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uhockey revisits Per Se Extended Tasting Menu. In a word - incredible.

uhockey Mar 15, 2012 05:11 PM

Full review with pictures in blog. Text as below.

Yes, it is long, and there are 72 pictures.


When I started planning this trip to New York the number one destination on my list was a return to Per Se; with stellar extended tasting menus at both The French Laundry under Corey Lee and Per Se under Jonathan Benno constituting two of the five best meals I’ve ever experienced the decision was really quite simple and obviously much less complicated than securing a reservation at the place many consider to be the best restaurant in the best dining city in the United States. Admittedly a devout fan of Thomas Keller, his restaurants, and his approach and having had almost unanimously wonderful food at the restaurants of many of his protégées (Jonathan Benno’s Lincoln, Eric Ziebold’s City-Zen, Corey Lee’s benu, etc) part of my desire to return was to see how the restaurant had evolved under the direction of Eli Kaimeh while the other part was a nagging feeling that as good as the first visit had been a return could be even better – especially in the company of friends and being taken care of by the best front-of-the-house staff I’ve ever encountered.

So having at this point decided that Per Se, an extended tasting, with friends would be the ideal the next question was which friends; clearly this is not a casual meal at your local bistro in terms of cost or commitment and quite frankly at $500/pp I did not want to take the risk of dining with just anyone yet as fate would have it the stars would converge bringing three of my favorite previous fine dining partners together in New York on February 24th – one from Philadelphia (or Paris, depending on how you look at it,) one from Los Angeles, and another from just up the street in Manhattan – and just as if it were meant to be a reservation was secured for a four top close to the window at 11:30am on a Friday.

Literally counting the days during a particularly brutal work month and planning the rest of my dining itinerary in the interim the team from Per Se did their usual magic with multiple confirmations of dietary restrictions and special requests and while my dining partners discussed their wine options I simply watched the daily menus evolve until the day arrived – a particularly rainy one (and in fact the only rainy day of my whole trip,) but a mild one none the less and after an early morning run around Brooklyn and breakfast at Bosie Tea Parlor I made the walk to the Time Warner Center where I would be the first to arrive, but only by a few moments.

With pleasantries exchanged as none of my dining partners had ever met and a few folks already waiting at the famous blue doors (including a man who looked strangely familiar and I would later find out has eaten at Per Se “easily 400 times” including the night of my previous visit) it would not be long before the clocks would strike 11:30am and the glass doors would slide open with hostesses emerging to welcome, collect coats, and escort us to our tables. With the room obviously much brighter than during my dinner service we were seated, as requested, at a spacious four-top near the window and much to my delight a friendly face greeted us moments later as Chris, my server from 2 years prior, welcomed me back and introduced himself to my friends as the man who would be taking care of us for the afternoon.

With the room unchanged save for the seasonal flower arrangements and filled with natural light despite the gloomy weather it would be no more than five minutes after seating that the festivities would begin and Chris would offer us all a complementary glass of Jose Dhondt Champagne and again topping us off when he returned with the new digital wine tome we chatted for a bit – myself utterly impressed by his memory and all the while wondering just how deep the TKRG database goes. Already well aware that we would be partaking in an extended tasting I next decided to ask Chris if I could see the daily menu while my friends perused the wine list and after a couple of hints about dishes we colleagues would like to see incorporated in the menu (if possible, of course) it was time to begin; the hour just shy of noon, we would emerge 330 minutes later after 2 canapes, 21 savories, 5 sweets, 6 breads, 6 salts, 2 butters, 24 chocolates, 2 varieties of macaron, 3 of fudge, 3 of truffles, plenty of beverages, plus a bag of treats to take home – the second party to enter the room (by moments) and the last to leave (by nearly an hour.


With such an extensive introduction and such an elaborate meal I honestly feel like I could stretch my thoughts on that experience well over 5,000 words – words speaking of elegance, refinement, succulence, beauty, and in almost every circumstance, perfection – but in reality to do so would seem redundant and in the end I feel a case of diminishing returns. What defined this meal, like my visits to The French Laundry and Per Se but at an entirely new level, was ‘finesse’ – a word closely associated with the Keller empire and rightfully so. On the afternoon of Friday, February 24th 2012 myself and three friends were treated like the only most important guests in a room full of very important people and while such luxury obviously comes at a cost I will say it was worth every cent – a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll remember forever…and here is what we were served (with a few notes here and there when particularly pertinent.)

Canape 1 – Gougeres – It always begins here and it always should – poof, and it is gone.

Canape 2 – Salmon Cones – crispy sesame tuille, a touch of onion, crème fraiche – like the gougeres, a must.

1 – Horseradish Veloute with sour cherries and garden chervil – poured tableside, smooth as silk, a bit of spice, a bit of sweet, and the essence of early spring.

2 – Oysters and Pearls with Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca, Island Creek Oysters, Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar – if you haven’t, and you have the means, you should. Always good and this time transcendent – a signature that never grows tired and a study in balance that even after three services I will still look forward to next time.

3 – Citrus Cured Albacore Tuna with Piquillo Pepper, Jalapeno, Hass Avocado – the weakest course of the meal, in my opinion, yet with tuna featuring unrivaled texture and enough balance from the avocado puree to help balance the not only the raw peppers, but also the intense piquillo lemon vinaigrette.

