HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Per Se's Extended Tasting Menu Review + Photos

plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 08:55 AM

I want to start with a disclaimer that this is my second sort of complainy review of a high-end restaurant, and I don't want it to come off like I'm unappreciative or whiny. I love Per Se, and I still hope to go back for the regular menu soon.

Photos in context are here: http://www.donuts4dinner.com/2011/10/...

Stepping through the sliding glass partitions to the left and right of Per Se‘s unmistakable and infamously nonfunctioning blue door should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a country gal like me, but I’m fortunate to have a boyfriend with an insatiable appetite for tasting menus (okay, okay, it’s not just him with the appetite). So when I was finally able to make a reservation for my birthday (after an hour and a half of nonstop calling and then holding), he started tossing around the idea of the extended tasting. He’d read that it was a couple hundred dollars more for a number of extra courses, and since we’d also heard that repeat visitors are lavished with attention, we figured we’d have a nice, simple, four-hour, 21-course lunch and then quietly explode later that evening at home.

We’d called ahead with our request for the extended tasting, so our server told us that a special menu had been prepared for us and sent the sommelier over to discuss pairings. Knowing that in the past, we’ve hit the outer limits of enjoyment after the 10th pairing, we requested eight glasses, including one Riesling and one cocktail. The sommelier asked our budget, and when my boyfriend said he was looking to spend about $150 per person, the sommelier very matter-of-factly told us that the restaurant recommends $250 per person. Which divides out to a little over $31 per glass. Which is about what our favourite wine costs by the bottle. But what was my boyfriend going to say? “I know it’s her birthday and all, but she’s not that special to me, so could you stick to the $12-a-glass wines? Thanks.”

The meal started with two familiar sights from our first visit to Per Se earlier this year:

• Gruyere gougères

Ridiculous? Or ridiculously cute? This little guy packs a lot more filling than you’d think possible; the creamiest cheese oozes onto your tongue the moment the bread is broken.

I mostly loved the serving vessel, which is like a giant spoon without its handle. I may have picked this up and pretended to scoop things off the table and shovel them into my mouth with it, and my boyfriend may have given me The Look.

• salmon cornettes

I’d somehow forgotten that there’s cream cheese at the bottom of the cone. This is everything I want a Philadelphia roll to be but never is. The best part is the oniony cone, thicker and crunchier than you’d expect.

A shallow bowl of truffles arrived, and a thick almond soup was poured around them.

• almond “vichyssoise”, burgundy truffles, scarlet grapes

We’re right between truffle seasons at the moment, so Per Se boils and then freezes their summer truffles, our server told us, to preserve them for these non-truffley months. They had a different flavor that I would describe as more like above-ground mushrooms; they were still earthy and rich and slightly crunchy but not quite as intense. We were impressed that the grapes in the soup were slices from the midsection instead of just halves and loved imagining the chef using the intricate work as punishment for some back-talking line cook. The bottom of the dish was lined with chopped almonds that added texture and coaxed more flavor from the soup.

• “oysters and pearls”: “sabayon” of pearl tapioca, island creek oysters, sterling white sturgeon caviar

Per Se’s famed “oysters and pearls” can be described in one of two ways:

1) sour cream and onion chips from the ocean, or
2) chicken and dumplings made with seawater.

It’s just not what you’d expect, at every level. The caviar doesn’t pop in your mouth like salmon roe does, nor does it get stuck in your teeth like flying fish roe does; you wouldn’t know you were eating it if it wasn’t for the saline taste. The oysters, tiny to begin with, fall apart in your mouth at the slightest notion from your teeth. It seems as if the texture of the tapioca would be too similar to that of the roe, but it really adds to the sense that you’re just eating a dish of mama’s creamy dumplings.

We thought this presentation was hilarious. Four dishes for four bites of food? Probably not necessary. But for me, little luxuries like the opportunity to dirty four plates are what’s missing at your less-acclaimed restaurants. It seems like a lot of thought goes into not just the arrangement of the food on the plate but the plate that it’s being arranged on. The houndstooth pattern is supposed to mimic the design on a chef’s pants. The lined plate with the uni dish made for what I think are some of my prettiest photos ever. And there are of course the very specific dishes for the egg custard and the salmon cornettes. These are the kinds of things that make Per Se feel special.

• tartare of pacific sea bream, French Laundry garden radishes, tempura-fried broccoli, navel orange, mizuna (Japanese greens) and white sesame seed puree

I loved the texture of this fish. It was citrus-cured, so the very smallest bit of each edge had a slightly firmer feel, while the interior was left tender and fleshy. The first flavor to hit my mouth was citrus, and the dish in general was all fresh, bright, and light. The very hearty radish leaves complimented the crunch of the tempura, which complimented the crisp of the radish bulbs straight from the French Laundry garden.

