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Per Se


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Yes, I saw. A bit surprising, as the staff at per se told us on Sunday afternoon that the Times review was running today (Wednesday). This, of course, begs the question of how they would know this (although someone mentioned something about a photo request from the Times) and how they would know that Bruni had been on 5 separate occasions (and to the French Laundry once). Makes you wonder how much anonymity an important critic can have at a place so small and so difficult to get into.

For some reason, this strikes me as a September type of review — something you publish after upper-class New York gets back from their summers in the Hamptons or at the Shore. Yes, I'm sure the photo request was the reason why the restaurant knew the review was forthcoming..

Fat Guy has said — and I'm sure he's correct — that all of the high-end places will recognize Frank Bruni at sight. Even if they somehow missed him the first time, anybody who visits five times within a few months is going to attract attention, no matter who he is.

On the other hand, I suspect that many of the one-places Bruni visits (like this week's subject, Gavroche) do not immediately recognize him.

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Per Se has an absolutely anemic website. It brings up a page with links to Thomas Keller's four restaurants (FL, Per Se, Bouchon, and Bouchon Las Vegas), plus "The Store," where you can order his cookbook.

Click on any of the other three, and there are further links for the menu, wine list, bios of key personnel, press clippings, and so forth. But click on Per Se, and you jsut get a single overview text page. It's a little odd that the "perseny" site has the least information on the restaurant it's named for.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Per Se has an absolutely anemic website. It brings up a page with links to Thomas Keller's four restaurants (FL, Per Se, Bouchon, and Bouchon Las Vegas), plus "The Store," where you can order his cookbook.

Click on any of the other three, and there are further links for the menu, wine list, bios of key personnel, press clippings, and so forth. But click on Per Se, and you jsut get a single overview text page. It's a little odd that the "perseny" site has the least information on the restaurant it's named for.

Thats not really the Per Se website per se (sorry) typing in www.frenchlaundry.com takes you to the exact same place.

I'm suprised that they haven't updated the Per Se section of the website though. It's been like that for ages.

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The Per Se website I saw in June before our first visit had the current menu posted along with a few other pages about the restaurant. Before our second visit earlier this month the website was down to the one page. When speaking with the staff they said it was being revised.

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Bob Lape awards four stars to Per Se in this week's Crain's New York Business:

It must be said of Thomas Keller's food that it is extremely tasty, original, light and often quite beautiful. Actually, I wrote exactly that about Mr. Keller's cuisine in 1986, when he was executive chef of Restaurant Raphael. He earned three and a half stars.

A year earlier, Mr. Keller's star was rising rapidly at La Reserve. I prepared a glowing review for this publication, only to learn just before it was to run that he had suddenly been dumped.

The California-born Mr. Keller opened Rakel downtown in 1987. It failed, and the Taillevent-trained chef went home to make his fame and fortune at The French Laundry in Napa.

Today, he is widely regarded as the foremost American who is cooking creative French cuisine. He now returns to a town where he has something to prove, and he's doing it with great flair at Per Se, his stately restaurant in the Time Warner Center.

... ... ... ... ...

In sum, Per Se is awesome, unique and Thomas Keller-triumphant.

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It's nice to see that sort of historical context in a restaurant review. While I don't always agree with Lape's conclusions, I think he's the most grounded of today's reviewers in that regard: he has a strong sense of the past, present, and future of fine dining.

I wonder, though, if I'd concur with "creative French cuisine" as a description of what Per Se and French Laundry are serving. Perhaps the boundaries of creative cuisines are so difficult to define these days that it's silly to argue for distinctions, but I have to think that while Keller's cuisine certainly shows French influences it could not be found in France. It's no more French to me than the cuisine at Charlie Trotter's. It seems significantly less French than Bouley. That there are French and global influences is a given. But I'd be more inclined to call Keller's cuisine American.

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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Maybe someone can clarify more than butter for me. I understood that Keller did this 2 x 2 thing for friends and regulars at the French Laundry. When I had lunch at Per Se in late May, the six of us had a variation of each dish for, I believe, $150. a head, though I would have to check this with my generous host who never said otherwise. So is this substitutions surcharge and supplement for 2 x 2 something very recent? If so, someone should hit Keller over the head with a 4 x 4.