4 – Santa Barbara Sea Urchin with Sour Plum Glaze and Marinated Cyprus Seeds – potentially my favorite course of the afternoon and certainly the most elaborately plated. Warm urchin flecked with lime salt arched in a pool of sour plum jelly studded with seeds of sweet basil and young Honshimiji mushrooms. Like the oysters and pearls an exotic balance of briny and sweet with predominantly soft textures but such a complex interplay of flavors that each small bite elicited eyes-closed reflection.

5 – Peekytoe Crab Tortellini with Ragout of English Peas and Yuzu Confit – English Peas in February? Sure, an heirloom variety from the French Laundry Garden that had arrived that day along with Pea Tendrils and a foamed stock made with pork and yuzu reduction. A single delicate pasta with an interior of fresh crab and a touch of cream – another great dish with the yuzu a soft note on the palate.

6 – Hen Egg Custard with Ragout of Black Winter Truffle – Another Thomas Keller classic executed just as it has been thousands of times before, with White Truffle infused custard, black truffle ragout, and potato chive chip. In my opinion still the best “whole egg” dish I’ve ever tasted, even having finally experienced the L’Arpege egg last April and the Providence egg again in October.

Beverage 1 – Chamomile, White Verjus and Meyer Lemon – With two of my friends sharing two bottles or Reisling and the other opting for a few wines by the glass Chris offered to have the kitchen prepare me some non-alcoholic beverages to pair with the meal and with each made ‘a la minute’ the first would be this mellow concoction. A very nice gesture and included in the bill both with the extended tasting and the ‘standard’ menus I’d highly encourage anyone who does not imbibe (or anyone with a very low tolerance) to request this option.

7 – Pate de Campagne with Mustard Seed and Cornichon Relish – Remembering (yes, I told you they take notes as this was NOT listed on my allergy/intolerance sheet) that I’m a bit picky about mustard and having literally challenged me on last visit with a mustard/sweetbread dish that was outstanding Chris again joked with me on delivering this dish that they were going to make a convert of me and with the Salted, Ground Pork Shoulder intense and creamy I really could barely taste the mustard aside from its spice. Impressively nuanced and delivered along with Dijon Mustard Leaves, Onion, and a quenelle of relish made from cornichons I must say it was odd seeing a charcuterie course plated as haute-cuisine but really, why not?

8 – Slow Roasted Black Knight Carrots with Chickpea Falafel and Cumin Scented Crème Fraiche – This would be the first of two items we requested from the menu, a choice made by my friend who had encountered these lovely carrots at Jordan Kahn’s (ex-Per Se pastry Chef) Red Medicine and served along with an outstanding Parker House Roll this dish would prove to be well worth the request as the intensely earthy but mildly sweet carrots were quite unlike any other I’ve tasted while the crisp falafel and crème fraiche added a sort of Indian note to the plate. Finished with cilantro cream and, cilantro shoots, and golden Sultana chutney the only flaw in this dish was that it made me regret skipping the carrots in Los Angeles.

Beverage 2 – Basil, Passion Fruit, Yuzu Soda – Another lemony drink, but this time a bit bubbly and thereby lifting the aromatics from the basil to the palate, in my opinion the least successful of the drinks in one part due to my luke warm feelings about passion fruit but also because it ended up going flat due to the next course and a generous gift from my friend.

9a – Gateau of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras with Black Mission Fig Marmalade, Cipollini Onion Shoots, Petite Lettuce, Guinness Chocolate Sauce – In this case a specific request by myself from the tasting menu and one of my three favorite savories of the day, this dish was served to two of us along with a hot brioche roll and six different salts (Raked Sea Salt, Brittany Fleur de Sel, Brittany Sel Gris, Hawaiian Red Clay Salt, Hawaiian Charcoal Big Island Salt, 40,000,000 year old Montana Copper Mine.) Described as a “dessert foie gras” and actually made by the pastry team and with a Fig Guinness Financier Base and Black Mission Fig gelee sandwiching the creamy liver this was another “close your eyes and sigh” sort of dish both on its own and spread on the brioche. Paired with both cipollini and pearl onions, dense marmalade, and the intense chocolate sauce my only quibble would be the bread – tasty and replaced as it began to cool – which just didn’t stand up to the sliced butter brioche from my previous visit.

9b – Torchon of Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck Foie Gras with Satsuma Orange and Sicilian Pistachio – Having mentioned that only two of us received the Gateau, it was here that Chef Kameih and team would really start to pull out all the stops as two different preparations of various savories began to arrive and though not quite as ethereal as the alternative option this dense torchon paired with citrus and nuts was perhaps even more creamy and decadent, particularly when taking into account the various textures lent by dehydrated, whole, and pureed versions of both the oranges and the pistachios.

Wine 1 – Having mentioned my friend’s generosity, as a thanks for setting up such a grand experience I was gifted a glass of 1993 Chateua Pajzos Tokaji to go with the Foie and while I certainly will not claim to be an expert on wines, neither sweet nor dry, this 5 Puttonyos selection was on par with the best I’ve ever tasted, pairing wonderfully with both preparations as well as subsequent dishes, though being raised in a Hungarian family I’ve no idea how such an amazing and complex beverage comes from a land with such rustic and heavy food.

Bread – Pretzel, Baguette, Chapeau Sourdough, Whole Wheat Twists along with Animal Farm Butter and Salted Butter from Brittany – “The meal hasn’t even started at Per Se until the bread arrives,” said Chris just over two hours in. I can’t say I disagree, particularly with that butter (soon to see a substantial upgrade.)

