Per Se v. Alinea
We ate at Per Se last night. It was a pretty spectacular meal. The service was comfortable, flawless, and generous. Despite that fact that we are far from bigwigs (we literally saved money in a shoebox for a year to afford this meal), we were treated like good friends (a step above royalty, in my opinion) and even treated to a few additional courses that weren't on the menu (including a strawberry desert that was probably the best desert I have ever eaten).
Some highlights were a dish that combined lobster with fig and chocolate, a cervelle de veau with bacon lardons and dijon mustard, and a piece of bluefin tuna with radish. All three of those dishes highlighted Keller's brilliance. There was an interview with Anthony Bourdain where he said something like "if I spent the rest of my life thinking about creating one dish, I would never come up with something as brilliant and tasty as the stuff Keller makes." At one point in the meal, my dining partner launched into a monologue about multiple intelligences and how Keller must be the smartest food guy ever.
I went in to this meal with Alinea being my standard bearer of amazing food. I can still taste about half of the dishes on the 24-course tour there and would sell my first born for another bite of Grant Achatz's "apple" dish.
The problem is that these two restaurants just aren't comparable. Sure Achatz worked under Keller at FL, but his four days at El Bulli make his creations just too different than Keller's. Certainly, the best dishes at Alinea were the most exciting bites of food I have ever had. That being said, our meal at Per Se was pretty close to perfect. In many ways, it is like comparing Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods. Tiger is consistent and unbeatable, but Jordan dunked on you with his tongue out.
In the end, I can't wait to go back to both.