But why would anyone want such a meal? It's bad enough eating nine little courses, let alone 18. I see that as a lose-lose proposition. If something is really memorable (and I had three dishes there that I thought were), you don't get enough to really get into it. If you get something that is not, in and of itself, emblematic of the chef's reputation, you have been made to have it against your will. Of course one can argue that you do get a forgettable dish in a tiny portion, but other than Ferran Adria, I have yet to encounter a chef who delivers near-continuous engagement beyond three or four courses. But on any day of the week, I'll take a highly-touted signature dish of a chef in savorable and full portion. I'm waiting for Keller to come to his senses and serve his very best dishes in full portions. I would then be, I am sure, a really happy diner. What are the chances of his opening another restaurant in New York where he could do just that? I bet he would make some serious money.

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If I've counted accurately, the Post's review today is the third professional review in the New York media. Crain's gave Per Se four stars. New York Magazine doesn't do stars, but the review there was certainly enthusiastic.

Cuozzo is often the contrarian—he seems to delight in that role—and he seems to have done it again here. Fat Guy referred to "the gushing consumer baseline," but it must be remembered that an awful lot of people are doing the gushing, including many savvy diners who are not easily swayed.

Cuozzo doesn't like the décor, and that complaint is essentially uncorrectable. His complaint about the dress code could certainly be corrected, but I'm not exactly sure what he is arguing for, or why it makes a star's worth of difference.

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Maybe someone can clarify more than butter for me. I understood that Keller did this 2 x 2 thing for friends and regulars at the French Laundry.

From the accounts that have been posted, it now seems that anybody can have a 2x2 for the asking. Whether that's a good way to experience your dinner is another matter. Reasonable minds can differ—and they have!

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It will be interesting to see what Bruni does. If Bruni gives Per Se 3 stars -- which I think to be highly unlikely -- it will likely be written off by Keller's California fan group as an anti-California cuisine and chef bias. There aren't any reactions from the west coast media to Cuozzo's review yet, but I bet you dollars to doughnuts the less than perfect review is going to be (incorrectly) blamed on some percieved New Yorker and east coast hatred of California food values, success, etc.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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it seems to me that Cuozzo is giving Per Se three stars because he is comparing it to what he feels Per Se ought to be as Thomas Keller's NY Restaurant rather than comparing to what other restaurants are and especially what other three and four star restaurants are. I am not familiar with Cuozzo's ouvre as I don't generally look to th NY Post for dining recs, so I can't really address how consistent he is with how he awards stars. His biggest complaint, about the ambiance and decor, was opposite to my own reaction. i thought the space was understated elegance with plenty of space to revel in our privacy. Whether or not Keller is there is irrelevant so long as the experience is exceptional. Mine was.

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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It will be interesting to see what Bruni does. If Bruni gives Per Se 3 stars -- which I think to be highly unlikely -- it will likely be written off by Keller's California fan group as an anti-California cuisine and chef bias.

I thought Fat Guy had the best comment (on another thread). At this point, the public has rendered its judgment: Per Se is four stars. If Bruni awards four, he'll just be confirming what we already know. If he awards three, whatever vestige of credibility the Times food section had left will be seriously compromised.

Little noticed in the Cuozzo review is a companion piece, Per Se, Can You Get a Seat?

Despite a months-long waiting list, you may well score a table within a week — if you have the patience to stay on the phone for up to a half-hour and you're willing to eat at odd times.

When the reservationists eventually pick up, the trick is to wait them out. Don't get off the phone until they come up with a short-term availability.

... ... ... ...

This happened to me three times. Each time, after stating that nothing was available in my foreseeable lifetime, the reservationist eventually discovered there was indeed such an opening — though the result was a number of meals at noon and 10 p.m.

He says that they have a waiting list, but you're not likely to get lucky: he tried it five times, and never got a table that way. In the same article, he says that he thinks both the food and the service are better at lunch than at dinner.

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I still don't understand. Here's a guy who reported that he paid a lot of extra money for a 2 x 2. Something doesn't sound right, and if it isn't, what does it mean? As for all this talk about the reviews and the forthcoming review, what difference does it make what a bunch of people who are nothing more or less than journalists say about Per Se. If you want to spend the money, you go and find our for yourself. No one is going to review whatever meal they give you or choose your dining partners. Keller may or may not be in the kitchen and that may or may not influence the outcome of your meal. The reviewer isn't going to chose your wines, especially if you're paying out of your own pocket. Just go there and let us know what you think. At least we'll know that there were no editors and publishers looking over your shoulder.

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When is the effin' Times going to run the review? What the eff are they waiting for?

Readership is down in the summer, because lots of people are on holidays. For a review of that importance, I think they're deliberately holding it till after Labor Day. I think you'll see it next Wednesday.

