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Per Se Dilemma

A very good friend recently gave me $600 to dine at per se for my birthday because she knows that I had the best meal of my life there a few years ago; the problem is I am engaged now and my fiance is the fussiest eater on the planet. He is a huge volume eater and doesn't care for vegetables, dairy, grains or seafood. Put it this way, I took him to per se for the dessert tasting menu and he looked at it and refused to eat a single thing. He watched me eat 5 courses of desserts. He tasted the pineapple coronet, spit it out and drank an entire glass of water to "wash the taste out." I love him dearly but I am a foodie and he definitely is not. He is much more of a Plataforma kinda guy. He told me to go with someone else. I don't know anyone that would really be into it other than men I've dated in the past which is not going to happen.

My family keeps kosher as does my friend who gave me the gift. I have another good friend who has a gluten intolerance and is a fussy eater, another friend who had bariatric surgery and anyone else I know is married and it would be awkward or I don't really want to spend that kind of money on and they certainly couldn't or wouldn't pay for a meal like that themselves. I just don't have a lot of foodie friends.

My fiance told me to just go alone but I don't think I could handle or enjoy that. I am a young attractive female dining alone at per se. I feel like everyone would stare at me.

I really do want to go and was super excited until I realized I had no one who could possibly go with me.

Is this totally pathetic?

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  1. Go by yourself, and enjoy! I've read numerous reports on this board of solo diners being treated very nicely at Per Se. I may be dining solo at Per Se myself shortly since I'm in a similar situation (no foodie friends).

    1. Really? This is what you define as a "problem"?

      Go alone and enjoy.

      1 Reply
      1. Same situation here. I received gift certificate to Per Se last Christmas but my gf and friends aren't into fussy French cuisine and can't bear the thought of a four hour meal. And while I'm willing to dine by myself I just can't seem to get a reservation!

        I plan to use the gift certificate incrementally by dropping into the Salon for smaller meals.

        1. I would totally be down for mooching off half a $600 GT to Per Se. Ha! But I am a young unmarried (but taken) male. I still agree with everyone else that you should really consider going solo. Just you and the food!

          1. Go by yourself and if you think you'll feel uncomfortable being the center of attention ask for a table on the second "tier" near the back wall. You'll be able to watch everyone else while enjoying your own company and the company of the staff who will take incredible care of a solo female diner. And no, not even close to pathetic.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Spiritchaser

              Go by yourself, and SPLURGE with the extended tasting menu (probably $450 to $550). You can also bring a nice book that you've always wanted to catch up on. If you do that, you'd probably prefer to go during lunch (Friday to Sunday only),

            2. I will gladly assist you with that. Maybe it would convince me to give Per Se another chance.

              - another unmarried (but taken) male who'd be up for a completely platonic date.

              That aside, dining alone - especially at a place of that caliber - is no fun. Part of the fun is the feeling of mutual excitement, the shared experience. I certainly wouldn't go to a place like that solo. Solo is for dining at the bar, etc.

              Unless there's an expiration date, hold out a little longer. Of course, wait too long and the way they keep jacking up their prices $600 won't be enough for two anymore... actually, it's not even enough right now once you include wine, etc.

              1. An experience like that is best shared! How about the friend that gave you the gift?

                1. The Per Se Salon is the way to go. Much shorter meal, much less formal, and there's a bar-like table with stools that looks out onto the park that would be very comfortable for someone dining solo. Get the foie gras, 2 orders of the Alba truffles ($175 each), one with pasta, one with scrambled eggs, a seafood dish, a meat dish and some wine and you will have spent more than $600 and it would have been well worth it.

                    1. re: Sneakeater

                      I stared. At the young man wearing a dinner jacket. At everyone's dates. At any visible wine labels. But it was dim enough that no one could see me staring. I hope.

                    2. I'm curious: do gift certificates to Per Se come with any date restrictions or reservations? It's not exactly an easy table to book.

