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Perhaps it's a bit naive, but I question the whole notion that the more a sommelier knows about my taste the happier I'll be with the wine. Yes, it's often true, but not always. What I value about a good sommelier is his/her ability to take me away from my comfortable old habits. I find the more lattitude I give a sommelier (once I know I can trust them) the more happily surprised I'll be with their selection. When I'm feeling free, I'll make sure the sommelier knows what we're having for dinner, and I'll give some indication of price range, and then I'll ask the sommelier to surprise me with something unexpected - something that will work but that perhaps most people wouldn't think to try with that particular dishes. They sometimes try to get me to tell them red, white, oaky or not, new world, old world, etc and I steadfastly refuse to narrow the range - I like good red wine and good white wine. I like wine from around the world. I like wine with oak when the oak is in balance, and I've had some brilliant wines that have never touched oak. I don't do this as often as I should but it (although I have at Per Se (bringing this post momentarily on topic) and at Le Bernardin to great success) ... but when I do, it makes the sommelier happy and it almost always gives me a taste of cool juice that I never would have thought to try on my own.

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Perhaps it's a bit naive, but I question the whole notion that the more a sommelier knows about my taste the happier I'll be with the wine. Yes, it's often true, but not always. What I value about a good sommelier is his/her ability to take me away from my comfortable old habits. I find the more lattitude I give a sommelier (once I know I can trust them) the more happily surprised I'll be with their selection.

indeed a good sommelier loves a challenge, and loves to open peoples' minds. even wine novices who aren't sure what they like or don't most often want something interesting. if they didn't, well, they ain't asking for the sommelier to begin with.

however, a key component to that process is communication. both ways. when it fails in either direction, you're almost guaranteed a less-than-stellar experience.

perhaps i'm just really gifted, or really lucky, or maybe i just don't understand the process that i've experienced, but my experiences with good wine waiters have almost always been positive, and my approach is to explain my "taste" to the best of my ability. after all, how can a sommelier get me out of my "comfort zone" if he or she doesn't know what that zone is to begin with?

as an illustration of being swayed: at a recent dinner i asked a sommelier about a particular wine that i was interested in, and had some experience with. not remembering the details of the wine, and not having had it for about 8 months, i asked if it would appropriately follow the previous 2 bottles we had had during dinner. i was pretty sure it would, but, he gently recommended something completely different from a completely different part of italy from a different grape, and i ran with it. i was thrilled. he was confident i'd like it. and i trusted him. his confidence and my trust didn't come from years of knowing each other, or some superficial dance involving wine terms like "terrior", but rather 2 or 3 brief exchanges.

as far as guaranteeing you'll be "happier with a wine", well, that's imply a matter of personal preference and taste. there aren't any guarantees. for me, when i look back on a meal with wines chosen by a wine waiter, i look back and remember how happy i was with the overall experience, moreso than the wines in particular.

then again, per se doesn't offer wine pairings by the glass/course. :biggrin:

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Hey Tommy, I thought you were headed to Del Posto tonight? What are you doing on the Per Se thread?

Everyone is waiting for your Del Posto observations.

Rich Schulhoff

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

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well, here it is, three weeks after my meal at Per Se, and I've finally finshed my little write-up. Final exams and moving out at the end of the semester just didn't leave a whole lot of time for me to work on it. But better late than never I suppose. Here 'tis:

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SALMON CORNETS -- Sweet Red Onion Crème Fraiche

TOMATO CONFIT -- Fines Herbes

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At times, the excitement of a tasting menu lies in its unpredictability, the whim of the “Chef’s Choice” luring us in. Other times, however, the excitement lies in knowing exactly what to expect, down to the tiniest detail. That was my pleasure in this opening dish. My pleasure was in knowing that Thomas Keller would source the absolute best salmon he could. Knowing he would not try to dress it up with overbearing garnish or condiment. Rather, he would present top quality fish, simply seasoned and allowed to speak for itself. This salmon did not need a loud back-up singer. The salmon, minced so finely it was practically pureed, took on a similar texture to the sweet red onion crème fraiche when it hit the tongue. Off in my own little world for an instant, closing my eyes in pleasure, the slight crunch of the tuile reminds me that this is not the most heavenly bagel schmear that has ever crossed my palate. This is, however, 4-star appetizing, if there ever were such a thing.

“OYSTERS AND PEARLS” – “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Russian Sevruga Caviar

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What new perspective can one offer on a book so many have read, a painting so many have admired? This is one of Keller’s lauded signature dishes, and rightfully so. It is special. I take the first bite, and I, too, am a believer. Luxury by the mother-of-pearl spoonful. Subsequent bites reveal further intricacies. The buttery sabayon coats the tongue while the briny caviar pop and dance on it. The oysters keep this dish’s feet firmly planted in the sea, not to be overwhelmed by the landlocked richness surrounding it. The buried tapioca pearls remind you that they want to play, too, providing the perfect textural medium to bring everything together. Hmm, and is that a hint of vermouth? This dish is just plain sexy. It is everything you have heard about it, and then some.