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Was @ Per Se today getting the royal tour and saw rows and gleaming, excited staff getting ready to be photographed by the NY Times this afternoon. Rumour has it that it wont be just a review but also a whole feature highlighting their attention to detail...

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My spouse and I enjoyed an otherworldy lunch at Per Se this Labor Day weekend to celebrate our wedding annniversary. Thomas Keller is the acknowledged master and visionary of this stunning restaurant, but Mr. Keller has found the perfect alter ego in Jonathan Benno. Chef Benno brought commitment and pride to every dish that was served (the Chef's Tasting Menu presented many of the French Laundry classics as well as novel substitutions like Roasted Quail with glazed apricots and English Cucumber Sorbet that expressed the very essence of a cucumber). The expert service staff were Benno's eyes and ears and seemed to relay information to him throughout the meal, as if he were actually interested in what we thought (e.g., we felt the nova scotia lobster "cuit sous vide" was tasty but a little stringy- to which he answered with a white truffle oil-infused custard with black truffle ragout and chive potato chip). This chef demands attention and praise, and he certainly got it from us. At the end of the day, I was proud to be an American eating at a truly American restaurant like Per Se.

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Getxo,

Welcome to eGullet!

English Cucumbur Sorbet - How is that even possible? I think some incredible things are being done lately with ice creams and sorbets. last week I had the opportunity to taste some incredible experiments with ice cream and sorbet at The Inn at Erlowest in Lake George, New York. I tried some of Chef matthew Secich's experiments with coriander, lobster, truffles, fois gras and even kim chi (actually the most amazing of the bunch) ice creams. They were exceptional and continue to blur the line between sweet and savory in much the same way that Keller, Benno and others are doing. Somehow, they are discovering the essence of specific ingredients in a creamy, frozen dish. I stand in awe.

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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Getxo,

Welcome to eGullet!

English Cucumbur Sorbet - How is that even possible? I think some incredible things are being done lately with ice creams and sorbets. last week I had the opportunity to taste some incredible experiments with ice cream and sorbet at The Inn at Erlowest in Lake George, New York. I tried some of Chef matthew Secich's experiments with coriander, lobster, truffles, fois gras and even kim chi (actually the most amazing of the bunch) ice creams. They were exceptional and continue to blur the line between sweet and savory in much the same way that Keller, Benno and others are doing. Somehow, they are discovering the essence of specific ingredients in a creamy, frozen dish. I stand in awe.

John,

There is a handy little machine called a PacoJet which can turn ANYTHING into ice cream or sorbet. Blessing or curse?

Mark

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John,

There is a handy little machine called a PacoJet which can turn ANYTHING into ice cream or sorbet. Blessing or curse?

Mark,

Indeed that is what they used. So far a blessing, although like anything else, I imagine it could become a curse. I still find the purity of flavor amazing, though.

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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John,

There is a handy little machine called a PacoJet which can turn ANYTHING into ice cream or sorbet. Blessing or curse?

Thank you, Mark, for the welcome.

I was stunned by this feat and was more than a little skeptical at first since I don't particularly care for cucumbers. As it turned out, the cucumber sorbet turned out to be the perfect follow-up to the previous Chaource cheese course with poached santa rosa plums and tellicherry black pepper shortbread). Chef Benno has perfect pitch when it comes to the palate.

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[Ducks head, reenters room...]

If I may be so bold as to reenter this conversation as the bloke who posted pictures of his Per Se meal a few months back and compared that meal to death, I'd like to tell you about the meal I had across the street Saturday night at Jean-Georges. This fine dining business is quite new to me and one should keep a salt shaker and a pair of tweezers handy when reading anything I write on here as what I say is pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. With that said, our meal at Jean-Georges was phenomenal. Many of the elements of the Jean-Georges tasting menu were similar to the Per Se tasting menu--Keller offered "Oysters and Pearls," Jean-Georges offered "Egg Caviar" (served in an egg shell); Keller offered Halibut cooked "a la plancha," Jean-Georges offered Turbot in a Chateau Chalon Sauce; Keller offered sweet butter poached lobster, Jean-Georges offered lobster tartine, lemongrass and fenugreek broth; finally, Keller offered quail, and Jean-Georges offered squab. I can say with confidence that in the flavor department the Jean-Georges meal soared about the Keller meal. My parents, who are not foodies and simply like the "special occassion" aspect of fine dining, raved over Jean-George's sauces and flavors and textures. I've never seen my father (a meat and potatoes man) dive into French food so greedily. The Jean-Georges flavors were exciting: there were Asian touches and surprising combinations and fragrant presentations that made that meal one of the best I've ever eaten. Jean-Georges was my first official four-star dining experience (Per Se was the first unofficial). Maybe it took eating at Per Se to appreciate Jean-Georges, in which case none of this means anything. But for my money, I'd dart across the street from Time Warner with Amanda Hesser (fleeing Asiate) and Frank Bruni (fleeing V Steakhouse) to Jean-Georges for a terrific four-star experience.

