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Per Se


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And his venue is without peer -- Daniel Boulud for all his talent just can't provide, in a 300+ covers situation, the kind of meal that Per Se provides to every customer.

Yes, but do these restaurants really make money? If Per Se can make money with its current price structure, than ADNY is overpriced. I suspect that Per Se has an incredibly inexpensive lease and is still operating at a significant loss. I know I am going to try and visit again before either the prices change or the restaurant closes.

Now, if the real price is going to be $200-250 for dinner, the Keller is being very savvy by opening at a bargain price and waiting to raise prices after the restaurant has garnered positive reviews and word of mouth.

Would I pay $200 for the 5-course dinner? Not unless it was significantly better than what is currently being offered.

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French Laundry is tremendously profitable at a similar price point, with no liquor or banquet business to support its costs. Assuming those additional income streams cover the increased cost of doing business in New York, Per Se can make money at it current prices with modest increases for inflation. But I don't think it makes sense, at this level of the industry, to collapese every discussion of value into a discussion of profitability. To me as the consumer, the test of value isn't whether a restaurant is profitable. It's what I get for what I pay. And that has to be measured on a curve of rapidly diminishing returns. The extra 25% you pay at ADNY isn't supposed to get you 25% more or 25% better food. It's supposed to get you a slight marginal improvement -- and I think it does get you that and therefore justifies its price as a luxury purchase. Whether that's worth it to you is more a question of how much money you have and how much you value the best over the already-excellent.

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)

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An interesting comparison of value would be an evening like I had at Per Se and a similar evening down the hall at Masa. Culinarily they might be apples and oranges, but I am looking to compare value to the overall experience. Someday, perhaps, I might be able to make that comparison and judgement, but unfortunately not today. :sad:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I had dinner at Per Se last Thursday. At some point, I may have time to write up a slightly more comprehensive report, but here are some high level impressions.

The food is very good. It is executed consistently and well, and we had no dishes that we did not enjoy. By contrast, at most places--even fine restaurants of considerable renown--I would not be surprised to find at least two or three dishes out of nine that I was either indifferent to or actually disliked in some way. As others have indicated, the kitchen is currently turning out fairly conservative dishes, and there was nothing that came close to being truly exceptional, but I found the overall progression of the meal to be more consistent than in my experiences at the French Laundry. At Per Se, the meat courses were at least as good as the earlier dishes. In fact, the beef we had as our last savory course was arguably the standout dish of the night. Having said that, the cheese course was competent if uninspired, and dessert was probably not at the same level as the rest of the meal.

Service, while very pleasant, had its kinks. Beause only two of us were drinking, we agreed with the Sommelier that we would enjoy a wine pairing. However, the sommelier did not approach our table until literally moments before our first real course was arriving at the table, so it was too late to get wine to the table in time for that course. Later, with the lobster course, no paired wine was presented, although our glasses were topped up with the wine we had been drinking with the previous course. Was the same wine supposed to go with the lobster? (I'm assuming no, because they didn't match particularly well.) Several times, runners made it halfway to our table with the next course before realizing that we still had food in front of us, and turning back. Although we spent nearly four hours at the restaurant, the first few courses came out too quickly for my taste; I felt like we were being rushed, although with a 7:30 seating, I can't imagine that they planned to turn our table over.

Despite the minor flaws, the service was generally gracious and well-informed, and several problems were resolved so smoothly I did not even notice them. (For example, my girlfriend's knife slipped down into one of her bowls. Apparently, within a few seconds, someone had replaced the knife for her. I say apparently, because I didn't notice this exchange at all--she had to tell me about it after the meal.)

I would agree with the general consensus here that Per Se is a very good restaurant and, despite the expense, offers terrific value for money. I'm anxious to go back, and Per Se is likely to win a lot of my dining dollars in the months and years ahead.

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For my dinner the wines came out to $115pp not including T&T since only three of us were drinking. This included 2 full bottles of wine - Brewer-Clifton Mt. Carmel Santa Rita Chardonnay '02 $51.49 from WineAcess.com and Cigliuti '99 Barbaresco (2000 vintage available at $51.99 via wineaccess.com). Five other wines were served by the glass (with refills) including Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve NV $68.73 in magnum, 2003 Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina White ($16.99/bottle at WA), Hiedler Gruner Veltliner 2002, although I'm not sure which bottling ($13-38 at WA depending on bottling), 2002 Scheurebe Spatlese Gleisweiler Holle (can't find a price) and Clos des Paulilles Banyuls 1999 $20/500ml bottle at is-wine.com .

The wines were all good and well-paired. As one can see they weren't the most valuable wines, although the way most restaurants mark-up the cost of wine $115pp really wasn't bad for the amount of these wines we drank, the glassware and the service. I believe Per Se has a $75/bottle corkage fee in place for brought wines. I had a good look at their wine list, which I thought very interesting and reasonably priced.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The food sounds fab, although I have to say, it troubles me that the dessert portion of the menu has almost been universally declared as a bit underwhelming.

