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Per Se


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Lets not kid ourselves, there was a ridiculously generous incentive given to Thomas keller to get the restaurant "Per Se" into the Time Warner Center by its developers.

I had always assumed that once the Economics ofwhat it takes to run a restaurant of that caliber catch up with the reality of the cash flow. the prices would steadily climb.

this is why I go to high end restaurants a lot within the first year.

I remember having a dinner that cost a little over $150 at Per Se when it opened.

Then there was a 5 and a 9 course.

The 5 had choices, 9 was tasting.

Then they made the price of both menus $175

Then both menus became $225

I have personally lost interest in the place because while it still is a solid place, there was no marked quality upgrade in the food for the extra $50.

I was particularly miffed last summer because one of the courses in the tasting was referred to as

"Lobster Mitts"..........basically leftover claws from the butter poached lobster.

Unacceptable and super chintzy for a restaurant of that caliber.

The fact is ultimately, they would save a lot of money by eliminating any menu concept that includes choices and if it hasnt happened, its going to.....I bet you.

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Philadining, were you there for lunch? If this was dinner and at night, I would very much be interested in your secrets for getting pictures like these without a flash. I can see during the day with a window table, but at night? In any case nice work. The hotos do convey a reassuring sense that the food remains top-notch. I am looking forward to the descriptions.

Indeed we were there for lunch, but up on the upper level, not right down by the windows. I think that diffuse light accounts for most of my success... That being said, the seat next to mine had a very nice down-light splashing right on his plate, which might have made shooting viable even at night. Sadly, I'm not feeling flush enough to drop the cash on a dinner to test that hypothesis anytime soon!

As for the menus, there were three available, all 9-course: the regular tasting, the tasting of vegetables, each at $210, and a special holiday menu at $325, which is what I photographed. As has been discussed here, the recent bump from $175 to $210 reflects the inclusion of service. The bump to $325 for the holiday menu reflects the inclusion of a daunting pile of white truffles on the polenta! And some truffles in a few more courses, a nice slab of foie with the duck... I have no idea whether a 5-course menu, or something similar that allows choices might return after the holidays. I suspect that it's more likely that something like the holiday menu might remain.

Again, more details to follow, I promise, but the short version was that the food was indeed top-notch, and the service polished and gracious, while remaining pleasantly unstuffy. It was a very enjoyable experience that I'm not going to repeat any time soon, but that I would like to revisit someday...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Lets not kid ourselves, there was a ridiculously generous incentive given to Thomas keller to get the restaurant "Per Se" into the Time Warner Center by its developers.

I had always assumed that once the Economics ofwhat it takes to run a restaurant of that caliber catch up with the reality of the cash flow. the prices would steadily climb.

this is why I go to high end restaurants a lot within the first year.

I remember having a dinner that cost a little over $150 at Per Se when it opened.

The 5-course menu was originally $125, and the tasting menu $150, before tax, tip and beverages. If you got out of there for "a little over $150," I presume you drank tap water and stiffed them on the tip.

Then they made the price of both menus $175

Then both menus became $225

I have personally lost interest in the place because while it still is a solid place, there was no marked quality upgrade in the food for the extra $50.

The current price for both menus is now $210, not $225. However, and this is a significant point, the current price includes service. Do the math, and you'll see that $210 is $175 plus 20%. Hence, in comparative terms, the 9-course tasting has had just one price increase—from $150 to $175. The additional $35 reflects the conversion from service extra to service included.

The now-deleted 5-course menu at Per Se was originally $125 without service, vs. $210 including service for the present 7-course option. For the record, Alain Ducasse's four-course menu at the Essex House is currently $175, and I believe the tasting menu is $225. Those prices do not include service. Whether ADNY and Per Se are comparable is much debated, but it's the closest comparison available.

I think it was Fat Guy who observed that as Per Se was selling out instantly at its "introductory" price, simple supply-and-demand suggested that the prices should be, and eventually would be higher.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Per Se would likely sell out the dining room at $300pp and possibly $400pp or more. There's an element of idealism that keeps the prices down even though demand for tables at Per Se greatly exceeds the supply.

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 happily ate at Per Se along with Philadining and Percyn yesterday for lunch. Thanks for posting the photos. The price we paid per person was undeniably stratospheric for the meal I had. It is my personal opinion that PS does not deserve to command the prices we paid. Granted, I had the holiday menu ($325) and we shared 2.5 bottles among the 4 of us which added a couple of clams. If one were a teetotaler, however, I still think that is super pricey. I am always willing to pay for great food but at ..soooome point.... y' know.......... Kudos to Percyn for asking for oysters and pearls all around and enormous thanks for inviting me and my wife. It was very gracious of you and my criticism is in no way an attempt at biting the hand that feeds me.

