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Per Se: Five Stars for the Fourth Time
February 20th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

My love of Per Se is much documented and includes an overusage of superlatives like most and best. Accordingly, my Valentine’s Day gift from my boyfriend this year was a lunch reservation that included all of the caviar and foie gras and general over-the-top-ness you want and expect from this restaurant that somehow ends up coaxing an entire paycheck out of you by the time you leave.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Our server tried to tell us that there’s no set wine pairing, which was either a change from our other visits or a very strange falsehood. The only time we’ve had to give any input on the wine was when we had the extended menu, which required extra glasses if we wanted one with each dish. This time, we had to tell her how much we wanted to spend ($200-$250 each), and the sommelier chose a selection of glasses and half-bottles for us. I want to feel like my sommelier has thought long and hard about the pairings (even though, you know, the menu changes daily), so this spur-of-the-moment tell-us-how-much-you-want-to-spend stuff didn’t work for me. That said, the wine was excellent, and the sommelier took great care of us.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
gougeres

One perfect bite of pastry stuffed so full of smooth cheese that immediately disperses and coats your mouth. And of course I love that giant handle-less spoon they’re served on.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
salmon cone

I also liked these new mounts for the salmon cones, which weighed approximately fifty pounds each. The cone was better than ever, with so much citrus flavor in the salmon and so much red onion in the creme fraiche base.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
oysters and pearls: “sabayon” of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and sterling white caviar

The signature Per Se dish, where the main flavor is butter and the main texture is buttery and the main desire is for a piece of bread to sop it up with.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
Parker House roll

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
accompanying butters

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
“gateau” of Hudson valley moulard duck foie gras: banana “Parisienne”, marinated sunchokes, piedmont hazelnuts, mizuna and tellicherry pepper yogurt

This supplement to the tasting menu is one we’d never think of skipping. Past iterations of the foie gras have included strawberries and creme fraiche, pistachio and turnips, and celery and leeks, but this banana version was the most surprisingly delicious. The hazelnut-banana cake base made it like eating candy; I couldn’t quite pick out the hazelnut and banana flavors when I ate them along with the creamy foie gras, but they instead all formed this amazing new flavor all its own. The nutty balls of banana were a textural pleasure, the tart of the yogurt cut through the richness of everything else, and the mizuna was just a nice little peppery juxtaposition to all of that sweetness.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

A roll to spread the foie gras on, replaced at regular intervals to ensure sustained warmth for every bite.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

A tasting of salts from around the world to top the foie gras. Amidst all of the pink Himalayan and the black volcanic salts, my favourite was the less-exotic fleur de sel because of the evident crunch it provided.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
fillet of Atlantic halibut “confit a la minute”, La Ratte potato “coins”, grilled artichokes, “piperade”, parsley and squid ink “ravigote”

See those well-cooked carrots flanking the halibut? They’re red pepper piperade! And they were the best part of this dish that was my overall favourite of the day. I love red pepper for one, and the playfulness of the presentation delighted me. Sauce ravigote is meant to “reinvigorate” a boring protein, but this version of ravigote was itself reinvigorated with the addition of the sour, acidic squid ink and the most wonderful minced orange. The La Ratte potatoes (little guys from Denmark) seemed as if they had been soaked in olive oil for two days, and the halibut was firm, flaky, and succulent.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
leftover ravigote artwork

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
butter poached Nova Scotia lobster, red wine braised radicchio, scarlet grapes, chestnut purée, mâche and smoked foie gras vinaigrette

My boyfriend said the smoked foie gras sauce tasted like a Slim Jim and made the lobster taste like pastrami. (donuts4dinner.com can be counted on for the most high-brow descriptions, eh?) The crumbly texture of the chestnut was a standout, as was the bitter, tender, acidic radicchio. I always associate lobster mitts with Per Se and wasn’t let down by this surprisingly complex dish.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
bacon wrapped Four Story Hill Farm’s rabbit loin, heirloom carrots, cipollini onions, watercress and Hadley orchard’s medjool date coulis

I don’t believe I’ve ever called a rabbit “creamy”, but this one was. The dish was a combination of salty bacon, a rich sticky sauce, the crunch of almond, sweet carrot, the unique texture of the sausage next to the loin, and that tender baby bunny. The perfect lead-in to an even richer beef dish.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

The view out of the windows of the Time Warner Center, onto Central Park. Note the “beautiful” white NYC winter sky.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
Snake river farms’ “calotte de boeuf”, glazed short rib, crispy hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, petite radishes, wilted arrowleaf spinach and “sauce bordelaise”