• Santa Barbara sea urchin, granny smitha pples, cauliflower florettes, toasted hazelnuts, red ribbon sorrel, coffee puree

I love to taste each component separately, which many times leads to a realization about how important each ingredient is. Here, the hazelnuts added a saltiness, the cauliflower panna cotta was like buttery mashed potatoes, and the dab of coffee gel was the most unexpected partner to the bitter uni.

• white-truffle-oil-infused custard, ragout of black winter truffles

This had much more of the distinct truffle flavor than the soup did, and the richness of the white truffle custard under the black truffle ragout was like a direct punch to the wallet. The custard was airy, the ragout more of a syrupy gel. Paired with a leggy Madeira, this could have been a dessert course.

• Snake River Farms’ beef short ribs, Tokyo turnips, medjool date “marbles”, petite mint, “sauce paloise” (béarnaise with mint

)

This dish elicited a response my boyfriend heard from me several times that afternoon: “I won’t even have to describe this in my blog based on how awesome the ingredients are!” It was sticky and sweet, hearty and tongue-coating. The turnip puree provided a smooth, vegetal contrast to the succulent, tender beef and the brittle papadum. This was a standout course for me and really needed to be a full-sized entree.

• salad of caramelized parsnip, toasted marcona almonds, French Laundry garden radishes, cilantro shoots, banana, vadouvan curry

I really can’t praise this dish enough. It turns out that the parsnip, when not shunned to the bottom of a plate as a puree, is a meaty and firm-textured, much like a cooked carrot. The banana was so unexpected it confused me at first–my boyfriend had to name the flavor for me–but the sugariness of the fruit paired perfectly with the spiciness of the curry-like vadouvan, used here as a sauce and a layer of gelatin that contrasted the caramelization of the parsnip. This is what lesser Indian desserts (I’m looking at you, gulab jamun) aspire to be.

• “gateau” of Hudson Valley moulard duck foie gras, pistacho “financier”, hakurei turnips, vanilla streusel, white whine poached quince, toasted brioche

Dr. Boyfriend and I had the foie gras during our first tasting menu at Per Se as a $40 supplement and didn’t understand that the flower-shaped display of salts that arrived just before it was actually part of the course. Of the foie, I very ironically wrote, “We secretly wanted to spread it all over the soft rolls from the salt tasting course, but the crusty brioche was nice if extremely messy.” Hilarious! We seem so inexperienced, looking back.

This time, we were old salts. (See what I did there? Salts? Haha! No? Okay.) We had each had one bite of brioche before our server brought a fresh slice for each of us; it’s amazing how fast the stuff goes cold and stiff. Even though all of the salts tasted the same, I was really able to appreciate the texture of each. The courser salts were an incredible contrast to the smooth foie and its sweet vanilla gel. The bready pistachio base and the gelled duck consomme topping made the plate of foie its own dish, but the salt pushed it into five-donut territory.

This time, this was definitely a $40 dish.

• sauteed filet of Chatham Bay cod, fork-crushed potatoes, San Marxan tomato marmalade, hearts of romaine, Italian caper cream

This somehow tasted like fast food French fries and a fried fish sandwich. We thought it pretty funny that the server specifically mentioned the potatoes were fork-crushed, but the bit of texture did add to the dish. The tomato marmalade was sweet and chunky, the Pommes Maxim crisp and delicate.

My boyfriend told me about visiting relatives in Paris as a kid and standing outside Maxim’s and watching as a couple walked up and jokingly pretended to open the door; Maxim’s was too expensive for just anyone to dine at. I loved the irony of the story as we sat sipping champagne in a three-Micheline-star restaurant overlooking New York City; I guess I should congratulate Kamran for having “made it”.

• butter poached Nova Scotia lobster mitts, arrowleaf spinach “pain perdu”, cauliflower mushroom, French leeks, mache, “hollandaise mousseline”

How adorable is it to call them “lobster mitts”? The mushroom was one of the major flavors on the plate, while the taste of the “lost bread” was really only evident when combined with other elements like the Hollandaise, which looks mayonnaisey in the photos but was actually formed into a dome that “broke” under the pressure of our forks. We loved the texture of the spinach bread and really wanted more of it; it’s funny how when you read the menu (which we did for weeks leading up to our visit, as it changes every day), you assume that every ingredient is going to be some massive, plate-hogging thing. And then it turns out to look like this tiny, one-bite afterthought. In the most well-balanced dish, though, every bit of the plate is important.

• hand cut “tagliatelle”, shaved black winter truffles

It’s almost too simple to be good and too simple not to be. My boyfriend called it “singular”, which is a nice way of saying that it’s just some pasta, but of course this ain’t Olive Garden, and “just pasta” at Per Se is pasta covered in, you know, one of the most expensive ingredients in the world that had to be plucked out of the ground by pigs. (I love that part.) It was perfectly al dente, creamy, and sinful. And you can bet I scraped every last one of those truffle shavings off the side of my bowl. I think the gnocchi with black truffle at Eleven Madison Park was superior, but that may just be because I’m biased toward big, fat gnocchi.