As always, the delight in my meal was the people I was with and the atmosphere in addition to the food. The service for us was impeccable and cordial.

I have a question since I am posting here. I was planning to score a table next fall at FL when there for my 10th anniversary. Thinking twice now. Is the experience there similar or is it unfair to link to two? Having lived in the bay area, there is certainly no shortage of great food in the area.

Evan

Dough can sense fear.

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Per Se would likely sell out the dining room at $300pp and possibly $400pp or more. There's an element of idealism that keeps the prices down even though demand for tables at Per Se greatly exceeds the supply.

Perhaps rather it's a sense of realism in the kitchen that at some point 20 some odd oz of food should only go for so much cash.

Maybe that's just idealistic on my part :wink:

Evan

Dough can sense fear.

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OUCh ! Oakapple.....accusations of "stiffing them on the tips" are uneccesary.

The quote a little over $150 could be interpreted as anything between $150 and $ 180......yes I drink very little wine since I have a latent sulphite allergy.

Nothing wrong with tap water, if it was so pedestrian, they wouldnt offer it.

I suppose one ought to feel more refined by ordering bottled water that is called spring water but is actually filtered water.

Dont get me wrong, I love the place, Keller is undeniably a great chef but a recent $400 meal there left a bit to be desired.

raising your prices based on supply and demand solely without any quantifiable increase in quality or value index wont affect business since there are millions of people in MANhattan.

I personally would love some element of increased percieved value.

Its all fine and good, but new restaurants are coming who are going to tap into your customer demographic, GILT is here, Gordon Ramsay is coming, Joel Robuchon is coming ect ect.

Yes Shacke...French Laundry is a much better dining experience than Per Se.

In all senses.

Worth every penny and more.

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It would be unfair of me to make a comparison of my visit to the French Laundry and Per Se due to certain circumstance's.

But in my opinion the food style is nearly identical and what only sets them apart from each other is mostly atmosphere.

Per Se has that urban feel to it while obviously the French Laundry sitting in the middle of the wine country is different.

It's just a matter of preference I suppose but for myself the setting of the French Laundry transformed it into a truly magical experience.

Robert R

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It would be unfair of me to make a comparison of my visit to the French Laundry and Per Se due to certain circumstance's.

But in my opinion the food style is nearly identical and what only sets them apart from each other is mostly atmosphere.

Per Se has that urban feel to it while obviously the French Laundry sitting in the middle of the wine country is different.

It's just a matter of preference I suppose but for myself the setting of the French Laundry transformed it into a truly magical experience.

I was about to say the same thing, but with a different ending.

I enjoyed my meal at Per se more than French Laundry. At French Laundry the place felt dead and the service, while fine, matched the somber feel of the room that night. A very different description than many I've read.

Per Se, on the other hand was buzzing the night we were there and the service and atmosphere seemed to thrive on it.

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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(To the sound of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man in the background)

It is this spirited discussion despite the fact that we may not always agree that keeps us gullet-eers

together..............even though I joined last week.....haha !

Reminds me of the SEINFELD episode when the jewish guy makes jewish jokes but justifies it by saying "It is our ability to laugh at ourselves that has kept us together as a people"....even though he converted to Judaism the day before.

In retrocpect, Laundry or Per Se ? Bugatti or Bentley...........Its alllllllllllll good.

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Since this group seems to appreciate the pictures, here are some close-ups to compliment philadining's pics. I realize these images are larger than the regular ones on eG, but I wish someone had posted pics from their meal when I was browsing through the thread, so I think there may be another poor soul like me. Besides, the average image is still only 150K.

The now classic Cornets of Atlantic Salmon Tartar

CIMG0059.jpg

Ahhh... the requested Oysters and Pearls

Txomin Etxaniz, Txakolina, Spain 2004

The texture of this dish is amazing and will remain with me for a while. This wine was very interesting and I will have to find a few bottles.

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Anson Mill's White Polenta - "Castelmagno" Cheese, Shaved Alba Truffles and Brown Butter Jus

Guy Roulot, Mersault, "Tillets" 2002

This dish would have been great without the truffles, but once it was topped with a generous amount of shavings from bigger-than-fist sized truffled kept in a mini humidor type box, it was just heaven.

