Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Per Se


rich
 Share

Recommended Posts

Admin: active discussion of Per Se may be found here.

One word description: Spectacular!!!!!!

My wife and I were greeted at the door and wished a happy 25th Anniversary - from there every waiter who visited out table (must have been a minimum of ten)wished us the same. When they invited us to visit the kitchen, Thomas Keller wished us a happy anniversary and offered (we accepted) to sign the menu for us.

We opted for the nine-course dinner ($150 each). (There was also an amuse and two petit fors servings.) The second course had a choice - fois gras for an additional $20 or the Pommes. I ordered the fois gras. I also asked to change the last course to a second cheese course and they were willing to accommodate. My wife had the last course, which was a milk chocolate mousse-based dessert. (I'll go into detail later.)

Let me give a brief description of the restaurant and then (later today when I have more time) I will go through each course individually.

Per Se is located on the fourth floor of the TWAOL Building. When you get off the elevator, turn right and walk over the passage that looks over the lobby atrium and shops. At the end of the passage are two large blue doors with no markings. If you don't know it's Per Se, you would think it's a opening to a private club. As you get close a friendly security person asks if they can help. Tell them you have a reservation at Per Se and you're allowed to continue. As you step up to the blue doors, it's apparent they don't open - the entrance is the glass wall attached to the doors both left and right - they open automatically.

The restaurant does not have a bar but a large salon and comfortable seating area for drinks only. The dining room is large, airy, on two levels with eight tables on each level. The higher lever is about four steps above the lower and directly behind. All tables face a large real wood fireplace flanked by two large windows overlooking Columbus Circle. There is a private glass-enclosed dining room for ten or twelve at the far end of the room. Every table was filled last night and the salon was busy.

The kitchen is the largest I've ever seen in NYC. Everyone is at their station, looks immaculate and it's obvious the presence of TK is everywhere as he visits each station.

Even though this was only the second night, service was impeccable as was the food. Everyone was friendly, courteous and professional. The tables are all large ovals (with one exception), well-spaced and offer plenty of room. The exception is on the second level, where one table at the end and cornered (for two) is an "L" shaped leather covered bench pressed against a leather-covered wall. It looked extremely comfortable.

For the next two weeks, there is only one seating per table per night. Then they will begin to expand their reservations. I was totally surprised at the staff numbers. For a 17-table restaurant the numbers both in the front and back seemed very high. Dinner lasted more than three hours and it seemed like fifteen minutes.

I ordered a half-bottle of champagne and a bottle of a unique California Zinfandel. The bill with tax and tip came to $633 - a little less then I thought it would.

I don't have the time right now, but I will describe each course later. Suffice it to say, it was the finest meal I've ever had the pleasure to experience. Here is the highest compliment I can offer - I would return and thought the value was extraordinary.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rich,

Was everyone invited to visit the kitchen?!?! Or just you because it was a special occasion. I had my 30th birthday dinner at French Laundry and have to say that it was the most memorable evening of my life (other than when my husband proposed). I am thrilled for you and your wife that Per Se was equally as special. I am going on April 2, and I can't wait!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rich,

Was everyone invited to visit the kitchen?!?! Or just you because it was a special occasion.

As far as I could tell, no one else was invited into the kitchen. I don't think it was because of our anniversary. I was talking to the waiter about different aspects of the restaurant and he just asked if I would be interested in visiting the kitchen. I couldn't say yes quick enough.

When we got into the kitchen, he instructed us to stay in certain areas so we wern't in the way.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Visiting a restaurant early in its life cycle is tricky, because no restaurant performs anywhere near its potential in its first week (or month, or even year) of business. Still, over the course of many openings and evolutions, one develops a fairly reliable sense of how to read the signs of greatness. Per Se has as many of those signs as I've ever seen.

To use New York Times-speak, the question of how many stars Per Se will eventually acquire isn't really an open one. Whatever the highest category of stars is, that's the category in which Per Se has to fit, though of course that's a reading of potential -- I wouldn't say we had a "four-star meal" tonight, but we had an excellent one in many respects. Eventually, if Per Se evolves as expected and reaches its full potential, it might not even be sensible to rank it with the current four-star crop. I've long felt that the arrival of Ducasse created the need for a higher category, and now there will likely be a second restaurant pushing the edge of the envelope. Aside from Ducasse, nobody is really playing in the arena with Per Se.