“TERRINE” OF HUDSON VALLEY MOULARD DUCK “FOIE GRAS” -- Washington State Rhubarb, Spiced Shortbread, Garden Mache, Rhubarb “Mignonette” and Toasted Tellicherry Pepper “Brioche”

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I must apologize in advance, for my ability to describe this dish is considerably hindered by my sheer veneration of it. I can say with absolute certainty that this is the single best thing I have ever had the pleasure of eating. When offered two different preparations of foie gras, seared and terrine, I almost always opt for the latter, as I feel the buttery unctuousness of the liver is better appreciated with hot preparations. Intrigued by the inclusion of rhubarb in this presentation, however, I opted for the terrine. Best decision I ever made. It was served neither so cool that some of the flavor is muted on the palate, nor so warm that one experiences an exponential decay of pleasure as the dish cools down, this was ideal. Presented at room temperature, the terrine had a wonderful consistency, yielding to the gentlest swipe of the knife. Whether spread on the toasted peppercorn brioche or simply enjoyed on its own, it was velvety smooth. The vibrant flavor of rhubarb was a worthy sidekick to the rich liver, shining through with sweet-tart brightness on every bite. The thin film gelee atop the terrine and captured the pure essence of rhubarb, as did the rhubarb pieces cooked sous vide on top, and the rhubarb mignonette along the side. The Meyer lemon crème smeared to the left was bright, refreshing, and just slightly acidic, rounding out the flavors on the plate wonderfully. The spiced shortbread crumble along the back of the plate added a wonderful textural component to the dish, and the peppercorn brioche came out thick and toasty. Halfway through the dish, a second slice came out, hot and fresh from the toaster. How did they know? Well, maybe they knew I would be savoring these flavors one Lilliputian bite at a time. Maybe they knew every texture, flavor, smell, and temperature in this dish had been orchestrated just right. Maybe they, too, knew that this dish was, quite simply, perfect.

SAUTÉED FILLET OF ATLANTIC HALIBUT -- Spring Pole Beans, Heirloom Carrots, Pea Tendrils and Carrot “Consommé”

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As an avid home cook, these are the kind of restaurant dishes I particularly enjoy eating. The kind that are wonderfully humbling, the kind that teach you a thing or two. Even buying the freshest fish I could find, not in my wildest dreams would I have the technical proficiency to cook fish this well. I assure you that the knife provided before this course began was purely for show. This fish needed no such instrument for dissection. The slightest press of the fork was sufficient to break through the crisp seared top and reveal the ethereal flesh beneath. The mélange of spring vegetables beneath provided a clean, crisp, and light accompaniment to the fish. Anything more assertive would have overwhelmed the wonderful delicacy of it. The carrot consommé offered just the subtlest hint of carrot essence, another component speaking just loudly enough to be noticed but not upstage the star. Overall, a stellar springtime dish, just the type one craves this time of year.

NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER “CUIT SOUS VIDE” -- Tahitian Vanilla Bean-Scented White Asparagus, Braised Radishes and Black Winter Truffle “Mousseline”

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First, a confession: this was not the best lobster I have ever had. In fact, I have recently had wonderful preparations at both Jean Georges and Bouley that I enjoyed more. Placing this dish in such stellar company, though, is that such a bad thing? While the lightest stab with a fork was sufficient to pierce the flesh, cutting it required a bit more effort. Yet, is lobster ever really that easy to cut? I think not. Even a perfectly cooked crustacean is always a bit unyielding to such efforts. In this case, though, these efforts were not without reward – a workout with a purpose. The distinctive sweet flavor of the lobster was a fitting cheerleader for sous vide cooking, a method whose primary purpose seems to be locking in the inherent flavors of the ingredients. The vanilla flavor present in both the white asparagus and in the truffle sauce was a nice accompaniment for the lobster, as it always is, simply making the lobster taste more like itself. The white asparagus was tender if a bit stringy. But it was tasty. The braised radishes were a pleasant surprise, sweet and satisfying. And the truffle sauce had a subtle aroma just earthy enough to balance the sweetness of the other components.

PAN ROASTED LIBERTY VALLEY PEKIN DUCK BREAST -- Anson Mills Yellow Corn Polenta, Sunchoke “Purée”, Sour Cherry “Marmalade” and Duck “Jus”

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After seeing what that kitchen could do with duck liver, I had no doubts that the bird itself would be stunning. And indeed it was. There were no special glazes or spices on the meat attempting to mask the duck flavor. Just a simply seasoned and properly roasted breast, with the thin layer of fat nicely seared and the meat a soft pinkish medium rare inside. The result was succulent and juicy. The sweetness of the sunchoke puree balanced the rich earthiness of the duck and its jus nicely. The polenta came in the form of a smallish square cake. Topped with a quenelle of sour cherry marmalade, this piece added both a textural component and a slight tartness that really worked nicely with the other pieces of the dish. One of the better dishes of the evening. Bravo.