10a – Medallion of Atlantic Striped Bass with Honshimeji Mushrooms, Cilantro, Young Ginger Vierge – At first I thought sous-vide but then I was told confited and it all made sense. Moist yet perfectly cooked throughout, meaty but delicate, and with a sort of Asian flare in the form of the tender mushrooms and ginger but also with French stylings like the heirloom radish, compressed cucumbers, and parsley broth – undoubtedly the best fish I’ve had so far in 2012.

10b – Big Fin Squid Poelee with Cracked Bulgur Wheat, English Cucumber, Moroccan Olives, Cilantro – Served as the alternative to the striped bass and although not quite as delicious just as interesting with the squid tender and snappy on the interior but seared to crispy on the outside. With one of our table members citing an aversion to olives I particularly liked the manner in which the kitchen opted to puree the fruits with the squid’s ink forming a briny sauce that served as a foil to the quenelle of roasted wheat tabouleh.

11 – Scottish Langoustine a la Plancha with Jingle Bell Peppers, Globe Artichoke, Sunchokes, Spicy Lobster Broth – Replacing the traditional Maine lobster preparation because the langoustines had come in live that morning and proving to be my favorite dish of the entire afternoon this was a dish where preparation mattered, but the product itself was the star. With each langoustine essentially the size of a lobster previously poached in butter and then seared “for a few seconds” the meaty tail gave way with a snap to an interior that was literally the texture of sweetened butter. Paired simply with raw peppers, a crispy artichoke, and a dab of Jerusalem artichoke puree in a briny broth this was better than lobster and I was glad to have bread as I mopped my plate clean.

12a – Genovese Basil Agnolotti with Shaved Black Winter Truffles – With the arrival of the wooden box I knew what was next and as Chris noted “since you had the Tagliatelle last time” two of us would receive a special pasta made just moments prior filled with fontina cheese and chopped basil resting in a pool of truffle infused clarified butter and cream. Fragrant and tender to be certain but then buried in an avalanche of truffles there really is not much else to say – it was divine.

12b – Hand Cut Tagliatelle with Shaved Black Winter Truffles – The alternative to the Agnolotti, perhaps even better due to its simplicity, and when the GM turned his back Chris even decided to truffle our butter; “wouldn’t want any of that to go to waste”…and it did not.

Beverage 3 – Earl Grey Tea, Pomegranate, Hibiscus, Red Verjus – Heading towards the heavier meat based courses this would prove to be my favorite of the house made juices largely due to the balance of the tea and the floral notes but also because of the heft from the verjus.
13a – Four Story Hill Farm’s Poularde with Ragout of English Peas, La Ratte Potato Puree, Sauce Perigourdine – Yet another profoundly memorable course with the fatty young chicken made all the more succulent by piping a confit of leg and liver beneath the skin before roasting it whole this was yet another situation where the sourcing spoke for itself while the preparation and decision to match the bird with English peas rendered in butter and onions plus black truffle and applewood smoked bacon infused pan jus upgraded “chicken” to something substantially more memorable.

13b – Cavendish Farms Quail with Rissolee of New Crop Potatoes, Haricots Verts, Petite Lettuces, Marcona Almond Vinaigrette – Serving as the alternative to the Poularde this Quail really did not have a chance to shine as well as it should have but with crisp skin and tender flesh, potatoes every bit as buttery as Robuchon’s, and a sweet garlic cream that balanced nicely with the mildly acidic vinaigrette it certainly was delicious.

14a – Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Lamb with Creamed Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Caramelized Green Garlic, Anson Mills’ Polenta – For the final savory of the afternoon another duo would arrive and for two of us we would receive medium rare lamb set alongside a creamy quenelle of mushrooms, toothsome polenta with gruyere, and tucked under a cap of caramelized green garlic and spinach. Bold in portion and in flavor with notes of rosemary and sage the lamb itself was good, but what was truly outstanding was the fatty slice of lamb neck behind it with a caramelized exterior and an interior something like marrow but with slightly more texture.

14b – Snake River Farms Calotte de Boeuf with Charred Eggplant, Cauliflower, Upland Cress and Nasturtium Caper Jus – A request from one member of our table and a dish that would get a literal standing ovation from another I have to say this was one hell of a piece of meat. Generally not one to favor beef due to its texture this rested, roasted, and seared preparation was not dry aged as I’d assumed but rather just an exemplary cut of the cap with a slight crackle to the exterior giving way to a melt in your mouth pink interior. Paired simply for the most part save for the bitter but briny sauce and creamy shortrib mousse if this is on the menu at Per Se (as it ‘frequently’ is, according to Chris) I’d order it over almost any meat as a “main course” protein.

15a – “Boerenkaas” with celery branch, lavash, black pepper gastrique – Having rarely been impressed by composed cheese courses save for a select few I really did not expect much from this dish and although the Raw Cow’s Milk cheese from Holland was creamy and pleasant with a nice foil provided by the bitter celery and pepper aigre doux this was merely an attractive transition course compared to the alternative.

15b – “Roquefort” with white wine poached Bartlett Pears, Radicchio Tardivo, and Black Walnut Puree – Despite the afternoon’s only service gaff (if you can call not knowing the exact purveyor of a specific Roquefort when asked by a cheese monger a gaff) this presentation would be one of the best composed cheese dishes I’ve ever tasted largely in part to the pungent and creamy cheese but also due to its accoutrements including butter radicchio, intensely sweet pears, and black walnut puree alongside whole red walnuts. Multiple textures, bold and balanced flavors, and for me as good as composed cheeses get.

