

From the moment we walked in, Per Se impressed. Its a very elegant space, with floor to ceiling windows, beautifully dressed staff, and a calm sophisticated atmosphere. The chairs are wide and comfortable, the tables set with beautiful cutlery and plates. Whites, browns and the beauty of Central Park. My companion remarked upon the fact that there was no music. To be honest, I quite liked this. Nothing to distract you from the symphony of food to come.

I have travelled the world, and been to some lovely establishments, and I was impressed by how the staff managed to be friendly and open, yet totally professional. They imbued the experience with a sense of occasion and respect, without once coming across as snobbish or belittling. They were as excited about the food as we were, and knew everything there was to know about each course.

The restaurant only has 16 tables, and is divided between two levels. We sat at the top level, which gave us a great view of the other guests. The rest of the clientele was quite diverse. Next to us were two women who were as intent on the food experience as we were. Flanking our two tables were couples – one celebrating a birthday, and the other who looked and sounded international. They enjoyed their food as much as they enjoyed each other!

Further along, was obviously a touristy couple, here for the experience. Unfortunately, the woman (we shall call her Red) decided to cobble together her own menu from the Chef’s Tasting, Vegetable Tasting and 5 Course Prix Fixe. She loudly replaced one thing with another, and told her server that they were on a low fat diet! I am not sure why one would even begin to think of coming to a restaurant like Per Se if one couldnt actually eat the food they served! I also feel that the Chef planned the tastings in a certain order, with a certain balance. To start shifting dishes around, and ordering off point was exactly besides the point – it killed any possibility of really seeing the Chef’s vision. We did note that when Red went to the restroom, her husband devoured the course in front of him with a relish that told us he had not gotten to eat like that in a long time.

There were others. Two men who had a menu quite different from anyone else, and who were the centre of attention from a lot of the wait staff. A woman who had brought her parents to Per Se from out of town. Two couples in their 60’s, with the women wearing pearls as big as golf balls. It was fun to check out our fellow diners, but to be honest, I was there for the food!

And what food it was! We could choose between a nine course Tasting of Vegetables or Chef’s Tasting Menu, or a five course Prix Fixe. As vegetarians, we decided to go with the Tasting of Vegetables, but because I love reading menus, and I think you might too, I will reproduce the other two menus here.


5 Course Prixe Fixe

Smoked Columbia River Sturgeon Sweet Pepper Tapenade, Carrot “Ribbons,” Garden Dill and Preserved Horseradish Vinaigrette

Liberty Farms’ Pekin Duck “Presse” New Crop Potato Salad, Cornichons, Greenmarket Onions, Celery Branch, White Heart Celery and Caramelized Onion Jus


Sea Urchin “Tofu” Crispy Rice, English Cucumber, Watermelon Radish, Jalapeno, Pea Tendrils and Kanzuri

Australian Abalone “Poele” Butternut Squash, Glazed Chestnuts, Crispin Apples, Fried Sage and Brown Butter Emulsion


Dover Sole “AmandineHeirloom Cauliflower Florettes, Plumped Sultanas, Parsley Shoots and Truffle Coulis

Elysian Fields Farms’ “Cote D’Agneau” “Petit Sale,” Herb Scented Panisse, Red Wine Pickled Eggplant, Young Fennel, Aji Dulce Peppers, Sylvetta and Lamb Jus


Herb Roasted Thomas Farms’ Squab Sauteed Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras, Flowering Quince Puree, Brussels Sprouts, Petite Turnips and “Sauce Hydromel”

“M&M’s” Pretzel Chips, Candied Peanuts, Madagascar Vanilla Mousse and Mast Brothers’ Chocolate Ice Cream


Chef’s Tasting Menu

“Oysters and Pearls” “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar

Salad of Big Island Hearts of Palm Jingle Bell Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, Cilantro and Hass Avocado Puree


“Tourchon” of Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck Foie Gras Quince Marmalade, Eckerton Hill Farms’ Chestnuts, Young Beets, White Heart Celery and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Herb Roasted Fillet of Atlantic Halibut Globe Artichoke, Sunchokes, Castelvetrano Olives, Parsley Shoots and Meyer Lemon Vierge

Nova Scotia Lobster Mitts “En Brochette” Hadley Orchard’s Medjool Date “Marbles”, Glazed Sweet Carrots, Mizuna and Madras Curry-Cauliflower Puree

All Day Braised Salmon Creek Farms’ Pork Belly “Matignon” of Root Vegetables, French Green Lentils, Frisee and Pork Jus

Snake River Farms’ “Calotte de Bouef Grillee” Chanterelle Mushrooms, Salsify Root, Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach and “Sauce Bordelaise”

“Pyrenees Brebis” Pain de Campagne Croutons, Haricots Verts, Confit of Torpedo Onion and Petite Radishes

Strawberry Sorbet Rick Bishop’s Tri-Star Strawberries, Strawberry Lace and Saigon Cinnamon Soda

“Tropical Tea” Passionfruit-Chocolate Cremeux, Earl Grey Genoise, Passionfruit Mousse and Earl Grey Ice Cream


“Delice au Damas” Brown Butter Financier, Damson Plum Mousse, Mint Jelly and Plum Ice Cream


We had the Vegetable Tasting Menu, which I will go through, in detail, in the second part of this review. Just note, this is not a restaurant for vegans – they use lashings and lashings of butter, cream, cheese and eggs. We did not eat for 24 hours after this meal… it was just that overwhelming, that amazing. Each dish was so carefully constructed, so beautifully presented, and above all else, tasted so astonishing… nothing else could compare.

4 Responses to “Per Se – Part I”

  1. Mariana October 7, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    Oh my, the taste buds are going haywire, what a great experience & review — waiting for part 2 …

    • delectableblog October 7, 2010 at 4:26 am #

      It was such an experience, Ana. Totally mindblowing.

  2. chrisoro October 7, 2010 at 3:09 am #

    Your review reminds me of an enid blyton famous five book or something. where the kids eat and it’s so satisfying and so not of my world…

    what a wonderful experience!

    • delectableblog October 7, 2010 at 4:27 am #

      LoL Chris! Just posted part 2! I have never eaten like that before in my life. I was struggling to find the words 🙂 xxx

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