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Jul 13, 2009 10:43 AM

Dare I ask, is Per Se really worth the cost?

Have a biggish birthday coming up, and we were planning to be in London at Hibiscus for it, until life and a darling new kitten at home intervened. We went to Per Se for a previous biggish birthday and were very pleased with it, but maybe not $700.00 + worth (this was 5 years ago, obviously it will be more expensive this time). Money is not exactly no object, but a blowout is not outside the question. Have eaten at most of the usual top end places and enjoyed them as well. Is Per Se really (dare I say it) worth it these days?

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  1. If you didn't find it worth $700 on your last visit, you will not find it worth the cost on this visit. In general, if one is asking if Per Se is worth the price, they should not go. I know that may sound snarky, but I'm serious. It's the kind of place you go when money truly is no object.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Blumie

      My benchmark is Taillevent under Vrinat. Not a stranger to very expensive meals.

      1. re: buttertart

        I have not been to Taillevent, but have been to comparably priced restaurants in Paris (and I have been to Per Se). My view is that you go to these places not because they're "worth it" in some monetary sense, but because, for $500/person all in, they provide an experience that you typically can not find at your typical $200/person restaurants. Not everyone can afford the $500 places (or the $200 places for that matter); if you're lucky enough to be able to, you have the opportunity to experience it, but it's hard to conclude that it's "worth it."

        1. re: buttertart

          I dined 4 times at Taillevent under M. Vrinat, and I've dined 4 times at Per Se. I use both Taillevent and Per Se as my benchmarks for exceptional dining. I have a big birthday celebration coming up, and since I can't get to Paris, I'm going to Per Se. I know it will be a spectacular dinner.

          1. re: ellenost

            Thank you, this is exactly what I had hoped to hear.

      2. Worth and cost are not the same. I would not want to spend a special night being disappointed. I run my own business, and although my compitition has higher prices, they don't provide a better experience.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jilliejay

          Precisely. Experience is key. I want to feel cosseted on every level.

          1. re: buttertart

            If you just want to be cosseted it's probably the best place you could go.

            The food is very good, but also extremely straightforward.

            1. re: brooklyndude

              It takes an awful lot of art to make food seem that straightforward.

        2. I've been to Per Se three times, and for me, the experience was worth it. However, one's perception of "experience" has an ingredient in addition to the elegant and perfect execution of service along with out-of-this world food; the guests have to be open to the experience. In other words, everyone at the table has to be on the same page to participate in the magic. If you think that you might be disappointed, or if you are worried that someone else at your table might be disappointed, then definitely do not do this. If you want to put yourself in the mindset of a big birthday and it's only money and you only live once, I say go for it! It will be well worth it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: j. marie

            Beautifully put! This may be true in other domains as well, in being "open to the experience", like music ;)

            I recently dined at Per Se, salon lunch, and found the food,wine,service and view amazing to experience!

          2. You know BT, having dined at both Per Se and The French Laundry, I feel TFL is better than Per Se. Maybe it was because I ate there first, maybe it was the circumstances of how I secured a res, maybe it was Napa Valley or maybe it was the full moon. I think Eleven Madison Park is, on a cost/benefit/pleasure scale every bit as good as Per Se. Happy Birthday!

            10 Replies
            1. re: scoopG

              We've always wanted to go to the French Laundry - try for a reservation whenever we go back to the Bay Area but haven't been able to get in. Interesting and good to know about Eleven Madison Park - we went once for dinner and weren't completely blown away, but there are only a very few restaurants in my experience that are on their game 99.9% of the time. I think it was a Monday, perhaps the B team was at the helm.

              1. re: buttertart

                Oh, OK. Well the secret to getting into THF is to keep calling! We did well before we left NYC and lucked out by getting through while we were in Yountville and got through about 3pm local time. They had an opening the following day.

              2. re: scoopG

                i disagree about emp. compared to per se it is definitely 2 notches below. if money's not a real issue as the op mentions then emp and per se do not belong in the same sentence. i'd put jg and daniel in between them as well.

                1. re: halo

                  I said on a cost/benefit/pleasure scale EMP holds up very well. $1000 vs $400.

                  1. re: scoopG

                    If you order EMP's 11-course Gourmand with wine pairings, the cost for two will be well north of $400. Worth, Every. Dollar!

                    While most of what we had at our one meal at per se was excellent, I was sorely disappointed with a very dull veal course. Overall, I did not find the cuisine to be superior to the cuisine at EMP or, for that matter, at several other high-end restaurants in NYC.

                    Given the "mystique" surrounding per se, to say nothing of the extremely high price, I think people are loathe to admit any imperfections, fearing it will make them seem foolish for spending so much money when they can have equally superb cuisine as well as equally stellar service and ambiance for some fraction of the cost at per se.

                    1. re: RGR

                      Haven't tried the 11-course Gourmand at EMP, only the three course meal. While I enjoyed my meal and service at per pe I guess I was spoiled first by my experience at TFL. I really only recommend per se to someone trying to complete a Thomas Keller trifecta!

                      1. re: RGR

                        My sister and I are going to EMP next week for the 11 course Gourmand dinner. We can't wait! I'll report back.

                        1. re: RGR

                          I gotta disagree re the mystique point, RGR -- people are pretty critical of Per Se. Also, while I've only been to French Laundry, I thought the food was in another league relative to EMP. It was a transformative meal for me -- one dish with caviar was so good it overcame an aversion I've had since childhood.

                      2. re: scoopG

                        I went to Per Se before TFL and I too found TFL to be a more pleasurable experience. I think it's the location. I believe Bourdain said something to the effect of, "one does not take the A train to Mecca." While overlooking the park is nice, Yountville adds a little something extra to the meal.

                      3. No.

                        Small counts of good food, bad enought on its own, but when you throw in the very annoying foo-foo atmosphere IT AIN'T WORTH IT.