SNAKE RIVER FARM'S “CALOTTE DE BOEUF GRILÉE” -- Russet Potato “Gratin”, Creamed Ramp Tops, Morel Mushrooms, Crispy Bone Marrow and “Sauce Bordelaise”

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Classic American steakhouse meets four-star haute cuisine. A match made in heaven. I won’t lie... I honestly have no clue what a “Calotte” of beef is. Probably never will either. I asked the waiter, and I believe he mentioned it is some portion of the ribeye if I remember correctly. But quite frankly, it is irrelevant. I wouldn’t remember anyway. What I will remember, though, is the taste of this dish. Exquisite. The steak itself was a wonderfully tender medium rare. (Hmm, again the protein on the plate perfectly cooked. Am I the only one noticing a pattern here?) As much as I love creamed spinach, on its best day that dish could never quite touch these creamed ramp tops. They were garlicky, springy, and delicious. The potatoes were cooked sous vide. I’m not exactly sure why in this case, but is anything with this much cream and butter ever bad? I’m not sure what the morels were cooked in, but whatever it was, they soaked it up like a sponge. Along with the bordelaise sauce, they added a nice earthy element to the dish. Last but certainly not least was the bone marrow, fried in a crispy shell on top of the meat, like a present waiting to be unwrapped. In a word: unctuous. Did I mention I love bone marrow? Well, I do. So you might say I liked this dish. Or you might just say I loved it.

“CONE DU PORT AUBRY” -- Roasted Young Beets, White Wine Poached Granny Smith Apples, Sorrel Leaves and Red Beet Essence

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I am always a little wary of the cheese course in a multi-course tasting format such as this one. Its composition often seems like an afterthought, an intermission, a commercial while we wait for the real show to come back on. Some restaurants find it adequate to provide a paltry hunk of cheese (which is inevitably perfectly ripened, magnificently matured, artisan select or some other bit of menu poetry) , some apple slices, and maybe a piece or two of toast. This kind of simplicity is not what I look for at a restaurant at this level. I, too, can shop at Murray’s Cheese Shop. Other restaurants skip the cheese course altogether, a tragic omission if you ask me. Thankfully Per Se did not join the ranks of either of those camps that evening. I thought this was really a lovely composition, tip-toeing the line nicely between simplicity and over-complication. The Cone du Port Aubry was a slightly tangy goat cheese, great on its own with a drizzle of a bit of olive oil and some cracked pepper. The roasted young beets, then, came as no surprise. There are few flavor combinations more ubiquitous than beets and goat cheese. But hey, if it ain’t broke… The poached granny smith apples maintained some of their naturally tart flavor, but the wine toned that down just a bit and created a really nice palate cleansing effect. Very nice. A small smear of port wine glaze also graced the plate, adding a pleasant sweetness at the end. Every component on the plate really sang on its own. Together, they were symphonic.

PERSIAN LIME SORBET -- Hass Avocado “Coulis”, “Petite” Mint, Lime-Scented Pineapple and Hibiscus Foam

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I am not usually a sorbet person, often preferring the creamier texture of ice cream and gelato. The clarity of flavor that can be achieved in good sorbet, though, is something I can’t deny. This sorbet was a wonderful example of that clarity – clean, acidic, and refreshing. The hibiscus foam atop the sorbet was surprisingly flavorful, and left me wondering, how do they extract foam from a flower, anyway? The avocado coulis was creamy and subtle, and the familiar combination of avocado and lime worked well. The lime-scented pineapple pieces were pleasant, but nothing special. The petite mint had petite flavor, and seemed a garnish more for looks than for taste. I don’t recall exactly what it was, but the crunchy streusel-like crumble under the sorbet was a nice touch, adding some necessary texture to the dish. Overall I thought this dish was a nice first act for the sweeter side of the meal.

“TENTATION AU CHOCOLAT, NOISETTE ET LAIT” -- Milk Chocolate “Crémeux”, Hazelnut “Streusel” with Condensed Milk Sorbet, “Pain au Lait” Sauce and Sweetened Salty Hazelnuts

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Being a Nutella freak, the first thing that popped into my head when I read the description of this dish was that delicious spread. The combination of chocolate and hazelnut is just a beautiful thing. Mmm, Nutella… But I digress. This was a very solid dessert, its flavors and textures nicely balanced. The milk chocolate crémeux had a wonderful airy texture, like a light mousse or pot au crème. Topped with a few stray crystals of fleur de sel and a line of sweet & salty hazelnuts, the flavor was incredible. The condensed milk sorbet was pleasantly sweet and not at all cloying as one might expect from such a sweet ingredient. The texture was also soft, smooth and creamy, which I really enjoyed. The hazelnut streusel underneath the sorbet was also both sweet and salty, offering a nice counterpoint of both flavor and texture when combined with the sorbet. The sauce drizzled along the top of the plate was a simple bittersweet chocolate sauce, but I don’t recall what the other sauces on the plate tasted like. While the sauces lined across the plate make for a beautiful presentation, I felt like their inclusion in the dessert was a bit of an afterthought flavor-wise, almost unnecessary as they didn’t really seem to mesh really well with the main parts of the dish. It’s hard to complain, though, with so much chocolate-hazelnut goodness on one plate. Mmm, Nutella… Hey, who said that?!

