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Per Se advice (beverages, menu)

  • c

I'm hoping to take my family to Per Se at the end of summer, and I have been wondering about budget and menu preference:

First, I would like my budget estimate to be realistic and precise. The main costs, i.e. alcoholic drinks and upgraded courses, are clear and known quantities. But one tiny grey area seems to be nonalcoholic beverages. Although Wikipedia states that "[the menu] includes non-alcoholic beverages and service", I am unsure of the following: a) Is this inclusive of tea and coffee? (As I recall, EMP has a $26 coffee option, and that would qualify as a surprise in my checking account.) b) The wine list (http://www.tkrg.org/upload/ps_wine.pdf) has some nice juices and carbonated drinks on page 95, but no prices—does that mean these are also complimentary?

Second, I am feeling a major, personal dilemma between the two tasting menus. The vegetarian menu has a lot of intrinsic appeal (Kajitsu is now one of my favorite restaurants), but on the other hand, I had read the The French Laundry Cookbook from cover to cover 7 years ago, and the prospect of finally experiencing a fish preparation, or a classic like "Oysters and Pearls", feels almost actualizing. For someone's first time at Per Se—and possibly the only chance within the next year or so—which menu would you recommend? The only thing stopping me from ringing up Per Se right now for a solo menu experience is that I would like my first time to be with my family. I guess I just need to google some more blogs and photosets, because in the end this is a subjective question. But any input on this would be useful.

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  1. When having the extended menu in February, all non-alcoholic drinks were included, water, coffee, and some strange fruity things.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

      "some strange fruity things"—haha, good to know! Thanks.

      1. re: calf

        Making the reservation is the key to going to Per Se. You have to call a month before, at 10AM, on the nose, and keep calling until you get someone. Otherwise, you won't get a reservation, and all your plans will be for not - unless you have some inside connection. They only have 16 tables, and the reservations usually are taken within the first 15-30 minutes, a month before they are offered. They are only offered a month before - you cannot book in advance. In any case - just wanted to impart the importance of the actual reservation in this endeavour. Good luck!


    2. To your menu dilemma, they don't need to be mutually exclusive. If, for example, you want to replace the first course on that evening's vegetable menu with oysters and pearls, the kitchen will have no problem accommodating such a request. Having eaten at Per Se twice last month--one extended menu and one vegetable menu--I found the vegetable more exciting. But that may just be an artifact of my affinity for vegetable-heavy tasting menus.

      2 Replies
      1. re: degustingdiary

        I have also done a combo. I've had the regular menu and asked if I could sub a couple things from the veg menu into mine, so you could do the reverse--order the veg menu but ask for oysters and pearls, or the cornets (do the cornets!!). And of course that was done with no problem.

        I hear you about the coffee--in Paris we ordered coffee (espresso) at Le Cinq and it was something like 15E for the little thimble. *sigh* The price was on the menu but you know, we were there, we'd already had the 33E champagne, we wanted the coffee, etc etc.

        1. re: christy319

          The coronets come with every meal. When you do the veg menu they use onions as opposed to salmon.

          As for Paris - yeah - they stick you on water and coffee at every single 2-3* we visited except for Le Pre-Catelan where it was, oddly, included.


      2. Do the extended tasting.

        Ask them to focus on vegetable heavy dishes but to also include the classics (fwiw, they'll even make dishes straight from the TFL book if you ask - I had peas n' carrots off menu when I dined at TFL.)

        The meal Mr. Cheesemonger mentions below is here on the board and in my blog. http://endoedibles.com

        I was the one drinking strange fruity things.


        1. If you are a fan of eggs ask for the soft scrambled squire hill farm's hen egg. This was by far the best egg dish I have ever had in my life. I had it when I was last in nyc and had an extended veg tasting menu.

          BTW the The salmon coronets are better than the onion ones.

          1. (Edit:) Just noticed EMP's $26 siphon coffee serves 3. That makes a lot more sense.

