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Dec 22, 2008 10:12 AM

"Per se" - a morality play

Greetings, fellow hounds - I am facing something of a moral quandary. In these economic times, do you think it is a moral failing to agree to "pay $700...for lunch..." as one colleague put it? Is it ever justified to pay that much money for a meal? Granted, I know the crowd here generally will not balk at this sort of thing. And I have read the numerous reviews of the Per Se experience and realize that it is a 'once-in-a-lifetime' event. However, by suggesting I would go here with my fiancee on Valentine's Day, I have succeeded in offending some parts of my thrifty-Catholic-New England family and it has led me to question my decision. (Besides morality, the other argument from the clan being that no meal - ever - is worth $275pp).

Would love your feedback.

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  1. It's not immoral to have the means to a fantastic lunch (or dinner), and if cost is not an issue, by all means go. People spend hundreds (and thousands) to go to a sporting event or concert, and this really is no different (paraphrase from Tony Bourdain).

    It seems that maybe cost per person is a topic better avoided with your future in-laws?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Caralien

      Good New England Catholics also think it's immoral and obscene to spend that much on sports or concerts too. ;)

      Definitely with you on the second point.

      1. re: Bob Dobalina

        Actually I've heard this analogy before. $350 per/person for dinner, a concert and drinks certainly isn't unheard of or unreasonable.

        Ditto for a sporting event. "Good" seats at a NBA game reaches $350 pretty easily. Front row tickets reach $1,500 upward.

        Time wise a NBA game is 2.5 hours. Dinner at Per Se is probably 4-5 hours. Per/hour Per Se is less expensive.

        The thing with food or dinner is to most people it's just that...dinner or food. They don't see it as entertainment or fun.

    2. Hey, it's your money. My test for this sort of thing is: a year from now, which would bother me more, having spent the $ or passed up the lunch? Of course if there is any possibility you'll ever have to hit up the family for a loan...

      1. Think of the people you're supporting -- from bussers to purveyors...

        5 Replies
        1. re: Sarah

          Sarah, that is a good point.

          I also think that spending money on experiences, (food, travel, theater) is more satisfying than spending it on things. My lunch at the French Laundry was one of the highlights of the year. I doubt I'd do it again, but I'm glad I did.

          1. re: Glencora

            Me too, Glencora. It's an experience that is worth every cent, IMHO. My lunch at Per Se cost well above the $250/pp price tag with wine but I am so glad I did it. I thought I could've gone on a shopping extravaganza and left nyc with a few new clothes but instead I had a full sensory experience that I will never forget. I'm a rather frugal person otherwise and I took a lot of ribbing from friends and neighbors over the cost of my Per Se lunch. After I had the experience, I never once felt guilty or ashamed for having spent that money. Every penny - worth it - period.

            I noticed below that you asked if you are getting swindled and is it sinful. I don't know, it seems rather odd to ask such questions on this site(no offense meant). Folks here will overwhelmingly support spending $$$ on delicious food. As Deenso suggested, perhaps you need to discuss this with your spiritual person.

            1. re: lynnlato

              Right - I sort of figure that most people will not think it's sinful but I figured there might be a few lapsed Catholics (such as myself) that could relate. 13 years of Catholic school are hard to wash away. :)

              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                I figured it must be that good, old catholic guilt kicking in. You're absolutely right... it's hard to wash away. :) Hopefully, chowhounds have put your mind at ease, at least somewhat, and you can enjoy what will surely be a mind-blowing culinary experience. Enjoy!

                1. re: lynnlato

                  Lenny Bruce had a bit about Christ and Moses coming to NYC and what their experience would be like. St Patrick cathedral being so grand and 14 people living in one bedroom apt in Harlem. The cardinal wearing a ring that cost 5 grand.(1950's prices). Why aren't the people from Harlem living in the cathedral? Go to your meal and enjoy.

        2. A meal at Per Se - or at the French Laundry - is not just a "meal" - it's a memory for a lifetime. But if you have to justify it, or have your arm twisted, then it's probably not going to be worth it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Deenso

            You sort of beg the underlying question: Is it objectively justified? Am I getting swindled, at least a little in being charged (on average) $25/plate for nothing more than a couple of bites (in some cases)? Is that sort of consumption sinful?

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              Are you being swindled? Absolutely not! Years of training, skill and artistry go into each of those little plates. We're talking quality over quantity. And, trust me, you will not be hungry when you walk out of Per Se.

              As to whether "that sort of consumption (is) sinful," I'd say that's a question you might want to take up with your spiritual advisor. ;-)

          2. you'll never know until you try. i received good value for my money at per se. i've spent a ton less at other locations and felt ripped off.

            at the end of the day, per se is a worthwhile destination that satisfies at many levels. share your thoughts with us after you get back.