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Per Se Salon Menu- Review

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  • roze Mar 24, 2009 06:55 PM

Monday afternoon I was riding up to the Bronx for a late day meeting. Since I never have much “above ground” train time, I used it as an opportunity to peruse some of my favorite food blogs.

I just happened to look at Eater where they had a report that Per Se was going to start serving an a la carte menu in the lounge that very day!

Holy Cats!

Anyone who knows about food, knows about Per Se.

And anyone who knows about Per Se, knows it is extremely hard to get into and very expensive.

$275 for a prix course dinner (not including wine, etc) and usually requiring a 30 day in advance reservation.

So when I heard Per Se was going to start this offer, I knew I had a golden opportunity.

I was so excited I decided to go that very night. As soon as my meeting was over I headed back into Manhattan and right to the Time Warner Center.

I knew they opened at 5:30 and it was only about 5:15 when I arrived.

I decided to grab a glass of wine at the Bouchon Bakery bar. I didn’t want to be the first person there after all!

I tried to drink it slow, sipping like a proper lady, but I was so excited!!

By 5:32 my wine glass was empty and I was shaking with anticipation.

I couldn’t wait a minute longer so I headed upstairs.

The velvet rope was gone from the entrance and I could see the blue doors of French Laundry fame.

I was so giddy, so excited and maybe a little buzzed from slamming that glass of wine.

I walked right up and pulled on the silver handle.

Nothing happened.

So I pulled again. Again nothing.

So then I gave a push and another push.

Push, pull, push, pull- what the hell?

I’m sure they said they opened at 5:30.

Then I see a woman standing to the left, waving me inside by way of the incredibly obvious openings on either side of the decorative doors.

OMG I felt like the BIGGEST loser in the world.

Here I was going to one of the best restaurants in the world and before I even enter I have completely embarrassed myself.

Every bone in my body wanted to run away but somehow I managed to walk inside.

The nervous embarrassment then caused me to fumble with unbuttoning my coat.

I was somehow unable to place my scarf in my coat pocket like I have done a million times before…I was a mess.

Lucky for me, the staff at Per Se were trained not to give notice to these little foibles and they warmly took my coat and gave me a big smile when I asked about their new bar menu.

They took me inside to the lounge which was much larger than I had imagined and right to a big couch with a table facing right outside onto Central park.

The view was fantastic! I couldn’t believe how perfect the table was-definitely the best one in the lounge area by far.

My nerves seemed to calm a little and the waiter handed me the wine list to peruse.

I knew I wanted to relax and enjoy my meal so I decided to go for a half bottle of wine.

The waiter came over and took me through the list, making sure I would fine the best wine suited for my tastes, but also in my price range.

I ended up with a fantastic bottle of Zinfandel.

I was already exceeding the budget quota my non-profit salary can hold with the wine so I decided not to completely blow all of my savings and just go for an entrée.

But there were many lovely things to come before that was going to arrive.
Although this is cheaper than their prix fix it is certainly not cheap!!

To start they brought out two little Gruyere Cheese Gougeres.

Hot from the oven, these little balls had a fantastic golden brown outside and a wonderfully cheesy, creamy inner that was absolutely delicious.

The melty Gruyere cheese literally exploded when I bit in and it was kind of like eating a fantastic ball of fondue.

Next up was a small bowl of Celeriac Soup with Black Truffles.

Oh my goodness- this soup seriously made me swoon.

It had a thick almost velvety texture on the mouth and a deep earthy flavor that surpassed any soup I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

This just tasted elegant.

Next up they came around with a little cone of Salmon Tartar with Caramelized Onion and Crème Fraiche.

They set it down and I wasn’t quite sure what to do.

I used to love salmon but developed quite a strange food allergy to the fish late in life.

I went back and forth debating about what to do. I mean this is Per Se! I want to have everything they’re going to give me here because when will I be able to make it back?

And it’s not like I’m going to die or anything. However it would make me feel ill for the rest of the meal.

So I decided to try a tiny bit of the cone only and then set it down on my plate.

The waiter came around and noticed I hadn’t eaten the salmon and inquired as to why.