• Salmon Creek Farms’ pork belly “en feuille de brick”, glazed sunchokes, black mission figs, arugula, black olive puree

The only way to make pork more delicious is to wrap it in pastry; the shell was crispier than skin alone could ever be. I appreciated the juxtaposition between the sweet fig and bitter olive, but I have to admit that I just wasn’t sold on the olive puree, even by the end of the dish. Now, I’m an active olive-hater, but I’m really open-minded about it and have actually enjoyed it in other preparations; here, it was just overpowering, and I found myself avoiding it so as to not ruin the pork.

• herb roasted Elysian Fields Farm’s “côte d’agneau”, Per Se falafel, violet artichokes, fairy tale eggplant, sweet pepper relish, za’tar jus

I wonder if our servers, who had to be watching us from the sidelines to be at our sides the moment we finished a dish like they were, screamed “Noooo!” when they saw me cut into this without taking a picture first. If you can get past now knowing how badly I massacre my plates enough to keep reading, you’ll be pleased to note that I ripped this dish apart out of enjoyment. Sure, the lamb wasn’t quite tender enough, and the eggplant was far too vinegary for my taste, but as my boyfriend said, “They really captured the essence of the halal cart here.” With the deliciously spicy oregano-flavored sauce and the red peppers, it also reminded me of a pizza. A pizza with falafel.

• “hittisau”, English walnut “tapenade”, celery root “re’moulade”, Asian pears, watercress, aged balsamic vinegar

Slightly sweet to begin with, this Hittisau cheese made for the perfect transition from the savory courses. First, there was the fact that it was tempura-battered, and you know a country girl loves her fried cheese. Then, there was the sweet walnut spread, which retained its nutty texture and complimented the nugget of homogenous cheese. The celeriac was the slightly less-sweet element on the plate, but even it reminded me of a sugary cole slaw full of apples and raisins. The crunchy freshness of the tiny pear bulbs was the perfect finishing element.

• huckleberry sorbet, huckleberry “muffins”, whipped lemon verbena, red wine granite’, huckleberry sorbet

I don’t think this was meant to be anything more than a way to get our tongues ready for the real dessert, but it may have been the highlight of the sweets. It was so intensely flavored I could’ve been drinking straight out of a bottle of slushie syrup. With the fizziness and the acidity of the lemon, it was a dessert fit for a five-year-old. And that’s basically what I am.

• “coffee and doughtnuts”, cinnamon-sugared doughnuts, cappuccino semifreddo

We had this on our first trip to Per Se, even though we don’t believe it’s usually included in the regular tasting menu for first-timers. I actually think I liked it better this time, when we had done far fewer wine pairings and hadn’t already eaten enough dessert to keep five pastry chefs employed. The semifreddo was thicker than ice cream and more flavorful, too; it was like a half-frozen triple-thick milkshake. The donut was so delicate it was ready to deflate at the slightest touch.

• “S’mores”, dark chocolate torte, vanilla marshmallow, candied Virginia peanuts, caramel ice cream

All of my favourite dessert flavors on one plate! The wafer crust had a wonderful crunch, the vanilla marshmallows a super stickiness. I would never have thought to match chocolate and peanut butter with a cinnamon foam, but it really worked. And flavors aside, it’s just exciting to eat a dish like this, all deconstructed and ready for my custom rebuilding.

This was served with a firefly, a cocktail of vodka, grapefruit juice, and grenadine, and it was easily my favourite pairing of the night. The drink itself is so much like a dessert that it felt like an extra course.

• birthday cake

A little milk chocolate mousse round for my birthday. Simple but elegant.

• mignardises

A server brought around a wooden box as wide as his torso with indentations in the base to hold individual chocolates. I obviously wanted him to just leave the entire thing at the table, but we controlled ourselves and chose pineapple tamarind, orange marzipan, Arnold Palmer, madras curry, maple walnut, and dulce de leche. Each was interesting and flavorful.

At the end of every meal, Per Se famously serves guests a three-tiered tray of petit fours. For me, a meal couldn’t end any more perfectly. I mean, I love a plated dessert. I think those little dabs of peanut butter placed so deliberately next to the s’mores are the most perfect thing in the world. But I also get a real joy from just stuffing myself heedlessly, Willy Wonka style. We were of course already quite full by this point, so I asked our server pointedly if it would be too much trouble to wrap the tray up for us; my boyfriend had seen another blogger’s photos of three little boxes of mignardises, so we knew it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, but I wanted to be polite.

Well, we ended up with one little box, with one of each treat inside. Not even two of each, so we could at least both sample everything without having to hand over a half-crushed French macaron to each other after taking a bite. She really thought the people ordering the extended tasting menu wouldn’t want all of their mignardises? And more importantly, what did she do with the rest of them? Throw them out? Because that’s almost offensive. Save them for the next table? Because that’s much worse. I’ll tell you what–if I had known this was what I was going to find in the bag I was handed on my way out, I would’ve sat there all afternoon and finished every last one. And used a lot more of the fresh hand towels in the bathroom. And stuffed the entire bread service in my purse. How many thousands of dollars do we have to spend before we get to take all of our leftovers home?