“RHUBARBE ET VANILLE” -- Pink Peppercorn-Scented Rhubarb “Cuit Sous Vide”, Madagascar Vanilla “Crème Chiboust”, “Sablé Breton au Beurre Salé” and Mascarpone Sorbet

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This dessert was actually not part of the chef’s tasting, but once I read the description on the vegetarian menu, I knew that I had to try it. So right after the lime sorbet, and just before the chocolate dessert was going to be brought out, I meant to ask the waiter if we might try this in addition to the other desserts (expecting, of course, to incur some supplemental charge to do so). But before I could even finish telling him how I thought that it sounded delicious, he had offered to bring one for the table on the house. Definitely an offer we couldn’t refuse. (I should also note that they brought out their “Coffee and Donuts” dessert with a candle in it for my friend who would be celebrating a birthday in a couple of days. Another very nice gesture that left us with a table literally full of desserts and content smiles on our faces.) This dessert definitely did not disappoint. It was my favorite of the three. The vibrantly red rhubarb cooked sous vide was tender and flavorful. The vanilla crème chiboust was small blocks of custard atop a crumb crust. Slightly salty, the crust really elevated the vanilla and rhubarb flavors nicely. The mascarpone sorbet, like the others before it, had the smoother, thicker texture of gelato. The sable Breton underneath the sorbet acted as the hazelnut streusel had in the previous dessert, a wonderful crunchy, salty top note to really round out the flavors in each bite. The vivid red rhubarb sauce pooled on the plate was a smooth finish.

“MIGNARDISES”

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And so the parade of sweets continued… Two of us were given apple pots au crème, while the other two received a mini crème brulee. These petite serving dishes allowed for every bite to include some of the crispy caramelized sugar top. And after all, that’s what crème brulee is all about, is it not? The interior was smooth and delicious, with abundant flavor imparted by vanilla bean specks throughout. Even in such a small package, definitely one of the better versions of crème brulee I’ve ever had. But at this restaurant, it was just one of the freebies after the meal. Ridiculous.

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Next up the waiter arrived with a tray full of beautiful hand crafted chocolates, offering eight different kinds to each of us. Infinite appetite that I have, I chose all that sounded good to me, passing on only the mint and bourbon offerings. From left to right, top to bottom, my choices were macadamia nut, fleur de sel, lavender, brown butter, pomegranate, and orange blossom honey. I’m not usually a big chocolate guy, but all of these were delicious, my favorite probably being the pomegranate.

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So by now, we’ve had three regular desserts (actually the birthday boy has had four), crème brulee or pot au crème, and chocolates. But why stop there? The three-tier silver tray was chock full of more goodies. Homemade caramels were dark, buttery and rich. Nougat with pistachios was chewy and crunchy at the same time. Three kinds of truffles – dark chocolate with raspberry ganache, milk chocolate with dark chocolate ganache, and coconut dusted white chocolate with coconut ganache – were all outstanding. At this point, I pretty much just don’t know what to say anymore.

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Some chocolate covered almonds. Because God knows we need some snacks at this point. There just hasn’t been quite enough food yet. Turns out almonds are one of my companion’s favorite foods. How convenient. After having spent nearly four hours at the table, it almost seems as though my sole purpose in life is to eat. And what can I say? Life is good.

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With the check came some lovely macaroons – vanilla, raspberry, and pistachio. Pistachio macaroons are always a favorite treat of mine, but all three of them were delicious. The crisp meringue exterior gave way to a meltingly soft interior. Easily on par with the best macaroons I’ve enjoyed in the city. And once again, just a freebie at the end of the meal. What can I say? Quite a place, this restaurant.

I’ve had many great meals in my life, and at the young age of twenty one, I look forward to the possibility of many more. Somehow, though, I get the impression that this one will stick with me for quite a while. There is something special about a place that manages to make each guest feel like they are the only one in the restaurant, a VIP with a backstage pass. That pass this particular night came in the form of a kitchen tour after the meal, offered to us as we were seated after a small exchange with the captain in which my overwhelming excitement must have somehow betrayed my passion for all things food. (It seems the staff actually listens to what you have to say at this particular restaurant. Imagine that.) During the tour, I asked whether or not Chef Benno was in the house. A few moments later, he graciously stepped out of a teleconference meeting to meet us. I thanked him and his staff for a wonderful meal and told him what an honor it was to meet him. The staff milling around the kitchen was all smiles, thanking us for joining them for dinner, expressing their hopes that we enjoyed the meal, and offering us more of those delicious macaroons. They seemed to be almost as happy as we were. NYT reviews and Michelin stars notwithstanding, every restaurant makes mistakes. Which makes me feel all the more lucky as I look back on a culinary experience at a place that, on that night, was just about perfect. Expensive? Definitely. Worth every penny? Without a doubt. My new benchmark for just how wonderful a restaurant experience can be.

