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Per Se


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Just a quick note on the food: that was cobia (the fish).

Bond Girl and I had great fun dissecting the dishes; we mostly agreed on the flavors, textures, etc. He Who Only Eats, well, he just ate :biggrin: (and drank). His only negative was to point out--quite correctly--that the pasta was unevenly cooked.

Bond Girl and I had the regular tasting, HWOE the vegetarian, and they substituted the vegetarian courses for the ones Bond Girl doesn't eat.

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  He Who Only Eats, well, he just ate :biggrin: (and drank). His only negative was to point out--quite correctly--that the pasta was unevenly cooked.

Did anyone think of sending the dish back or asking about it? One certainly shouldn't have to at a restaurant like Per Se, but I suppose even they are capable of mistakes. at the very least they might want to know that a particular dish isn't particularly appreciated.

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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How would you like the reservations process to work? Aside from changing the music, I'm not understanding what the problem is, other than popularity.

I'm in no position to tell any restaurant how to run its reservation process - don't have any expertise in that area. But I can tell you that the most civilized experience I had as a customer this year was making reservations at 2 Gordon Ramsay restaurants through email. Granted - Gordon Ramsay isn't this week's restaurant of the year - and I wasn't trying to get a dinner reservation for 8 pm on Saturday in high season (whenever that is - always?) - but it was just a pleasure.

I've also looked at Opentable lately - and that looked like it should work fine (I especially liked the way it searched within a certain time of your requested reservation if the time you wanted wasn't available). Robyn

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The two reservations I made took me four hours to get through each time.

And I don't mean I called and put the phone down and tried again in five minutes, I hit the redial constantly non stop for four hours each time.

Now I realize this is not the norm as other people have gotten through in much shorter time, but as for myself I can't say how long it may have taken if they had more reservationist. Two hours maybe. :wacko:

Well - technology has to offer a better solution. Just to compare - when I made my reservation at Babbo for this trip - I got through to a "message" first time I called ("all our reservationists are busy - please wait"). Waited on the phone for about 5 minutes - and then a person picked up. In other words - a telephone queue. Same thing you find when you call most businesses these days. Some keep you holding for a short time - some for a long time (I think I've sometimes waited 20 minutes for Dell support to answer) - but at least you can turn on the speakerphone and get some work done while you're waiting for a person to pick up the phone.

Now I know Babbo and Dell are larger than Per Se :smile: - but Per Se is larger than my dentist's office - and when his phones are tied up - I don't get a busy signal - I get a "please wait" message. So there has to be a way to do it. Robyn

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Did anyone think of sending the dish back or asking about it? One certainly shouldn't have to at a restaurant like Per Se, but I suppose even they are capable of mistakes. at the very least they might want to know that a particular dish isn't particularly appreciated.

It wasn't inedible, just disappointing. That is, not so awful as to warrant sending back. I'm pretty sure they knew we didn't like it, since most of it was left uneaten on the plate, unlike just about every other plate. And, um, we were pretty vocal, and I KNOW they were listening to some of our conversation. :hmmm: I mean, HWOE and I kept comparing it to the pasta course we had at ADNY -- another loser -- although this wasn't as bad as that one. :raz:

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Just a quick note on the food: that was cobia (the fish).

Bond Girl and I had great fun dissecting the dishes; we mostly agreed on the flavors, textures, etc.  He Who Only Eats, well, he just ate :biggrin: (and drank). His only negative was to point out--quite correctly--that the pasta was unevenly cooked.

Bond Girl and I had the regular tasting, HWOE the vegetarian, and they substituted the vegetarian courses for the ones Bond Girl doesn't eat.

I have been lucky enough to snag a reservation at Per Se in December. :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin: I have, however, just found out much to my dismay and utter disappointment that I am allergic to fin fish. I can eat shellfish and fish stock, just not a whole piece of fish at once.