I explained my food allergy and he immediately picked up my plate and said he would be back with a replacement.

I said I didn’t mind but about two minutes later another waiter came around with a similar looking cone this time made of Beet, Horseradish Crème Fraiche and Black Pepper.

I am so glad they brought me something else because this was phenomenal.

The Beet did not taste like a regular Beet. I almost felt like I was eating a miniature roast beef sandwich. It had a meaty flavor that totally blew me away.

I thought I was done with the freebies at this point but then came the largest basket of bread for one person I have ever seen.

There were four pieces of mini French baguette, three pieces of some kind of onion roll and five pieces of pretzel bread.

I had to try them all of course and the big winner of the night was the pretzel bread.

Salty with a slight crunch but not too much this bread was awesome!! It tasted like it was fresh out of the oven and I wouldn’t be surprised if they fresh bake it every night.

The waiter said the butter was from Vermont and that Per Se then adds some special fleur de sel before serving.

The butter was creamy and not to rich, almost silky in texture.

I thought it was great but it didn’t compare to what I had at Blue Hill Stone Barns.

That butter still holds the trophy in my book, however this may be in a tie for runner up with Eleven Madison.

Then my entrée arrived.

I ordered the Elysian Fields Farm’s “Carre D ‘Agneau Roti Entier” which is “Ris ‘Agneau”, hand rolled Garganelli, Split English Peas, Pearl Onions and Tokyo Turnips with Lamb sauce.

I had basically three different components to the meat itself. A lamb chop, a small lamb loin and a lamb sweetbread.

The lamb chop was incredibly moist, the loin had a fantastic lamb sauce and the lamb sweetbread…Don’t get me started.

This fried little nugget of goodness really added to the rich flavor of the dish. I was in love!!!

The only problem I had with the dish were the other components.

The Onions, Turnips and Peas were all very coarse. I’m not sure how they were cooked but everything was a little too hard.

When I eat an amazingly moist piece of meat I just want something that is going to complement that flavor and texture.

I don’t want to feel a cold hard pea in the mix. I kind of wish they had gone for some kind of pea puree instead that would still have a great flavor but not be a distraction texturally.

However the meat was amazing and I enjoyed every last bite.

I was having such an enjoyable meal I decided to splurge on dessert and went with my waiter’s recommendation the selection of Sorbets.

Buttermilk Sorbet with Lemon Poppy Cake underneath, a Caramelized Banana Sorbet, Coconut Sorbet with toasted Coconut and finally a rich Chocolate Sorbet with Chocolate shavings.

I love desserts like this because you get to try so many different flavors and they were all fantastic.

If I had to choose a winner though it would be the Banana.

I just love a good banana dessert!

So you would think I wouldn’t be able to move after all of this food but then they brought out some complimentary mignardises.

Again quite the large amount of treats for a solo diner!

There were some jelly candies, an amazing peanut nougat candy and two kinds of chocolates one made with Caraway seeds.

I thought the Caraway seed Chocolate was a little strange and I’m not sure if I liked it or not but the peanut nougat was the bomb!!!

I tried one of each treat and was planning to ask the waiter to box up the rest to bring home for my SO.

However the next thing I knew though I was delving into the rest and ended up eating them all!

Yes I admit I ate the whole tray and was quite happy about it.

The final bill for this wonderfully amazing meal?

$133

Which is a HUGE amount of money for one person. Luckily I had just gotten my tax refund and felt I deserved the treat.

What made Per Se one the most amazing meals I have ever had was not only the food and view, but the service.

I have to say it was utterly impeccable.

My waiter was absolutely amazing. He truly seemed to take in interest in me not only as a diner but as a person. He would come by and casually chat as I waited between courses and never made me feel strange dining alone.

The service of the wait staff simply blew me away and that is the reason I am going to try even harder to save up my pennies for a full fledged meal in the main room.

Not only that but I completely forgot to check out the bathrooms! So I have to go back! Sigh…

I have gotten a taste of Thomas Keller’s kingdom and I really hope to one day return to the castle.

Additional Pics here: http://nyctastes.blogspot.com/2009/03...