Rich has given a handy description of the physical space, which is of much less interest to me than the food, so I won't dwell on that very much except to say that it raises the bar in so many ways it's hard to imagine there will be an opening to surpass it anytime soon. I had long felt that Chef Keller's major obstacle to competing on the New York scene was the impossibility of achieving anything like the incredible French Laundry setting here. But he has, amazingly, created the urban alter-ego of that setting: just as French Laundry is one of the most endearing country restaurants in the world, Per Se is one of the most inspiring urban settings imaginable. (There are, to be sure, problems with the space: too much smoke emanating from the fireplace, a poor allocation of space between the bar and dining room such that the dining room despite its low seat-count has at least three undesirable tables. I hope there's a way to combat at least some of that.)

There were certainly some irritating service glitches -- very, very irritating -- though it would be unreasonable to bitch and moan about them with great specificity on day 3. The stars of the show -- our waiter Rudy, the cooks in the kitchen -- gave outstanding performances. The supporting actors aren't there yet.

The current Chef's Tasting Menu is heavily oriented towards French Laundry greatest hits. This is probably a good business decision -- for now -- for a number of reasons: the kitchen can reliably produce these dishes; the signature items carry the French Laundry reputation with them; and some of those dishes happen to be excellent. At the same time, that strategic decision was disappointing to me. It felt as though a large chunk of the menu I had tonight was duplicative or nearly duplicative of the menu I had in California something like 5 years ago. The repetitive aspect was exacerbated by a sense that the French Laundry sensibility, which already felt a bit long-in-the-tooth way back when, needs an injection of modernity in order to achieve a position of dominance against the competitive backdrop of New York.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first four courses we had. As in, I was blown away by them -- I did not expect to be getting food that good at this stage of the game. "Oysters and Pearls," perhaps the best known French Laundry signature, has been improved since I tried it in California. My problem with the dish then was that it was a double dose of slimy textures: the oysters and the tapioca pearls. But the sabayon quotient has been upped, giving the tapioca more of a creamy polenta-like texture. The balance of textures was right on, as was the use of salt. It's almost insulting to say main the ingredients themselves -- the oysters, the Iranian ossetra caviar -- were first rate. You can just assume that about every ingredient that went into tonight's dinner.

As Rich mentioned, you get a choice on course number two: "Degustation de Pomme de Terre" or foie gras torchon. The $20 supplement for foie gras seems tacky on a $150 menu. I'd much rather see the restaurant charge what it needs to charge to be able to offer this choice without the intrusion of this particular picayune economic decision. Ironically, the potatoes are the better dish, though both are outstanding. The potato dish consists of a Yukon gold potato puree, black truffles, and little chunks of new potatoes. I doubt the dish could ever be improved upon -- it's a beautiful expression of the ingredients. The foie gras is less interesting; it's just an excellent torchon with some frisee, and a bit of spiced fruit. (Also some brioche from Per Se's by-far-the-best-in-a-New-York-fine-dining-restaurant bakery -- all the bread products are amazing, as are the two varieties of butter from small producers in Vermont and California, and that's a good thing because the actual menu portions are so minuscule that the only way to develop a sense of satiety is to go heavy on the bread-and-dessert carbohydrates.)

Also spot-on was the black bass, a simple filet cooked just right, with a pickled shallot sauce. Simple but superb. The lobster "macaroni and cheese," in which the macaroni pinch-hitter is orzo and the cheese is mascarpone, contains Chef Keller's signature butter-poached lobster. My only concerns with the dish are that at this level of dining the crappy flap of meat at the end of the claw should be trimmed, and I found the dish overall difficult to extract from its little plate. (While we're on the subject of plates, Per Se has some of the nicest I've ever seen -- I was particularly charmed by the fish plate, with an eye-shaped depression in the middle. It would be nice, though, to see some stemware to rival the china, rather than the same old Spiegelau stuff we can all order on Amazon.com for five bucks a stem.)