16 – Chef Sue’s Sunny Side Up Egg – Transitioning into the sweets our first bite would be unveiled tableside featuring what for all intents and purposes looked like an egg but was actually a Lime Genoise sponge cake at its base topped with vanilla meringue as the egg white and mandarin jelly as the yolk. Soft and creamy with a flavor quite similar to a creamsicle this was described as something one of the younger members of the pastry kitchen had been “fooling around with” and given my love of egg dishes my dining partners found it quite apropos.

17 – Blue Gin with Dragon Fruit, Greek Yogurt Sorbet, Violet Gin Granite – Replacing the traditional sorbet course given “our pastry chef’s new fascination with root beer floats” this dish would prove to be by far the most complex of the sweets with a progression of flavors, textures, and temperatures from top to bottom – cold/bracing/crunchy, moderate/sour/creamy, warm/sweet/supple – each good on their own, but when taken together a gorgeous parfait with the compressed dragon fruit as its star.

Coffee – from Equator – Bold, rich, and balanced for myself. Cappuccino and Double shots of espresso for others. No ridiculous $12 up-charge like Alinea or a $24 Siphon like Eleven Madison Park, just great coffee with what seemed to be unlimited refills at the perfect times.

18 – Coffee and Doughnuts with Cinnamon Sugared Doughnuts and Cappuccino Semifreddo – Like Oysters and Pearls, Hen Egg Custard, Gougeres, and the Salmon Cone I simply cannot imagine a meal at Per Se or The French Laundry without it. For some it is the doughnut – for me it is that cloud of chilly coffee semifreddo – other when I end up dunking the doughnut into it.

19 – Short Stack with Huckleberry Compote and Vanilla Ice Cream – Clearly following a breakfast hunch this dish would be my favorite of the sweets by some degree likely due to my love of pancakes, but also because of its relative simplicity and divine flavor as the buttermilk stack was literally supersaturated with pure maple syrup while the biscuit was tender and moist with the crunch of a Liege waffle from the use of Pearl sugar. Adding on the early season berries, small and concentrated in their flavor, plus pure Madagascar vanilla ice cream – lovely.

20 – Chocolate Milk with Dark Chocolate Torte, Caramelized Milk Jam, Toasted Hazelnuts, Battenkill Farm’s Milk Ice Cream – Our final menu course of the afternoon, delivered at the 5:15 mark, and of course it had to be chocolate; first a dark pave, then a milk chocolate brownie, and last some shards of white all atop a buttery hazelnut crust and a touch of caramel to accent the condensed Milk Ice Cream.

Chocolates – 24 varieties – At this point with two bottles of alcohol and many hours of smiles and great memories already behind us the young woman with the box of chocolates would arrive and rising to the challenge of one of my friends she named every single one in the box without looking (and when goaded began to recite them backwards.) Maple Pecan, Malted Milk, Smoked Cinnamon, Fennel, Orange Marzipan, Stout Beer, Crème Fraiche, Cardamom Dulce de Leche, Arnold Palmer, Dirty Martini, Pink Peppercorn, Bailey’s Cheesecake, Raspberry, Rum and Raisin, Mojito, Curry and Coconut, Prune and Armigniac, Passionfruit Cashew, Cherry Balsamic Vinegar, Madagascar Vanilla, Giandujia, Mast Brother Dark Chocolate, Apricot Macadamia Nut, and Tamarind Pineapple. All made in house daily.

Mignardises – Vanilla, Coffee, and Chocolate Fudge. Mandarin Passion Fruit and Mint Chocolate Chip Macarons. Sea Salt Caramel, Lemon Vanilla, and Root Beer Truffles – And just when you thought you couldn’t eat another bite…well, the others really could not and so I did…and I kept nibbling until they were gone, particularly loving the Minty Macarons and both the root beer and sea salt caramel truffles.

Take Home – Nougat, Orange Candy Cane, Mint Kit Kat, and Bourbon Butter Caramels – The mint kit kat was ridiculously good – something like a peppermint patty with dark chocolate and more crunch, while the others were merely good. They offered to send us home with more of the chocolates or mignardises, as well. A part of me regrets declining…a small part…the part that only got to try 10 of the 24 chocolates.

With coffee again topped off and a copy of the menu, hand typed on the fly by one of the hostesses, plus the decidedly outlandish check delivered as I continued to pick at the Mignardises and the room was entirely motionless with all tables turned for dinner aside from one and with some more stories and anecdotes both to and from Chris we settled the tab only to be offered one final treat – an extensive fifteen minute walkthrough of the kitchen where the team was in the throes of dinner preparation. From the front VIP ingredients locker to the vegetable cold storage in the back, from the offices to the pastry kitchen, and even to the team planning room where a group of interns, sous-chefs, and others were gathered already sketching out and planning the next day’s meals. As expected everyone was working hard but jovial, everything was spotless, and when we emerged we stood at the front door where our coats and bags were readied, menus sealed in envelopes to protect from the rain, and pictures were taken.

As far as meal “experiences” go it was the best of my life thus far as was the service. In terms of the food, it was at least on par with Pierre Gagnaire and my first visit to Alinea. In terms of the way I felt walking out – I felt great, like it was every bit worth the effort and the price both for myself and my friends – and barring financial ruin, the restaurant closing down, or some other tragedy of equal proportion I aim to return on every subsequent visit to New York, ideally with dining companions just as wonderful.