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  1. Rose, thank you for that wonderful review. I stopped in yesterday just too look at the menu and plan on eating in the lounge this week. I am not at all suprised, though, that the service in louge is as gracious and wonderful as it is in the main dining room. Per Se is a superb dining experience and I highly recommend that you return and sit in the main dining room. I have eaten at Per Se 12 times, all but two alone, and have had great experiences there. My last one, 2 weeks ago, was 20 courses and perhaps the best meal I have ever had in the U.S.A.

    1. Roze thanks for your great review, I'm glad you loved it so much. We had our first visit there December past, and it was indeed awesome. As with yourself, the servers really made the meal amazing...this has to be the pinnacle of servery surely? I had read Phoebe Damrosch's book before our trip, so knew how rigorous the training is for Per Se staff and it was so great to experience it first hand.

      The Pretzel Bread! Ooohh mother may I? Amazing! :) I believe they bake several times during a service to ensure customers get bread straight from the oven.

      Was the new menu proving popular when you were there? Busy?

      Thanks again.

      5 Replies
      1. re: ooglewoogle

        I've been meaning to read that book and now it is a must. The place was not very busy when I was there although it was early AND a Monday. I would say that only about six tables in the main dining room were occupied by the time I left at 6:30 or so

        1. re: roze

          That's not too surprising. I think Per Se staggers their reservations instead of having two separate seatings so that the staff isn't overwhelmed at once.

          Thanks for the review. I think this will be a golden opportunity for those who don't want to pony up for the tasting menu, go on a food marathon and go through the whole reservation hassle.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            These days, there isn't much of a hassle getting reservations at per se. OpenTable now quite regularly shows tables for two and four available, often at prime times and even on the same day. This is surely *the* reason per se decided to do a la carte lounge dining. Like other high end restaurants, they are being forced to adjust to the current economic realities.

            1. re: RGR

              There was something in the NY Times that addressed this. The main reason why Keller instituted the a la carte menu is that the corporate private room dinners are way down. And instead of having two seatings, a lot of the tables are getting turned once, with prime spots around 8P. So that is probably why roze didn't see too many tables filled at 6:30P.

              ETA: And, yes, Thomas Keller isn't immune from the current economic climate. : )

              1. re: Miss Needle

                Right - and you were correct in your earlier email...at both TFL and per se Keller staggered the reservations.

      2. Great review! Thanks! Do they take reservations for the lounge?

        4 Replies
        1. re: erica

          I dont think so. I beleive it's walk in only.

          1. re: roze

            roze,

            Thanks for an excellent, detailed, and entertaining review. I hadn't thought they would be providing all the little "extras" in the lounge that they offer in the dining room. It makes the hefty prices somewhat more acceptable.

            You are correct about about walk-in only. In an interview he did with Bruni, Keller said they are not taking reservations now, but that could change quickly if needed. I take that to mean too many walk-ins for the restaurant to provide the kind of first-rate service they are known for and which you, obviously, received.

            1. re: roze

              I meant to say were there a lot of people in the lounge?

              1. re: brooklyndude

                I was the only person dining in the lounge at this time. Two groups had a drink while waiting for other guests but were quickly seated in the main room after that.

          2. Thanks for the write-up, roze. Do you recall the price of your main course and dessert, respectively? I'm just curious how it all broke down.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ulterior epicure

              Eater has photos of the menu w/prices.

              1. re: ulterior epicure

                My Main Course was $48 and the dessert was $12 I think. My half bottle really inched the bill up at $60. All of the wines were pretty high in mark up.

              2. I loved reading this, it brought a little tear to my eye...because I am sorry I didn't make it to Per Se last time in NY

                I have the French Laundry cook book and planning to make something out of it this weekend...no short cuts, I guess for now until we make our way back to NY it is the best I can do!

                Thanks for sharing once again

                1. Wow, amazing details, thanks Roze! So funny, as I started to read your post I envisioned you walking up to the blue doors and sure enough you did. I'm so thankful I had read about them BEFORE I visited Per Se and thus avoided your predicament. I'm sure the staff gets a big kick out of folks who do the same as you. $133 bucks included the wine???? Damn - much cheaper than the $500 bucks I spent on myself.