Now, my plan is to do the chef's tasting menu. Suzanne, you say that Bond Girl made substitutions for things she doesn't eat. Since I can't eat fish fillets, can I call the restaurant to explain my situation to them? And should I go into the whole can eat fish stock but not fillets situation? How flexible is the restaurant in making substitutions? And who should I call--the reservation line again or should I just go to the restaurant myself closer to dinner day?

thanks for the advice (even tho I'm still 2 months away from dinner day, I'm already bouncing off the walls excited). :wacko:

"After all, these are supposed to be gutsy spuds, not white tablecloth social climbers."

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okay, the biggest fish piece in that whole tasting couldn't be more than a total of three bites. Four if you take really small bites. And, as I said before, the lobster is all of one claw and just the claw, joints and other parts are not included. So, go ahead and enjoy if you can. If not, they will make subsititutes for you. They did it for me and I don't eat red meat (allergic), and hates poultry in all forms with great passion.

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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okay, the biggest fish piece in that whole tasting couldn't be more than a total of three bites.  Four if you take really small bites.  And, as I said before, the lobster is all of one claw and just the claw, joints and other parts are not included.  So, go ahead and enjoy if you can.  If not, they will make subsititutes for you.  They did it for me and I don't eat red meat (allergic), and hates poultry in all forms with great passion.

So can I just show up for dinner and tell them about my restrictions or should I give some notice? And who do I call? thanks...

"After all, these are supposed to be gutsy spuds, not white tablecloth social climbers."

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Just tell them your preferences when you order - they'll be more than happy to figure out a way to accomodate you.

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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The maestro of service: very nice article by Kim Severson (SF Chronicle, now with the NY Times, I hear) about Laura Cunningham, manager of Per Se and French Laundry.

And in one of those"connect the dots" stories, the captain mentioned, Phoebe Damrosch-Williams, is the niece of Barbara Damrosch, who is married to Eliot Coleman, often called "the father of organic farming," at least on the East Coast. He designed the greenhouses at Blue Hills Stone Barns, which is where I met all three of them. They attended the Outstanding in the Field farm dinner last October--very very nice people.

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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.

The French Laundry has managed to piss off local winery marketing dept. and residents years ago, with their poor value perception, arrogance and reservation funny business. I figured that the restaurant just catered to "right" coast visitors.

:laugh:

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Regarding special preferences, allergies, needs and the like, most really top restaurants handle them well on the spot, but it never hurts to warn the restaurant in advance and it may pay off in better food and service if the restaurant is prepared. This is just a general comment based on an assumption that it can never hurt.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Regarding special preferences, allergies, needs and the like, most really top restaurants handle them well on the spot, but it never hurts to warn the restaurant in advance and it may pay off in better food and service if the restaurant is prepared. This is just a general comment based on an assumption that it can never hurt.

Thanks, Bux. I will probably call a week or so in advance to let them know my specific allergies. :smile:

"After all, these are supposed to be gutsy spuds, not white tablecloth social climbers."

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We were there Sunday...they adapted to any allergy/sensitivity concerns on the fly.....as they should when service is a la minute.

Just let them know when you are seated.

It's been my experience that consideration shown, is often paid back with consideration given. My philosphy in these matters is that there's a degree of politeness and respect shown by making any concerns known in advance and this has nothing to do specifically with Per Se or even restaurants, but the application of such consideration to restaurants doesn't take but a minute and if it's not paid back, you've not made a large investment. If nothing else, you've sent a signal that you consider this a special meal. On that score, I suspect Per Se realizes that all of it's diners are there for a very special meal and I will agree that it's not necessary or even a breach of ettiquette should you not phone ahead.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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OK - Per Se. What can I say about Per Se? Especially since tomorrow we're heading into a lot of medical stuff with my father-in-law. I want to write while the impressions are fresh in my mind.