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"Sole De La Manche en Rouelle Pochee" - Caramelized salsify, hearts of romaine lettuce and "mousseline de truffles noires"

Guy Roulot, Mersault, "Tillets" 2002

This dish was well cooked, but probably the least memorable when stack against the other stars on this menu.

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Pan Seared Main Sea Scallop - Celeriac fondant, celery branch, black winter truffle filaments and Hobb's Shore bacon emulsion

Guy Roulot, Mersault, "Tillets" 2002

The scallop was huge, but perfectly cooked and tender. The truffle was quite flavorful as well.

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Liberty Valley Pekin Duck wrapped in Savoy Cabbage - Sauteed Moulard duck foie gras, cinnamon poached Pruneaux d'Agen, garnet yam puree and duck jus

Faiveley, Gevrey-Chambertin, "Les Cazetieres", 1er Cru 2003

The foie was firmer than any other seared foie I have had before and we were pondering whether this was due to the fact that Keller only uses Moulard foie, or whether it was seared with caul fat around it. The duck wrapped in savoy cabbage was tremendiously flavorful, yet tender.

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Snake River Farm's "Calotte de Boeuf Grille" - Pain Perdu a la moelle, Broccoli fondue, caramelized cipollini onion, matsutake mushrooms with Vinaigrette Bordelaise

Luigi Pira, Barolo, "Marenca" 2000

This was another star dish in my opinion, bursting with quintessential beef flavor. The marrow bread pudding did not have as much of the marrow flavor as I had expected.

CIMG0072.jpg

Brie De Meaux a la Truffe Noire - Crispy Russet potato, garden mache and black truffle gastrique

The cheese was quite pungent, the black truffle which were whipped in did impart some flavor, but the texture of the potato was probably the best element.

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Meyer Lemon Sorbet - Fluff, Vanilla Moelleux and yogurt panna cotta

This was Meyer lemon sorbet for sure...what better way to clense the palate?

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Tentation au Chocolat, Noisette et Lait - Milk chocolate Cremeux, Hazelnut Streusel with condensed milk sorbet, pain ai lait sauce and sweetened salty hazelnuts

Chocolate lover's dream dessert. Now I don't feel bad for sprinkling fleur de sel on my Twix :raz: . The condensed milk sorbet had a very pure, minimalist type flavor...very nice

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Vanilla yogurt "pot de creme" with a prune base

Can't remember whether this was the actual order of this dish, but this was a welcomed way to calm the palate down again.

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Mignardises

Pictured at pomegranate, bourbon and dark chocolate

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Enjoying the Wines

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Overall, I have to say that I found the wait staff to be extremely knowledgeable, flexible and obliging and deserved every penny of the included service charge and more.

So, do I think the meal was worth it.....YES ! Compared to some of the "dining destinations" in Europe, this was a bargain. Are there places where you may be able to get more for your $$...probably...and I am willing to try them out too :biggrin:

Cheers

Percy

P.S: Despite eating almost non-stop for 4 hrs and feeling bloated, what do true eGers do? Why walk over to Zabar's to buy some more food items and H&H for some bagels :shock:

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Jeeze Percy, I'm suddenly much less-impressed with myself. Great photos! And thanks for typing-in the menu!

At the risk of tearing the fabric of space and time, I stole your menu descriptions and added some comments back in my original post. The commentary makes more sense with the photos, and vice-versa, but I saw no point to reposting all those pics again, so please forgive the ripple in the space time continuum.

And Percy, thanks again for the invite!

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Jeeze Percy, I'm suddenly much less-impressed with myself. Great photos! And thanks for typing-in the menu!

At the risk of tearing the fabric of space and time, I stole your menu descriptions and added some comments back in my original post. The commentary makes more sense with the photos, and vice-versa, but I saw no point to reposting all those pics again, so please forgive the ripple in the space time continuum.

And Percy, thanks again for the invite!

Wow between the two of you I think I am going to have to go over there again to try the holiday menu anyone know how long it runs for. I am out of town until the 29th or so.

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Oh my goodness...

I'm going to have to start saving my pennies and get my speed dial ready, because now I REALLY have to go! Thanks for posting the pics from that incredible-looking dinner.

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Robert, Doc, everybody, thanks for the kind words. I'm sure I speak for Percy too when I say that I'm sincerely thrilled that the photos were of interest, and that we might have been able to contribute to this thread in some useful way.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Robert, Doc, everybody, thanks for the kind words.  I'm sure I speak for Percy too when I say that I'm sincerely thrilled that the photos were of interest, and that we might have been  able to contribute to this thread in some useful way.