                  Yay for you for treating yourself... you deserve it! ;-)

                  Beautiful descriptions of the food - good job! Funny how they haven't changed much over the years though. Don't get me wrong, when I went 2 years ago I loved everything I ate - but I'm surprised they haven't switched up some of the course by now.

                  1. roze - I loved reading your review! I felt like I was right there with you!! My mouth was watering. I went to FL in 2006 and have been dreaming about it ever since. I'm planning a NYC trip in July and hope to snag a lunch res at Per Se - but I had no idea they were doing this Salon menu thing - I have done the 5:00 thing at Babbo twice, so the option to do something similar at Per Se sounds awesome! Brilliant! Thanks for the great review and for helping me plan my trip!

                    1. After reading Roze's review, I vowed I was going to go to Per Se. So I did, for Sunday lunch, since the salon (i.e. bar) menu is also offered for weekend lunch without the need for reservations. I think I got the same seat as Roze did, by the window overlooking Central Park. The service was impeccable - my server was very sweet, knowledgeable, and never pushy (I can't drink alcohol because of this weird itchy reaction, so I hate it when waitstaff try to insist that wine is necessary to a meal). I ordered an appetizer and entrée:

                      MASCARPONE-ENRICHED FAVA BEAN "AGNOLOTTI "
                      Castelvetrano Olives and Petite Basil
                      with Villa Mille Rose Extra Virgin Olive Oil

                      This sounded really good already, and the server called it “spring in a bowl,” which totally sold me on it. It came out as little half-moon pasta pockets, about the size of the tip of my index finger, filled with creamy mascarpone/fava bean filling, in a rich green sauce with fava beans and bits of fresh green olives and a nice spicy top note of extra virgin olive oil. With the tender raw basil sprouts, it tasted very green – exactly like spring in a bowl.

                      SNAKE RIVER FARM’ S "CALOTTE DE BOEUF GRILLÉE"
                      Braised Bacon, "Rissolée" of New Crop Potatoes,
                      Celery Branch and Grilled Ramps with Blis Maple "Mignonnette"

                      I was torn between the red meat and the lobster (the server said that the morels in the lobster dish were just coming into season, and that the lobster was actually the claws that have been poached in butter and cooked sous vide, making it extremely tender), but the server said that as a red meat lover, she would recommend the beef. As I too am a red meat lover, I took her up on her recommendation. The rib eye cap came out just grilled to medium rare, and it was so lovely – tender, flavorful, and really delicious with the maple syrup sauce. The bitterness of the grilled ramps and celery, and the saltiness of the lardons, really played off the sweet sauce too. I found the whole potatoes, each about the size of a nickel, to be a really fun aspect. I started taking really small bites and eating really REALLY slowly towards the end because I didn’t want it to end.

                      At this point, I was surprisingly full. It probably was because before my appetizer, they served up the tiny puffs of guyere cheese, the neat little cone filled with crème fraiche and salmon tartar, and an espresso cup of white asparagus and truffle soup (this last was a little salty, but great body!). As Roze mentioned, the bread basket was NOT stingy. It contained three standard mini french baguettes, three rounds of potato sourdough, and (the BEST part) four soft buttery pretzel sticks sprinkled with fleur de sel. I couldn’t help myself – ate two of the pretzels, and probably could have taken down more. So although I had planned on the chocolate bombe au pamplemousse, I decided not to have it. But my sweet tooth got some satisfaction anyway – they followed up with a tiered silver server of two tiny fruit gumdrops (passion fruit and guava), four housemade truffles (one with cinnamon oil with a big kick, another with lime, a third and fourth with flavored chocolate fillings I couldn’t identify), as well as a wrapped nougat and a wrapped caramel (I’m betting the latter two were excess material from the Snickers dessert that was on the tasting menu). After I paid the bill, they then came out with this really cute package of nut brittle for me to take home.

