My girlfriend and I had dinner at Per Se a few weeks ago for her birthday—my third visit to the restaurant, her first. (For an earlier review, click here.) We found Per Se still firing on all cylinders. When I alerted the staff that this was a birthday celebration, all I expected was a cake at dessert, but we got several additional freebies beyond that.
We ordered champagne to begin, which was no bargain at $25 per glass, but they refilled us something like three times apiece, by which time it was quite the bargain, and it also meant we were feeling no pain before we got into the bulk of our meal.
Amuse-bouche: Salmon cones and gougères
They asked if we’d like a kitchen tour before the meal—we could have had the tour afterwards (which is more the norm), but by then the service would have been mostly over with, and our server suggested it would be more interesting to see while the chefs were still working. We were impressed at the enormous expanse of the place. It’s the only restaurant I’ve seen with more room behind-the-scenes than in the dining room. We also saw the much-rumored live video link with The French Laundry. Everything was, of course, impeccably clean. As my girlfriend so often points out, the cleanest kitchens usually produce the best food.
Dinner at Per Se is nine-courses prix fixe at $250—either the Chef’s Tasting Menu or the Tasting of Vegetables. Several of the courses do have choices, but you’re on the hook for at least $250 (including service) regardless. The recommended wine pairing is $175, though there is some flexibility below that amount if you ask for it. Unlike many other restaurants, there is no “standard” wine pairing at Per Se; the sommelier customizes a wine pairing based on your requests and budget.
This wasn’t an evening for note-taking, and in any case we were plenty inebriated by the time most of the food came, so I’ve structured this post as a photo-essay with light comments, beginning with day’s menus (above): the Chef’s Tasting Menu (left) and the Tasting of Vegetables (right).
“Oysters and Pearls” (left); Truffle Custard (right)
The menus at Per Se change daily, but a few things are constant. The Salmon Cones are always the amuse-bouch, and the first course is always “Oysters and Pearls” with caviar. Both have been well described by others, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. After that, the kitchen sent out an extra course: a “truffle custard” in a hollowed-out egg, which was outstanding—probably the highlight of the evening.
Hudson valley moulard Duck Foie Gras “Gâteau” (left); Grilled “Pavé of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (right)
On the Chef’s Tasting Menu, the second course always offers an option of foie gras ($30 supplement). In my three visits, it has never been done the same way, and this preparation might have been the best yet. The menu described it as a Foile Gras “Gâteau,” with peanut butter and grape geléee. The server called it “our version of peanut butter & jelly.” I can’t imagine anything better.
The first entrée (tuna) came next; see photo, above right.
Soft Boiled Squire Hill Farm’s Aracana Hen Egg (left); Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster (right)
The next course on the Chef’s Tasting Menu is traditionally lobster. It’s the one item that many diners find unexciting. I’d already had it twice, so I asked for a substitution from the Vegetable menu. I got the Soft-Boiled Hen Egg with mushrooms, which was wonderful. My girlfriend had no complaints about the lobster, but I still think it suffers in such a miniscule presentation.
All Day Braised Hobbs Shore’s Pork Belly (left); Elysian Fields Farm’s “Selle D’Agneau Rôtie Entière (right)
Braised pork belly (above, left) is always a dependable dish in these settings. I believe I was a bit more fond of the lamb (above, right) than my girlfriend was. For the record, the alternative was a Wagyu beef, carrying a $100 supplement.
Desserts follow, without comment:
Cheese courses: Meadow Creek Grayson (left); Tarentais (right)
Yogurt Sorbet with Carrot Cake (left); Finally, birthday cake (right)
Crème brulée (left); Granny Smith Apple Consommé with Ginger Ice Cream (right)
The staff seemed totally at ease with the fact that we were making a photo-document of our meal. After a while, they started leaving the wine bottles on our table so that we could photograph the labels, of which a few are shown below. We especially loved the 1962 Madeira, which was served with one of the dessert courses:
Service throughout was as polished and professional as one would expect at such a restaurant. We left with the sense that we had experienced the best meal this city has to offer.
Per Se (10 Columbus Circle, Time-Warner Center, Fourth Floor, West Midtown)
Food: Luxurious American cuisine with high-end French influence and technique
Service: As elegant as you’ll find in New York
Ambiance: A quiet, spacious room, overlooking Central Park