Another sticky sauce made this round of calotte rich and lip-smacking. It looked way too red on the inside at first glance but was of course tender and perfectly cooked in the end, especially thanks to the crisp sear on the exterior. The short rib cube on the opposite side of the plate was a fell-off-the-bone wonder that might have been slowly cooked for two days straight. The raw radish was beautiful but not my favourite accompaniment, but my boyfriend said it reminded him of the fresh vegetables and herbs you eat alongside Persian kebab. The hen-of-the-woods, which is my favourite mushroom, was mostly flavored like deep-fried batter, but no one’s complaining about that.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
Andante Dairy’s “contralto”, “short stack”, poached Seckel pears, plum sorrel and banyuls vinegar

Past cheese courses at Per Se have been so memorable, but this one was merely fine. (Which is to say much better than the cheese course almost anywhere else but not at the level I expect from Per Se.) There was very little punch to this cheese; the flavor that really came through was that of the pear slivers, which I mistook for olives at first. Imagine the delight of putting what you think is a salty, mushy olive in your mouth and instead finding that it’s a sweet, firm pear. Bliss! The stack cake was fruity, moist, and understated, but like the cheese, it was too understated for me.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
champagne mango sorbet, young coconut cream, rambutan and coconut meringue

So sour! I thought I loved the slimy strips of young coconut mixed in, but now I’m wondering if they were actually rambutan, which I didn’t even realize I was eating. Every time I visit, I need my Per Se waiter to say, “YOU SHOULD BE IMPRESSED BY THIS,” so I know to look out for an ingredient I haven’t had before. Hmph.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
Calvados “parfait”, Granny Smith apples, hibiscus purée, vanilla custard and blis maple syrup gelee

I always consider Per Se desserts pretty sparse, so this big ball of cheesy ice cream had me drooling like a wide-eyed kid. I loved all of the freshness of this but was surprised to find that what seemed like a boring, old apple cake was actually the most delicious part.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
bitter orange and chocolate, “pave niçoise”, caramel mousseline, chocolate “cremeux” and burnt orange reduction

For a lover of chocolate and fruit combinations and a lover of plates that have so much going on I don’t know where to put my fork first, this was dreamy. I found pave niçoise on a menu from 1933 where fresh beluga caviar was $1.75 and filet mignon was $1.45, so it’s kind of exciting to see that Per Se is recycling these old techniques in a completely modern way. Working my way through the “paved” dollops of orange was so much fun, and I loved the crunchy chocolate circle encasing orange foam and orange segments, but the best part was the simple but oh-so-sour orange sorbet.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
ice cream sandwich

Looked like Golden Grahams cereal but was actually shortbread with an orangey flavor.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
chocolates

Per Se famously brings around a wooden box with individual spaces for approximately 30 chocolates in the most exotic flavor combinations at the end of the meal, and my boyfriend and I famously only take two or three each both because we’ve been eating for three hours at that point and because we care about keeping up appearances. This time, we did the same, but I asked the chocolate guy how many people ask for the entire box, and he said A FEW TIMES A DAY. He added that the only couple he’s actually seen finish it was the pastry sous chef and his girlfriend, so that means a few people a day are taking that whole foot-long box of chocolates and wasting it. It’s only fitting for a meal this lavish.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
coffee and doughnuts: the coffee

Coffee semifreddo, thicker and richer than any ice cream.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
coffee and doughnuts: the doughnuts

Doughnuts, so full of air the kitchen has to roll them in sugar just to make them heavy enough to not float away.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
(past) mignardises

I forgot to take a picture of the mountain of mignardises this time, so here’s a picture of the usual three-tiered behemoth from our last visit. There was fudge, French macarons, and truffles, and of course we didn’t have the stomach-room to even begin on them, and of course they only sent us home with one of each thing when I asked to have them wrapped up. I’m going to get that whole box of chocolates next time, eat two of them, and then casually melt all of the leftovers with my hands and hot breath so no one else gets to enjoy them. Because I can.

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu
shortbread

To take home. To remind you of how a month of anticipating that reservation and the food that comes with it is over. Tastes amazing with a side of your tears.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Per Se NYC Tasting Menu

It’s almost boring to talk about how good Per Se is at this point. The place is perfection. It’s the best super-fine fine dining restaurant in NYC. If you’re not eating here, you’re wasting your time elsewhere. Although once you do eat here, you’ll be ruined for everything else. Take heed.

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019 (map)


20 Responses  
  • Jessica R. writes:
    February 20th, 20134:25 pmat

    Cooked rabbit with carrots! That made me chuckle.

    What a great, beautiful Valentine’s dinner!

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      February 21st, 20134:32 pmat

      Cheeky, eh? I would love a whole “chicken or the egg” or “food and its fodder” dinner.

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    February 20th, 20135:47 pmat

    OK, first guest post: How to Photograph Skies. Second guest post? HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH FOOD. Nobody does it better than you do!

