Per Se: Let the eating indulgence begin

 

I struck a deal with my mom after deciding that I wanted to go to New York. I would pay for her flight and hotel if she would watch Emma at night so Ryan and I could go to some fancy-smancy restaurants. My mom agreed on one condition, that she could get one night off to experience a fun NYC restaurant. I originally found a restaurant that I thought Emma wouldn’t be too much of a handful at and booked it for the four of us before continuing on to plan every other night out, including our first night in the city. But upon walking Ryan through my eating-extravaganza plans, he was adamant that after taking a red-eye followed by 12-hours in an airport followed by another red-eye, he would prefer to just chill in the hotel room with Emma. He also didn’t want to eat at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s fancy NY restaurant. I was shocked, I mean this was THE Thomas Keller….. as in if we had a boy, Emma’s name would have been Keller instead to honor Ryan’s favorite chef. As in, me getting reservations at Per Se and then taking Ryan there as a Christmas present one year still ranks up there as one of my better presents. But Ryan was appalled by the bad NY Times review and 2-star drop and didn’t want to waste his time going there. He also has turned into such a Hawaii-boy in the two years we’ve been back and didn’t want to put on a suit jacket. I swear it’s like he has become a totally different person. (Kidding… sort of!)

Meanwhile, my mom and I had no qualms about either the lack of sleep or the bad review and were super excited to spend our first night at Per Se.

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Ryan was equally excited to hear my opinion of how the restaurant was post-scathing NY Times review. While he is probably the only interested party on here, unfortunately for you all my new goal is to become a Yelp Elite Member (I found a friend to vouch for me, I just have to actually post enough reviews for him to do so) I figured I’d include it on here as well.

Here’s the deal: I was greatly disappointed. I felt it was definitely less impressive than it used to be. To the point that I probably won’t come here again (on my own dime). While I certainly SHOULD curb my expensive eating habits, I don’t. I have never been one to shun away from an expensive meal if I want to experience a restaurant. But after paying that huge bill, it better have been worth it. And so even though I don’t have too much to complain about, Per Se’s price no longer seems worth it to me.

Note: I am going to include what I currently think the rating should be (”now”) as well as what I would have rated it during my first two times there (about a decade ago) (”then”) to explain why Per Se went from being a “must eat at” restaurant to a “not when I’m paying” restaurant and yet still earning 4 stars.

Food: (Now) 2/2 Stars (Then) 4/2 Stars

No ifs, ands, or butts the food here is really good. It’s just not sooo amazing that I worry I’ll never get to eat such an amazing meal again (hence the 4 out of 2 stars).

There was the always-on-the-menu or pre-menu as an amuse bouche (thank goodness as it’s on my “Last Meal” plan): salmon cornets. I liked this so much I tried to make it at home as the recipe is included in the French Laundry cookbook. No wonder Keller doesn’t mind giving away his secrets. If you are able to actually replicate this dish, you are probably good enough to work at French Laundry.

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Oyster and Pearls: “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar. The second dish on my “Last Meal” plan.

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Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras: “Assaisonne au Confit de Canard,” Pickled Green Strawberries, Hakurei Turnips, Hazelnut “Streusel,” and Ruby Beet Puree. I had four different versions of a foie gras torchon in a one-week period and this was by far the best of the four.

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Confit Fillet of Florida Snapper: Parsley “Panade,” Green Garlic, Gem Lettuce, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Emulsion.

 

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Butter-Poached Nova Scotia Lobster: Toasted Ditalini, “Gremolata,” Wilted Ramps, and “Sauce Perigourdine”

 

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Butter-Poached Nova Scotia Lobster: Toasted Ditalini, “Gremolata,” Wilted Ramps, and “Sauce Perigourdine”. I did find it funny that they had a bread “course” but then again, in past visits I got overly stuffed gorging myself on the bread they walked around serving, so this may be the better way to go.

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“Ris De Veau”: Creamy Polenta, Cipollini Onion Rings, and “Sauce Vin Jaune”

 

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Snake River Farms 100 Day Dry-Aged Beef: “Pommes Duchesse,” Bluefoot Mushrooms, Broccolini Florettes, and “Bordelaise”. I’ll admit by this point in the meal I was getting worried about how much more food my stomach could take, however, this was my most disappointing dish. There was a choice between a lamb dish (which was part of the tasting menu) or this dish at a $100 supplement. And I wasn’t wowed. It was one of my least favorite dishes and cost the most.

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“Gougere”: Jean Perrin’s Raclette de Scey”.

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“Assortment of Desserts”: Fruit, Ice Cream, Chocolate and “Candies”. I do like that they just put a bunch of little dessert plates on the table. I did feel the dessert part of the meal was too much in the past. You’d think you were done and then more would keep on coming. So this was a much better presentation.

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Service: (Now) 1/1 Stars (Then) 2/1 Stars

 

Similar to my comments on the food, I have nothing but great things to say about the service and it definitely deserves a point or yelp star…. it just used to be over-the-top impressive before. Service at Per Se is what I use to hold every other restaurant up to and they would all fall short in comparison. At Per Se of the past, they replaced my toast once simply because I didn’t eat it fast enough and was no longer nice and hot. They also used to have this mastery when it came to serving plates as well. All servers would make eye-contact and then the plates would just magically appear in front of everyone at the table at the exact same time. Unnecessary as I can totally wait 2-seconds for a waiter to place a plate in front of me before moving on to my dinner companion, but still very impressive. Now… it was just any other restaurant with good service… nothing amiss… but not holding up to the service of Per Se of the past.

Ambiance: (Now) 1/1 Stars (Then) 1/1 Stars

The location is gorgeous and the restaurant is too. One thing I used to like was that they had copies of a draft of their tasting menu of the night out in front of the restaurant for anyone to take. Ryan and I would always sneak a copy when we were at Columbus Circle for whatever reason. But hey, providing the interloping foodies is a needless expense for the restaurant so I can see why they would stop printing copies for passersby.

Price to Portion: (Now) 0/1 Star (Then) 1/1 Star

As I’m sure is no surprise after my above complaints, this is where they lose a star from me. It’s just a really expensive meal (the most expensive one I had all week, in a week that includes 2 omakases (1 in Hawaii and 1 in New York) and 3 other tasting menus (1 in Hawaii and 2 in New York), and while it was amazing, I would have rather gone back to any of the New York restaurants first (it did beat out the 2 Hawaii restaurants in my mind). Also one last snarky comment. I think I’m a pretty good tipper. I mean, I’m not changing anyone’s lives with what I leave on the table, but I don’t think it’s too shabby either. But I was surprised that they had a place to put additional gratuity considering that gratuity was already included in the price per person (and therefore, how much extra are you supposed to tip). Of the other restaurants I mentioned above, 1 of the omakases and 2 of the other tasting menus had service included with a line that said that since the servers were salaried and service was included in the price, tip was not needed nor accepted. That just seemed a lot classier than what per se did, which, if you are wondering… since we would feel guilty if we left it blank, we did include a nice tip after all.

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