Dinner at Per Se Salon Report (lots of photos)
I had an absolutely phenomenal time at Per Se (Salon). The service staff was impeccable with their thoughtful and friendly service.
When being seated, I was offered any table I wanted in the Salon area. At first, I picked the table that was directly across from the main dining room door. However, as I was planting myself down at that table, I realized that another table right in front of the large window offered a better view (Columbus Circle) and better lighting. The maitre’d didn’t bat an eye and quickly changed my table with a smile.
When finally seated by my new table facing the window, I was happy about the new view yet worried about the backlighting. A mental battle with myself ensued. I wondered if it’d be okay for me to stand up and take photos from the other side of my table. My constant standing-up and moving around could be disruptive and distracting for other diners in the room. Yet, after surveying my surrounding some more and realized that one, where I was seated was actually fairly secluded and private due to the lamps and flowers blocking off the view of my table from the rest of the room and two, I was the only diner in the Salon anyway, I threw caution to the wind.
When the Terrine of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras arrived, the sun happened to come out of the clouds and shone through the window full blast. It took me a while to get a decent shot of the dish in the harsh sunlight. When I finally sat down again, my server took away the plate of toasted brioche, but explained, “We want to make sure your toast is warm.” He quickly came back with a new plate of warm toast. I must have spent 30 minutes on my terrine because it was quite a large piece. In that time, the toast was changed again.
What an extraordinary attention to detail! The thoughtfulness was incredible. The rest of my meal progressed similarly — every aspect of the service was right on point and perfect. Everyone couldn’t have been kinder. I was even offered a tour of the kitchen at the end.
You notice, no doubt, that while I heap praises on the service, I have said nothing of the food thus far. Ahh, I hesitate to write this. The dishes were impeccably and beautifully presented. Yet, I grapple with the portion size. The Terrine of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras was just too much food. The foie gras was so rich and decadent that I couldn’t even finish that big circular disk. It took me one whole brioche toast, four pretzel bread, one wholegrain, and one baguette (!!!!) to spread 3/4 of it. I was having a foie gras aneurysm and thought myself insane to even have downed that much of the terrine (and bread). The thought of having to force myself to eat all of it just sickened me. I finally gave up and left a small chunk of the terrine on my plate. Too much of a good thing is a very bad thing.
When Thomas Farm’s “Supreme de Pigeon en Croute” arrived, I was relieved that I finally had something else to eat other than foie gras, yet was disappointed by the small portion size. Yes, this dish was too small for my taste. The squab, generally speaking, tastes like a cross between duck and chicken. Per Se’s rendition of it was dreamy and heavenly. It was so so delectably flavorful and melt-in-my-mouth tender but alas! It was but a few bites! I cut the squab into tiny little pieces in hopes of making it last longer. But beauty is fleeting, so is a plate of a tiny serving of beautiful squab. I yearned my times at Cantonese restaurants where roasted squabs are larger than Cornish hens, just big enough for me to tear into. *sighs*
And that, was my meal at Per Se — full of wonder, joy, regret, and disappointment. Oh, how you confound me!
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
Beautiful pictures, Cheeryvisage! They are the first ones I've seen that really convey what it may be like to dine early in the Salon (since most times, it's night out) on a summer evening.
Yea, unfortunately, a lot of the portions are small because Chef Keller believes so much in the law of diminishing returns. However, it doesn't quite explain your large portion of foie gras terrine.
While I don't necessarily believe fully in that, but I'm now a sucker because two of my best meals have been at Keller restaurants (Per Se and French Laundry). So whatever it is he believes, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid.
BTW, I love squab at Cantonese restaurants as well. My family gets it when we're "splurging". Ha!
"I don't know, maybe for others, finishing it off is a piece of cake. :)"
Ha! That would be me! But, then, I'm known to my friends and family as the Foie Gras Queen. lol I've never left over even a morsel of foie gras -- whole or torchon -- no matter how big the portion has been.
I adore squab and order it often. I think it actually has quite a distinct liver-like flavor.
I notice you had dessert -- something chocolate? -- but didn't comment about it.
Repeating what I said on your other thread, excellent report and gorgeous photos, as usual, Cheeryvisage!
Yes, I ordered the "Chocolate Custard".
It would have been better appreciated by someone who's a bigger chocolate lover than I am. The chocolate "mud cake" was very dense and had a concentrated dark chocolate bitterness. The honey and custard ice cream off to the side was awfully sweet (too sweet), but I can understand it was intended to counterbalance the bittersweet cake. It was two entirely opposite extremities on one plate.
I think the dessert was well executed technically, just a bit too... much... for my palate. Too much chocolate and too much sweetness in the ice cream, if that even makes sense.
Yes, that definitely does make sense. From your description, it sounds like a dessert best suited to a chocoholic.
Even though I like sweet, I often shy away from chocolate desserts for fear they will be too sweet. When I do order one that comes with a side of ice cream or gelato. if it, too, is chocolate, I always ask to substitute vanilla so there will not be chocolate overload.
I'm getting the feeling that you weren't that bowled over by the food. I've said before on this board that while I thought per se's food was superb, it wasn't any more so than what we've had at many other upscale restaurants. And there was even one clunker. Certainly not anything close to a life-changing experience as so many say per se was for them. But still, it was a memorable afternoon for many reasons other than the food.