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Lunch at Jean-Georges
Mar 7th, 2013 by plumpdumpling

From the Vault:

This is a meal from April of 2011, with pictures taken on my old point and shoot camera and everything. I recently revisited Jean-Georges, however, and wanted to post my first meal there before I review my second one.

I went to acclaimed French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s less-expensive restaurants The Mark and Nougatine. There were definite highlights to each–the beets, the souffle, the strawberry foie gras brulee–but overall, my socks were not knocked off.

Everyone told me, “You can’t judge Jean-Georges on those! Go to the real restaurant! It’s a different experience!” They all said, “The lunch at Jean-Georges is the best value in the city!” So I went to Jean-Georges. I had the lunch. I’m still not sure how this restaurant has three Michelin stars.

Jean-Georges NYC
ginger soda and spring herb soda

Still the best part about dining at any of the Jean-Georges restaurants, I think. I just love that they have to be stirred and that they’re so intensely flavored and that they make you realize how overly-sweet and underly-natural traditional bottled sodas are. My boyfriend wasn’t as impressed with his spring herb soda as with the other flavors we’ve had, mostly because there weren’t any actual herbs in it, but my ginger is still one of the best drinks in town.

Jean-Georges NYC
amuse bouche: mushroom cannelloni, radish over mustard on rye, carrot water

Jean-Georges NYC
sea trout draped in trout eggs, lemon foam, dill, horseradish

Jean-Georges NYC
foie gras brulee, pineapple jam

Jean-Georges NYC
parmesan risotto, mushrooms, herbs

Jean-Georges NYC
shrimp, cucumber pasta

I think this dish sums up the Jean-Georges experience. The shrimp was impeccably seasoned and cooked, and the cucumber “pasta” was a neat little trick that resulted in this bright, fresh, light plate of food. If I was someone concerned about lightness and brightness, I might describe this dish as “guilt-free” and talk about how it’s a “healthy swap” for a legitimate pasta. But I want all of my dishes to involve so much butter I could sculpt a cow out of them. I want to feel like I should feel guilty about what I’m eating (but then not actually feel guilty, because I’m a grownup). I want to be knocked out by flavor. This kind of food is nice, but it’s not gut-bustingly, tear-producingly delicious.

Jean-Georges NYC
slowly baked salmon, warm potato salad, sugar snap peas, horseradish

Jean-Georges NYC
sauteed veal scallopine, Flying Pig ham, mushrooms

Jean-Georges NYC
salted caramel tart, hazelnut streusel, creme fraiche, caramelized espresso ice cream, chewy caramel powder

Jean-Georges NYC

Jean-Georges NYC
marshmallows

One of the best things about the Jean-Georges experience is the marshmallow cart, which arrives bearing a jar of homemade marshmallows that the marshmallow-caterer deftly snips apart with her shears. You get one. You will want ten.

Jean-Georges NYC
Jean-Georges chocolate cake, vanilla bean ice cream, milk skin, peanut butter powder

Jean-Georges NYC
mystery dessert

Jean-Georges NYC
lavender French macarons

Jean-Georges NYC
chocolates

Lunch at Jean-Georges is quite a deal at two plates for $38 with each additional plate at $19. If you want to say you’ve been to a restaurant with three Michelin stars but don’t want to drop $118 on the prix-fixe menu or $198 on the tasting menu, this is the meal for you. Despite the price, it has all the trappings of the three-star experience: the refined plating, the sleek decor with neutral colors and tons of natural light, the flawless service. For me, though, the food doesn’t measure up to that of the other restaurants with three Michelin stars. It’s like there’s one flavor missing from every dish, one thing that other chefs are including that Chef Vongerichten isn’t. (Butter.)

And yet my boyfriend and I feel ourselves being drawn to it every now and then. After this meal, we returned for the full tasting at dinner. And even when that wasn’t quite good enough, either, we still mention going back again every time we see an open reservation. We’re still trying to find that third Michelin star. We’re still trying to give credit to the chef who’s said to have influenced the way New Yorkers eat more than any other. We still love those homemade sodas.

Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023 (map)

Per Se: Five Stars for the Fourth Time
Feb 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)

The Vegetarian Tasting and Chef’s Tasting at Per Se
May 24th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

The last time my boyfriend and I left Per Se, we were unexpectedly underwhelmed. We’d called ahead and requested the extended tasting menu, a many-extra-course/many-extra-dollar fine food feast that left us feeling as if we were actually treated worse by spending more. The responses to my review were generally along the lines of “it’s a privilege to get to eat there, and you’re paying for the opportunity to be one of the elite, so quit complaining”, which left me with an even more sour taste.