First thing I'll say about Per Se is it isn't a New York restaurant. Too much space for too few people. So if you want lovely dinner conversation - you have to rely on the people you're with. Can't rely on the people sitting 2 feet away from you on the banquette.

Along those lines - well we really cheated in terms of eating there. A member here - BCM - wrote about having a reservation with a friend. And the friend couldn't make it. She got invited to a bar mitzvah in Florida. We in Florida got invited to a bar mitzvah in New York. We corresponded with BCM by email - and thought why not - she had a reservation when we wanted to eat there - she didn't want to eat alone - a perfect match - both in our email messages - and at dinner. We were a fine 3-some. Couldn't have asked for a better match. Similar ages and interests. Per Se isn't solemn and boring - as some younger eGullet member who dined there with his parents suggested many messages back - you just have to bring your own entertainment. Had I dined there with my parents - wouldn't have been fun at all.

The restaurant has some weirdness. We had 5:30 reservations (hence my feeble attempt to eat breakfast at Balthazar). But the restaurant doesn't open until 5:30 - exactly. So if you're there at 5:20 - you stand outside and wait. The entrance looks like double doors with glass on the sides - but the double doors are fake doors - and it's the glass that slides open. (Both when the restaurant opened for us - and after I returned from the NY indignity of having a couple of cigarettes before dessert on the street).

The space is simply stunning - inside (can't imagine what it took to do the coffered ceiling and the woodwork on the rear wall) and in terms of the view. Overlooking Central Park at the north end from the west side of the park. Lady's room isn't too shabby either :wink: .

I've previously written about the availability of the Keller dishes here. They're available in many places in New York now (like Saks - more intensive marketing effort since the initial marketing only in Gumps in San Francisco) - but I don't recommend them unless you have servants in the kitchen. They won't fit in the dishwasher. In a high end restaurant setting though - where one doesn't have to worry about washing the dishes - they're beautiful. The flowers on the table are arranged in Alto vases (could be copies - didn't check - but I doubt it) - very difficult but beautiful understated arrangements.

Now those of you who are simply into putting food notches in your belt may say - why is this old broad talking about this garbage? Well the simple reason is that when one has dined in Europe - the traditional difference between the 1 and 2 - and 3 star Michelin restaurants - is the attention given to the space - the decoration of the space - and all the little extra details - like the dishes - and the glasses - and the flowers (as well as other things - like the wine cellar). When I look at this restaurant I know immediately - this chef is looking for 3 Michelin stars (even though Michelin doesn't rate restaurants in the US).

Anyway - the setting - and all the accoutrements - lead up to one big "wow".

It's late - and I'm tired. Stay tuned for what we think about the meal.

By the way - if by some chance Jay Rayner is reading this - I'd appreciate his input. He writes reviews for a London newspaper - I've been impressed by his writing and relied on it a lot in choosing where to eat in London. And - as someone in Europe - I think he appreciates "the Michelin system". Robyn

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By the way - if by some chance Jay Rayner is reading this - I'd appreciate his input.  He writes reviews for a London newspaper - I've been impressed by his writing and relied on it a lot in choosing where to eat in London.  And - as someone in Europe - I think he appreciates "the Michelin system".  Robyn

If you go back to this post, you'll find a link to Jay Rayner's Per Se review.

"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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By the way - if by some chance Jay Rayner is reading this - I'd appreciate his input.  He writes reviews for a London newspaper - I've been impressed by his writing and relied on it a lot in choosing where to eat in London.  And - as someone in Europe - I think he appreciates "the Michelin system".  Robyn

If you go back to this post, you'll find a link to Jay Rayner's Per Se review.