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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  1. ellenost RE: uhockey Mar 15, 2012 06:32 PM

    WOW!--superb report! Thanks for all of your usual impeccable detail in recreating such a splendid meal. Now that I've had the the extended tasting menu, I don't think I would want to return to Per Se for only the 9 course menu. If I may be so bold and use the term "value" and Per Se in the same sentence, I think Per Se's extended tasting menu is better value than the regular menu. I would love to experience the extended tasting menu during white truffle season.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ellenost
      uhockey RE: ellenost Mar 16, 2012 07:01 PM

      I imagine the upcharge for the white truffles on an extended is still another $150, but I could be wrong. We should ask, then go. :-)

      Also, you may find this very interesting. These folks ate there the same day as us and reference us (was brought to my attention by a friend)


      With what they paid for the caviar and foie supplement they could have been "special" and gotten an extra plate as well.


      1. re: uhockey
        fatmanthinwallet RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2012 07:39 PM

        It is quite amusing to read your experiences and then someone else's experiences in observing your meal. A touch of envy, perhaps.

        I guess it goes to show that just because someone else is getting something different or receiving more special treatment than you, it doesn't mean that they are a VIP - they may have just paid more for their meal or known how to order!

        1. re: fatmanthinwallet
          Miss Needle RE: fatmanthinwallet Mar 16, 2012 09:38 PM

          Actually it can also mean they're chefs. When I was there years ago, I noticed that 50% of the tables around me were receiving such treatment; they received 2 courses for every one course I had. I asked the waitstaff if there was another menu that I wasn't aware of (I didn't know about the extended tasting at that time -- actually, not even sure if they had an extended tasting then). She told me that there were a lot of visiting chefs in that night (Sunday) and that the chef liked to send out extra courses for them. They probably were not being charged extra for this privilege.

          1. re: Miss Needle
            fatmanthinwallet RE: Miss Needle Mar 16, 2012 10:00 PM

            True, I forgot about that as well.

            When you travel and put so much focus into ensuring the best meal you can afford, which for some of us involves spending more money on food than the rest of the trip, it can be pretty frustrating watching someone else get a more attractive meal or more attentive service.

            Thankfully it has only happened to me once at an italian three-star restaurant in Hong Kong where the French couple at the table next to me had shaved truffles added to every single one of their courses. Perhaps there was a truffle menu of which I was not aware? In any event, that envy, together with some very inconsistent food and service, made for a poor experience. If I recall correctly, uHockey had a similar experience at L'Astrance?

            1. re: fatmanthinwallet
              Miss Needle RE: fatmanthinwallet Mar 16, 2012 10:24 PM

              Yes, there were a lot of chefs at Per Se that night -- our service was rushed and I watched the servers fawn over the chef tables. It was a strange night as half the patrons were VIPs. I know my experience was an anomaly, but it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. But I'm willing to try it again, especially after uhockey's review.

              At the French Laundry, I had wonderful service and am sure that Per Se's service is very similar. It was just a bad night when I was there.

              1. re: fatmanthinwallet
                uhockey RE: fatmanthinwallet Mar 18, 2012 01:42 PM

                No - L'Astrance was just a "we do what we want" sort of thing. No rhyme or reason to it. We were American, the others were French, and we were treated as such.


      2. w
        wreckers00 RE: uhockey Mar 15, 2012 09:31 PM

        I actually thought this review was much more straight forward, less long-winded, and flowed just a whole lot better.

        I had kinda been indifferent about going back to Per Se but this review certainly changes my thinking.

        1. n
          nmprisons RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2012 06:01 AM

          A wonderful, wonderful review. I too was blown away by chef Kaimeh's extended tasting, and am very glad to see that you enjoyed yours. The uni and blue gin dishes sound mesmerizing.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nmprisons
            uhockey RE: nmprisons Mar 18, 2012 01:43 PM

            That uni dish goes in the all-time memory bank.


          2. chloes RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2012 06:51 AM

            well, you've inspired me to return!! Thank you for your exquisite review.

            1. k
              kathryn RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2012 07:14 AM

              Do you have any more details on the gins used for the blue gin dish? Usually dragon fruit doesn't have much flavor, I assume it was probably infused with the violet gin (which is probably something of their own creation, as opposed to, say, sloe gin).

              7 Replies
              1. re: kathryn
                owlwoman RE: kathryn Mar 16, 2012 10:24 AM

                Another Wow, amazing report, I hope one of these days I am able to dine there with the right person/people too!

                1. re: kathryn
                  uhockey RE: kathryn Mar 16, 2012 06:58 PM

                  Delucas or Ellen may remember. I know he mentioned it. I'm sorry my one missed detail was the take away message for you. ;-) Oddly, I think of dragonfruit like kiwi - not flavorless, but certainly not a favorite.


                  1. re: uhockey
                    kathryn RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2012 07:29 PM

                    LOL, you did such a good job describing every thing else, you know!

                    I ate a ton of dragonfruit in Taiwan several years back... The flavor is pretty subtle. Kiwi is stronger IMO.

                    1. re: uhockey
                      Delucacheesemonger RE: uhockey Mar 18, 2012 02:50 PM

                      IIRC, and l was a little compromised by that point, l believe it was Philadelphia Bluecoat. BTW Chris never got back regarding which Roquefort was served.

