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Perry St.

Note: Click here for a more recent visit to Perry St.

I visited Perry St. with two friends a couple of weeks ago.

Perry St.’s very existence speaks volumes about the evolution of this part of town. Twenty years ago, the idea of a fine dining destination on West Street would have been madness. This part of town had evolved to serve the shipping industry, with factories and warehouses girdling Manhattan to serve piers on the Hudson River. The shipping trade eventually found more commodious digs, leaving the West Side Highway derelict—useless for any purpose except as a transportation artery. It’s hard to think of another metropolis that had so thoroughly squandered its coastline.

But West Street is gradually making a comeback, and the two luxurious Richard Meier-designed apartment buildings in the Far West Village are part of the area’s long-overdue return to respectability. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who owns Perry St., lives in the same building as the restaurant itself. One must doubt how often Vongerichten darkens its door now that a three-star review from the Times has been secured, but its proximity to the place where he sleeps probably offers an incentive for him to stop by a bit more often than he visits the other restaurants in his far-flung empire.

Perry St. is cool, quiet, and elegant. There are some nods to informality (e.g., the paper placemats and the lack of tablecloths), but it is still one of the more refined dining experiences you can have in this part of town. The lounge and bar area are both large and extremely comfortable, and they serve the full menu. The dining room posts a panoramic view of the Hudson River and the New Jersey skyline. It is an especially attractive view at sundown.

My review comes with a significant caveat. Earlier in the day of my visit, I came down with a high fever. I had already cancelled my dinner with these friends on an earlier occasion, so I was determined to keep the date. However, I was frankly miserable, for reasons having nothing to do with the food or the service.

I tried the chicken soup ($10.50), which Ed Levine praised in a recent Times article:

In the best chicken soups, the meat is added at the end of the cooking process. At Perry St., the sous-chef, Paul Eschbach, actually cooks the chicken sous vide (by vacuum-sealing it in a plastic pouch and cooking it in a water bath) separately with dill, butter, salt and pepper, and then puts it in the soup at the last second.

The chicken broth was actually added tableside. The soup bowl contained an array of fresh vegetables (carrots, radishes, greens), and the server poured the broth on top of that. The soup was fresh and tangy.

At Perry St., the menu is spare: just eight appetizers and eight entrees are offered. Our server advised that only two of the entrees have been on the menu since the place opened. One of those is the crunchy rabbit ($31), which Frank Bruni had liked, so I gave it a try. It looked like a wrap sandwich, but was warm with a crisp breading on the exterior with a splash of avocado puree on the side. Here too, a broth was added tableside. I finished only half of it, due to my fever. Two different staff members asked if there was any problem with it. There wasn’t; I just wasn’t up to finishing.

My only significant complaint is the bread service. There is wonderful, fresh butter at the table, but the bread rolls tasted like they were baked eighteen hours ago. At its price point, Perry St. needs to do a better job with the bread.

We didn’t drink (except that I had a cocktail to start). The total was about $150 for three, before tip.

Perry St (176 Perry Street at West Street, Far West Village)

Food: ***
Service: ***
Ambiance: **
Overall: ***

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