My rating: 5 stars out of 5, of course

Per Se is the most technically perfect restaurant in New York City, and Per Se knows that it’s better than you. It knows that I’ll have to force myself to say a negative word about the food just to write well-rounded reviews, and it knows that the service is so impeccably timed that I’ll feel like Big Brother must be watching me. It knows that I’ll be on the phone the moment the reservation line opens up 30 days in advance of the date I’d like to visit, and it knows that if I’m not, someone else will be. And that I won’t complain when it doesn’t seat me by the window as I requested and that I’ll still want to go back.

In Sam Sifton’s much-talked-about final review as The New York Times‘s restaurant critic, he wrote of Per Se: “No restaurant in New York City does a better job than Per Se of making personal and revelatory the process of spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on food and drink.” And I think that the problem for me was that this time, it didn’t feel as personal and revelatory. We spent a full $800 more than we have at places like Daniel, EMP, and Momofuku Ko. It was our second visit, and my birthday, and we actually felt like we weren’t treated as well as well this time despite letting them know this time before we even came in that we were going to spend $200 more per person on the extended tasting.

And the extended tasting, by the way? It came out to about six extra courses, making each course more than $30 each. For two bites of short rib, two slivers of fish, and one fewer dessert than we had the time when it wasn’t my birthday. While I think Per Se’s regular tasting is well-priced at $295 per person including service, the extended tasting seems to be just for the expense account guy who doesn’t really care what he gets in return for a month’s rent.

We’re not that guy, and we felt the sting of that this time at Per Se. With the mignardises being held back at the end, finding that the wine list couldn’t accommodate our paltry budget, and being told that “a la carte items are served in the salon” (the less-formal area) when I was just trying to tell the server that I liked some of the dishes so much I’d come back more often just to order them. I almost hesitate to complain about these things, because like I said, Per Se doesn’t need us. We’ll never buy its most expensive bottle of wine, and we’ll never bring “high net worth individuals” by for expense account lunches. My hard-working Ph.D. and I are just a drop in their bucket, and anyone who’s going to quibble over a couple hundred dollars probably shouldn’t be eating at Per Se.

But I still want to.

-----
Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

Momofuku Ko
163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

Olive Garden
696 6th Ave, New York, NY 10010

 
 
 
 
  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. ellenost RE: plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 09:48 AM

    Thanks for your, as usual, well written review. I'll read your blog to see the photos. I'd love to retun to Per Se for the extended tasting menu.

    -----
    Per Se
    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

    5 Replies
    1. re: ellenost
      plumpdumpling RE: ellenost Oct 14, 2011 10:49 AM

      Thanks for reading! And don't let my review discourage you; I'd love to hear about your experience with the extended tasting when you have it.

      1. re: plumpdumpling
        ellenost RE: plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 11:21 AM

        Your photos are among the highest quality that I've see of the dishes at Per Se (such fantastic detail!). Pardon my asking, but what is the current charge for the extended tasting menu? My thinking is that since the base price is now $295 + $40 for the foie gras supplement, it may be well worth returning to Per Se for the extended tasting menu. BTW, the prices for wine at Per Se are among the highest anywhere. EMP's wine list is much better priced for the German Rieslings that I adore.

        1. re: ellenost
          plumpdumpling RE: ellenost Oct 14, 2011 11:37 AM

          We're German Riesling fans, too! I'd love to hear your recommendations, since we're still relatively new wine drinkers. We were surprised by the $250pp for wine until we saw that the wine list is just plain expensive, as you said.

          I really appreciate the comment about the photos! I'm just getting used to my first DSLR.

          The extended base price is $500. I guess if restaurants really are charging $100 for truffle dishes these days, it's not such a bad deal; I'd just wait until we're really in truffle season.

          1. re: plumpdumpling
            Winterpool RE: plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 12:14 PM

            Ah, yes, the markups at Per Se were perhaps the most painful aspect of dining there. I expect they're more expensive than comparable wines at other top restaurants because Per Se is relatively new (ie many wines may have been bought at auction rather than purchased on release and cellared).

            The riesling selection at Eleven Madison Park is wonderful, and the prices a bit more reasonable than Per Se. I've always had a lovely (and educational) time chatting with Chris about wine. I was introduced to both Dönnhoff rieslings and Pierre Gimonnet champagne at EMP. Delightful stuff!

            -----
            Per Se
            10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

            Eleven Madison Park
            11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

            1. re: Winterpool
              ellenost RE: Winterpool Oct 14, 2011 12:32 PM

              Love the Donnhoff Riesling and the Pierre Gimonnet champagne too! Chris and Nathan are wonderful at EMP for Riesling selection. I am going to miss John Ragan; I took a wonderful sparkling wine class with him about a year ago at Macy's DeGustibus. My best "teacher" about Rieslings was my dear friend Scott Brenner who was the former wine director at the old Aureole--he was the best!

