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Jul 24, 2014 05:25 AM

Per Se salon, Marea or Momo Ko

Girlfriends 31st bday, should I have a savory course and then the 5 course dessert tasting at Per Se in the salon, the 4 course tasting at Marea or the multi course tasting at Momofuku Ko for dinner? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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  1. You have reservations at Ko? Go to Ko!

    11 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      No reservations at Ko yet but my mouse is ready to click! So ridiculous how they have their reservation system set up.

      1. re: jayadams22

        I actually find the reservation system really good - it's totally democratic, simple and straightforward.

        If you can get into Ko, Ko for sure.

        I'm not the biggest fan of Per Se, but I guess if you're a dessert fan...? That said, many avowed Per Se fans have said that dessert is one of the areas where they kind of suffer. For my money, the best pastry chefs in town right now are Pinkerton (EMP), Headly (Del Posto), and Livingston (wd-50) - unfortunately none of which do dessert tastings.

        I like Marea but every time I've been I've found the first two courses (antipasti & primi/pasta) great and everything after a bit underwhelming. Okay, but for the price I've had better. It's been some time, though, so maybe the secondi have gotten more interesting. For four-course high end Italian, I definitely prefer Lincoln of late. (Or Del Posto, I suppose...)

        1. re: sgordon

          I wouldn't mind the reservation system if i didn't have to click at exactly 10am to get a reservation and still not be guaranteed to get it. I agree that the pastry chefs at EMP and Del Posto are tops right now, I've had both recently and they were very good. Also agree that the secondi at Marea was just ok last time i went.

          1. re: sgordon

            sgordon, did you try the desserts at Hakkasan? I'd be curious to get your opinion. I've had desserts at all three restaurants you've mentioned, EMP, Del Posto and wd-50, (and Per Se but not recently). I find restaurant restaurant desserts in NYC underwhelming in general but I had a chocolate cremeux at both EMP and Hakkasan very close in time and the one at Hakkasan was superior in texture, flavor, execution and presentation (the EMP bar was just plain and the Hakkasan one had gold ombre). It didn't help that the EMP cremeux had a muddled milky flavor. The last time I was at Del Posto I felt they relied too much on simple desserts and frozen milk, nothing that really stretches a pastry chef and the desserts at wd-50 were all interesting but were more enjoyable in concept than taste, like their chocolate pouch with chocolate crumbles inside.

            1. re: Pookipichu

              Did you not have any of Headley's vegetable-based desserts? He's one of the "stretchingest" pastry chefs out there now, I think. The celery sorbet with fig agrodolce is incredible. The eggplant & chocolate and pecorino cake both stood out, too.

              I haven't had the desserts recently at wd-50, but I really enjoyed his S'Mores riff last year. Also, early in Livingston's time there was a take on blueberry cheesecake that knocked my socks off. (caveat: that dish might have been a holdover from Stupak)

              I didn't have desserts the times I was at Hakkasan, and as I wasn't a huge fan of the place in general, probably not likely to be back there any time soon unless it's at someone else's request...

              1. re: sgordon

                Do you mean "stretchingest" pastry chef as in technique or unusual ingredients? Because I'm talking about technique. I haven't been to Del Posto recently so I have not tried the vegetable desserts. I wasn't overly impressed with Del Posto and I haven't been back. Perhaps I'll make a trip to try the new desserts.

                As for wd-50 I thought the S'mores dessert was pretty clever and tasty.

                I'm sorry you didn't have a good experience at Hakkasan, it's not perfect, but I can't say I've had a perfect experience at any restaurant whether it be EMP or Per Se, etc.. I watched a waiter watch my goat cheese lollipop slide down the stick at EMP and he paused, had a panicked look, thought for a second, and still served it to me (among other gaffes).

                I've tried almost all the 4 star restaurants in NY and many of the 3's, Hakkasan has one of the best pastry chefs in NYC. Desserts at Hakkasan are stellar (recent fresh peach tart with sugar cage and pistachio), interesting and beautifully presented. Sometimes I just shake my head over some of the simple things being served and raved about, like a trite, sloppy looking olive oil cake with some gelato or a gag worthy sugar bombs, dry cakes and popcorn milk desserts a la JB winner Tosi (total farce).

                1. re: Pookipichu

                  Moreso unusual ingredients than technique, though I think his technique is solid. He's not playing with transglutaminase and hydrocolloids or whatnot, though, no. Not that I know of.

                  I don't ask for a "perfect" experience from any restaurant - but Hakkasan, well, nothing about the meals I had there called me back.

                  I do like Christina Tosi quite a lot, though, especially when she skews a little more savory (say, the cereal milk ice cream) versus her sugar-bombs (like the crack pie that everyone else loves but I can't take, it's so sweet..)

                  Admittedly, I'm not a big sweets guy to begin with, though. Maybe that's why Headley's veggie-serts call out to me. I rarely have dessert unless it's something included with a prix fixe, occasionally might split a single dessert at the end of a meal if I feel like a bite of something sweet.