The meal didn't sustain its momentum all the way through. The last couple of savory courses -- rabbit and lamb -- were underwhelming, in part from a conceptual standpoint and in part because the kitchen was obviously getting a bit stressed. I felt the cheese course was borderline embarrassing -- major improvement and rethinking are necessary there. The pastry kitchen, for its part, is certainly accomplished, but the decision to put a funky tasting lemongrass sorbet in the intermezzo spot was not a particularly wise one (it didn't cleanse my palate at all). Redemption came in the form of the primary dessert -- the "tentation" of chocolate -- and also an amazing petits fours selection including macarons of the highest order I've ever tasted.

Chef Keller and his extremely capable chef-on-the-scene, Jonathan Benno, deserve a hearty congratulations for coming so far so quickly and for bringing Per Se to New York. I'll check back in a few months to see how progress is coming along. In the meantime, my suggestion is as follows: for now, if Per Se represents a splurge for you, hold off on going. Openings are for rich people, and for those who can get rich people to pay for their meals. Work towards an April or May reservation -- the smart money is on the restaurant really kicking ass by then.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not exactly a review per se (sorry); just an early snapshot. And I really don't think Keller has a problem with constructive criticism -- most of the best chefs, the ones who are confident and secure, are eager for feedback other than "Oh, chef the meal was so great you are so wonderful." I doubt he's reading this anyway, and I'm sure I've said nothing he doesn't already know. I spoke briefly to Keller and more extensively to Benno at the restaurant. They seemed very much aware of the life cycle of a restaurant. Keller is not a resting-on-laurels type -- he wouldn't be in New York were that his modus operandi. He could have stayed in California and retired with the reputation as the best chef in America, and one of the top chefs in the world. Keller and Benno are not stupid or egomaniacal -- they know they have work to do. But they're also, I hope, justly proud of where they are right now. To open a restaurant and effectively become one of the top 2 places in New York in your first week of business is no small accomplishment.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Will be dining there next week. Would you recommend going with the 9 course, or sticking with the five considering your experience. I hope this wont be my last dining experience there, so I am not looking at this as a once in a lifetime thing. would you expect the 5 course to be larger portions?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ellen, from what I saw of the 5-course, it looked like a very strong contender. The portions were definitely larger, and they were also more elaborately plated and presented than the tasting menu items. I think it really depends on your own style and preferences. Probably 90% of eGullet types will want to go with the longer tasting so as to be able to try a greater number of items, but that doesn't make the other 10% wrong.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let me post the basic factual data here once more, so it's in the record:

LOCATION

Ten Columbus Circle

Time Warner Center Fourth Floor

New York, New York 10019

(212) 823 9335

CHEF/OWNER

Thomas Keller

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

Eric Lilavois

DEVELOPER

Ken Himmel, Related Urban Development

DESIGNER

Tihany Design, New York, NY

KITCHEN DESIGNER

Tim Harrison, Harrison/Koellner, San Francisco

CHEF DE CUISINE

Jonathan Benno

PASTRY CHEF

Sébastien Rouxel

WINE DIRECTOR

Paul Roberts

DIRECTOR OF PRIVATE DINING AND SPECIAL EVENTS

Célia Laurent

MENUS

$150 Chef's Tasting Menu

$125 Five course Prix Fixe Menu with choices

$135 Nine course Tasting of Vegetables

HOURS

Dinner: Sunday-Wednesday 5:30-10:00pm, Thursday-Saturday 5:30-10:30pm

Lunch: Friday, Saturday and Sunday 11:30-1:30

CAPACITY

64 seats in the dining room

PRIVATE DINING

WEST:

40 seat private dining room

20 seat private dining room

(combined up to 60 seats)

EAST:

Private dining room seats up to 10

ADDITIONAL

Visa, MasterCard and American Express accepted

Wheelchair access

Parking available

www.perseny.com

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My forgot the menu at home, so I won't be posting my thoughts on the food today - I promise that will come tomorrow.

I know Steve described each course to perfection, but I believe one or two courses were different the night I went. I didn't notice the two or three tables that were too close to the salon area, but I will defer to Steve on that. My table was in the rear, very near the 10/12-seat private dining room.

I didn't think the smoke from the fireplace was too strong - perhaps the wood used last night was slightly damp.

