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Apr 23, 2007 09:14 AM

Per Se critical review

OK-while it's still fresh in my mind the morning after: beautiful room, incredible views. The 2 tiny gougeres amuse bouche were good though the basket I had at Artisanal last week were as good. The salmon tartare mini-cones (the word "mini" applies to all courses) with creme fraiche was delicious and even Mrs. GG who is not fond of raw onions enjoyed it. The oysters and pearls was great in terms of textural and temperatures coming together and I enjoyed the tapioca, oysters and caviar though felt a little disappointed that it was American Sterling and not osetra. The sommelier/waiter upsold us 2 glasses of Riesling to pair with the foie gras even though I had already ordered a $300 Latour a Pomerol (1998). It made for a nice pairing but not for $50. The foie gras (a $30 supplement) was very good with almonds and peach gelee and brioche but was not as good to a very similar dish I had 2 weeks ago at CityZen in Washington D.C. ironically prepared by Eric Ziebold, Keller's former sous-chef. The Hawaiian snapper was good but also continued Keller's predilection for onions, ramps and chives in every dish and may have had the slightest "fishy" taste to it. The breads and butters were good though no seconds were offered of the breads. The butter poached lobster was excellent. Mrs. GG went to powder her nose and they took her napkin and never replaced it until I asked. I couldn't care less but found it amusing given the reputation for service. The quail was wonderful-boneless except for a tiny leg-again reminded me of the boneless crawfish stuffed quail of many years ago at Commander's Palace before the flood though only a pale imitation of the New Orleans dish. My wife had the veal and sweetbreads which she also compared to the veal at CityZen a few weeks ago though Per Se's was not as good. After recently having had a single piece of Wagyu beef seared atop nigiri style sushi at Ushi Wakamaru I went for the $100 supplement Wagyu beef. Two small cubes not much bigger than my sushi that were seared on all but one side and which were overwhelmed by a dark sweet sate sauce and avocado coulis with an interesting vegetable tempura. The mango sorbet was terrific. The cheese "selection" was good though was neither a selection (where's the cheese cart?) nor did it come with the normal accompaniments. The single microscopic piece of morbier was the best morbier I'd ever had but was again overwhelmed by a tomato marmalade that looked like quince but was extremely oniony and by an asparagus soup that looked (and tasted) more like an espresso. The pana cotta and creme brulee dessert amuse bouches were overkill though nice and the chocolate4 ways was also passe. Interestingly, my recent vacation to Washington D.C. resulted in 4 meals that I thought were superior: CityZen, Citronelle, Maestro and the Inn at Little Washington though they were all certainly influenced to some degree by Keller, as well a recent meal at Degustation in NY at 1/10th the price. The total damage (which really is not part of my criticism): $1150 for two. Glad I went but won't be back soon. P.S. consistent with my name-I believe that I am the only person in history to eat at Per Se and King Yum (see Outer Boroughs board) within 24 hours.

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  1. Thanks for the detailed report. Not surprising at all. I always thought that Keller is more pomp than substance.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Vinous

      Big fan of the inn at little washington, preety much agreed with per se analysis-
      p.s. they did refold my wife s napkin

      1. re: Vinous

        Good report, though my experience @ Per Se was near perfection. Perhaps the best service I have ever had, surpassing many a French 3 star.

        1. re: tbear

          I fortunately have had the same experiences with Per Se as tbear. The combination of food, service and atmosphere makes this my gold standard for restaurants.

          Every request I have ever made at this restaurant has been granted with grace and generosity. I asked for the names of the wines I had with dinner. I got every label from the bottle on a separate cardboard sheet with the name of the retaruant on it. (And I didn't buy anything over $125 that night). We were too full to eat the chocolate truffles after one visit, and we took all 12 truffles home in a box to enjoy the next day (I would have been happy with even one). I have never been served as much white truffle as I got on my White Truffle Risotto (You should have seen my eyes widen when they just kept on shaving and shaving and shaving...) On the night of the white truffle miracle, i was with a party of four. We all ordered the tasting menu, but all of us asked for changes to the menu. Now I will admit, we all made changes to add more fat, expense and calories. I added the white truffle dish. chose the fois gras option and changed one of my dishes to kobe beef. My partner did the same. The third person did fois gras and the white truffle. The fourth person decided he liked fois gras so much that he went for 2 courses of fois gras(done two different ways). We were quite concerned we were being very high maintenance. I love tasting menus, and usually it is hard to get substitutions. The server was gracious and non-judgemental (Cause the calorie count was really bordering on obscene!). And to top off the night, he came out with an extra course of white-truffle custard with black truffle ragout and caviar. "The chef liked the way you ordered so much, he wanted you to have this" he said. I have never been so rewarded for gluttony! And none of us are celebrity chefs, just anonymous pigs.