That's troublesome.

The pix of them sure looked nice.

If anyone who has dined there has the time, maybe you could elaborate?

I would greatly appreciate hearing your thoughts.

2317/5000

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The pastry kitchen at Per Se is very accomplished. If you serve desserts at that level in Northern California, you're probably serving the best desserts for 2,000 miles in any direction. But if you serve them in the Time Warner Center they may not be the best desserts on the block (you can look out your window and see Jean Georges and ADNY looming out there) or even in the building (what with Chris Broberg gearing up downstairs at Cafe Gray). The pastry standard in New York is high and, at the haute cuisine level, the talent pool is deep.

I sampled three dessert items plus an array of candies, cookies, and such at dinner, and also had the opportunity to taste through about a dozen specimens at a pre-opening event. Some of them were excellent -- on technical skills, such as macaroon-making, the pastry kitchen is first rate. Some were pretty good but tended towards the one-dimensional and cloying -- such as the doughnuts. A lemongrass sorbet was ill-conceived both in itself and as far as its placement in the meal. To the extent the pastry kitchen may be responsible for the cheese course (I wouldn't know for sure), it's sub-par.

My experience of the arc of the meal at Per Se matched my French Laundry experience: I think it's downhill from an early peak. And I don't mean to say it descends into bad. I just mean that those first few tastes are dynamite and nothing matches them. I find meat dishes in the three-bite format particularly unsatisfying -- for the most part I prefer to be able to eat from a larger cut of meat, not because I'm hungry but because of the way flavors develop in meat cookery. So for me the decline begins after the fish.

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)

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I wouldn't expect culinary equivalent of "fireworks", but the food is very good, and worthy of four stars from the NY Times. Sure I have had better food (to my tastes) at ADNY, Daniel, Le Bec-Fin etc., but Per Se was very good.

If Mr. Bruni has the same reaction, then Per Se won't get four stars. "Very good" translates to two stars; three is excellent, and four is extraordinary.

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A few more comments.

Our wine pairing was $75 per person (for small pours, which we requested), and did not include dessert wine or champagne (which we bought separately at the start of the meal). Unfortunately, I didn't take notes on the particulary wines poured, but they all seemed of reasonable quality and Brunello they poured (from a decanter) with the beef was very good. They may price the wine pairing fairly dynamically--I'm not sure. There were no prices for a wine pairing listed on the menu.

Fat Guy: At the French Laundry, my feelings about the arc of the menu is consistent with yours, although I was perhaps a little less let down than you seem to be. At Per Se, on the other hand, I felt that the meal was much more even. Both the pork belly and beef we were served had good intensity of flavor, and the beef was one of the standout dishes of the evening.

Finally, with regards to dessert: our dessert was considered to be very tasty by the entire table. However, I found it to be a bit one-dimensional and not quite as accomplished as other elements of the meal. As Fat Guy points out, though, at most places the dessert would probably be considered a highlight. At Per Se, it just lacks some sparkle that the rest of the meal seems to possess.

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I find meat dishes in the three-bite format particularly unsatisfying.

Isn't this the essence of the "tasting menu" concept? At the end of the meal, you'll have had as much (or more) food as in a typical three-course meal, but any given course won't be full-size. The tasting menu at Per Se is nine courses. Unless you have a wooden leg, those courses have to be a lot smaller, or your tank will be full long before dessert.

I do agree with FG that after three bites of a great steak, I feel like I'm just getting started. With due respect to Keller, the best dishes don't wear out their welcome after three bites - they keep you wanting more. But that's the inevitable trade-off of a tasting menu, particularly one with nine courses.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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I'm not speaking of satiety. I'm saying that often meat dishes are aesthetically unsatisfying when presented in minute quantities because so much of the enjoyment of meat comes from the development of flavor throughout the cross-section of a larger piece. I'm not saying one needs an entire steak or roast, but my French Laundry and Per Se experiences have involved dishes that were built around a couple of very thin slices of meat -- maybe an ounce or two for the entire portion -- sitting in a bowl with a sauce and a garnish. With most fish dishes like the oysters and pearls, this works fine: the only difference between the dish as served at Per Se and a larger portion would be the size of the portion. With lamb, beef, etc., however, I feel as though there's a dish beyond the dish, a flavor and texture experience beyond the one in the bowl, an unrealized crescendo of the savory part of the meal, that would be present in a more substantial presentation. A matter of personal taste or hidebound tradition, perhaps, but it's how I have experienced Keller's cuisine to date.

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)

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Can one order a la carte at Per Se? And if so, what are the portion sizes?

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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Can one order a la carte at Per Se?

I don't think so, because the prices are all based on multi-course menus. Then again, I didn't expect you could get more than one type of menu either until I read this thread....