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      February 21st, 20134:40 pmat

      Oh, my gosh, MBG, I’m sure I wanted to tell you this at the time it happened, but ages ago, I posted a review to chowhound.com, and someone was so kind to compliment my pictures in much the same manner you have, saying that my photos are some of the best she’s seen and that I should shoot for magazines. Obviously I swooned, but then some GIGANTIC D-BAG came and replied to her simply with the names of two bloggers who take better food pictures than I do. Die, Internet, die.

  • kimz writes:
    February 21st, 201311:31 amat

    Buuuuut, what if you don’t have $500 to spend on lunch?

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      February 21st, 20134:42 pmat

      There are plenty of LOVELY high-end places that do lunches under $100. I can also send you to the best Japanese buffet ever for $30. donuts4dinner is here to help you.

      • kimz writes:
        February 22nd, 20138:34 amat

        donuts4dinner, you are so helpful! and funny. and pretty.

  • Kinard writes:
    February 22nd, 20132:44 pmat

    I’ll just start saving now because I”m not coming back to NYC without going here and EMP. Period.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      February 25th, 201312:58 pmat

      My heart is warmed.

  • ellenost writes:
    February 28th, 20133:46 pmat

    Great review and gorgeous photos too! (BTW, your photos are better than the famous food bloggers).

    I returned last week for another extended tasting lunch at Per Se, and by the time they served the quail, I really wanted to go home–way too much food! I had specifically requested the calotte de boeuf, and they gave me 2 generous pieces; I ate one and asked my server to pack up the other piece so I could bring it to my sister. Actually she also had most of the donuts from the “coffee & donuts”, all of my selected chocolates, the take-home bag of the shortbreads and some other candies. I think next time I’ll stick with the 9 course meal.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      March 1st, 20139:59 amat

      Haha, you must have seen the comment above. Which, I believe, was about you!

      I saw your comment about getting a kitchen tour on your recent Per Se visit (lucky!), but I want to see the full review! We’re usually stuffed and feel like dying by that point, too, and noticed that we seemed to be the only ones in the dining room who were doing the tasting menu. We were wondering if people were unable to eat that much food, unwilling to pay for it, or something else.

      Also, one of my Chowhound friends (fooder) said that you’re the person to talk to regarding Bouley. We’re going for the first time tomorrow night and were wondering about your take on lunch versus dinner.

      • ellenost writes:
        March 1st, 201311:32 amat

        Bouley is one of my long-time favorite restaurants. While I’ve never been there for lunch (except for holiday celebrations), I adore the dinner. I’ve been postponing my reservation (now rescheduled for mid-Apri after my vacation to Las Vegas in 2 weeks). Have a wonderful time, and I definitely want to read your report and see your photos! Bouley is one of the most beautiful rooms anywhere.

        With regard to the extended tasting menu at Per Se, I think that most people don’t even know that the restaurant offers this as an option which may explain why so few people ask for it.

  • stephanie patenaude writes:
    March 6th, 20139:49 amat

    Beautiful! It’s hard to believe how creative people can be with food! Thanks for sharing.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      March 7th, 201310:33 amat

      Thank you for reading! And you’re right–I can’t imagine the brain of the person who thinks, “Mmm, liver and banana–that has to be good!”

  • Jess + Garrett writes:
    March 11th, 20132:25 pmat

    Assuming it’s OK with you (and our bosses), we’re just gonna spend the rest of the day re-pinning your photos to Pinterest. Also drooling.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      March 14th, 201310:15 amat

      The color of the lights changes here so often that I felt like these pictures were all pink and yellow and blue and annoying, so thank yooooou!

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews » The Tasting Menu at Daniel writes:
    March 22nd, 20133:01 pmat

    […] that’s the best description. It’s purely elegant here, not in the modern and simple Per Se way but in the over-the-top and grand Bouley way. The dining room is completely windowless, […]

  • Michelle writes:
    October 6th, 20134:46 pmat

    I’m going to Per Se next week to celebrate my anniversary and after reading each of your Per Se posts, I wanted to ask a Per Se expert a few things about the restaurant! First off, your posts are so informative and your pictures are stunning! My questions are: 1) Did you use flash in the restaurant to take your pictures? I feel that it could be distracting to other guests, but I don’t want to miss the chance to take pictures of such beautiful dishes. We’re also going in the evening, so would there be enough light in the restaurant to take pictures? 2) I really, really, REALLY want to taste each of those chocolates that you named, but I know I probably will be too full to do so. Would it be possible to ask them for ALL of the chocolates to go? Do you think they would even do it if I asked? This is the sweet tooth in me hoping they would. 3) For the mignardises, did you ask them for two boxes for each of you? I would love to get two boxes so me and my guest would not have to fight over them…or so I could steal some from their box. :)

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      October 6th, 20136:19 pmat

      Thanks for your comment and your compliment! And happy anniversary to you!