                      I would strongly urge you not to dine by yourself. A dinner like that must be experienced in company, if only to have someone to share your reactions with. And if you've bothered to post on Chowhound about this, it's clear you'd be uncomfortable enough that it would mar your enjoyment of the meal.

                      If none of your friends are suitable, I recommend you find a food blogger or a witty, cultivated young man through one of these forums to accompany you.

                      EDITED: I'm not sure if there's any provision for platonic assignations in this service, but it strikes me that a dinner at Per Se would trump most of the suggestions on http://nymag.howaboutwe.com/

                      1. First things first is to get a reservation. It's usually a hassle to call and actually get a table.

                        Second would your fiance go with you? If so, email or call Per Se and describe the restrictions and maybe they'll work it out with you. At worst, you can double dip on the fancier courses (I wouldn't mind eating both oyster and pearls, for example) and he can just eat the meat protein parts.

                        Would your gluten intolerant fussy eater friend go with you? Per Se can probably work around the food restrictions. (my girl friend has restrictions too, vegan, gluten intolerant, etc).

                        Would your kosher keeping friends go with you? You can call Per Se and ask if the know and are capable of keeping kosher? Might mean more vegetables than meat protein? (Apologies if I'm over simplifying the religious dietary restrictions).

                        So ... I guess I'm saying see how accommodating the restaurant is first.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: villainx

                          Per Se works around gluten intolerance better than any restaurant I've ever been to.

                          A friend I took there literally broke into tears at being able to eat bread with me again (they have special gluten-free selections), as we used to before she was diagnosed as Celiac.

                          1. re: villainx

                            I am with villianx-try to make going with your husband or close friend work even if they are not foodies.

                            That said, To me dinner (especially at a place like Per Se) is about the whole experience. It can be about the food for you but it can be about "spending a special time with my future wife" for your fiancé. Trust me Per se will make your man a plain old steak and potato if that’s what he wants. So get dressed up, throw on the LBD and some heels and make a night of it.

                            And honestly, it sounds like you have a life time of less than memorable food experiences with your fiancé ahead of you. He should go just because it makes you happy.

                            Then again maybe you could score points with one of your soon to be inlaws, any foodies there? :)

                          2. go solo, I do not have foodie friends either (male) and always had a great experience. If you feel awkward, bring a book, kindle or ipad to keep yourself entertained inbetween courses. Not having foodie friends should never be a reason for allowing yourself from having a good time/eating great food.

                            1. God forgive me, I am actually going to attempt a serious response.

                              I dine alone a lot, both here in New York and when I travel. I prefer to do so at the bar, because there you always have the bartender for company, and usually you make at least temporary friends with other solo bar diners. Also, service at the bar is faster.

                              Sometimes, though -- especially in Europe, where bar dining is not an established thing like it is here in New York -- I eat alone in dining rooms. And in Europe, sometimes it feels uncomfortable. Because it doesn't seem common there. I often get initially offered the very worst table, and I do feel like other diners don't understand what I'm doing there.

                              In New York, it is NEVER that way. Many New Yorkers dine alone very frequently. You are not treated like a second-class citizen, and no one else pays you any mind at all. They just don't.

                              (You say you're an attractive woman. If people were wondering why you're having a meal alone -- which they wouldn't -- it couldn't be anything to your discredit, like that you're unable to get a date. So why worry?) (If you're worried that people might think you're some kind of, um, professional, a moment's reflection should disclose that eating a very long, very expensive tasting menu alone at a table in a dining room is not a very efficient or cost-effective way to meet potential customers.)

                              Having said all that, to me, the Per Se tasting menu is a pretty long slog to eat alone. If this is your only chance, though, I'd still be inclined to take it. Frequently as I eat in the Salon, it's not a substitute for the Per Se Experience -- it's more a way to have that food as a (relatively) quick bite. And I am sure -- positive, in fact -- that the staff in the dining room would socialize with you as much as you indicate you want, so you'd hardly even feel like you're by yourself. This is one restaurant that does everything in its power to make each customer happy in his or her own way -- and does it with enormous grace.