                      Really really fantastic experience, even if it was $80 for a two-course lunch (service is included in the menu price). If at some point I can afford the $275 dinner tasting menu without wincing, I’m coming right back here.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: meuri

                        thanks for the well-written, thoughtful review. i'm not feeling particularly splurge-y these days, but the $80 price tag seems more than fair for a meal like this. since i opted tp work through my birhday today -- oh well -- maybe i will treat myself next weekend.

                        1. re: david sprague

                          wow that review was wonderful, too! I am definitely looking forward to this!!

                      2. Great review! You really made me feel like I was there. Don't worry about the blue door, it stands out so much that you tend to focus on it and not the glass doors around. I almost did the same thing. You're definitely right about the service there. Second to none. Except maybe urasawa in LA. I had literally taken one bite of my "still hot" toast that came with the foie and my server replaced it because there was one that just came out of the oven. While my meal wasn't as memorable as yours probably because the the taste to cost ratio wasn't as good as other places. I think if I had done what you did and not the full tasting, I would have been a happy camper. You should try the oyster tapioca thing as well as the lime lace dessert next time you go.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: peppermonkey

                          I have been in the Salon three times this month. Two dinners and one lunch. The salon is a wonderfully relaxing space to have a great meal. Unfortunately, all three meals were quite a bit more than $80. Also, the Oysters and Pearls has not been on the Salon Menu yet this month. I wonder what the price of that awesome dish would be.

                          1. re: sethd

                            what a shame...that dish is amazing

                            1. re: sethd

                              You live the good life, I must say.
                              Yes, I am envious.
                              I assume the wine by the glass list is the same as on the regular wine list from the dining room?
                              How many courses were you ordering per meal?
                              Doesn't seem as if you need be concerned about the price of O and P.
                              I am also surprised you did not request it given their propensity to please.

                              I want to dine as you do when I grow up.
                              Ah, I just realized, I am way past grown up. So much for that pipe dream.

                              1. re: dietndesire

                                Thank you!! My passion in life is fine dining . With Per Se, I have a couple of advantages: I live across the street from the time warner center and know some of the staff from when they worked at Jean Georges. The wine list is exactly the same as the main dining room. Usually, I order three course plus desert. They have given me two or three amuses to start as well. Twice, I ordered wines by the glass. The last time I had a wonderful half bottle of Red Burgundy. I am sure they would offer me the oysters and pearls if I asked. I know they let me order the coffee and doughnuts last week! Maybe, next time I go there.

                                1. re: sethd

                                  Wow. you live across the street from Per Se? That's insane. I would be there way too often.

                                  I had a 5-hour, 9-course tasting menu for lunch when I was in NY last year and it was one of the most enjoyable dining experiences I've ever had. The service is amazing - it's unobtrusive but they anticipate your every need and no special request is a problem.

                                  I'm excited to hear about the Salon. I'm visiting again in May but I wasn't planning on visiting Per Se this time. Now I'm reconsidering...

                                  1. re: chefhound

                                    I do eat at Per Se way too often. and yes I do live that close. Often, I go in on Friday evening, ask if they have a cancellation for saturday or sunday, and if they do, ask them to consider me if a table opens up on short notice. That plan works every so often. My last meal at Per Se, last month, was an 18 course feast, and was next to my first meal there 2 years earlier,( another 18 course, 6 hour extravangaza) the best I had there. It is indeed a special place, and why I believe it is the best in the city.
                                    The Salon is a relaxing, pleasant, peaceful place to have a meal. You can see the daily menu on Per Se's website. It is a combination of items from both the vegetarian and regular chefs tasting menu. I am sure that if you
                                    saw an item that was on one of the other menus and not on the salon menu they would offer it to you as well. The service as as perfect as it is in the main dining room. They offer the complete wine list as well. One caveat, the seats may not be great for long meals: if you are not used to sitting and eating at bars, you may not like the arrangements at Per Se. I doubt it, though.

                                    1. re: sethd

                                      Sethd - I dont see where no their site they update the menu, ever! It is my goal to go to Per Se before I leave NYC and have a full dinner there. I've been here 3 years and haven't made it yet. But, am keeping hope alive :)
                                      -Val!