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Oct 13, 2008 07:30 AM

10th wedding anniversary... going to Per Se

My husband (who has been to NYC many times) and I (only been to NYC a couple of times) will be visiting from Philly for the weekend in November to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. My husband surprised me with a reservation for lunch (we may have a chance to change that to dinner) at Per Se. Now I know that sounds lovely, but I am having a hard time with the exorbitant price tag. So I have a few questions for the experts.... Can you add wine pairings to your meal and if so, what is the cost? Would we be wiser to enjoy a couple of really great places instead of just blowing the bank at Per Se? If you were to recommend some other places that food wise you would put on a par (or near par) with Per Se, what would they be? And quite honestly, although I love food I am, most unfortunately, a pretty picky eater (I know, not very chowish!) which Per Se said they will happily accomodate. I'd be most grateful for any input. Also, anyone ever been to the Spotted Pig? It was recommended to us by a chef we know and we'd like to try it out on Friday night. Thank you!

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  1. I can't help with Per Se but I have enjoyed Spotted Pig for lunch several times. That said, I gather that there are long waits at dinner (no reservations) unless you go very early, and while the food is very good, I wouldn't wait on line for it.

    1. Congratulations on your anniversary!

      To answer your question, that's kind of tough. I loved Per Se and French Laundry. But for a picky eater (and I'm not really sure what you mean by picky), it may not be the best choice. There's a set menu. I'm sure if you really hate something, they'll make a substitution. But my meal at FL back in July had raw fish, cooked fish, raw beef, slightly cooked oysters, foie gras and a game bird. While I love all of these things, you may not. You may be better off going to a restaurant that offers more choices. Eleven Madison Park has a prix-fixe menu, but you have a choice as to what course you'd like.

      And Spotted Pig is fabulous. If you go there, you really should go on the early side unless you want to wait. I was there around 6:45P thinking that it would be OK to find out that there was already a 1 hour wait.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Miss Needle

        Embarassed to say that my freaky food quirk is that I eat very few fruits and vegetables. Any thing else I'm pretty game for. When asked on the phone my husband let them know this and they said it would not be a problem... that they'd encountered it before. Not sure about that:) Can you add wine pairings at Per Se as I see that you can at EMP? Thanks!

        1. re: cjc519

          I see. Well, if you order the regular tasting menu, the fruits and veggies are kept at a minimum -- it's more of a brunoise of vegetables accompanying a protein as opposed to the veggies being the star of the plate. One of the desserts may have some fruit in it. But I'm sure there are ways to work around that if you aren't crazy about that.

          At Per Se, DH did do a wine pairing with his meal. I could be wrong, but I don't believe it was a set menu of wine pairings. He just informed the sommelier that he wanted a pairing done, and the sommelier just picked some wines by the glass that would go with the dishes. At French Laundry, DH just picked a couple of half-bottles as he learned that he'd rather drink wines that he likes to drink regardless of the meal as opposed to doing a pairing.

          Knowing about your food quirks and having been to Per Se and French Laundry, personally I'd rather blow my money on two meals versus one at Per Se. That's talking from hindsight. But if I did that, I'd probably always be wondering what I was missing. So my vote is to just enjoy yourself at Per Se. You'll get a stunning meal with wonderful service.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            Thank you so much for the information. I don't want to disappoint my husband who really went above and beyond for this, but I wonder if I'd rather have a really great dinner say at maybe LeBernadin or 11 Madison Park. Per Se's lunch price is much more palatable than the dinner for me, but lunch doesn't seem overly romantic for an anniversary. Thoughts? The reason I use those as examples is their tasting menus seem to have several courses that can be paired with wines for a significant amount less than Per Se and the setting of both seems lovely.

            1. re: cjc519

              I didn't realize Per Se's lunch price was different than the dinner price. Are you sure about that? We had lunch at French Laundry, and it was the same price as dinner.

              I can definitely understand your feelings about lunch not being as romantic as dinner. But with Per Se, you're in for a food marathon -- a good three hours or so. After eating, you're probably going to want to digest your food and eating during lunchtime definitely makes it easier. After a really "romantic" huge meal at Per Se at night, you're probably not going to want to get too "romantic" later that evening in your hotel room. Maybe your husband already thought about that and booked lunch on purpose! ; )

              Luckily, my SIL got our Per Se reservations for us. And I know she went through hell to get them (what a wonderful SIL I have!). And for reservations to the French Laundry, DH and I were on the phone using four phone lines for two hours. I'll bet that your husband went through a lot of trouble to get those reservations. After all the hoop-la we went through (which I really hate doing just to have dinner), I really think you should try to keep them. It's not difficult at all to get into Eleven Madison or Le Bernardin. But Per Se reservations require a bit of elbow grease.