    2. n
      nmprisons RE: plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 09:56 AM

      I hope that this does not come off the wrong way, but I find it somewhat strange that you have now posted about negative service experiences at the only two restaurants in New York where I have received flawless service. I find this particularly interesting because you and I fit a similar demographic (youngish, budget-conscious couples trying to fully-experience fine dining while paying off student loans), though we go sans camera and notepad.

      Like you, my last meal at Per Se was an extended tasting, and I am not sure that the experience was much different than yours, but I left feeling 100% over-the-top in love with the place. Maybe you perceive service slights that go right over my head, or maybe we just have different expectations going in, but I have never felt anything less than completely comfortable and thrilled at Per Se. I can't help but wonder if the blogger-mentality you hint at above, or your our lack of confidence that you belong at these places, might be detracting from your experience more than anything the restaurant is doing.

      -----
      Per Se
      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

      3 Replies
      1. re: nmprisons
        plumpdumpling RE: nmprisons Oct 14, 2011 10:36 AM

        I do think I might have a different mentality if I wasn't specifically looking to write well-rounded posts and if I hadn't read so many other people's posts about it going in. I guess the problem with so many people blogging about their meals now is that I see when another person gets treated differently (better) than I do. When all the talk is that your second time at Per Se will be even better than your first, I had high expectations.

        I think you're also right about the "perceived slights". Our servers were obviously much more in love with the table next to us full of very casual foreign diners (using flash on their camera and saying "boobies!" every time they posed together for a shot), so I felt a little down about that, and then maybe I took it too personally when we were upsold on the wine and quietly kept from the rest of our take-homes.

        My first experience at Per Se was phenomenal, so I think it's best just for me to stick to the regular tasting. Thanks for your thoughts.

        -----
        Per Se
        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

        1. re: plumpdumpling
          n
          nmprisons RE: plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 11:40 AM

          Wow, I would have been incredibly turned off by your neighbors. Of all of the things that happened during your meal, that is the one that would have required me to say something, and the one that would have had the chance at messing with my dinner. It is surprising that a restaurant of that caliber would tolerate such garish behavior.

          That, perhaps, only solidifies my initial thought. I have found the service at Per Se remarkable, but that might be because things that bother me (your neighbors) aren't a big deal to others, while things that bother others, aren't a big deal to me.

          The one thing that is worth noting is that every experience at every restaurant is different, even for the same diner. You now doubt had dishes that were prepared specially for you (my extended tasting involved a soft-shell crab dish because they knew I was from Baltimore) and so people will look at your blog post and say, wow, why didn't I get that? (the uni, for example, made my mouth water) No one gets all of the restaurants tricks every visit, so culling great moments from other blog posts is likely to leave you disappointed.

          -----
          Per Se
          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

          1. re: plumpdumpling
            s
            steakrules85 RE: plumpdumpling Oct 19, 2011 07:07 AM

            I gotta get my butt over to Per Se right away.

            -----
            Per Se
            10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

        2. d
          deepfry7 RE: plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 10:03 AM

          Thanks for the review, plumpdumpling and the pictures on your blog are just fantastic. I've been to Per Se once (regular menu) and have also done the extended tasting at my one time at French Laundry.

          It's unfortunate that you felt that you didn't get the acclaimed personal touch. I truly believe that their chefs and servers there actually want you to have the best meal/experience of your life, whether you're a VIP or a "regular" Joe. If you don't have that desire, Team Keller probably wouldn't hire you. They probably have another 100 people lining up for the chance to work there.

          When I went to TFL, I could only get an early 5:30pm reservation, but when I requested the extended menu about a week before, they bumped up my reservation to 6:30. It was a combination of wanting us to have a better experience and for the kitchen to have more prep time.

          And it's real unfortunate that the sommelier couldn't accommodate your price range request. That's really sad to hear. You could have bought 2-3 nice bottles or a few half bottles of wine for $300 total. I only had a couple of glasses of wine at TFL and they were totally OK with that.

          In terms of being told about the Salon, obviously I wasn't there and can't hear the tone of the response, but I don't feel that there's anything wrong with being told that. If you say that you love certain dishes, then the Salon is a perfect place to just order what you want instead of getting no choice in the main regular tasting. Plus, no hassle of making reservations exactly a month out in advance.

          BTW, yes the extra dishes might come out to $30 a plate, but that's a discount to how much they would cost a la carte. The tagliatelle with black truffles (a dish that I loved at TFL) would probably be a $100 supplement if it were an option on the regular menu.

          1 Reply
          1. re: deepfry7
            plumpdumpling RE: deepfry7 Oct 14, 2011 10:48 AM

            I actually asked my boyfriend if he thought we'd been served enough truffles to make up the price of the extended tasting. We know there's a lot of mark-up on ingredients, but $100 just seems like too much to me. Plus, these were preserved, not fresh, truffles.