[bows head; shuffles off.]

The Amateur Gourmet

www.amateurgourmet.com

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Hey folks - longtime egullet lurker, first time poster here ... nice to meet you ...

Had dinner at per se last night - our third time there ... a very mixed experience ...

Food itself was the best yet - we did the 9 course tasting menu, and there were a few home runs - general consensus was that the best courses were the oysters and pearls, and the two fish courses - a sauteed pacific sablefish (we call it black cod where I come from, but I suppose nobody would ever pay top dollar for anything called cod) served with roasted endive, beets and a granny smith gastrique; and the macaroni and cheese, which is the mascarpone orzo with lobster broth and a butter poached lobster tail. All three of these were absolutely transcendent dishes. In between the oysters and the sablefish, two folks had an heirloom tomato tart with vidalia marmalade - the tart was great but very, very small - even by Per Se standards - equivalent to not much more than a single cherry tomato. The other two in our party had the peach melba foie - very, very nice.

Meats were a rabbit dish (sirloin, "rack," and kidney, served with hen of the woods mushrooms and bacon) and a lamb roast with cauliflower, cucumber, mint and sultanas. The lamb is the only dish that was a bit of a letdown. The texture was denser than I like - more like game than lamb, which isn't what I was looking for. The flavor of the lamb dish also seemed to be lacking the balance and complexity of every other dish on the menu. Lamb was the weak link on our last visit too. Cheese course was a raschera served with microdice of melon, sorrel leaves and an incredibly delicate olive oil. White grapefruit sorbet was lovely, and followed by a temptation of chocolate and hazelnut - the high point of which was a condensed milk sorbet. I deviated from the chef's menu at desert to have a "Tour au chocolat" from the 7 course menu - a really interesting dessert presentation that was variations on the flavours of chocolate, peanut (served as a soup), sweet corn (ice cream and candied corn nuts), and beer (a "dunkel" genoise and a wheat beer "nuage") - I know the idea of the beer component sounds wild, but it really worked.

As great as the food was, however, the service was downright terrible. We had a senior waiter who had made the move from Napa, but his style was like nails on a chalk board to all of us. Incredibly pushy - asking us every three minutes if we were ready to order, from the moment we got our menus; intrusive - if we were discussing food or wine any time he was within earshot, he took it as an invitation for him to join our conversation, when we all just wanted him to leave us alone so the four of us could have a nice evening ... he overheard us talking about the piece Gourmet ran a couple of months ago on Riedel and dashed over to give us a 5 minute lecture on the advantages and disadvantages of various stemware lines; condescending - despite the fact that two of us in our party were return guests and all of us very experienced in high end dining, he insisted on speaking to us all as though he were teaching a third grade class; and weirdly personal - why on earth he felt the need to identify himself to us as a republican is beyond me. He certainly scored no points with anyone at the table by doing so.

The most irritating part was the wine service - we asked for him to choose pairings for us, with a cap at $60-70 per head (for a party of four). In reply, he proposed a Sonoma chard and a cote-rotie, which he poured with the fish and meat dishes respectively, and then offered small glasses of others to accompany the oysters (a dry Spanish white that I can't name), the foie gras (a Pfalz spatlese) and the dessert (Madeira). Now someone else in our group saw had the wine list and apparently saw that the chard was a $120 bottle and the Rhone was $175 ... with the addition of the small glasses, the wine tab ended up at more than $420 - more than twice what we had wanted to spend on wine. Admittedly this is largely the fault of the doofus in our party who saw the prices attached to these bottles and didn't tell the rest of us what we were doing. When we expressed concern about how far the wine tab had gone beyond our desired budget the waiter took the dessert wines (worth about $60) off the bill. I just wish he had done what we had asked and proposed pairings within our budget rather than feeling the need to upsell us. We ended up with a bill of almost $1400 for four people after tip ... other visits to per se we've been served by more junior waiters who had the occasional misstep, but nonetheless had the fundamental good sense to step back and let the food (rather than themselves) be the star of the show. Why was this guy so obnoxious? We think he might have been chemically enhanced for the evening, but it's equally possible that he was just a blowhard.

Side note - Per se staff were very confident that the Times review will be out tomorrow ...

jk

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