As far as the 40/60 seat dining room - that's directly behind the entrance and is not a particularly attractive room. We looked inside and right now it's being used as a storage room.

I totally agree with Steve about the china and wine glasses. I even commented to my wife about the very ordinary stemware. The chinaware was quite attractive as was the silverware.

The secondary wait staff was fine on my table, but that's just a hit or miss proposition.

As far as making a reservation, here's how it goes. You must call at 10am two months to the day you wish to dine. Call at 10am sharp, use two phones and keep dialing. The phone staff is very courteous and will assist you on times available.

You may also ask to be placed on a "wait list" for a night that's already booked. This does work, that's how I was able to get a table 2/17. If you opt for the wait list, make sure you leave them a few numbers so you can be reached "live." They WILL NOT leave a message on an answering machine.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Our waiter did say, as part of his opening speech, that the chef's tasting menu changes daily. When I asked him how much it changes, he indicated that at this point they were tinkering a bit from day to day. So it's certainly possible a couple of courses were different the day before, and surely it will evolve over time. But it's not like they're going to have a lot of repeat business in the next couple of months so I imagine the basic outline of the menu is set for awhile.

There's a table each to the immediate left and right of the entryway from the bar area (the north end of the dining room). From where I was sitting on the upper deck, these tables looked undesirable, because the flow of foot traffic going by them was heavy and the people milling about near the bar were so close to the people sitting at those tables. One guy with a particularly loud voice at the table to the left of the entryway complained to his tablemates about it on several occasions. On the upper deck, the two-top closest to the north end of the room also has a foot traffic problem, from the food runners bringing out food. I felt almost as though every plate was being shown to that table for inspection on its way out from the kitchen. Meanwhile there is a ton of space uselessly devoted to a bar area for a 64-person restaurant. This seems like an odd planning decision. I can't imagine they're looking to make the bar a major component of the operation. I may be wrong, but I'd think the last thing Per Se wants is to become a place where people meet for drinks when they don't have reservations. So why make half the restaurant into a bar?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Meanwhile there is a ton of space uselessly devoted to a bar area for a 64-person restaurant. This seems like an odd planning decision. I can't imagine they're looking to make the bar a major component of the operation. I may be wrong, but I'd think the last thing Per Se wants is to become a place where people meet for drinks when they don't have reservations. So why make half the restaurant into a bar?

You're correct Steve. The bar or "salon" as I was told, is quite large for the restaurant. Maybe the idea is to make people as comfortable as possible while waiting for a "later reservation" table.

But, there could have been another four tables added with ease.

The foot traffic comment is interesting, we hardly noticed any from our table at the south end, lower tier. I'm still trying to determine if the top tier is more desirable than the lower. I did notice the lower tier was almost full before they began seating people on top.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know why, but I was surprised to even see a bar at The French Laundry, even if it is only four seats and basically serves as the lobby.

This sounds like a more comfortable set-up for waiting for a table than that room at TFL. Although they would seem to have their act together enough that you shouldn't ever have an exceedingly long wait for a table.

Bill Russell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm still trying to determine if the top tier is more desirable than the lower. I did notice the lower tier was almost full before they began seating people on top.

It seems to me that it's just like the theater: you want the front row of either the lower or upper tier. The row of tables closer to the window on the lower tier has the best view and doesn't have a bunch of other tables directly looking down on it. On the upper tier, the view is of course better from the tables closer to the window. I suppose if you want privacy, the best place to be is upper tier south end. Either way, the tables on the south end strike me as preferable to the north, because of their distance from that entrance. Then again, my own table preferences aren't always the same as majority preferences.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just thinking Steve, did you notice how many tables would be for "twos?" It seemed to me that four would be suitable. Certainly, the only table that can only seat two would be the banquet style table - upper tier, lower portion, extreme south end.

Our table was lower tier, back, extreme south end and could have easily fit two more.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think upper tier, back row, north end is also only workable as a two-top. I also don't know what mechanisms, if any, they have to make tables larger or smaller.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Last night, I was in the neighborhood and decided to take a peak at Per Se.

Honestly, I find the whole structure to be so out of place. It seems like a fancy suburban mall. Granted the view from any of the restaurants there is spectacular, its still strange to me.