            4 Replies
            1. re: calf

              ...that is debatable. :-)

              I drank more (Free) coffee at Per Se than comes in that Siphon, and although I do enjoy the Siphon the price is vastly marked up considering the beans. You are paying for the show (And it is a good show.)


              1. re: calf

                Not sure whether EMP's siphon coffee can serve 3 people, but it certainly was enough for 2, which I drank all by myself. :) Too bad they don't make iced siphon coffee though.

                1. re: kosmose7

                  ...iced siphon does not even make sense. It would be a waste of their time, and your money. You'd be far better off asking for an iced Toddy.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    We've split a discussion about cold siphon coffee over to the General Topics board. You can find it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/858834

              2. This is all a little weird.

                To me, the whole point of Per Se is how little effort you have to put into it.

                You go, and they'll coddle you. Make good on your every desire.

                You just have to stay awake, and stay communicative.

                But it needs very little advance planning and effort on your part. Just be engaged, in the moment.

                (The trade-off is, the food just isn't nearly as good as the best food in -- I know it pisses people off here when anyone says it, but as far as I'm concerned the truth can't be denied -- Europe. But the service is just SO fucking great.)

                6 Replies
                1. re: Sneakeater

                  Haha. We'll agree to disagree a bit - I'd put my recent meal at Per Se up against any of Paris' 3* spots in overall. It isn't as unique as Gagnaire, but more precise. The sourcing isn't as wowing as L'Arpege, but the range is greater. The setting isn't Ledoyen, but the service is much more fun.

                  Limited sample size (n=1 city) but it is NY vs. EU.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    It probably doesn't piss people off when you say that as much as it makes them roll their eyes. (I mean, "Europe"?)

                      1. re: christy319

                        Yeah, Europe. Just about any old place. Even countries like the Netherlands that aren't famous for their food.

                        It's just a different food culture over there.

                    1. re: Sneakeater

                      Well I think it's important not to underestimate the influence of implicit expectations on behavior and communication, given the possibility of cultural or class differences. As a person of Asian descent, it's partly why I take the effort to be a little deliberate about these things. The time I treated my parents and aunt to EMP, we walked out without any of the infamous granola parting gift. I didn't mention it to anyone, but I have wondered if cultural differences in how pleasure is displayed and communicated played a part in that.

                      1. Just go. I went this past February, coincidentally on the same day as uhockey! It was my wife and I's first and possibly only time to Per Se. And first time at a restaurant of that caliber. It will blow your mind away. Don't fret too much about the details. But like uhockey said, if you can do extended tasting, do that. Otherwise, don't sweat the details.

                        1. A few random points -
                          1 - I don't know how big your family is, but if you go at lunch, there is also the option of the slightly shorter lunch menu, which has totally different dishes. If you are a plate-swapping bunch you could end up trying almost everything.
                          2 - They weren't incredibly keen on swapping out courses between the two menus, but were willing to do it for a course or two.
                          3 - To tell you how dead NYC is in the summer, there are currently 4 and 6-tops available for this Saturday and plenty of 4 tops for the coming weekends. (Two-tops are oddly much harder to come by).

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Tubulus

                            I think four tops being easier to come by is usually the case at Per Se, whereas the two tops are always in demand for romantic birthdays and wedding anniversaries. And it seems maddeningly hard to coordinate the schedules of four busy New Yorkers sometimes!

                            1. re: kathryn

                              Hi i m going to NYC next month and would like to check whether the 4/5 course set lunch is available? Any idea how much n whether it's available both weekday and weekend. Thanks

                              1. re: Japfan

                                Lunch is only available on Fri, Sat, Sun. In addition to the regular menu on those days they offer an alternative shorter lunch menu, menu prices are $295 and $195 respectively. You can also order ala carte in the salon area.

                                1. re: Spiritchaser

                                  Hi any idea whether they take reservation at lunch or salon area? Bootable through opentable? Thanks

                                  1. re: Japfan

                                    Lunch reservation yes, Salon is walk in only.