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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.

                        1. I do not believe that Per Se is "worth it". The meals I have had have not been among the most memorable I have had in New York, never mind the country, double never mind the world. I've said my piece on Per Se here and on other boards, and won't repeat it ad nauseum here -- but I don't think anything about Per Se -- atmosphere, "personalization" (for lack of a better word), innovation or quality of cooking makes me feel good about the price tag. Went there for my last birthday, but thankfully it wasn't a big one. To spend Per Se style money in NY, I'd upgrade my wine choices at Le Bernardin, Corton, Jean Georges, even Atelier de J.R., I've enjoyed more than Per Se. Certainly enjoyed Masa more, although it was considerably more expensive than PS.

                          1. I hope it is worth it...I Will be at Per Se, Yasuda and Le Berardin next wekk and will report back. I noticed the $275 price tag at Per Se includes service. Does anyone tip beyond that? What is the protocol?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Apprentice

                              There is no particularly protocol. Some diners do tip beyond that; others do not.

                            2. We were there last night. I can now unequivocally say this was the best meal we have had in any restaurant in NY and among the top 10 meals of our lifetimes. The service, food, and wine were as close to perfect as I have seen since our first time at Taillevent. Standouts were the oysters and pearls (which I would be happy to eat as my last meal on earth), the halibut with melon, the tomato salad...but everything was spectacular.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: buttertart

                                Yup, that's pretty much the beginning and the end of the story right there, good call on going there :-)

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  I had dinner at Per Se on Wednesday, and it was well worth the money. I posted my review separately (if anyone is interested).

                                  1. re: ellenost

                                    I read it today with great interest. What a place. This is the rundown on our dinner:
                                    It was divine. We had:
                                    Rosé Champagne me, Pernod him
                                    Tiny gougeres filled with Mornay sauce
                                    Salmon tartare cornets with crème fraiche
                                    Nigl Austrian Riesling ½ btl
                                    “Oysters and pearls” - butter-poached tiny oysters in a divine sauce with pearl tapioca and about ½ oz Sevruga-type caviar
                                    Heirloom tomato salad - all colors, slightly pickled cucumbers, fresh hearts of palm cut in whimsical shapes
                                    Grilled halibut with batonnets of watermelon and Cavaillon melon (maybe another one in there too)
                                    Glasses of Chassagne-Montrachet 2007
                                    Seared scallop with Marcona olives and citrus gastrique, little tiny Brussels sprouts and infant radishes
                                    Rafanelli Zin 2006 unfiltered ½ btl
                                    Fillet of duck breast with corn off the cob and okra (rabbit was on the menu and we won’t eat it because of husb's childhood pet - so they said np, what would you like instead)
                                    Veal loin sous-vide medium rare with crispy sweetbreads and infant turnips and onions - would have been nice to have had more sweetbreads and less veal
                                    Glasses of a red made in Brooklyn which was spectacular and I don’t have the name - by the same vintner as the Scholium Project Riesling below
                                    A washed-rind goat cheese with a fig jam and a shortbread that was beyond buttery
                                    Glasses of Scholium Project Riesling - botrytized grapes made into a bone-dry wine, Sauternes flavors with no sweetness, a mindblower
                                    Gooseberry and crème fraiche sorbets
                                    Glasses of a Spaetlese Austrian Riesling 1992
                                    Lemon meringue deconstructed - lemon curd, a thin stick of meringue, ice cream of some sort, a few raspberries
                                    A miniature vanilla crème brulée in a doll’s gratin pan (my dolly dish set was lacking this piece)
                                    Buttermilk panna cotta with plum jam
                                    Chocolates (dark choc with bacon, with Bartlett pear, white choc with ginger among several other types - this is where I gave up)
                                    (Excellent) Coffee for husb, nothing for me
                                    Candies - salted caramels, 3 types of truffles, hazelnuts coated in chocolate (I ate one, divine), sour cherry nougats (Michael snagged a couple of these to take home), little tiny root beer (?) flavored things
                                    They gave out little bags of layered Venetian cookies/cake to take home.
                                    A blowout. The best dinner ever in NYC. Heaven.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      Great report. We don't eat rabbit either (so I'm glad they were able to substitute the duck for you). When I called to reserve, I mentioned that we don't eat rabbit, sweetbreads, and my sister doesn't eat pork. They only needed to adjust the halibut succotash for my sister by omitting the bacon. They were very nice about our restrictions, and when I confirmed the reservation, they had it on file, and when we sat down, our captain again noted the restrictions.

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        Oops, disregard my (very) belated post below. Glad you had a great time.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          Thanks much for reporting back! I am glad you enjoyed it.

                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            interesting. we were there a few weeks ago and had some of what you had -- tho this menu sounds much better than ours. we thought several things were terrific, but were entirely underwhelmed, felt we could have made much of it ourselves and while the service was fine, it did not knock us out. The bread was great. In thinking about the meal, I think it is much more about image than reality. Absolutely not worth $700+ -- no where near the best meal we've had anywhere, in a restaurant or in NY. If you are the kind of person who does not mind spending a couple of hundred dollars on a pair of jeans, maybe Per Se wouldn't seem overpriced.

                                            1. re: research

                                              So...where in NYC have you eaten that was better?

                                      2. Not that I would be likely to choose to spend my birthday at either per se or Hibiscus, notwithstanding the price, I would much rather spend my hard-earned money at the former. At least the service will be very good, if not excellent.

                                        Personally, for the amount of money you're willing to spend, I'd much rather celebrate at Eleven Madison Park, Jean Georges, or le Bernardin.

                                        4 Replies
                                          1. re: RGR

                                            Does the head waiter still give his recitation about palate fatigue?

                                            1. re: Robert Brown

                                              Head waiter at which restaurant, Robert Brown?

                                          2. re: ulterior epicure

                                            We have eaten at all three (EMP, JG and le Bernardin) and found this truly superior to any of them.

                                          3. PS the bread service was another highlight. Tiny "Parker House" rolls sprinkled with fleur de sel, rye rings with duck fat, potato sourdough, baguette rolls, etc. Their boulanger is the best I've ever encountered. The 2 butters - house-salted and sweet, from Marin County - were lovely as well (the sweet was Jersey yellow, something I haven't seen in a long time).

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              Agree that the Parker House rolls were incredible. We opted for the pretzels (so soft and yummy!--I think we each had 2 of them).

                                              1. re: ellenost

                                                i forgot about those (because we didn't try them for whatever reason). Going to try the duck fat in my next sourdough rye.

                                                1. re: ellenost

                                                  I think those same "Parker House" rolls were called (and, perhaps, still are called) "butter balls" when I ate at The French Laundry. And boy did that name fit the bill.

                                                  1. re: ulterior epicure

                                                    They were lovely. My mother-in-law makes something quite similar - will suggest the salt topping next time we're there!

                                                    1. re: ulterior epicure

                                                      They were so yummy! Would have loved a basket of them (would have eaten them all--shared of course with my table).

                                                      1. re: ellenost

                                                        Also cute. Love small-sized bread/pastry items.