                  1. re: sgordon

                    Frankly I've tried many of Tosi's desserts and I call BS on her desserts. Marketing hype/emperor's new clothes, a co-worker ordered one of her custom cakes for a birthday and it was seriously one of the ugliest (think homemade by a 12 year old and a tasty bake oven) and driest and sweetest things, just totally inept, yet it cost over $100.

                    PS - Hakkasan's desserts veer on the less sweet side, more of a Chinese palate when it comes to sugar. Also when I refer to technique, I'm not talking about molecular gastronomy, I'm talking about consistent high level execution of texture, flavor, appearance, I'm a baker/home cook and so I appreciate when I see skill/technique.

                    1. re: Pookipichu

                      I would hesitate to call it hype or ENC given that, obviously, a lot of people rather DO like her work. It wasn't like David Chang forced her on everyone - her work was popular enough within the context of Noodle/Ssam that it made financial sense for him to give her her own spin-off.

                      As to the bad birthday cake, I dunno. Sometimes even normally good kitchens fuck up - like the Mission Chinese popup we were talking about in another thread. That said, I'd never pay $100 for a birthday cake, unless it fed, like, 30+ people, or it had truffles all over it or something.

                      I mean, I don't care for what I've had at Hakkasan, obviously, but I wouldn't call them "marketing hype" just because they don't float my boat.

                      1. re: sgordon

                        " a lot of people rather do like her work"

                        She won a James Beard award (WTH, best patry chef??), and she's all over the news and a CH darling so yes I realize she's popular.
                        Magnolia's Bakery is popular, that's the whole point of "hype", that doesn't make it good. You may be hesitant to call it hype but I'm not, because I'm not basing my evaluation on just one dessert by Tosi. I read about crack pie, I was excited to try it and the grasshopper pie and the cookies and the softserves, none of it was good, to top it off, the custom cake was seriously awful. When you get a custom cake, you can assume there is more effort put into it than her regular desserts. Furthermore, everyone was impressed that my co-worker had ordered cake from a famous place, but no-one had seconds, most people didn't even finish their slice and these are people non "foodies" that will eat almost anything sweet. Lastly I've not tried a custom cake from a reputable baker that was as bad as the cake from Tosi, especially not at that price point. Our office has ordered from Buttercup, Financier, Baked, Sweet Melissa's, Dessert Delivery, Billy's (a mix of good to meh)... I didn't start off disliking her desserts, I gave them multiple chances. it's a combination of undeserved praise and the James Beard award that set me off when there are multiple pastry chefs who are more deserving of recognition. Lastly, Hakkasan is not hyped, if anything it's underrated, it's the best Chinese restaurant in NYC and yet panned. Their marketing department is inept and the reviews were and have been pretty scathing and I feel like they didn't do enough research on NY's culinary groupthink before opening.

                  2. re: Pookipichu

                    The best dessert I have ever had in my life was at Del Posto many years ago (so probably not the current pastry chef). It was not a "stretchy" dessert by any means (and I usually love stretchy desserts if they are well made). It was a cheesecake with strawberries. I remember just sitting there in amazed bliss. Someone must have taken note because next thing I knew a man in chef's whites came out to speak with me. I asked him what was in the cheesecake and he said it was just cheese and strawberries. From that I learned that sometimes the most amazing ingredients can trump the showy desserts I usually favor.

                    I recently had the pea cake and strawberry dessert at Del Posto. That was good and I enjoyed it (the strawberries in particular were amazing -- they were some special varietal, the name of which now escapes me), but nothing will ever trump the memory of that strawberry cheesecake.

        2. I would vote for Ko if you can get a reservation. I've never liked the situation/ambiance in the Per Se salon, and I don't really think their food does well in an a la carte setting. Marea is excellent but I don't think is quite at the level of the other two in terms of food.

          Don't know if it's still applicable, but I used to advise people to try for Ko reservations on Sat and Sun morning, when they're not fighting interns and people are still hungover.

          1. I would also vote for Ko. If you can't score a reservation at Ko, I'd vote for the Per Se salon over Marea if you were just having savory dishes, but not so sure if you plan on having the dessert tasting - there have been several recent reports on this board of disappointing desserts at Per Se.

            1. Yes i have been reading recent reviews that the desserts have not been that great and the salon in general not getting the best reviews. I know a server personally that works at Per Se so i know i would get taken care of. Nonetheless, Ko is my first choice for dinner and Per Se and Marea are 2nd i think.

              1. I've dined at both Ko and Per Se Salon. Definitely try to get the reservation at Ko. Was there last night for dinner, and they've just put back their amazing deep fried short rib. It's so delicious that I'm already planning another dinner.

                Since reservations are not taken for the Per Se Salon, there is no guarantee that you'll be seated at one of the private sofas and tables. On my last visit to the Per Se Salon, I was seated at the communal table that I found very uncomfortable (no other people, but the seating itself was uncomfortable).