per se, NYC
Chef: Thomas Keller
Chef de Cuisine: Eli Kaimeh
Cuisine: American Nouveau, French
Neighborhood: Midtown West
Price: $275 tasting menu (service included) + drinks
Attire: Formal, jacket required
It had always been a dream of mine to pass through those blue doors (which I discovered to be nonfunctional) and enjoy the culinary crafting of Thomas Keller’s tasting menu. I had gotten “close” to per se before… and by that I mean brunching just one floor below at one of my favorite spots, Bouchon Bakery, another Keller establishment. I discovered later during the kitchen tour that all the baked goods are made in the per se kitchen for Bouchon (french baguette is to die for!).
I was lucky enough to come with some friends, all young mid 20s and psyched for this experience. Sure, we brought down the average diner age that night and probably increased the laughter volume in that restaurant in general, but we like to think that was appreciated by all. Service was not only impeccable and accommodating, but also the warmest and friendliest service experience I’ve ever had. At first, our server may have been wary of this group of young upstarts but by the end of the night, we were teaching him about the concept of “icing” and discussing it with another staff member who was given the impromptu title as “Head of Icing.” We must have had at least 10 people serving us and all seemed to genuinely enjoy our conversations, or perhaps just amused by us in general. Either way works for us.
The best part was the kitchen tour at the end — it was incredible to witness where all the magic happens. The kitchen was impeccably clean, as it is cleaned continuously throughout the day. The main kitchen has a monitor which shows a live feed from the French Laundry kitchen in Napa Valley, so the two restaurants can always be in touch.
Now, about the food. The menu changes daily, only the “Oysters and Pearls” dish that originated from French Laundry is consistent on the menu. The Chef’s Tasting menu was 9 courses, and there were 4 courses where we had two options to choose between. We split it up so that we tried everything on the menu, except for the Hearts of Palm salad as we all wanted the Foie Gras instead. There is also a vegetarian Tasting of Vegetables menu, but Per Se was enough of a reason for our friends to ignore their religious diet restrictions for the evening…
Presentation was stunning, and you can taste how every dish was meticulously prepared. The entire meal was thoroughly enjoyable, and I liked how I was perfectly satiated by the end without feeling overstuffed. Overall, I would love to return someday to taste how the menu has evolved, but I won’t be doing any repeats until French Laundry is knocked off the list!
We had a few cocktails and shared two bottles of red wine: 2007 Lewis Cellar Napa Valley Syrah and 2003 Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Bussola.
Amuse bouche: Gougères, cheese pastry puff (I think Gruyere cheese perhaps?)
Sharp, flavorful, delicious! This inspired me to make my own Gougères at home!
Amuse bouche: Salmon tartare on a rye crispy cone with some kind of citrus cream
“OYSTERS AND PEARLS” – “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar
A little piece of heaven – my favorite! so creamy and delicious
TERRINE OF HUDSON VALLEY MOULARD DUCK FOIE GRAS – Duck Confit, Tri-Star Strawberries, Hakurei Turnips, Pickled Rose Petals, Red Ribbon Sorrel and Chamomile Syrup with Toasted Brioche (40.00 supplement)
I liked it, but I admit I’m more of a foie gras purist – don’t like too many ingredients mixed in like a pâté
SAUTÉED FILLET OF LINE CAUGHT ATLANTIC HALIBUT – Sungold Tomatoes, Shaved Baby Fennel, Violet Artichokes, Petite Parsley and Niçoise Olive Tapenade with Garlic Scape Vinaigrette
TARTARE OF KINDAI BLUEFIN TUNA – Yuzu Sorbet, Puffed Rice, Heirloom Snow Peas, Pea Tendrils and Young Almonds with Sake Lees
BUTTER POACHED NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER – Cèpe Mushroom, French White Asparagus, Black Knight Carrots, Fava Beans and Mizuna with Madeira Emulsion
Dave proclaimed this the best lobster dish ever
ALL DAY BRAISED SALMON CREEK FARMS’ PORK BELLY – Green Tomato Relish, Celery Branch and Spring Onions with Rémoulade
Nice subtle flavors. Who doesn’t love pork belly?? (ok unless you are kosher)
FOUR STORY HILL FARM’S “PIGEON RÔTI ENTIER” – Sunchokes, Brooks Cherries, Pine Nut Purée and Wild Arugula Seasoned with Smoked Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras
This was topped with a grated foie gras! Some were a bit wary about the pigeon part, but it’s not like these birds were caught on the streets of NYC
RIB-EYE OF MARCHO FARMS’ VEAL – Haricots Verts, French Laundry Garden Lettuces, Petite Radishes and Greenmarket Squash with Meyer Lemon Jus
NETTLE MEADOW FARM’S “KUNIK” – New Crop Potatoes, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Cornichons and Mustard Cress with Garden Dill Gelée
The cheese dish
MANGO SORBET – Rice Pudding and Rice Wafer with Whipped Jasmine Tea
ICED RASPBERRY PARFAIT – Macerated Pudwill Farm’s Raspberries and Hazelnut Mousse
with Raspberry Sorbet
“TRUFFE AU CHOCOLAT ET PISTACHE” – Pistachio “Bavarois,” Bitter Chocolate “Marquise”
and “Pain de Gênes” with Mast Brothers’ Chocolate Ice Cream
Mhm picture quality died once light disappeared, but just loved the cute presentation
Bite-sized desserts served at the end: chocolates, “popcorn” white chocolate covered ice cream, fried donuts, cappucino semifreddo
We each got a packet of fresh baked cookies to take home!