            I really felt like much of the service was outrageously perfect. The salon thing did hit me as strange, but I probably wouldn't have remembered it as much if I hadn't also been dwelling on the wine and mignardises later. I guess there's SO MUCH that I love about Per Se that the things I didn't love this time seemed so much more jarring. On our first visit, we were just overwhelmed by all of the extras, and this time, when we were actually paying for them, they seemed to be somewhat absent.

            Thanks for your compliment about my pictures and for your input. I'm really interested in trying some salon dishes now.

            -----
            Per Se
            10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

          2. Winterpool RE: plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 10:11 AM

            First, let me commend you on your appetite -- I had difficulty coping with even the standard tasting menu at Per Se! I think I would have appreciated it more, actually, if it had been edited by a couple of courses: there was so much food, and so much flavour, that both my brain and stomach simply became overloaded. So there's a small part of me that's relieved the extended menu didn't offer anything spectacular, as I'd never be able to order it, even if I had the $.

            I've only been to Per Se once, but we were served the semifreddo and 'doughnut' before dessert. I don't remember the doughnut at all: I think I took only one bite as I was desperately trying to conserve some appetite for the desserts. The semifreddo was lovely and a sorely needed refresher.

            I didn't find your review too complainy. Was your main disappointment with the service, particularly how they handled the mignardises? Did you feel there was a less welcoming atmosphere this time?

            As always, your photographs are exquisite. Thank you for sharing them with us, as well as your reflections.

            (PS Was your other 'complainy' review Eleven Madison Park?)

            Edited: OK, what was the Salon remark about? I suppose the waiter was just trying to provide the information, but that did sound like it verged on rudeness. I'd appreciate more context if the memory isn't too painful.

            If this information is at all representative, than simply by ordering the extended menu you were already spending more than the median expenditure at Per Se. But I should hope they would never take your business for granted, no matter how much or little you spend.

            http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2011/10...

            -----
            Per Se
            10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

            Eleven Madison Park
            11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

            1 Reply
            1. re: Winterpool
              plumpdumpling RE: Winterpool Oct 14, 2011 11:06 AM

              We actually had trouble with the regular tasting, too, but we've been practicing since then! (Wow, that's such a fatcat American thing to say, huh?) I wondered if part of the problem with the extended tasting is that you really just can't fit that many more courses in; in which case, I would've been happy for more to take home for later!

              I did feel like the atmosphere was less "we're glad you're here!" this time; last time, they gave us wine and sent us home with a bag full of things we didn't expect. This time, it was like, "Haha, you fell victim to our charms and have returned to empty out your wallet!" I'm glad it didn't seem TOO complainy, because I still want the overall message to be, "This is the best restaurant in New York!"

              Yes, EMP was the other place I complained about, and again, it was just that our expectations were wildly high. I was hesitant to post this here and get to be known as the girl for whom 3 Michelin stars isn't enough, but I just want to give all sides of the story.

              The salon thing was weird, because I just commented to the server that everything was so good that we should come back and order a la carte just to be able to eat there more often. Maaaaybe she was just trying to be informative, and I hope she was, but both my boyfriend and I commented on how it was kind of out of left field. All she needed to say was, "Yep!" I don't want to pick on the girl, though; she was very nice overall.

              Thanks for that link! It does put things into perspective and not make me feel so bad about "just" spending half of a bazillion dollars instead of an entire bazillion.

            2. Delucacheesemonger RE: plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 11:32 AM

              Thought the four plates for four bites seemed silly until l saw your picture. That was the most beautiful use of dishes l have ever seen. Been a long while since l was at TFL, but nothing ever looked like that. l do not know what you do for a living but you might consider teaching food photography, WOW WOW WOW. Could be best food pictures on any blog and most magazines l have seen, bravo.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                plumpdumpling RE: Delucacheesemonger Oct 15, 2011 01:09 PM

                Wow, thank you! What a compliment. I'm just doing it as a hobby, but I really, really enjoy it and couldn't have been happier to have those pretty plates in every picture.

                1. re: plumpdumpling
                  o
                  ooglewoogle RE: plumpdumpling Oct 17, 2011 12:34 PM

                  I'll second the compliment...beautiful pics! I wish but that I had such a lovely record of my only meal at Per Se.

                  As an aside, have you ever seen the Nordljus blog? Keiko's food pics also blow me away.... just thought it may be of interest. http://www.nordljus.co.uk

                  -----
                  Per Se
                  10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                2. re: Delucacheesemonger
                  uhockey RE: Delucacheesemonger Oct 27, 2011 01:53 PM

                  ulteriorepicure
                  alifewortheating

                3. hcbk0702 RE: plumpdumpling Oct 14, 2011 01:29 PM

                  Per Se's wine markups are insane. $150 (including service charge) could never, ever cover eight glasses there, given the prices on their wine list.