Absolutely...if there is anything the foks from Philly know, it is how to be brash and take pics in restaurants others would not dare to :raz: just kidding :laugh:

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  • 4 weeks later...

Admin: an archive of previous discussion on Per Se may be found here.

Back Story New York City Entry #56

Critics often make their reputations by cruelly trashing a beloved restaurant, forcing their readers to attend to a snarling nitpicker all too pleased to demolish received wisdom. These are rabid eaters: their foam is not on the plate. If such is a reputational ploy, it is strategy on which I must pass in assessing Per Se. I march in lockstep with their clients, confessing that my taste buds lack the wisdom of venom.

My dinner at Per Se was the best meal that I have yet eaten in this culinary capital. I will go one step further, before taking a step back. This was my first meal where all complaints deserve to be in small print. My caution is that should some culinary accountant ask me to compose the half dozen best dishes of my New York months, I doubt if any single dish would quite make that list. (Pace Jimmy Frey, I am fond of that petit-déjeuner in the Yountville slammer). After so many dinners that don't quite measure up, I face a challenge: should I dine promiscuously, tickled by Daniel, Alain, Jean-Georges, and their peers, or should I choose Per Se tomorrow, Thursday, Easter, and forever. Am I in love or is this passing fancy?

I cannot claim to have eaten at the French Laundry (Hell, I can claim it, but not with thesmokinggun.com dogging my blog). When my wife and I had a dinner in Napa a decade ago, we had a sterling meal at Mustards Grill (who knew our options?). My dining companions had eaten with Tom Keller at the FL several times. For me, dinner at Per Se was a revelation: the back story of molecular cuisine. Keller is the missing link, the evolutionary connection, between Chez Panisse and Alinea (as infused by Ferran Adria). Others who have followed Keller's career can speak to his chain of innovation from the mandate of localism. The small courses, flavor clashes, and deconstructed dishes that now terrorize diners when in the wrong hands were all in evidence. (The meal was foam-free.) The difference was confidence. Chef Keller and his Per Se Chef de Cuisine Jonathan Benno are not experimenting on their diners; failures are in the disposal, not on the tasting menu. The fact that this was the Chef's Tasting Menu, reconceived each market day, made its gaffe-free quality astonishing. Further, these cooks know how to build a dinner. They are slightly too generous on their plates, but the meal demonstrated a harmonious progression. Chefs Keller and Benno have an agile ability to judge tastes and textures. Perhaps more surprising was that in almost every dish one ingredient, seemingly a side one, grabbed center stage, and proved to belong.

The molecular chefs of today are Keller's children (or at least his nephews). Having eaten at Charlie Trotter, I had given more weight to the Chicagoan in creating a Cuisine Agape, but Keller demands his share, a share that I shall no longer deny him. To understand Grant Achatz's triumphs at Alinea is to realize his inspired union of Trotter and Keller, adding his own fixation on aroma and emotion.

Surely Per Se is among the loveliest and calmest spaces in this bustling town. Every touch - the woods, stone, glass - was exquisitely chosen: Subtle, handsome, sumptuous, and restful. One might say that at this price it had better be, but Alain Ducasse, despite its pleasures, seems a bit dowdy in contrast. Per Se stands apart from restaurants that strive to push as many customers together: the Grateful Dead assumption that if we can no longer breathe, we must be having fun. Per Se is luxuriously filled with clean, still, quiet air.

The staff, who famously are no longer cadging for tips, were as congenial and professional as could be. Had the coat checker not grabbed my fedora by its crown, I would have had no complaints. These men and women actually seemed happy serving at Per Se, an attitude that might suggest to natives that they are overpaid, but probably only means that the despite the location in the Time-Warner Center, Ted Turner's management style has yet to infect the fourth floor.

We selected the Chef's Tasting Menu: Nine courses composed daily, plus a few extras. A reader is immediately snowed by an avalanche of quotation marks. All but one dish had something in quotation marks, in some cases as many as four. We were told that quotes were used around foreign ingredients ("tomme de brebis") and to indicate irony ("macaroni n' cheese" - and, since we are in Lynne Truss territory, isn't it "macaroni ‘n' cheese"?). Our menu novelist embraces the Condiment Theory of Punctuation: sprinkle marks liberally to bring out the flavor of the text. And while I have your attention, must every ingredient have a provenance? (This meal is sponsored by Cowart, Hallow, Four Story, and Hope Farms, each raising memories of Orwell's Manor Farm). I shiver that soon diners may be forced to watch a procession of marketing videos before the bread arrives. Just emblazon the napkins and be done with it.