Anyways, there was no security guarding the door and we walked right through the glass sliding doors. We were promptly and warmly greeted by a hostess. I told her that I was interested in looking at the space and she couldnt have been nicer. She showed me the small lounge area designated for the waiting diners. Then one of the managers showed me into the opening of the dining room

I couldnt believe how small the space was. It was beautiful of course, and the view was exceptional.

My friend knows the sous chef there, so we plan on going sometime in late APril, that way I can save lots of money in the meantime! Hopefully we ll have some more posts on here about the menu so i can get more of a feel for it!

lauren

Oh, btw. we also went to see Asiate and the space there was gorgeous too, an even better view since its on the 35th floor. There was a guard guarding the doors to the Stone Rose bar,,,,,,,,

"Is there anything here that wasn't brutally slaughtered" Lisa Simpson at a BBQ

"I think that the veal might have died from lonliness"

Homer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Honestly, I find the whole structure to be so out of place. It seems like a fancy suburban mall. Granted the view from any of the restaurants there is spectacular, its still strange to me.

I totally don't get a suburban vibe from the place -- it feels completely urban to me. It reminds me of an ultra-modern indoor commercial complex in an Asian city like Singapore. Everything feels state-of-the-art, and the vertical orientation and views of Central Park and Columbus Circle make the minimalist composition a wise choice. In some cities, like Singapore and Los Angeles, when they build these commercial complexes they need to create a heavily produced look and feel because they're in the middle of nowhere. They could have junked the Time Warner Center up with self-consciously New-Yorkish crap, or made it into a bullshit village with trolleys or whatever, but they decided to let the city speak for itself: the people, the location, the views -- it all adds up to something that strikes me as a logical modern addition to our city. I'm very glad to have the whole center here, and especially the restaurants.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Honestly, I find the whole structure to be so out of place. It seems like a fancy suburban mall. Granted the view from any of the restaurants there is spectacular, its still strange to me.

I totally don't get a suburban vibe from the place -- it feels completely urban to me. It reminds me of an ultra-modern indoor commercial complex in an Asian city like Singapore. Everything feels state-of-the-art, and the vertical orientation and views of Central Park and Columbus Circle make the minimalist composition a wise choice. In some cities, like Singapore and Los Angeles, when they build these commercial complexes they need to create a heavily produced look and feel because they're in the middle of nowhere. They could have junked the Time Warner Center up with self-consciously New-Yorkish crap, or made it into a bullshit village with trolleys or whatever, but they decided to let the city speak for itself: the people, the location, the views -- it all adds up to something that strikes me as a logical modern addition to our city. I'm very glad to have the whole center here, and especially the restaurants.

The buildings itself are very modern and urban, so I shouldnt have used the word structure, but inside, its no different than a fancy suburban mall. Huge stores, none that are very unique , i mean, they have a borders there, come one, isnt there a barnes and nobles a few blocks north at lincoln center? The whole foods stores is completely packed and so riduculously big. No, its not the manhattan mall at 34th street, but still, it doesnt do anything for me.

I dont like uptown anyways, all of it is way too commerical for my taste. Its all very corporate and void of small and unique stores like parts of downtown.

"Is there anything here that wasn't brutally slaughtered" Lisa Simpson at a BBQ

"I think that the veal might have died from lonliness"

Homer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In order to avoid an inane downtown-versus-uptown debate, I'll just say I disagree with everything you've said and leave it at that.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In order to avoid an inane downtown-versus-uptown debate, I'll just say I disagree with everything you've said and leave it at that.

I in no way whatsoever was starting an uptown vs dowtown debate.I only said one thing about downtown in my previous post.

I don't think the space is anything special (yes the buildings are interesting) aside from some of the views from the top floors. I just dont understand what is so intriguing or different about the stores that they chose to fill the TW center. So, with that said, its a bit snotty for you to just write off my post with a haughty," I ll just say that i disagree with everything you just said." Please, I thought people were allowed to discuss likes and dislikes on this board.

"Is there anything here that wasn't brutally slaughtered" Lisa Simpson at a BBQ

"I think that the veal might have died from lonliness"

Homer

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...