                  A couple corrections for your canapé descriptions:
                  Gougères: "bread" ≠ pâte à choux
                  Cornets: cream cheese ≠ crème fraîche

                  -----
                  Per Se
                  10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: hcbk0702
                    plumpdumpling RE: hcbk0702 Oct 15, 2011 01:07 PM

                    Oh, thanks for that information. I called the gougeres dough choux in my first review but thought choux was basically a type of bread this time. Had to Google the difference between bread and pastry, and now I know why I like pastry so well!

                    I'm really surprised that it's creme fraiche, since I usually don't find that stuff too pleasant, and because it seems thicker than that, but hey, glad to know I like it in certain forms.

                  2. t
                    theOGbigguy RE: plumpdumpling Oct 15, 2011 04:22 PM

                    "And the extended tasting, by the way? It came out to about six extra courses, making each course more than $30 each. For two bites of short rib, two slivers of fish, and one fewer dessert than we had the time when it wasn’t my birthday."

                    You counted wrong. The standard menu for $295 is more or less this:

                    Oysters and Pearls
                    Salad
                    Fish
                    Shellfish
                    Poultry
                    Meat
                    Cheese
                    Intermezzo
                    Dessert

                    Taking those out, these are the nine extra courses that you paid $200 for:

                    • almond “vichyssoise”, burgundy truffles, scarlet grapes
                    • tartare of pacific sea bream, French Laundry garden radishes, tempura-fried broccoli, navel orange, mizuna (Japanese greens) and white sesame seed puree
                    • Santa Barbara sea urchin, granny smitha pples, cauliflower florettes, toasted hazelnuts, red ribbon sorrel, coffee puree
                    • white-truffle-oil-infused custard, ragout of black winter truffles
                    • Snake River Farms’ beef short ribs, Tokyo turnips, medjool date “marbles”, petite mint, “sauce paloise” (béarnaise with mint
                    • “gateau” of Hudson Valley moulard duck foie gras, pistacho “financier”, hakurei turnips, vanilla streusel, white whine poached quince, toasted brioche
                    • hand cut “tagliatelle”, shaved black winter truffles
                    • “coffee and doughtnuts”, cinnamon-sugared doughnuts, cappuccino semifreddo
                    • birthday cake

                    You'll be happy to learn that the truffle tagliatelle course alone is $75 (and that's as a supplement). The foie is $40. So that means you paid $85 for 7 extra courses. Hope that helped you enjoy it more.

                    I'd also advise others that the extended tasting during white truffle season is probably $575 instead of $500, due to the extra expense of white truffles.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: theOGbigguy
                      n
                      nmprisons RE: theOGbigguy Oct 15, 2011 04:45 PM

                      A great post.

                      1. re: theOGbigguy
                        hcbk0702 RE: theOGbigguy Oct 15, 2011 05:25 PM

                        To be fair, you probably shouldn't include the birthday cake on that list; most higher-end restaurants will comp an extra dessert for a birthday meal. A variation on the "coffee and doughnuts" dessert seems to be part of the standard mignardises barrage now (though the OP got the original version).

                        Basically, the extra $205 nets you an extended canapé presentation (five in this case, two with truffles), the foie gras course, and the tagliatelle with black truffles (or another roughly equivalent dish). That seems to be in line with their menu prices.

                        1. re: hcbk0702
                          j
                          jmoranmoya RE: hcbk0702 Oct 16, 2011 09:38 AM

                          Nice review as always mssdonut :) I've just find it odd to complain about price at a restaurant like Per Se, where you know already what's the price range. Exclusivity is being paid. That exclusivity is what makes post like this have a lot views.
                          No need to say that at that price everything including service should be perfect. In my opinion satisfaction is actually a rate and money spend is part of the equation. The bigger the bill is, the hardest is to achieve that satisfaction.
                          JMM

                          -----
                          Per Se
                          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                          1. re: jmoranmoya
                            plumpdumpling RE: jmoranmoya Oct 17, 2011 06:42 AM

                            You're so right; there's really no sense in talking about the prices at places like this. The thing is–I wouldn't call us cheapskates or pennypinchers in any sense. We've spent a grand at plenty of restaurants and have thought it was entirely worth it. I just expect that the more my boyfriend spends, the more we're going to enjoy the meal, and I found my cheaper Per Se more enjoyable.

                            You're right, though; it's hard for a restaurant to give $1700 worth of satisfaction.

                            -----
                            Per Se
                            10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                        2. re: theOGbigguy
                          plumpdumpling RE: theOGbigguy Oct 17, 2011 06:38 AM

                          I mean, I appreciate your work, but we based our count on our first meal at Per Se and other reviews of the extended tasting that we've read. It was six extra courses for us.

                          Maybe the problem is that we got treated too well the first time around! So I can't complain about that.

                          -----
                          Per Se
                          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                          1. re: plumpdumpling
                            n
                            nmprisons RE: plumpdumpling Oct 17, 2011 06:55 AM

                            "We were of course already quite full by this point"

                            Where would you have put the additional courses?

                            "Maybe the problem is that we got treated too well the first time around."

