We dreamt about going to Per Se for a while and decided, for our wedding anniversary, to go there instead of traveling. It was worth it. Acclaimed Chef Thomas Keller and his crew, led by Chef de Cuisine Eli Kaimeh are like magicians. They not only make disappear your appetite and a large sum of money from your bank account, they also erase any memory or reference to any good meal you had before going to Per Se. Yes, after dining at Per Se, any good restaurant will be like going to MacDonald's after tasting the burger at Minetta Tavern. This team shows so much technique and artistry that we were blown away.
Before I talk about the food, let me tell you a bit about this restaurant. Located on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center, the American Chef Thomas Keller opened Per Se in 2004. It soon received the accolades of critics and easily gained three Michelin stars, reaching the top of the New York dining scene and being constantly mentioned in best restaurants ranking, including world best.
Arriving at the restaurant, my heart was beating faster from the excitement to finally go there. We sat few minutes in their anti chamber of heaven, looking at the blue doors that are a reference to Thomas Keller's flagship The French Laundry in California (the dining room has 62 seats like The French Laundry - another reference?).
Then, it was time to start this culinary adventure. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and got seated at a table overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park, the latter reminding me that I would probably need the gym later on...
To make sure everything was at its place, they brought Jodi a little stool for her bag...
I started by ordering a glass of wine picked from their impressive list displayed on an IPad.
I went for a glass of Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py, 2012:
We made our choice from the menu. Per Se proposes two prix fixe for $310 service included: the vegetarian menu (Jodi's pick) and the Chef's Tasting, each of them having 9 courses. For each course, you have two choices, some of them including an up charge, as prepared with luxurious items such as foie gras, caviar or truffles. Know that the menu will change on a daily basis, although some of the dishes, search as the first course I got seems to be a recurring choice.
So, let's see what we got!
For Jodi, it was a cone with Belgian endives, grapefruit and cream cheese:
For me, a cone with marinated salmon and cream cheese:
Cheese gougères (choux pastry mixed with cheese):
I love when they bring amuse, because not only it opens your appetite, but it also contributes to the excitement of the whole experience.
For Jodi - Meyer lemon-lime sorbet, served with Rocky sweet melon, Hass avocado puree, Yarrow blossoms and finger limes:
For me -
Oysters and Pearls
Sabayon of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar. This dish is very often served on the menu apparently and, after the first bite, I understood why: what is surprising about it is how well these ingredients worked together, texture wise, flavor wise and temperature wise. The sabayon was hot while the caviar and oysters were not; it was sweet, while the caviar was slightly salty. I really loved that dish that was like bringing the appetizer and dessert together.
For Jodi - turnip "Bavarois":
Composed of Stonington nori, compressed nectarine, Persian cucumber and charred hearts of romaine lettuce.
For me - Hudson Valley Moulard duck foie gras:
At that point, I had a choice between a salad of marinated tomatoes or a foie gras for $40 supplement. I did not think twice and went for the latter. It was served with a confit de canard sauce, oat Streusel, stewed blueberries, fennel bulb, amaranth and black winter truffle, as well as the most delicious brioche ever, drizzled with coarse salt:
Funny enough, I was half way through the brioche when they removed it from the table, causing my heart to drop, but it was to replace it with another one. Well, they could have left both on the table: they would not have made it that long there...
There was also some salt for the foie gras brought to the table, coming from different countries such as a sel de Guérande from France or the black salt from Hawaii.
I did not use the salt as I thought the dish did not need any and was perfect as is. The only regret is that, although it had the visual of truffle, it did not have the aroma.
At the same time they brought us the second course, they brought some butter and bread. The first butter was a honey butter, shaped like a beehive:
The second one was from a farm in Vermont where they have only ten cows:
It came with a small bread:
But then, before the third course arrived, they came with a beautiful bread basket:
Jodi chose the pretzel bread:
While I chose the mini-baguette:
All these bread were deliciously fresh and crunchy when expected.
Jodi - Griddled corn cake:
Served with Brentwood corn relish, pole beans, tomatoes, quail eggs, mâche (green salad) and black winter truffle.
For me - Crispy skin Mediterranean lubina:
Served with Rick Bishop's snow peas, green market radishes and horseradish crème fraîche. Lubina is in fact sea bass; that was definitely the star of the dish: it was perfectly cooked and that crispy skin was succulent. I also appreciated the fact that the crème fraîche was not overpowered by the horseradish.
Jodi - English pea "flan"
It was served with morel mushrooms, asparagus, heirloom carrots and garlic scapes.