                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                        uhockey RE: Delucacheesemonger Mar 19, 2012 02:43 PM

                        Awful. Should definitely be fired for such behavior! ......really though, favorite server ever.


                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                          kathryn RE: Delucacheesemonger Mar 19, 2012 03:07 PM

                          Ha. Thanks.

                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                            kosmose7 RE: Delucacheesemonger Mar 20, 2012 04:47 PM

                            Interesting! It is a bit different from the sorbet I was served in my previous extended menu at Per Se. My 'Violet Gin' was with blood orange soda.

                      2. d
                        deepfry7 RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2012 11:05 AM

                        Great report, uhockey. I'm intrigued by the guy who's dined at Per Se over 400 times (so ~ 50 times a year since it's opened). I remember once hearing Daniel Boulud say on his TV show that one couple dined at Daniel over 800 times. Sadly, they had passed away.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: deepfry7
                          uhockey RE: deepfry7 Mar 16, 2012 06:56 PM

                          No clue. He was there for ~2 hours. Had maybe 4 courses including the truffled pasta, then left.

                          I'm wondering if he has a (single) granddaughter.


                          1. re: deepfry7
                            uwsister RE: deepfry7 Mar 17, 2012 04:40 PM

                            The book written by a former server at Per Se (the name of the title escapes me at the moment) mentions a young woman who has dined at Per Se twice in one day, lunch and dinner, among her countless visits.

                            1. re: uwsister
                              fatmanthinwallet RE: uwsister Mar 17, 2012 11:54 PM

                              "Service Included" - your post just reminded me that I need to read it as my wife bought if for my birthday last year

                              1. re: fatmanthinwallet
                                uwsister RE: fatmanthinwallet Mar 18, 2012 05:24 PM

                                Yep, that's the one. It's a quick, light read - I think most 'hounds would find it entertaining, if not terribly informative.

                          2. f
                            fatmanthinwallet RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2012 05:08 PM

                            Thanks for the excellent review. It, together with my experience there last April, convinced me to go back for an extended tasting menu on my next trip to the States in June, although sadly this means another new restaurant will miss out. Ah, such is life...

                            Did you organize the extended tasting menu when first making your booking or afterwards? Do you know if it is also available at dinner?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fatmanthinwallet
                              uhockey RE: fatmanthinwallet Mar 16, 2012 06:55 PM

                              Extended tastings are available at both lunch and dinner, you arrange it when you book.


                            2. Smilinglion RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2012 07:43 PM

                              Amazing. We were just there 2 months ago and if we knew there was such an option (i.e. the extended tasting menu), we most certainly would have gone for it. Now you have tempted us to fly halfway around the world to try it again.

                              1. Miss Needle RE: uhockey Mar 16, 2012 09:46 PM

                                Great report! If the food was on par with Pierre Gagnaire I do feel like I must make a repeat visit at some point (when I'm in the mood for playing the whole reservation game). That sea urchin dish looked heavenly!

                                1. a
                                  arjunsr RE: uhockey Mar 18, 2012 03:56 PM

                                  thanks for sharing! great read

                                  1. Delucacheesemonger RE: uhockey Mar 19, 2012 05:23 PM

                                    In a post that was eradicated, l stated this meal was amongst the best meals l have ever experienced. In every respect, the food was food, not frou-frou stuff, but real scrumptious food. The service was impeccable, friendly but service. The room was the room, view of rainy Columbus Circle. Yes it lasted almost 6 hours, yes the time flew. l would do it again in a heartbeat.
                                    My thanks to uhockey for including me in the very well planned afternoon.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                      uhockey RE: Delucacheesemonger Mar 19, 2012 06:19 PM

                                      Good to know, esp since I know you tend to fancy the L'Ami Louis of the world as opposed to big formal spots.

                                      It is in my top 3. A truly great meal from start to end. All 6 hours of it.


                                      1. re: uhockey
                                        Delucacheesemonger RE: uhockey Mar 19, 2012 07:27 PM

                                        Wow, and l shared two of them with you.

                                    2. plumpdumpling RE: uhockey Mar 20, 2012 09:26 AM

                                      This review made me go back and read my own Extended Tasting Menu review: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/812314 (Which I believe you commented on just to tell another commenter about photographers who take better pictures than I do–but I'm sure you'd never backstab an Ohioan like that.) I wish I could tell what was different between our two meals. I'd like to think that your excitement colored your meal, but it might just be that you were simply treated better than we were. You felt like VIPs, and we felt like schmucks who were paying $500 apiece for a meal.

                                      Still, it was fun to read this review, and we do have future Per Se plans, so clearly not feeling special isn't enough to keep us away.

                                      26 Replies
                                      1. re: plumpdumpling
                                        ellenost RE: plumpdumpling Mar 20, 2012 09:56 AM

                                        That's funny: when I read your report I thought you were treated very well otherwise I probably wouldn't have been interested in trying the extended tasting menu myself. Your photos are still among the finest.

                                        1. re: ellenost
                                          nmprisons RE: ellenost Mar 20, 2012 10:03 AM

                                          As with most things in life, it is all about perception. If you go in expecting and expecting and hyping and hyping, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment, especially when the grass appears greener at the table next door.

                                          1. re: nmprisons
                                            Delucacheesemonger RE: nmprisons Mar 20, 2012 10:21 AM

                                            For $ 500, l expected the world and the world polished, and that is exactly what l got.