              Eleven Madison and Le Bernardin are nice restaurants. The decor of Le B is not very romantic, however. It's more sterile and corporate (if that makes a difference to you). EMP's food is more in vein of Per Se's menu. Le Bernardin's emphasis is on seafood. I've enjoyed eating at both restaurants. But I know myself -- because I kept hearing about French Laundry and Per Se, I wanted to eat there at least once in my lifetime. Have there been restaurants that were better? Yes (not EMP or Le B). But for me, it was the whole damn mystique of the restaurants. I wanted to understand what everybody was talking about. If I skipped it, I would have always been going through life going, "What if?" Ok, I'm being a bit melodramatic here. But you get the gist of it. But if you haven't been affected by the mystique of Per Se, I can see you enjoying both Le B and EMP. Like I said before, in hindsight, I would have probably substituted two restaurants for Per Se -- most likely EMP and L'Atelier. But I'm still happy that I went to Per Se.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                You've convinced me! Lunch at Per Se it is. I told my husband over a year ago (after reading Service Included which DH then read) that I'd like to experience something like Per Se once in my lifetime and lo and behold he kept it in the back of his mind and made the res. for our anniversary. Maybe we could go somewhere much later in the evening for a small bite, some drinks, and dancing that isn't too much of scene.... any suggestions? We'll be staying on the Upper West Side but can certainly take a cab. Oh, almost forgot... it does say on their website that in addition to the 9 course offering they also have a 5 course lunch which is $175. I know that men are required to wear jackets, but what would be appropriate attire for me during lunch service? Thanks again!

                1. re: cjc519

                  If you want to do something afterwards, even later in the evening, I'd do the 5 courses -- 9 is a foodie marathon. Proper attire is the same for any high end restaurant.

                  1. re: cjc519

                    I've been to a lot of the better restaurants in NYC and I can honestly say that Per Se is an experience unlike no other. They're also REALLY good about accommodating food allergies and food likes and dislikes.

                    Your husband obviously put a lot of effort into getting this reservation to surprise you. Take it and enjoy it. You don't do this every day. And it's worth it. You're going to have a great time -- particularly after reading Service Included.

                    Please write and tell us about your experience!

                    1. re: cjc519

                      I agree with a&w -- you should wear whatever you would have worn to dinner for Per Se -- dress, skirt and blouse, slacks, pantsuit -- whatever.

                      As you don't know how hungry you may be, I'd probably recommend a tapas or small plates restaurant. Near Per Se is Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud's latest restaurant in NYC. I haven't been there, but DH was there a few weeks ago. He said food was good. Not a scene in terms of something like Buddakan, but it may be crowded as I can imagine it would be very popular with the Lincoln Center crowd. But after 8P, I'm thinking that it should lighten up a bit. There's also Yakitori Totto not too far from Per Se as well. It's an authentic Japanese yakitori joint (casual). They do a lot of great tiny skewers of meat on a grill as well as other delicious foods. No reservations, but the lines can get quite long around 8P or so. A more upscale version of Yakitori Totto would be Aburiya Kinnosuke in Midtown that does take reservations. My favorite Spanish tapas restaurant in NY would probably be Casa Mono down near Union Square. Small and cramped, but the food is really good! But portions tend to run on the large side there.

                      Dancing venues? I'm afraid I wouldn't be any help -- haven't really gone in many years -- and the places I used to go to are probably places a couple would not go to to celebrate a 10-year anniversary.

                      Enjoy! You're going to have an awesome trip!

                    2. re: Miss Needle

                      At lunch, per se offers two options: the regular 9-course menu, which costs the same as at dinner ($275) or 5 courses for $175. And, btw, lunch is served only on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

            2. On a tangential note, it really annoys me that Per Se will only allow you to purchase gift certificates for the FULL cost of a meal for two. I wanted to purchase one as a wedding present for a few hundred dollars to help defray the cost of dinner but was told the minimum was $550.

              1. Per Se is the best dining experience by far in New York. I am sure they would do something special for you if you let them know that you are celebrating your anniversary. They will do wine pairings without question except for the price you are willing to pay for the wine. The service at Per Se is customer driven. They will do whatever you desire to make yours a truely memorable experience. The only equivalent restaurants in new york are Jean Georges and Le Bernardin. IMO EMP is the most overrated restaurant in the city. Stick with Per Se: it is actually worth the price, you will have an extremely memorably meal that with match the event you are celebrating. Congrats!!!