For me - Butter poached Nova Scotia Lobster:
The dish was composed of the lobster, greek bottarga (salted, cured fish roe called
in French), avocado squash, cranberry beans, stonecrop and garbanzo beans vinaigrette. Just the presentation was amazing, from the plating to the popping colors. But the best was of course the flavors that were like a concert in my mouth, the bottarga adding a subtle bitterness and the avocado some richness to a perfectly cooked lobster.
This was a long awaited course: the truffle course. For Jodi, it was a pasta course and she had the choice between basil agnolotti and the gnocchi with truffles. For me, it was either the fricassee of Salmon Creek Farms' pork belly or the tagliatelle with truffles. Each truffle dishes required a supplement of $125. I admit that we hesitated a bit and then went for it, thinking that we would probably regret not having them and, as it was a special occasion...
The black winter truffles, that are from Australia, came in a box. When they opened the lid, our noses got invaded that this fantastic smell so characteristic of these ugly fungus. They shaved them generously on our plates, making us wonder how they know when there have to stop.
So, the dishes were:
For Jodi - russet potatoes gnocchi with parmigiano reggiano (parmesan) and black winter truffles (of course):
For me - hand cut tagliatelle with parmigiano reggiano (parmesan) and black winter truffles (of course):
Do not think that we left the shavings that were on the side of the dishes: for that price, we surely ate them!
It was delicious: not only because of the truffles with their pungent aroma and wonderful taste, but also because the creamy cheese sauce and the pasta were scrumptious. We definitely did not regret the extra cost.
For Jodi - Croustillant de pommes de terre:
It was served with ruby beets, French leeks, Spring onions, mustard cress and "bordelaise".
For me - Marcho Farms' "selle de veau" (veal loin):
It was composed of Oregon morel mushrooms, good nugget potatoes, Tokyo turnips and brown butter jus. The veal loin was just ok for me, as I did to really like the texture, but, with all the components of the plate, it made it successful, especially the morel mushrooms and the brown butter jus.
Seventh course - cheese course
For Jodi, Moses sleeper cheese from Vermont (it is close to a French brie), with walnut "melba", heirloom cauliflower, stonecrop and Royal Blenheim apricot compote.
For me, Consider Bardwell Farm's "pawlet", with Hadley Orchards' Medjool dates, Jingle bell peppers, glazed broccoli, petite parsley and "Romesco":
It came with a tiny garlic ciabatta bread:
I did not know what pawlet was, but I really liked this soft and buttery cheese from Vermont.
Eight Course - Assortment of desserts
That is when the madness started: desserts were coming one after the other, each one more exquisite than the other.
First, Jodi got a Victoria sponge cake with blackberry jam, vanilla and white chocolate buttercream and green market berries.
For me, a strawberry soda, lemon verbena pastry cream, champagne granité and French meringue:
Then, Jodi got the fig ice cream with a rose geranium gelée:
And I got a toasted almond ice cream with a garniture from Montélimar, a city in France known for its nougat.
For our anniversary, they brought us a dessert made of white and dark chocolate mousse inside:
And when we thought we were done, they brought us some more. For Jodi, a dessert called "Loma Sotavento", made with salted caramel, peanut "Nutella" and red verjus jelly.
For me, a chocolate mint made with a Valrhona chocolate ganache and with an "After Eight" and mint tea purée.
And when we thought we were done, they brought us some more (I think I already said that...)! First were chocolates:
They came with this big box full of different chocolates, the top row being dark chocolate, the middle row white and the bottom row milk chocolate.
- on the left, an olive oil and rosemary white chocolate where these two surprising ingredients burst into my mouth delightfully.
- on the bottom right, a vanilla bourbon milk chocolate.
- on the top right, a Mats brothers Madagascar dark chocolate.
Few minutes later, came a semifredo cappuccino and donuts, a dessert from The French Laundry:
And what I would call a magic box:
It opened, revealing some more sweets!
In the bottom were chocolate truffles:
In the middle, macarons:
On top, some nougats and caramels:
And then for home, some shortbread cookies with chocolate in the middle.
It was as if the dinner was ending with fireworks. We left full, not only in our bellies, but full of memories: we will remember that dinner for sure. Everything was on point and the food was spectacular, not only taste wise, but also the way it was presented, each plate used to serve the dish looking as if it was custom made.
This is definitely a restaurant I recommend for a special occasion if the price is not an issue. Chapeau Per Se!
Enjoy (I surely did)!
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!