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tupac17616

Thanks for the report!! I was at The French Laundry just a couple of weeks after you were at Per Se and it's amazing how similar many of the courses were

NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER “CUIT SOUS VIDE” -- Tahitian Vanilla Bean-Scented White Asparagus, Braised Radishes and Black Winter Truffle “Mousseline”

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First, a confession: this was not the best lobster I have ever had.  In fact, I have recently had wonderful preparations at both Jean Georges and Bouley that I enjoyed more.  Placing this dish in such stellar company, though, is that such a bad thing?  While the lightest stab with a fork was sufficient to pierce the flesh, cutting it required a bit more effort.  Yet, is lobster ever really that easy to cut?  I think not.  Even a perfectly cooked crustacean is always a bit unyielding to such efforts.  In this case, though, these efforts were not without reward – a workout with a purpose.  The distinctive sweet flavor of the lobster was a fitting cheerleader for sous vide cooking, a method whose primary purpose seems to be locking in the inherent flavors of the ingredients.  The vanilla flavor present in both the white asparagus and in the truffle sauce was a nice accompaniment for the lobster, as it always is, simply making the lobster taste more like itself.  The white asparagus was tender if a bit stringy.  But it was tasty.  The braised radishes were a pleasant surprise, sweet and satisfying.  And the truffle sauce had a subtle aroma just earthy enough to balance the sweetness of the other components.

When I was at Per Se, we had Scottish Langoustines as our shellfish course. They had been poached in butter and they were exquisite. In fact, my favorite course of our meal, by far.

However, when we had the Lobster "cuit sous vides" at TFL, it was just as you described. The lobster, although not entirely unacceptable, was a bit hard to cut through. But, as you also noted, the meat was very sweet and the flavor very good. I wonder if shellfish takes better to butter poaching than sous vides? I wonder only because I can't remember a time when I've not had plump and tender shellfishmeat after butter-poaching. This being one of the most memorable preparations).

Just curious - were the lobster dishes that you liked better at J-G and Bouley butter-poached?

SNAKE RIVER FARM'S “CALOTTE DE BOEUF GRILÉE” -- Russet Potato “Gratin”, Creamed Ramp Tops, Morel Mushrooms, Crispy Bone Marrow and “Sauce Bordelaise”

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Classic American steakhouse meets four-star haute cuisine.  A match made in heaven.  I won’t lie... I honestly have no clue what a “Calotte” of beef is.  Probably never will either.  I asked the waiter, and I believe he mentioned it is some portion of the ribeye if I remember correctly.  But quite frankly, it is irrelevant.  I wouldn’t remember anyway.  What I will remember, though, is the taste of this dish.  Exquisite.  The steak itself was a wonderfully tender medium rare.  (Hmm, again the protein on the plate perfectly cooked.  Am I the only one noticing a pattern here?)  As much as I love creamed spinach, on its best day that dish could never quite touch these creamed ramp tops.  They were garlicky, springy, and delicious.  The potatoes were cooked sous vide.  I’m not exactly sure why in this case, but is anything with this much cream and butter ever bad?  I’m not sure what the morels were cooked in, but whatever it was, they soaked it up like a sponge.  Along with the bordelaise sauce, they added a nice earthy element to the dish.  Last but certainly not least was the bone marrow, fried in a crispy shell on top of the meat, like a present waiting to be unwrapped.  In a word: unctuous.  Did I mention I love bone marrow?  Well, I do.  So you might say I liked this dish.  Or you might just say I loved it.

A calotte de boeuf is simply a cap of beef. I had this same course at TFL (although our server was a bit vague on the definition as well). While the accompaniments were different, the meat was just as you described - very well marbled, tender and extremely flavorful.

If you like bone marrow, check this sucker out.

Expensive?  Definitely.  Worth every penny?  Without a doubt.  My new benchmark for just how wonderful a restaurant experience can be.

Glad to hear you had a great experience!

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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If you ever seen a whole prime rib. The cap is on top and removed and thrown away every day in restaurants threw out the country. It is likely 90% fat and waste but when left with that 10%. Wow! Leave it to Thomas to figure it out. Who knew? :laugh:

Great report !

Edited by robert40 (log)

Robert R

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When I was at Per Se, we had Scottish Langoustines as our shellfish course.  They had been poached in butter and they were exquisite.  In fact, my favorite course of our meal, by far. 

However, when we had the Lobster "cuit sous vides" at TFL, it was just as you described.  The lobster, although not entirely unacceptable, was a bit hard to cut through.  But, as you also noted, the meat was very sweet and the flavor very good.  I wonder if shellfish takes better to butter poaching than sous vides?  I wonder only because I can't remember a time when I've not had plump and tender shellfishmeat after butter-poaching. This being one of the most memorable preparations).

Just curious - were the lobster dishes that you liked better at J-G and Bouley butter-poached? 

Sounds like your observations are spot-on consistent with my experience. Now that I take a look back at pics/notes from those meals, looks like the lobster dishes at both places were indeed butter-poached.

The lobster dish at J-G was butter poached maine lobster, lemon-paprika puree, salsify tagliatelle.