Does anyone know if the wine list is available for review in advance (by email, fax or mail)? I'm still a novice at my wine selection and I'd like the opportunity to peek at it a few days ahead if I can.

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In addition to the degustation (10 courses) at $150, there is a prix-fixe menu (5 courses) with choices for each course at $125.

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)

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I've never eaten the 5-course menu (as you can see from reading this thread, 9/10 foodie types order the tasting menus at Keller's restaurants), but a table near us had the 5-course and the portions did indeed look like they were roughly double the size of the tasting menu portions. They were also somewhat more elaborately plated.

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)

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I am just getting caught up on the thread after our little trip to New York which included dinner at Per Se on Sunday evening.

The room itself was spectacular - a modernist contrast, but still warm counterpoint to the French Laundry. We were seated in the second row of seats so our view was the Columbus statue and the treetops of Central Park - no construction in sight. If not for the buildings on the East side of the park, you wouldn't have known you were in the city at all.

We ordered one each of the Vegetable and the regular Chef's tasting and switched plates midway during each course. This was a nice way to be able to sample twice as many dishes. The Vegetable tasting menu had several highlights although I might not have been completely happy if I hadn't had some meat and fish mixed in. I don't have our menu with me, but I will go through it once I do since I haven't seen anyone discuss that menu yet.

I was surprised to hear any problems with the wine service - ours was just right. We did the pairing which was $75 per person with each of us having a different - with only one course were we served the same wine and there was one other in common. My wife prefers whites (and on the sweeter, milder side) and the sommelier was very accommodating. She enjoyed several of the so much that we asked if he could jot down the ones she liked. He returned with a typed list of each of the wines each of us had. Like the handwritten menu above - a very nice touch, above and beyond what would be expected. He also said he remembered us from our visit to the French Laundry last November (maybe a fib, but it was a nice touch as well).

Service-wise, I was surprised that we probably had at least 15 different staff members serve us in one capacity or another from the time we walked in until the time we left.

I enjoyed the desserts, which seems to be the exception. A quenelle of Milk Chocolate mousse (If something that creamy can be called a mousse) that came with the Chef's menu was a highpoint to end on.

Another interesting thing was that at French Laundry I thought the bread course was rather perfunctory - you need some bread so here it is. At Per Se, I think they put more emphasis on it, bring the basket around several times. And about three times during dinner they circulated with trays of the best Parker House rolls I have ever seen. About 1/4 the size of a standard roll, I'm not sure which was more buttery, the rolls or the butter itself. I realized though that the emphasis of the bread course both at Per Se and French Laundry appears to be the artisan butters that are served with the bread rather than the breads themselves.

Anyway - I'll post some on the Veg menu when I dig it out of the luggage.

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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The room itself was spectacular - a modernist contrast, but still warm counterpoint to the French Laundry. We were seated in the second row of seats so our view was the Columbus statue and the treetops of Central Park - no construction in sight. If not for the buildings on the East side of the park, you wouldn't have known you were in the city at all.

We sat near the window when we dined at Per Se last week. From where were seated we looked out onto the construction in the Circle, and the park and buildings beyond. At least until construction of the Circle is completed, the better views are probably from the elevated, interior part of the dining room. In that case, the tables on the upper level may be prefereable to the tables on the lower level.

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I was surprised to hear any problems with the wine service - ours was just right. We did the pairing which was $75 per person with each of us having a different - with only one course were we served the same wine and there was one other in common. My wife prefers whites (and on the sweeter, milder side) and the sommelier was very accommodating. She enjoyed several of the so much that we asked if he could jot down the ones she liked. He returned with a typed list of each of the wines each of us had. Like the handwritten menu above - a very nice touch, above and beyond what would be expected. He also said he remembered us from our visit to the French Laundry last November (maybe a fib, but it was a nice touch as well).

Peter, our superb captain, told us that Per Se endeavors to serve wines that can be purchased in retail stores. In that way, guests can buy more of the stuff they enjoyed in the restaurant. In fact, he told us that some of the wines that we were drinking were available in the wine shop connected to the Whole Foods in the TWC.

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In fact, he told us that some of the wines that we were drinking were available in the wine shop connected to the Whole Foods in the TWC.

I was pretty impressed with the Whole Foods (unlike the rest of the center which ranged from average to strange).

Bill Russell

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rouxel was pastry chef responsible for guy martin's grand vefour for the three years culminating in third star michelin.

he is a superior pastry chef, responsible for maintaining both properties, including design of the current pastry kitchen which must be one of the most elaborate pastry kitchens in the country in a free standing restaurant.

last spring he had engaged a sous chef for per se, who is a very talented chocolate and sugar specialist, but i am not sure if that gentleman is still there. he was awarded junior pastry cup championship, or something like that within the last twelve months.

although i am somewhat biased, being a pastry chef as well, i am glad to see the focus reach rouxel, as his skill is really extraordinary.

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