I read his review before I ate there. That's why I was curious about his reactions to my reactions. But thanks for the link. Robyn

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My meal at Per Se was wonderful. I know that because there were several courses I wouldn't have shared for the world :wink: . I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of tasting menus for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that I can't eat all the food. So I (in fact our whole table) opted for the 5 course menu. Note that our server said each of us could do different menus. He also said that the tasting menu had exactly the same amount of food as the 5 course menu - but I find that hard to believe because the portions in the 5 course menu were fairly small. Not that I'm complaining. The 5 course menu had exactly the right amount of food for me. I ate everything. And the meal left me satisfied - not stuffed. Now I have a healthy appetite - but I'm a small woman. If you're a larger person - perhaps you can do justice to the longer menu.

Another reason I don't like tasting menus is that when I go to a restaurant of this caliber - I like to eat my favorite things - prepared by a world class chef. One can't do that with a tasting menu. My happiness with this meal perhaps reflects my satisfaction eating the best (or one of the best) possible preparations of things I enjoy.

I usually comment on what my husband eats - because we frequently switch plates back and forth. We didn't do that during this meal for 2 reasons. First - a lot of the plates were really large. Second - we were 3 - not 2 - and it just didn't seem like the polite thing to do when dining with another person we didn't know very well. So I'll skip his meal - except to say that he liked his food as much as I liked mine.

He did have one negative point though. And I'll put it here so I won't end on a down note. I drank champagne through the meal (not unusual for me) - and was perfectly content with the 2 I had (bottle of Pol Roget for the table at the beginning of the meal and then glasses of Veuve for me). My husband had some paired glasses of wine (a Meursault - and a Pinot Noir) - and was somewhat disappointed with them. They weren't terribly expensive - but he thought them disappointing. I'll leave it to others who know more about wine than we do to comment about that aspect of this restaurant.

On to the food. The amuse was the little "ice cream cones". Good - but I would have been more impressed had I not read about this 100 times before. There was no element of surprise.

I started with sweet butter poached scottish prawns (with celery branch batons, celery root puree and pomegranate brown butter vinaigrette). The dish was perfect. I don't know what a scottish prawn is (a langoustine?) - but I liked it better than lobster.

Have to mention the bread at this point. There were several kinds. But the first I picked was a mini French bread - not a loaf - but the type that looks like a stem with leaves and you pick off the leaves one at a time. This bread was seriously delicious. Ditto with the butter (both the unsalted and the salted). I went through 2 of these mini loaves during dinner. Suppose I should have tried another bread - but I couldn't imagine anything better than these. The dishes were so clean by the time I finished with them (this was a great "mop up the sauce" bread) I don't think they had to wash them :smile: .

My fish course was Alaskan white king salmon "cuit sous vide" (didn't know what that meant - but my husband told me "slow cooked"), served with ossetra caviar, crepe farcie a la fondue de poireaux, chive mousse and coulis de fines herbes. I've never had this fish before - and I wouldn't be surprised if I never had it again - but it was one of the best fish - and fish courses - I ever had. Reminded me of the first time I ever had dover sole with a beurre blanc sauce over 20 years ago in Paris - how delicious a fish with an elegant rich sauce could be (although here - the salmon was a lot richer in its own right than sole).

For the meat course - BCM and I split (it's a dish for 2) the breast of Challan duck "roti a la broche" served with braised swiss chard leaves and ribs "en Ravigote", poached pluots and sauteed moulard duck foie gras. Didn't quite understand why it was a dish for 2 until our server came out and showed us a whole duck! This was my only serious disappointment of the evening - because I looked at all that crispy skin - and the legs - and I asked whether they could be incorporated into the dish. Our server went into the kitchen - came back - and said quite firmly "no" - explaining that the duck was a semi-wild duck or somesuch - and that the legs - while handsome - were basically inedible. (If I lived in New York - I would have asked him to pack the skin in a "to-go" box.) My disappointment was soon forgotten when presented with the chef's idea of what was "edible". Great duck. And the surprise of the dish was the pluots. Now I buy these things in the supermarket - and it had never entered my mind to try cooking them. Never saw them on a restaurant menu either. But they are perfect with duck (at least in the hands of this chef). A creative use of a relatively new ingredient. Hope to see more pluots on more menus soon.