Dinner begin with an amuse: a black sesame tuile filled with raw salmon perched on creme fraiche. Such an opening was surprising in not shocking. It was a subtle transformation of bagels and lox: not New York Sunday morning, but modified through a Napa dawn. The black pepper tuile, with its thin cookie crunch, made the amuse delightful. It was just different enough to emphasize that the chef was carefully calibrating tastes and textures.

Our opening course was the Per Se classic: "Oysters and Pearls": "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Russian Sevruga Caviar. With overfishing and Red Tide, we better scarf while we can. One imagines a taste profile when considering oysters and caviar: cool, slick, and just a bit fishy. But Chef Keller transformed this duo into a symphony of butter. I was startled at its grandeur, and that this richness did not seem cloying. The pearl tapioca provided an inspired echo of the sevruga, while soaking the butter, ready to explode. This dish not only deserves its repute, but deserves its quotation marks and deserves the Champagne that our sommelier suggested.

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As a second course Per Se offers a choice: a foie gras terrine ($30 supplement to a $210 meal) or for those delicate of culinary politics a Vidalia onion salad (for truly delicate flowers a vegetable tasting menu is offered). I selected the Moulard Duck "Terrine de Foie Gras," with Quince "Jam," Marcona Almond "Crumble," Flowering Quince Relish and Frisée Lettuce with Toasted "Brioche." If truth be told my choice was a ballot for quince, a fruit whose presence in the United States is a side-benefit of immigration reform. The terrine was smooth, but no better than any competent spread (and rather a lot of it). But the quince transformed the somewhat unctuous organ with its bouncy acidity. The true hero of the plate was the "Brioche" - a slide of brioche, an idealized version of Paris, Texas Toast. I was grateful that, having consumed much of my first plate of toast, a server appeared with a second order (now briefly held in my larder). In the corner of the plate were a constellation of the tiniest droplets of a balsamic vinegar. The image was fetching, permitting a few bites with this divine Italian molasses.

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By the third course we were getting serious: Sautéed Fillet of Red Mullet (Rouget, a small redfish) with Lima Beans, Piquillo and Serrano Ham with Seville Orange-Roasted Garlic Emulsion. Such a dish pays tribute to (or perhaps inspired) the faddish trend of combining pork and fish: the oink ‘n' gill school of cuisine. The rouget was perfectly cooked. Not a moment overcooked, and the ham added a spicy note that the sweet fish lacked. Again the centerpiece was unexpected: lima beans. Lima beans are the Rodney Dangerfield of legumes, and until now, I felt such treatment was well-deserved. Chefs Keller and Benno upended my beanism. Lima beans with a crunch? Yikes! They were delicious and mediated between the rouget and serrano ham. The kitchen might have been more generous with the orange-garlic emulsion but given the spotty treatment of fish at some of New York's finest restaurants, I was enchanted.

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"Macaroni ‘n' Cheese" with Nova Scotia Lobster "Cuit Sous Vide," Parmesan "Crisp," Creamy Lobster Broth and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo could not have been richer, even had there been a last-minute infusion of Devon cream and a dab of schmaltz. I offer myself as a medical subject to test whether flavor is enhanced through a sous vide technique (a boil in the bag without the boil): would a blind tasting reveal a difference with lobster plunged in a Down East stock pot? However cooked, the homard gave its life for this cuit cuisine. The orzo when consumed separately was rich for my taste, but in the mix, it did just fine. The star of the plate was the "crisp": a cheesy chip of which one truly could not just eat one, except one was all we were offered. Sigh.

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Our pair of meat dishes were rabbit and veal, selections somewhat lighter than usual, a match for a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape. The rabbit was "Rillettes" of Hallow Farm's Rabbit with a "Ragoût of French Green Lentils, Celery Branch, Black Winter Truffles and Glazed Chestnuts. Of our dishes, I found this the least compelling. Served as a large brown marble, it had the taste of winter, somber, dusky, woodsy, nutty, and closed in. It was the dark heart of January cuisine. This dish was of the earth, not the heavens. I treasured the chestnuts and respected the soupy memories provoked by the green lentils, but I was soon ready for the veal.