      I don’t use a flash in restaurants for exactly the reason you mentioned. These were taken at lunch, so the lighting is naturally bright then; my evening pictures there look like this. So, pretty dark, but certainly doable with the candles on the tables.

      I’d definitely encourage you to ask about taking all of the chocolates to go. And asking for two separate boxes of mignardises. I don’t think Per Se is ever specifically trying to without anything from us, but it seems like they only give us ALL of the leftover mignardises when I make a point of asking for ALL of them. When I don’t, they’ll give us a small box with one or two of each thing in it. So just be direct about what you want, and they’ll generally bend over backward to give it to you. I’d LOVE to hear about it if you do ask for all of the chocolates to go. Please come back and tell me about your experience!

      • Michelle writes:
        October 19th, 20136:12 amat

        I went to Per Se this past weekend to celebrate my anniversary and wanted to come back and share my story with you. It’s a long one but I wanted to be as honest as possible about my experience.

        Unfortunately, my experience at Per Se this weekend was pretty disappointing for me and my boyfriend. I hyped both of us up for this “grand” experience, and initially was really excited when they had a menu that wished us “happy anniversary” on top, but as the night went on, everything fell a little flat. I expected a lot more from Per Se, especially from its reputation and at the price we were paying. Maybe I came on the wrong day or I just don’t have an exquisite palate that others do, but there were a few dishes where I was grateful that the portion size was small. The presentation of all the dishes were beautiful; although this brings me to my next point, which is that I wished the lighting at Per Se was a little brighter. I understand that the dim lighting gives the place a romantic ambience, however, I felt like I didn’t get to fully enjoy the presentation of the food as much because it was so dim. We had a 545pm reservation so for half of our meal, we were able to fully appreciate the beautiful contrast of colors and ingredients, but towards the end of the meal, it was much harder to appreciate (it also made taking pictures without flash really difficult). Also, while the service was impeccably prompt and the staff was polite, my guest and I did not find the staff to be particularly friendly. When we were given our 3rd dessert by our server, another server hastily put down a little tiny cake on our table and said “that’s for your anniversary” and left before we could even thank him. Per Se definitely did not have to do anything “special” for us on our anniversary, but if they were going to do anything at all, I wish they had thought about it more and done it right. At least give us TWO cakes or a cake of sharing size, instead of one tiny cake that we awkwardly took tiny bites of because we didn’t want to deprive each other of getting a piece of it. I appreciated the effort though and the dessert was pretty good.

        Later on in the night, I was ecstatic when the legendary chocolate box made its entrance. I was told I could have as many as I liked, but when I asked for all 24 of the chocolates to be wrapped up — I believe my words were something along the lines of, “I would love to try ALL the flavors of the chocolates so is there any way you could wrap ALL of them up for me?” – the waitress seemed a little taken aback for a second but recovered and said with a smile, “yes of course.” Knowing this, I (regretfully) only tasted a single chocolate (The very last one – Arnold palmer one) because I was so full, and it was delicious! When the server came to give us the check, I also asked for the other mignardises to be wrapped up and our server told us “I heard you also wanted some chocolates. Those have already been wrapped up and I wrapped up some of those [mignardises] up for you too. They’re in the front waiting for you.” How sweet! ….or so I thought.

        So fast forward to the end of the night when I finally dig into the bags to get my yummy chocolates and mignardises and what do I see? Two rectangle boxes and 1 square box. The square box had the mignardises in it and I only got ONE box of it, but I guess I didn’t explicitly ask them for TWO boxes so that’s my fault. In the rectangle boxes, there were only 6 chocolates each and both boxes had the same 6 chocolates, which leads me to believe that they had pre-packaged chocolates, which is fine, but I felt lied to. They could have told me that they had pre-packaged boxes or that they couldn’t wrap up all of the chocolates for me, but they didn’t despite my insistence on having ALL of the chocolates.

        Possibly one of the things I regretted the most that night was not asking them for their famous coffee and donuts. I read somewhere that a blogger shyly inquired about it after their meal and BAM! It was given. I had actually been looking forward to trying that dessert but it was nowhere on our menu and I was so displeased with my experience at the time that I forgot to ask about them. Another thing I read about was other people asking for a tour of the kitchen after their meal and the request was granted! I would have loved to do that if only I had known!

        Overall, I think I expected an over-the-top culinary experience and a bend-over-backwards service, but did not receive it, hence my disappointment. I probably will not return any time soon and would rather take my chances with the others 3 Michelin stars restaurants in NY.


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