But Per Se is the best restaurant in the city. It’s the most lavish and the most luxurious, and it lends any special event the sort of weight that only a bowl of caviar and oysters served six plates high can. So when my boyfriend passed the California bar exam recently, we considered other options momentarily but probably knew all along that we’d ultimately go with Per Se once again.

And this time, there was nothing to complain about.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings

The setting was simply elegant as always, with big comfortable armchairs you don’t mind settling into for three or four hours. We were seated at the same table as last time and given a set of menus congratulating my boyfriend. I chose the usual chef’s tasting menu, this time with non-alcoholic beverage pairings, and he chose the vegetarian tasting with wine pairings.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings

The usual Gruyere gougères started the meal in the huge handle-less spoon I love so much, but if it’s even possible, they were warmer, filled fuller, more flavorful than ever before.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings

My cone was the traditional salmon with creme fraiche and was just as much like a sour cream and onion chip pulled from the ocean as I remembered. His was markedly lemony with a nice grainy texture from the pureed beans.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
one of the many gorgeous serving dishes at Per Se

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
scallion “panna cotta”, daikon glaze, dashi “pearls,” pickled jalapeño pepper, bagel crisps, white sesame purée

A clever accompaniment to my caviar, his salty, umami-ful panna cotta was flanked by “roe” formed from dashi broth. Scallion was the stand-out flavor, but the dish wouldn’t have been the same without the spice of the jalapeño sliver.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
“oysters and pearls”, “sabayon” of pearl tapioca, Island Creek oysters, sterling white sturgeon caviar

On my third time enjoying this signature dish, I found still more to love about it. The oysters were still as melt-in-your-mouth as always, but the tapioca in the creamy base seemed larger and more abundant and acted as a link between the smaller but firmer caviar and the larger but more tender oysters.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
“torchon” of Elevages Perigord moulard duck foie gras, Kendall Farms’s creme fraiche, Cherry Lane strawberries, Hakurei turnips, rolled oat tuille, mustard cress

One of the densest foie gras preparations I’ve seen, this torchon was thicker than peanut butter and barely wanted to spread on our soft rolls. It was sweet and mild, complimented by the strawberry slices and contrasted by the sour pickled onions. The bread, sprinkled with cartoonishly large cubes of salt and replaced three times by our server to ensure its freshness and warmth, peeled apart in crescent-shaped hunks to form the perfect vessel for foie gras filling.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
salt tasting

From the black lava salt to the 3,000-year-old pink salt to the flaky fleur de sel, I’ve thought the salts that have accompanied our foie gras supplement have been interesting in texture each time, but this is the first time that I’ve actually tasted flavor differences as well. Either my palate is improving or my imagination is.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
butter dome

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
Parker House roll with unsalted and salted butters

Our server told us that a woman with six Jersey cows makes the salted butter for Per Se. You kind of want to roll your eyes and give her a hug at the same time.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
sunchoke “chawanmushi”, brooks cherries, Sacramento delta green asparagus, morel mushrooms, candied almonds

My dish may have been mushroomier, but they were more the star of his dish, highlighting the egginess and the density of the custard with their savory flavor and airy texture. He loved the crunch of the honey nuts especially.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
sautéed filet of black sea bass, honshimeji mushrooms, cauliflower “florettes”, cherry belle radishes, pickled ramps, young parsley

Perfectly cooked, of course, with a hardy crust that I welcomed amidst a bowl of otherwise tender elements. The thick, near-gelled sauce tasted of dill, and the array of tiny marinated mushrooms seemed like they must have been labored over back in the kitchen all morning.

non-alcoholic pairing: chamomile tea with cardamom and a strong honey/lemon flavor

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
milk poached white asparagus, “grenobloise”, hen egg yolk, green garlic “subric,” haricots verts, arugula, brown butter “gastrique

Tender, peppery, with an incredibly flavorful little cake, the so-called “subric”. Amazingly, we both liked this better than the lobster.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
butter poached Nova Scotia lobster “mitts”, glazed sweet carrots, pea shoots, ginger “mousseline”

With the sweet carrot and fresh peas, this was the perfect representation of summer. Though I loved the texture of this lobster in particular–ignore what they say about avoiding shellfish in months that don’t contain an R–I like my lobster a little richer and less healthy.

non-alcoholic pairing: grapefruit tonic with basil leaf (two of my favourite things in life together in one glass)

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
“endive en feuille de pommes de terre”, “ragoût” of fava beans, “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, parsley coulis

This was the only dish of the day that we weren’t gaga over. It wasn’t as flavorful as endive should be, and the breading was at odds with the stringy vegetable. Though the breading was delicious, it seemed like a way to cover up a sub-par filling, though of course everything at Per Se is meticulous, so I’m sure the endive wasn’t supposed to be an afterthought. The fava beans with Parmesan were the highlight of the dish; I could’ve done without the endive entirely.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
herb roasted Thomas Farm’s pigeon, “pastrami” of foie gras, thompson grapes, garlic scapes, mizuna, “sauce perigordine”