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The veal, in contrast, flew by, no matter the cage in which its wrecked body may have been incarcerated. The menu describes this as Rib-Eye of Four Story Hill Farm's Nature Fed Veal with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Thumbelina Carrots, Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach, and Red Pearl Potatoes with Veal "Jus." What the politics of "nature fed" might be the menu did not explain. Could it mean that Story Hill farmers did not feed the calf, an inspired marriage of cost-cutting and moralizing? Whatever. The upshot is that ‘ittle veal never became big ol' moo cow. Despite my speculations on the lifeworld of calves, I chose not to imagine wilted spinach, although I did glance down to see if mold was advertised. Despite my menu deconstruction, I enjoyed the large portion of veal, so much lighter than the rabbit. However, it was the trumpet mushrooms (black Chanterelles) that made this a treat for a winter night. Sometimes Per Se's dishes skirt the edge of complexity, but this was a simple, elegant preparation. Ignoring the adjectival arms race, the pinnacle of this dinner was simple veal, cooked in its own juices, with accompanying carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, and spinach. This is a canonical caress of perfect ingredients.

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Feeling that we might be a bit peckish at this point, cheese was on the agenda: Hope Farm's "Tomme de Brebis" with Corn Bread, "Julienne" of Granny Smith Apple and Bourbon-Maple Apple Butter. Tomme de Brebis is an Auvergne sheep milk cheese. One of my dining companions recalled it as a semi-soft cheese, but this was made of firmer stuff, a slightly sharp-sweet cheese, but one that was upstaged by the splendid apple butter, slightly liquored up and waiting for the sap to run. It was a lovely mix with the corn bread, the apple, and the cheese, permitting us to choose how to mix these options. Like the veal, this was a fundamentally simple dish, but one that deserved its placement on the menu.

Our first dessert was Hayden Mango Sorbet with Braised Pineapple, Black Sesame "Nougatine" and Passion Fruit Syrup. While my sorbet was pungent and intense, it had a few stray bits of ice. But what amazed more than the sorbet was the strip of braised pineapple, looking all the word like a strip of fruity hamachi. One edge must have been dipped in a syrup (perhaps the above named passion fruit syrup). It was opulent and lush, and captured our hearts. A third in a sequence of simple tributes to excellence.

Although the final dish on the Chef's Tasting Menu was a deconstructed version of "S'mores", I requested a chocolate-free closer: Sweet Garden Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, Candied Walnut "Crust," Black Raisin "Coulis" and Indonesian Cinnamon Ice Cream. With all those quotations, one knows that this too was an exercise in literary theory. It was once said that in contrast to cooks, bakers were chemists, today they are English majors. My wife makes a Platonic carrot cake, filled with rough-cut carrots and nuts, and I remain loyal to her inspirations. These cake bites were carrot flour and air, not farmstead sweets. Still, if one didn't mind eating a bite of this and a bite of that, this was a canny and sensuous dessert. (Per Se's pastry chef is Sébastien Rouxel). It reminded me of Sam Mason's desserts, more of what the best young pastry chefs do in their sleep. I was breathless at the microscopic carrot off to the corner, a mini-micro carrot cooked in orange juice, a lilliputian lagniappe placed as if to announce that "we will do anything to amaze."

The final extra (before the mignardises) was a yogurt pot-de-creme with Quince Marmalade. I have admitted my partiality for quince, admitting it to our server, and I wondered whether the kitchen made this smooth treat for "me" (quotations intended).

Being a French Laundry virgin (and a virgin at Bouchon and Bouchon Las Vegas, TK's Nevada food-porn palace), I can't claim experience in affairs de Keller. However, every life must have its start. What amazed me was less the treatment of the main ingredient, but the preparation of those that surrounded it. When I recall this meal, it will be through visions of quince, chestnuts, lima beans, Parmesan crisps, pineapple, and toast and butter. At the great restaurants, it is not doing the big things right, but doing the tiniest things astonishingly: a carrot that belongs in the halls of Ripley's Believe it or Not.

Per Se

10 Columbus Circle (at 60th Street and 8th Avenue, 4th Floor)

Manhattan (Time-Warner Center)

212-823-9335

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

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I think that this review most accurately sums up what is, in my opinion, the true essence of Per Se. Be the dish simple or complex, at least one individual ingredient seems to stand out and really draw attention to its true essence.

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Gaf, your pics look like you used flash. Was this a non-issue, Per Se?

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Gaf, your pics look like you used flash.  Was this a non-issue, Per Se?

Heck, I also used a flash taking a picture of every course at Per Se last week.

Nobody even looked in our direction.

Perhaps they are used to it by now....

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