                            An extra dish doesn't stop being an extra dish just because you got an extra dish the last time. The one-way ratchet approach is sure to leave people disappointed.

                            1. re: nmprisons
                              f
                              fooder RE: nmprisons Oct 17, 2011 09:03 AM

                              "An extra dish doesn't stop being an extra dish just because you got an extra dish the last time."

                              And in the end, isn't that the reason for the majority of disappointing reviews about places like EMP and Per Se? That people go in with some insane expectation because of extras given to other people or other reviews, without remembering the fact that those were "extras" to begin with.

                              1. re: fooder
                                Spiritchaser RE: fooder Oct 17, 2011 09:10 AM

                                Excellent points nmprisons and fooder.

                              2. re: nmprisons
                                plumpdumpling RE: nmprisons Oct 27, 2011 09:13 AM

                                Hey, I'll eat anything you put in front of me if I'm paying for it. The only reason I let myself not eat all of the mignardises is that I thought I could take them all home based on other reviews I saw. I'm not saying I'm a role model for nutrition, but . . .

                                It's funny that reading blog reviews both encourages me to try new places and prepares me for food I'll never actually see. I would hate to think that restaurants have to not give things to some people just so others won't expect it, but I also want to know the reason another diner got something I didn't. You see the problem.

                                1. re: plumpdumpling
                                  f
                                  fooder RE: plumpdumpling Oct 27, 2011 11:40 AM

                                  But worrying about other people getting things that you didn't is a very depressing way to live. Or it leads to occupying wall st.

                                  There is no problem here because the only part of the transaction that is spelled out and itemized is the menu. While most diners at Per Se end up with more than the 9 "listed" courses, any expectation of more is unwarranted in my opinion.

                                  The chef might decide to send out two extra truffle courses because he/she broke a dry spell and got laid. Who knows?

                                  1. re: fooder
                                    n
                                    nmprisons RE: fooder Oct 27, 2011 12:43 PM

                                    Wait, I agree with what you wrote AND with occupying wall street.

                                    If you wanted ALL the things in a box, why didn't you ask for that? They certainly would have given it to you.

                          2. o
                            ooglewoogle RE: plumpdumpling Oct 17, 2011 12:47 PM

                            Lovely review PD, many thanks.

                            Your boyfriend must indeed be a gent....I would have had no problem reiterating my wine budget to the somm. - much to my wife's chagrin. ;)

                            I am seriously impressed with people that can drink so much wine with their food (and such a lot of food at that)....I love wine and love food, but just can't seem to mix them in any great quantity if I am going to make it through even the normal tasting menu. It was due to this that we opted to request a non-alcholic drink pairing with our meal at Per Se....and it turned out to be an inspired choice for us. The drinks they came up with were just so amazing...and matched the meal with so much finesse. And of course the Scot in me appreciated the cost too! ;)

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: ooglewoogle
                              ellenost RE: ooglewoogle Oct 17, 2011 01:31 PM

                              I'm beginning to enjoy non-alcoholic beverage pairings with tasting menus, and I never knew that Per Se offered this alternative (other than the Navarro non-alcoholic wines).

                              1. re: ellenost
                                n
                                nmprisons RE: ellenost Oct 17, 2011 01:33 PM

                                Per Se has done this since its opening (FL does it as well). It is a great option. You might also combine alcoholic and non-alcoholic pairings.

                                -----
                                Per Se
                                10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                              2. re: ooglewoogle
                                Winterpool RE: ooglewoogle Oct 17, 2011 02:33 PM

                                Very curious about this: what sort of drinks comprise the non-alcoholic pairings? What was the tariff?

                                1. re: Winterpool
                                  u
                                  uwsister RE: Winterpool Oct 18, 2011 06:50 PM

                                  I'm also curious - I believe non-alcoholic beverages are included (along with service, as well-known) in the price, but I don't know if that would be the case for a pairing. I would love that when I finally do make it to Per Se since I don't drink.

                                2. re: ooglewoogle
                                  plumpdumpling RE: ooglewoogle Oct 27, 2011 08:53 AM

                                  What a wonderful idea! We've laughingly talked about Mountain Dew pairings before (an embarrassing drinking habit we both have), but it didn't occur to me that there were actual non-alcoholic pairing options. Some of our favourite drinks have been the homemade sodas at the Jean-Georges restaurants, so it makes sense that we'd love this.

                                  Thanks!

                                  1. re: ooglewoogle
                                    Winterpool RE: ooglewoogle Oct 27, 2011 01:48 PM

                                    Not only am I curious what the non-alcoholic drinks comprise, I'm now curious what it is like to experience a multi-course dinner without becoming inebriated.

                                  2. n
                                    nycfoodiee RE: plumpdumpling Nov 1, 2011 09:48 AM

                                    Hi Plumpdumpling,
                                    Thank you for sharing.. looks SO amazing!
                                    Your pictures are excellent, I was wondering what camera you used??
                                    Thanks!!

                                    Show Hidden Posts