On to the cheese course. Cheese was Bayley Hazen Blue served with Animal farm ricotta "gnocchi" with toasted English walnuts and walnut oil emulsion. Although very good - this was the weakest of all the courses in my opinion. I like pretty pungent cheese. This was the "strongest" of the cheese courses - but it was still fairly mild. On the other hand - too strong a cheese might have thrown off the rest of the meal - been out of balance. So perhaps chef knows best. I am willing to defer to his judgment :wink: .

OK - time for dessert - and I actually have room to eat it! There were 2 dessert amuse courses - and I have to admit that I forget what the first one was. The second was the "creamsicle" with the hot chocolate poured over it. Loved it. Then for my "real" dessert - the best pear dessert I've ever had (I'm a big fan of pears in dessert dishes). Poached asian pears with almond "frangipane" and chocolate pudding with "sorbet au Vin Rouge et aux Quatre Epices". I remember reading a thread here about different ideas for pear desserts - but no one here came up with this one :wink: . It was the ultimate - perfect pears with all the tastes that are a perfect pair with pears. This dessert alone was worth the price of admission.

I know I've read people who've written here that they didn't have room for dessert. That is a major tragedy in my opinion. Next time you eat at Per Se - start with dessert if need be. But eat dessert.

Then on to mignardises. All good. All gone.

This was a fantastic meal - and a total bargain at $125 for the food (I can get fixed menus in Jacksonville for $75 - it's like comparing a doublewide trailer with an oceanfront estate). Easily 2 Michelin stars for the food and ambience - probably 3 (although Michelin takes things like wine cellars into account and I can't assess that aspect of Per Se).

I want to thank BCM for allowing us to share her reservation with us - and Chef Benno for this memorable meal. And as for the person who wrote that dining in a place like this is death - he must not believe in heaven :biggrin: . Robyn

Edited by robyn (log)
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My meal at Per Se was wonderful.

Glad you enjoyed it.

He did have one negative point though.  And I'll put it here so I won't end on a down note.  I drank champagne through the meal (not unusual for me) - and was perfectly content with the 2 I had (bottle of Pol Roget for the table at the beginning of the meal and then glasses of Veuve for me).  My husband had some paired glasses of wine (a Meursault - and a Pinot Noir) - and was somewhat disappointed with them.  They weren't terribly expensive - but he thought them disappointing.  I'll leave others who know more about wine than we do to comment about that aspect of this restaurant.
My fish course was Alaskan white king salmon "cuit sous vide" (didn't know what that meant - but my husband told me "slow cooked"),

Check out this thread for info on sous vide cooking. It is the "hottest" thing in high end restaurants right now. Yes, it is slow cooking, but more importantly it is slow cooking with the food sealed and cooked in a vacuum bag, reaching and staying at the intended temperature. White salmon are salmonthat eat squid instead of shrimp. It is the salmon's diet that determines the flesh color. This is why a lot of farmed salmon are fed coloring agents.

On to the cheese course.  Cheese was Bayley Hazen Blue served with Animal farm ricotta "gnocchi" with toasted English walnuts and walnut oil emulsion.  Although very good - this was the weakest of all the courses in my opinion.  I like pretty pungent cheese.  This was the "strongest" of the cheese courses - but it was still fairly mild.  On the other hand - too strong a cheese might have thrown off the rest of the meal - been out of balance.  So perhaps chef knows best.  I am willing to defer to his judgment  :wink: .

While good, I thought that this ws the greatst weakness of my dinner at Per Se.

Nice report. Thanks.

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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robyn,

white salmon, as doc points out, is determined by the food the salmon eats. my fishmonger (in seattle) insists that there's no season per se (see - on topic!) but i always seem to see it here in the winter. it's one of my favorites too - and because it's a lusciously oily fish - it's super easy to cook.

check out this timely article

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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