                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                              plumpdumpling RE: Delucacheesemonger Mar 20, 2012 10:51 AM

                                              I'm a little jealous but a lot pleased for you. I expect nothing less from the place and still can't wait to go back again.

                                            2. re: nmprisons
                                              plumpdumpling RE: nmprisons Mar 20, 2012 10:49 AM

                                              Exactly! uhockey seemed twice as excited as even I was and still gushed twice as hard as expected, but I must work differently. I need to tone down the fangirling until I actually eat the meal, at least until I can learn not to look at what other people were served before I go.

                                              1. re: nmprisons
                                                RGR RE: nmprisons Mar 20, 2012 01:30 PM


                                                As usual, you make an excellent point.

                                                We've been to per se once, in 2008. I went with expectations in check -- this despite ubiquitous raves, even including the opinion of a chef we admire who said that per se was in a class by itself.

                                                The meal was excellent but not perfect (one major dud dish), and Mr. R. and I came away feeling we had had equally superb cuisine in other restaurants of its caliber both here and abroad. But because we went not expecting the moon, the sun and the stars, we were not disappointed. It was, in fact, a memorable experience for a variety of reasons. Even so, we've never had a great desire to return.

                                                As far as what was going on at other tables, I haven't a clue. Why would I care? I was too busy focusing on what was happening at ours.


                                                Per Se
                                                10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                                                1. re: RGR
                                                  plumpdumpling RE: RGR Mar 20, 2012 01:57 PM

                                                  I wish it was that easy! I read too many other reviews and know just how many courses I "should" be receiving and how many diners have toured the kitchen and know what other people went home with, and then I judge my meal accordingly. I'm a restaurant's worst nightmare.

                                                  1. re: RGR
                                                    uhockey RE: RGR Mar 20, 2012 02:48 PM

                                                    ...to be fair, if I used the same criteria I'd never go back to EMP again - not after those cheeses and that dessert.

                                                    That said, I'd never hesitate to go back because with the right expectation I know it will be every bit worth it. I've had 20 better meals than my best meal at EMP and some at lesser cost, but I feel i'd be doing myself a great disservice to skip their brilliance because a 90% great meal at EMP is better than a 100% great meal almost anywhere else.


                                                    1. re: uhockey
                                                      RGR RE: uhockey Mar 20, 2012 03:28 PM


                                                      We didn't get a tour of the kitchen, and I don't remember receiving a take-home gift. Could be they weren't offering tours or giving parting gifts in 2008. But if they were, I couldn't care less about not getting them. We received superb service at the table, which is what really matters to me.


                                                      I think you know that my reasons for not being keen on returning to per se are not because of that one dud dish. In fact, it's probably the least of my reasons.


                                                      1. re: RGR
                                                        uhockey RE: RGR Mar 20, 2012 03:31 PM

                                                        I know - you've explained the reasons - but I still think you should go back. :-) I'm not saying THEY deserve it, I'm saying YOU deserve it because when they are on their game the experience is truly one of a kind.


                                                        1. re: uhockey
                                                          RGR RE: uhockey Mar 20, 2012 03:46 PM

                                                          With the exception of that one dish, the rest of the food was wonderful, and service couldn't have been better. So, in what way(s) do you think they were not "on their game"?


                                                          1. re: RGR
                                                            uhockey RE: RGR Mar 20, 2012 04:27 PM

                                                            Had that one dish been exemplary I imagine you'd have a great desire to return. I realize that there were other things that made the meal special, but if EVERY dish had been spot on and you could return with those very same people then I'm really not sure how you could say you didn't want to go back.

                                                            Call me crazy, but I can't forsee visiting Jung Sik, or Dovetail, or Ai Fiori twice before revisiting Per Se.


                                                            1. re: uhockey
                                                              nmprisons RE: uhockey Mar 20, 2012 05:20 PM

                                                              I truly love it when uhockey and rgr engage in these conversations.

                                                              I must say, uhockey, that price is at least some consideration. I returned to Dovetail a couple of times in between Per Se visits, not because I thought it was a better meal, but because it took me months to save up for Per Se and I simply can't go that long between good meals.

                                                              Also, now that I think about it, soon-to-be mrs.nmprisons and i did not receive a tasty take-home treat after our recent extended meal. Ignorance is bliss, I guess, and I see no reason to remove it from (along with our first meal together at Alinea) the top fine dining meal of my life.

                                                              1. re: nmprisons
                                                                uhockey RE: nmprisons Mar 20, 2012 05:35 PM

                                                                .....Dovetail would probably have to pay me to return, but that is for another review :-)

                                                                Having watched other tables leave they all received the same goodie bag, so perhaps this is something new.


                                                              2. re: uhockey
                                                                RGR RE: uhockey Mar 20, 2012 07:36 PM


                                                                Even had that dish been perfection personified, I would still not be itching to go back. Seems to me that because you are so over-the-top enamored with per se, you find it difficult to believe that someone else would not feel the same. The way I see it, just because I happen to love a particular restaurant doesn't mean that I expect everyone else to love it too.

                                                                As far as your last comment goes, suffice it to say that if you lived here, you'd have a different approach to dining out than you do as a visitor.


                                                                I can understand how the cost might be an issue for a lot of people. However, if Mr. R. and I wanted to go back, that would not stop us.


                                                                1. re: RGR
                                                                  uhockey RE: RGR Mar 21, 2012 03:40 AM

                                                                  Yes in that I would dine out very infrequently - just as I do at home (wherever that is.)