The lobster at Bouley was (I think) maine day boat lobster with baby bok choy, parsnip puree, passion fruit and port wine-paprika sauce. I seem to recall asking the waiter about how the lobster was cooked, and he replied that he wasn't quite sure but was certain "it involved a LOT of butter". :biggrin: Sounds like butter-poaching to me!

So maybe your idea above about shellfish taking better to butter-poaching than sous vide methods makes some sense. It definitely fits when I compare the lobster at these three places. While all three dishes yielded sweet and flavorful meat, there was something about the succulent texture of the dishes at J-G and Bouley that set them just a cut above.

If you like bone marrow, check this sucker out.   

Now that's what I'm talking about. Looks like they don't mess around at the Dining Room. :cool:

By the way, U.E., a bit off topic perhaps, but having eaten Per Se and several places in California (French Laundry, Chez Panisse, The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, etc), I wonder what advice you might offer me in my situation. I will be visiting California in August to visit a couple of schools, and I definitely want to try a few great restaurants while I'm there. Would going to French Laundry, for example, be a different enough experience than Per Se that I feel like it's something truly unique? Or would you suggest maybe one of the other places you've been to (or not been to, but have wanted to try)? I have never been to California, so it will all be new to me. A somewhat vague question, I realize, but I was just curious to get some insight from someone with some very well-traveled taste buds.

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When I was at Per Se, we had Scottish Langoustines as our shellfish course.  They had been poached in butter and they were exquisite.  In fact, my favorite course of our meal, by far. 

However, when we had the Lobster "cuit sous vides" at TFL, it was just as you described.  The lobster, although not entirely unacceptable, was a bit hard to cut through.  But, as you also noted, the meat was very sweet and the flavor very good.  I wonder if shellfish takes better to butter poaching than sous vides?  I wonder only because I can't remember a time when I've not had plump and tender shellfishmeat after butter-poaching. This being one of the most memorable preparations).

Just curious - were the lobster dishes that you liked better at J-G and Bouley butter-poached? 

Sounds like your observations are spot-on consistent with my experience. Now that I take a look back at pics/notes from those meals, looks like the lobster dishes at both places were indeed butter-poached.

The lobster dish at J-G was butter poached maine lobster, lemon-paprika puree, salsify tagliatelle.

The lobster at Bouley was (I think) maine day boat lobster with baby bok choy, parsnip puree, passion fruit and port wine-paprika sauce. I seem to recall asking the waiter about how the lobster was cooked, and he replied that he wasn't quite sure but was certain "it involved a LOT of butter". :biggrin: Sounds like butter-poaching to me!

So maybe your idea above about shellfish taking better to butter-poaching than sous vide methods makes some sense. It definitely fits when I compare the lobster at these three places. While all three dishes yielded sweet and flavorful meat, there was something about the succulent texture of the dishes at J-G and Bouley that set them just a cut above.

Ahhhh... thanks very much for checking tupac17616!! (May I call you tupac for short?). Maybe there is a difference in the way lobster meat reacts to the two methods? If so, I personally MUCH prefer the butter-(lots of it)-poached method!! :raz:

Re: the California tour - p.m. or send me an email and I'd be happy to respond... althought I'm sure there are plenty of more experienced Californian eGulleters you might want to avail yourself of on the California forum.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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Having had both at Per Se over the years, the butter poached lobster is unbelievably tender, is the best piece of lobster I've ever had, and is amazing - the sous vide comes out just a little bit tough to cut, without quite the same degree of flavor (there's a big discussion of this somewhere upthread) and I have no idea why they decided to make the change. It's just inferior in every way.

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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Having had both at Per Se over the years, the butter poached lobster is unbelievably tender, is the best piece of lobster I've ever had, and is amazing - the sous vide comes out just a little bit tough to cut, without quite the same degree of flavor (there's a big discussion of this somewhere upthread) and I have no idea why they decided to make the change.  It's just inferior in every way.

Then that's sad indeed... as I had the butter-poached langoustines at Per Se and was thrilled. The sous vides at TFL, not so thrilling. :sad:

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Per Se Redux New York City Entry #99

Perhaps the most sincere compliment I can pay Per Se is that I didn't much care for the "Ravigote" Dressing on the White Asparagus.

Earlier I decided not to re-review restaurants (WD-50 has been the sole exception), and did not bring a camera.

Lunch at Per Se is very much like - indeed, precisely like - dinner with the same menus at the same price (a three hour lollapalooza): it is the perfect dinner for those who recent arrivals afraid of the effects of a jetlagged evening.

My compliment is not a back-handed one - Jonathan Benno's other preparations were within hailing distance of perfection. But this sauce, supposedly Velouté with shallots, chives, and tarragon, tasted like an uptown version of a mayonnaise blanketing macaroni salad. The accompaniment, a sunny-side up quail egg in a toasted brioche ring ("Toad in the Hole"), was unpolluted by its partner, and was enchanting.

Given this was lunch, my companion and I selected the "Tasting of Vegetables" (although fruits and vegetables would have been more precise), believing that a lightness of spirit suited the noon hour. As I was forcibly reminded at my last meal at Trotter's, an inspired chef sees vegetables as an opportunity, not a constraint.

