Entries in Perry St. (3)


Perry St.


After two previous visits to Perry St., I had mixed feelings. It’s certainly a very good restaurant, but is it a great one? My mom was in town, and she hadn’t been to any of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurants, so I thought it was time to give Perry St. another try.

We had a 6:00 p.m. reservation on President’s Day, and it was totally empty; even a couple of hours later, it was only a bit over half full.

perryst01.jpgThe menu at Perry St. remains short and focused, and it changes frequently. There are just nine appetizers ($10–29) and eight entrees ($24–45). The wide price range means that you can get out of Perry St. fairly cheaply; but if you want to spend a bundle, you can. (The most-expensive appetizer is poached eggs with caviar; the most expensive entree is poached lobster.)

The amuse bouche was a sunchoke soup with a black truffle (above, right).

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Mixed Green Salad, Toasty Goat Cheese, Kumquat Vinaigrette (left);
Toasted Barley Risotto, Parmesan, Dried Sour Cherries and Pecans (right)

My mom loved the Mixed Green Salad with toasty goat cheese ($13), which came sculpted in a tall cylinder. I found Toasted Barley Risotto ($13) dominated by the taste of tomatoes, and couldn’t really perceive the dried sour cherries that the menu promised.

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Sweet & Sour Glazed Short Ribs, Spaghetti Squash and Crunch Cheddar (left);
Spicy Laquered Halibut, Grilled Broccolini, Clementine (right)

My mom also had the better of the main courses. Sweet & Sour Short Ribs ($28) were wonderful, as was the accompanying side of spaghetti squash topped with cheddar. But I found the Spicy Laquered Halibut ($28) over-seasoned, with the taste of the fish literally lost in the sauce.

perryst04.jpgThe petits fours (photo, right) were excellent, although I’m afraid I didn’t catch the explanation.

The bread service remains a definite weakness. Over the course of three visits, this was the first time that bread rolls arrived slightly warm, but they were still hard enough to be lethal weapons in the wrong hands. After I’d used my knife to spread the butter, a server removed the used bread plate but left the knife behind for me to re-use on my appetizer.

The wine list is brief and underwhelming. If I were being really picky, I would point out that we ordered a burgundy, and they served it in bordeaux glasses. I am not suggesting that this actually matters to me, but it does show Perry St.’s definite casual side. And in a restaurant that is so pleasant and comfortable, serving food that is as ambitious as this, can’t they do better than brown paper placemats?

Frank Bruni awarded three stars to Perry St. in September 2005, although his endorsement came with more caveats than he normally allows in a three-star review, calling it “undeniably flawed and surprisingly inconsistent.” Several of Bruni’s complaints — the sub-par bread service, the paper placemats — remain unremedied, presumably because Mr. Vongerichten, is getting exactly what he wants.

But what that is, is a two-star restaurant.

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

Food: **½
Service: **
Ambiance: **
Overall: **


Perry St. revisited

Note: Click here for a more recent review of Perry St.

I enjoyed my last visit to Perry St. in February, notwithstanding that I felt like death warmed over that day (no fault of the restaurant’s). I went again last night. It was a very light crowd, with much of the clientele probably being out of town for the July 4 holiday.

We found the seating pattern mysterious. Twice, the host seated a couple at the table right next to us, despite acres of free two-tops elsewhere in the restaurant. (The first time, the couple objected, and were moved.)

My friend and I ordered identically: the homemade fried mozzarella to start ($12), followed by the herb-crusted rack of lamb ($36). Both were excellent, and indeed I broke my usual rule, and had dessert. It was a coconut/caramel/banana mix with whipped cream on top, which is a can’t miss combination in my book. Like last time, the bread rolls were so hard they could be used as doorstops.

As before, the menu is brief, with about 8 appetizers and an equal number of entrees listed. The wine list, too, is brief for a restaurant serving this type of food. Although we both chose the expensive lamb entree, there are plenty of choices in the $20-30 range. For the quality, Perry St. is reasonably priced.

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

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


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: ***