                                                                  No in that if I lived locally and was going to be dining out infrequently I would probably be much like yourself and dine at the same place with frequency - but for me it would be Per Se, The Modern, Corton, and Roberta's with a bit of EMP now and again. I'd save "new" dining for the road.


                                                                  1. re: uhockey
                                                                    prima RE: uhockey Mar 21, 2012 05:47 AM

                                                                    I think it comes down to your CH style, as well. Some CHs like to stick to their tried and true restaurants, while others like to try restaurants they haven't tried before, whether they're visiting NYC or living in NYC. Most CHs probably fall somewhere in the middle.

                                                                    I usually don't visit my favourites more than once or twice a year. It amazed me on another thread, that some people had been to some of their favourite restaurants in Toronto (where I live) 25, 50 or 75 times. There's only a handful of restaurants I've visited more than 5 times.

                                                                    1. re: prima
                                                                      uhockey RE: prima Mar 21, 2012 01:37 PM

                                                                      I absolutely agree.

                                                                      I'll be in Toronto in just over a week, incidentally - planning on Black Hoof for apps/drinks and then Splendido.


                                                                      1. re: uhockey
                                                                        prima RE: uhockey Mar 27, 2012 10:39 AM

                                                                        Look forward to reading your report, after your visit.

                                                                        1. re: prima
                                                                          uhockey RE: prima Mar 27, 2012 03:00 PM

                                                                          If you're interested in grabbing some Dim Sum with Charles Yu and I you can e-mail me - the more the merrier.


                                                  2. re: ellenost
                                                    plumpdumpling RE: ellenost Mar 20, 2012 10:36 AM

                                                    We were treated very well! Just not as well as we had been on our first visit. After an amaaaaaaazing first meal there, I set myself up to expect "the world and the world polished" and probably set myself up for disappointment, as nmprisons said.

                                                    I still think the regular tasting is incredible, and the impression that left on me has never waned and continues to inform so many meals at other restaurants, but the extended menu didn't seem that much above and beyond to me. Except when uhockey writes about it!

                                                  3. re: plumpdumpling
                                                    uhockey RE: plumpdumpling Mar 20, 2012 02:42 PM

                                                    ...to be honest I never really agree with your thoughts on restaurants, though I do generally enjoy the pictures. Probably just a general difference in palates and what we appreciate/expect in a restaurant. Especially in the case of your Per Se review you got 19 courses - one less than ours and claimed it was 6 extra (the real tasting is only 9 courses - you got 10 extra, we got 11) - and they don't give you all the mignardises to take home - I ate all ours at the table.

                                                    My "excitement" for a meal is generally the same at 90% of the spaces I go to and with few exceptions and it takes a great space to get me to go back - Per Se is one of those spaces. I went in expecting the world, and like Delucas so elegantly put it, I got the world plus some truffles on the butter.

                                                    I don't go in "expecting" to be treated like their most valued client and I don't expect to be treated like some of the "famous" bloggers who get comps, extra courses, or chef visits. I go in expecting to be treated well, and I was. My guests went in skeptical that it could be THAT good - and they walked out wowed.


                                                    1. re: uhockey
                                                      plumpdumpling RE: uhockey Mar 20, 2012 03:02 PM

                                                      Never agree with my thoughts on restaurants?! I really thought I had the most run-of-the-mill reviews! But I do consider mustard one of the greatest pleasures in life, so maybe you're right about the palate difference.

                                                      It's hard for me to remember now, but I think my claim of the 6 extra courses was based on our first visit, where we were given a bunch of extras out of nowhere. (That first visit really ruined me for all subsequent ones, obviously.) I only expected to take home the mignardises because I've read reviews where other diners have (and you apparently got a take-home treat that we didn't, so I don't think it's totally off-base).

                                                      So, like you said, I went in expecting to be treated like their most valued client, because I felt like I was the first time I went. I don't mean to say anything negative about the restaurant, because I truly love it, but I do want to set others' expectations straight.

                                                      1. re: uhockey
                                                        ellenost RE: uhockey Mar 20, 2012 07:34 PM

                                                        I actually knew the extended tasting menu was going to be "that good", and it was even better than I had expected. I've been fortunate to have dined 5 previous times at Per Se during the past 8 years for the regular menu, and they were all amazing! After reading plumpdumpling's report, I knew I wanted to go for the extended tasting menu. Lucky for me that you were interested in joining me.

                                                      2. re: plumpdumpling
                                                        swannee RE: plumpdumpling Mar 21, 2012 12:30 PM

                                                        Do you mind sharing how much you paid per person, including drinks and service?

                                                        1. re: swannee
                                                          Delucacheesemonger RE: swannee Mar 21, 2012 01:13 PM

                                                          Meal including tax and service was $ 550. Added to that was whatever adult beverages we drank.

                                                      3. s
                                                        sanimushin RE: uhockey Sep 25, 2012 10:11 AM

                                                        Nice! I was wondering would you even be hungry for dinner after having a 5.5 hrs lunch. Or maybe late dinner around 10?

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: sanimushin
                                                          uhockey RE: sanimushin Sep 25, 2012 07:10 PM

                                                          See the blog. I ended up at Torrisi and Parm for dinner.


                                                          1. re: sanimushin
                                                            tpigeon RE: sanimushin Sep 25, 2012 08:07 PM

                                                            If you have an average appetite, absolutely not. Me personally, I could have gone the rest of the day without eating and been fine but I could also eat a lot more after the meal was done.

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