I shall contain my euphoric waxing, only noting that if my finest New York meal was at Per Se, my second finest New York meal was at Per Se as well. And I won't tolerate debate over which was which. The service left no cause for complaint.

A brief recap:

Amuse: Black pepper tuile with tomato confit over eggplant caviar. Each element blended superbly and each had a sparkling, noticeable herbal ingredient. Perhaps the first bite of the tuile suggested that the cookie might soon become moist, but beyond that bite the tuile was suitably crisp.

First: Chilled Yellow Pepper Soup with Roasted Sweet Peppers, Niçoise Olives and Rosemary-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil. A luminous golden soup with a scoop of peppers and olives as a mix-in. A transcendent soup that combined a sweetness with an herbal twang.

Second: "Dégustation" of Early Summer Melons with Tahitian Vanilla Bean-Scented Fennel Bulb, Sauternes "Gelée" and "Fines Herbes." (Note the quotation marks). The most beautiful dish in the galaxy! What produce and what subtle transformations! Watermelon, honeydew, and some melons whose names were unfamilar. What might Benno do to durian? Perhaps someday we shall learn the answer from a chef who treats aroma as a key to dining.

Third: "Toad in Hole" with Sunny-Side Up Quail Egg, Toasted "Brioche", Garden Mâche, Braised Holland White Asparaus and "Ravigote" Dressing. (Note, again, the quotation marks). As described.

Fourth: "Confit" of New Crop Potatoes with Pickled Pearl Onion Shoots, Garlic Scrapes, Ramps, and Red Onion "Gastrique." Chef, let's kill the "quotation marks." What might Lynne Truss say as we eat shoots and leaves? Yet, not a wasted punctuation mark was to be found on the plate, a display of root vegetables that harkened back to the melon artistry. Perhaps garlic "scrapes" are a bit "precious;" sure am good, though.

Fifth: "Risi e Bisi" with "Carnaroli Risotto Biologico", Sugar Snap Peas, Pea Tendrils and "Parmigiano Reggiano." I'm beaten into submission. (Note to TK: commas in the U.S. are placed inside quotation marks.) Sprinkle your menu with marks, just keep the rice and peas perfect. This sinuous, silky risotto was unworldly. Never stop.

Sixth: Forest Mushroom "Crêpe" with Herb Roasted Hen-of-the-Woods Mushroom and Field Mizuna with Madeira Cream Sauce. Actually a pair of crepes but who is counting? And why so casual with Hen-of-the-Woods, what about "Grifola frondosa" or at least Maitake? Another splendid dish. Which comes first the dense pasta or the crisp fungus? I give credit to the Madeira. This is a dish that is so robust that one believes that Maitake is the other white meat.

Seventh: "Crozier Blue" with Celery Branch, Kumquat "Confiture", (sigh), Tellicherry Pepper Shortbread, Cutting Celery and Balsamic Glaze. The cheese on its shortbread was as pungent and as fungal as the Hen-of-the-Woods, but what amazed was the array of celery and kumquat. A remarkable offering.

Eighth: "Vitre Glacée" with Napa Valley White Verjus "Ice", Red Verjus "Foam", Muscat Grapes and Raisin "Purée." This lovely dessert consisted of a slanting sheet of white verjus ice, just thin enough that it broke with the touch of spoon and melted on the tongue. Below was as spicy and luscious a pool of grape liquid as might be found this side of Napa.

Ninth: I chose to replace the "Black Forest" dessert (six quotation marks for those counting) with a Banana Pepper Tuile with Raspberries, Blackberries, and Berry Sorbet. This dish echoed the elegance of the melon and root vegetables. A tuile for all jobs.

Tenth (a lagniappe): Peach Panna Cotta and Vanilla Bean Creme Brulée, the former a stunning rendition of peaches and cream; the latter shaming the many pretenders whose sugar does not snap, crackle or pop.

What can one say to a restaurant whose greatest need is a proofreader? How about: try me.

Per Se

10 Columbus Circle (Time Warner Building)

Manhattan (Columbus Circle)

212-823-9335

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

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I have a question about the pricing at per se. I know that gratuitiy is included in the $210 per person price, but how when one adds the wine pairing option, how does this work? Do they automatically apply gratuity to the wine flight price for the sommelier or what? Thanks.

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Good question, and I don't know the answer. Also, I didn't check to see whether the gratuity covers wine or whether there is an extra gratuity. I should have checked.

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Tupac, thank you for the absolutely lovely recap of your dinner. It was a delight!

Alas, the use of quotation marks in the menu is really bothering me. As a former English major, when I see something in quotations, it seems to denote that the thing is not really what it is but rather an approximation. Therefore, when I see the use of something like "foie gras", it makes me think to myself, "Hmm... is it REALLY foie gras, or is Keller playing around with different ingredients that taste and seem like foie gras but aren't really?" It bothers me. Why not just say Foie Gras? Another example that annoyed me was "coulis." So was it a coulis or wasn't it?