                              In fact, the food is not what I like best about Per Se (I think the food can be a little bland). What I love there is how they treat you.

                              So, although I do think that several hours is a long time to sit alone at a table, I am sure you'd have a good experience dining alone at Per Se, and urge you not to forgo this opportunity. Whatever the flaws might be, it would be better than never having tried it at all.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Sneakeater

                                Of course, she'd have to drink $300 worth of wine to use up the full gift certificate. Which I suppose they could make happen.

                                I dunno, for me such a big part of dining out - at least at high-end places - is the shared experience. Yes, the staff would cater to you and keep you company, but it's really just not the same.

                                I think the OP should find a dining companion on howaboutwe (or here) or something - say, a trade: she'll get the meal (the GC would cover two meals) if the dining companion would get the wine/drinks. Could be a way to make a new (foodie) friend, which it seems the OP could use in her life. I'm sure there's someone else in this little town whose SO has less-than-exciting food tastes and needs an occasional dining companion.

                                1. re: sgordon

                                  Considering their nose-bleed mark-ups, I think I could drink $300 worth of wine at Per Se in about 20 minutes.

                                  1. re: sgordon

                                    I'd MUCH rather eat alone than have a six hundred buck blind (albeit platonic) date. Then again, I am easily annoyed. : )

                                    1. re: sgordon

                                      Obviously we have different viewpoints on this, but I don't see how committing to have an hours-long dinner with someone you don't know -- sort of a blind date -- is likely to be more comfortable than eating it by yourself.

                                      I agree with you about the value of companionship at meals: that's one of the reasons I dislike the new high-end dining-counter concept (especially at places that won't give reservations for solo diners -- which to me would be the ONLY time a dining counter would be preferable). But I don't think that should make you so desperate for company that you search out strangers to eat with.

                                      I eat alone in high-end restaurants all the time. It's not as good as going with someone else. But it's better than not going.

                                      1. re: Sneakeater

                                        I wouldn't see it as desperation - I'd look at it as an opportunity to make a new friend.

                                        I once had a rezzie at Momofuku Ko with an extra seat open. I found a person to take it, we met beforehand to see how we'd get along, of course, and we got on fine. We're friends to this day - not super-close friends, but friends enough.

                                        And if the platonic date agrees to cover the wine tab, it's not really the OP paying for all of it.

                                        And yeah, with EMP's wine prices, you could burn through $300 v-e-r-y quickly if dining solo. What's the price on the standard wine pairing nowadays, anyway? $100 or so?

                                        1. re: sgordon

                                          Ko is different. Ko is a counter. If you and your new friend don't hit it off, you're in the middle of a bunch of other people.

                                          This would be taking the most expensive meal of your life (I'm assuming in this poster's case) and risking sharing it alone at a table with a stranger.

                                  2. Just wait. The giftcards don't expire (we used ours, which was a wedding gift, on our second anniversary). Sure it'll be worth a bit less by then (ie in terms of what you get for the money), but so what.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Tubulus

                                      By their second anniversary, the way Keller keeps raising his prices, it'll probably only get them ONE dinner, if that. Won't have any choice but to dine solo by then...

                                      1. re: sgordon

                                        It was $275 in early 2010, $295 today. Not too much of a difference. 2.6% per year annualized.

                                        1. re: Tubulus

                                          If that was the only year the price increased, then yes. But they've been open for eight years, and they've increased the price an average of 10% per year.

                                          On top of that, the supplements are egregiously priced, but that's another matter...

                                      2. Go. Don't take a book or a kindle, though. Take a smartphone/tablet and share your experiences, thoughts, feelings, photos online in real time. It will focus you on the food instead of your book, and you'll be sharing with an appreciative audience. I am little concerned about your future with your fiance, though. It's one thing to be an unsophisticated eater, it's another to be unwilling to try new things. It just seems like such a sad way to live your life!