          Every meal I have had there has been memorable. The attention to detail, the quality of the ingredients, the quiet efifcient but personable service, they continue to blow me away. The consistency is remarkable, and for me is the mark of a first class restaurant. But the comments on this thread are interesting to read. Keep posting! Maybe I'll have an easier time to get a reservation next time!

          I don't know what King Yum is, but we did eat breakfast the next day the Donut Plant... yummmmy! Love eating in manhattan.....

      2. I agree with your review- exact same experience

        1 Reply
        1. re: radman123

          During our two dinners at Per Se I found the service to be perfect. No disappearing napkins, many returns of the bread basket. No complaints.

          My only complaint with them (aside from the inevitable sticker shock when the bill comes-- you expect it and yet still...ouch) , is that while I found the overall food to be excellent, aside from the oysters and pearls, there isn't one course that I was so blown away by that I remembered it afterwards. Generally with a tasting menu I find that one or two dishes blow me away. And those are the ones I talk about afterwards. For Per Se nothing really stood out either time.

        2. Nice synopsis of your evening. While I absolutely loved Per Se, I agree with you that there is a lot of hype to this place. The service was very good, though they were not the most attentive in filling our water glasses. We did get two rounds of the bread, though. I loved the gougeres (in my opinion, much better than Artisanal because of the creaminess inside) and the salmon tartare cones. I could have eaten at least ten of those cones! Loved the oyster and pearls as well. Other standout dishes were the butter poached lobster and the veal. I wasn't a fan of the lamb sweetbreads, but DH ate every bite. It was a bit too gamey for my taste. I was also hoping for a cheese cart, but our cheese was delicious nonetheless. It was paired with roasted beets which were incredibly juicy and sweet. The chocolates, truffles, nougat-based candy, chocolate covered almonds were overkill after our two desserts, but very welcome. We took some macarons home. The waitress pronounced it "macaroons." Is that how it's pronounced? I always thought it was "macaron" as in "mac - a - rhone."

          Overall, a very lovely evening. One thing that was disappointed in was the preferential treatment of chefs in the restaurant. Because there is only one menu, it was pretty obvious that about four to five tables were receiving quite a few supplements, including a tray of about seven different tasting salts. We had about nine courses; at the pace those tables were going, I think they probaby had twice the amount. The wine service these tables received was also a few notches higher than our table. I also saw the infamous donut being delivered to one of those tables. I really wanted to try that donut!

          5 Replies
            1. re: BW212

              It's the donut paired with a cappucino semifreddo -- Keller's take on coffee and donuts.

            2. re: Miss Needle

              When I dined at Per Se, the salts were presented only with the foie gras course and taken away after that. Perhaps you were not offered the salts because you opted not to have that course?
              We also saw the "Coffee and doughnuts" being served to a table next to us. We asked the waiter what it was. He kindly described it to us, and once we fininshed our dessert, we were presented with one for us!
              As someone who is not a chef, nor in the industry, I was touched at their level of attentiveness and generosity (if you can call it that - after all, we did pay for the full prix fixe)

              1. re: avae

                The salts were there on those tables throughout the night. And we both ordered the foie gras course with no salts in sight. The chef tables were also presented with a lot of other courses that were not on the menu including scallop, beef, and his "fish and chips" in addition to the same courses that we received. The reason I know that they were chef tables was that when we were leaving I asked the hostess if there was an alternate menu or off-menu items. She replied that there were a lot of chefs dining there that night (it was a Sunday) and that extra courses were brought out for them. I totally understand that the people in the industry will receive preferential treatment (along with celebrities, etc.). That's just the way the world works. However, I was really intrigued by what they were eating, and wished I had the opportunity to taste those dishes as well (even if it meant paying extra). I guess I should have spoken up. My husband pointed out that we were probably subsidizing the meals of the industry people.

              2. re: Miss Needle

                As regards macaroons and macarons - macaroons are coconut based and macarons are almond based. Macaroons are much more prevalent, we ate tons of them in England. Lovely review, guttergourmet (what a misnomer!), I will have to get to Per Se when I visit. I used to live in Napa and visited the French Laundry a lot and loved it.

              3. Very nice review.
                I just thought I'd note though on your comment about Inn at Little Washington being influenced by Keller- it's actually the other way around. Patrick O'Connell has been doing his thing there for almost 25 years.

                1 Reply
                1. re: lebelage

                  Good point. More interesting though was the chef at CityZen in D.C. which had some amazing similarities to Per se from Eric Zeibold who trained under Keller.

                2. My biggest problem with both visits to per se has been the sommelier. Last time I ate there in November the first word that he uttered was Montrachet. Yeah sounds great but how about something under $1000, I thought to myself. I eventually shooed him away and chose my own wines.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: shane

                    Your wonderful and picturesque review tickled my funny bone.
                    I had a vision of the emperor's new clothes.
                    How great can the greatest food on earth possibly be to warrant that kind of price tag?
                    Some people just like to be had.

                    1. re: idia

                      Idia-It was well worth the money. If you have never eaten there, you really cant say that "some people just like to be had".