I know I'm the biggest nerd in the world. Please forgive me.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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I have a question about the pricing at per se.  I know that gratuitiy is included in the $210 per person price, but how when one adds the wine pairing option, how does this work?  Do they automatically apply gratuity to the wine flight price for the sommelier or what?  Thanks.

Wine pricing at both Per Se and The French Laundry is also service compris.

Edited by MichaelB (log)
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Tupac, thank you for the absolutely lovely recap of your dinner. It was a delight!

Alas, the use of quotation marks in the menu is really bothering me. As a former English major, when I see something in quotations, it seems to denote that the thing is not really what it is but rather an approximation. Therefore, when I see the use of something like "foie gras", it makes me think to myself, "Hmm... is it REALLY foie gras, or is Keller playing around with different ingredients that taste and seem like foie gras but aren't really?" It bothers me. Why not just say Foie Gras? Another example that annoyed me was "coulis." So was it a coulis or wasn't it?

I know I'm the biggest nerd in the world. Please forgive me.

i agree with you the quotes are ridiculously annoying.

he uses quotes on the menu for any foreign words, usually french words.

which is frustrating, because yes, it is really foie gras, and it really is a coulis. there are no english words sometimes for a lot of french culinary words, so they are never translated. (like veloute, for example). and they go in quotes.

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I find italicization a little less intrusive.

I agree. However, I don't see why there needs to be any emphasis at all. Putting "foie gras" or foie gras on a menu doesn't change the fact that the mere mention of foie gras will jump out at you, nor does it help anyone who might not know what foie gras is. It just seems a little silly, and a little too twee.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Isn't the usage of "twee" itself, um, kind of twee?

If the worst thing anyone can say of Keller is his use of quotation marks is absurd (which is obviously is), then I kind of doubt he's staying up "nights" worrying about "it".

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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I have a question about the pricing at per se.  I know that gratuitiy is included in the $210 per person price, but how when one adds the wine pairing option, how does this work?  Do they automatically apply gratuity to the wine flight price for the sommelier or what?  Thanks.

Wine pricing at both Per Se and The French Laundry is also service compris.

Now that it is $210, what is the cost of the wine pairing?

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Now that it is $210, what is the cost of the wine pairing?

I don't think there's a set wine pairing. They'll configure something for you from glasses, bottles, half-bottles, etc, based on your party's size, preferences, budget, etc. I think people would appreciate a pre-arranged pairing, just to not have to think about it, but I saw no indication that one existed.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Now that it is $210, what is the cost of the wine pairing?

I had a recent experience with this. Our server did everything he could to bungle it, but eventually the sommelier redeemed him. I asked, "What is the cost of a wine pairing?"

The server replied, "We offer wine pairings for the same price as the menu." In other words, $210. I knew this was ridiculous. When Per Se first opened, they would do wine pairings starting at $100. That was before service was included, but if Alain Ducasse could do a wine pairing at $140 (as they did in January), surely Per Se can't insist that $210 is the minimum.

Anyhow, I said to the server, "We were thinking of something in the range of $150."

He replied with an evident sneer, "Hmmm....perhaps a couple of half-bottles?"

I asked to speak to the sommelier, who promptly rescued the situation. He said, "I can do it in your price range, as long as you'll allow me to go anywhere I want." Fact is, we would have expected him to do that anyway, so we agreed.

We ended up with a superb wine pairing at $150. Over the course of our nine-course tasting menu, we must have had six or seven pours. It included quite a bit of funky stuff that you'd never order on your own (e.g., a Hungarian sauterne, which was my friend's favorite). But that's the whole point of a wine pairing, isn't it?

To make a long story short, you should be able to get a wine pairing at $150, as long as you give the sommelier some flexibility. You'll still get wonderful wines at that price.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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I am a new member, so please bear with me. We had a wonderful meal at Per Se a few months after it opened, including a tour of the kitchen and a brief talk with Mr. Keller. We planned to return this past Saturday but we wondered if some of the excitement might be gone since it was not a totally new experience. I would like to thank Tupac for sharing his pictures since this certainly reminded us of our first experience and heightened our anticipation.

We are still floating from our amazing evening...Not everything was sublime (not everything was sublime the first time either, but enough was!) but overall, I am so glad we returned and we will again after a period of time has passed. The service again made us feel so special and so important. After dinner, we were again invited to tour the kitchen and see the video camera and screen we had read about here. Chef Benno sent out a signed menu out to our table for us..I guess I am a groupie for chefs of this level.

I would also like to add a comment about wines. Much as we know and read about food, we know very little about wines, and our Captain made us feel very comfortable and suggested a wine that was quite lovely and quite to our taste. I must humbly disagree that you should not show your lack of knowledge...no one can be an expert on everything, and part of the job of a good Captain is to steer his customers accordingly.

All that said, I would so recommend anyone who adores great food to save up and enjoy an evening here...WOW :biggrin:

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did the $150 price tag include gratuity? If not, that still seems a bit pricey. When we went to TRU and Alinea in Chicago, the wine pairings were about 2/3 the menu price (so they were closer to $80-100). At Tru, we were given a different pour with each of the 9 courses as well. Do you think Per Se could do a tasting closer to the $100 range?

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