I can’t say for sure that it was invented by him, but chef David Chang of Momofuku Ko made famous the shaved frozen foie gras torchon, and we’ve had it on all four of our visits. There, it’s paired with sweet elements like pine nut brittle, lychee fruit, and Riesling jelly. Here, it took on an entirely different personality over the peppery pastrami-style spices of the squab. The burnt-bread-crumb flavor of the sauce had me scraping my plate for every drop.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
peeled grape

I’ve eaten more peeled grapes in the past month than I have in the rest of my life combined. I love the attention to detail, but who doesn’t love grape skin?

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
broccoli and semolina “agnolotti”, young onions, broccolini, navel orange confit, black winter truffle “mornay”

Pasta! Truffle! Onions! Citrus! It was all of my favourites in one dish. Creamy, truffley, cheesy, and orangey.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
Elysian Fields Farm’s lamb “en crépinette”, merguez sausage, chickpea purée, English cucumber, holland eggplants, lamb jus

The peppery coating on the tender, not-the-least-bit-funky lamb went so well with the fresh cucumber spheres, which tasted to me like the green rind of a watermelon.

non-alcoholic pairing: English breakfast tea, cola, black pepper (“Cola and tea?!”, I thought. But they were perfect together.)

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
Per Se “ricotta”, English pea “barbajuan,” picholine olives, pickled eggplant, toasted pine nuts, garden mint vinaigrette

Everything on this plate tasted green, from the mint sauce to the pea pastry. I’m only just developing a taste for the salty bitterness of olives and thought the flavor worked well here with the overall sweetness of the dish.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
Maplebrook Farm’s “burrata”, Paffenroth Farms’ heirloom tomatoes, petite onions, pearl barley, petite basil

I was worried that the summer menu would include tomatoes (still my most-feared ingredient) in every dish, so I only cried a little when this was put in front of me, and I even tried a little bit just to make sure that yep, I still hate them. Otherwise, I loved the fresh, salady flavors of this dish, which managed to make cheese–which is a shell of semi-soft mozzarella with creamy super-soft mozzarella inside–seem like a light, summery affair. It didn’t compare to the tempura-battered Hittisau we had last time, but the cheese course at Per Se is always memorable.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
caramelized banana sorbet, banana bread, compressed golden pineapple, black sesame buttercream

These flavors were at odds. The super-moist banana bread and sorbet were so sweet themselves, and the pineapple only added another dimension of sweetness. The dollops of white gel–no clue what they were–tasted like lavender soap might. It was a sweet, flowery, romantic dish. And then I got a taste of the black sesame buttercream. It was bitter and sour and never got any less intense, but it wasn’t uncomplimentary to the banana, and I loved the complexity of the dish.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
“raspberry and shortbread”, “granité de créme de cassis”, raspberry soda, Greek yogurt “panna cotta”

Fizzy and ultra sour with a cooling yogurt center and a buttery, crunchy base. The different crunches of the frozen top layer and cookie bottom layer made this a pleasure to dig a spoon into.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
chocolate milk

My final non-alcoholic pairing. It was fizzy like an egg cream, and our server refilled it when I finished it halfway through the mignardises, god bless him.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
syrup

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
syrup

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
“glace à la vanille”, macerated blueberries, vanilla pancakes

I’ll never know if my boyfriend really wanted this dessert or not, because I exclaimed so much when I saw it as a choice on his menu that he might have just ordered it to be nice, but I don’t think he regretted it either way. Because this used the best. maple. syrup. ever. (BLiS Gourmet, I’m coming for you and your $20 bourbon-barrel bottle of glory.) The dish was sweet and sour, warming and cooling, haute and homey.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
“honeyed cherries”, mint “génoise,” compressed brooks cherries, cherry crème “diplomate”, burnt honey ice cream

At the end of your lunch at Jean-Georges, your server will bring out a giant glass pharmacy bottle full of housemade marshmallows and pluck one out for you with a pair of tongs. She’ll make a ceremony of it, and it will seem like a big deal at the time. But hidden in this dish at Per Se was a much, much better marshmallow, and no one made a big deal of it at all. Except for my boyfriend and me, I mean. I believe the word we used was crazy. “This marshmallow is crazy.” I loved the crunchy honeycomb, the fruit-leather-like compressed cherries, the rich honey of the ice cream. The sponge cake was too light for me and needed about a pound of icing on top, but I appreciated the airy texture amidst the other dense elements.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
graduation cake with liquored ice cream

In celebration of my boyfriend’s bar exam achievement, he was presented this simple, elegant little mousse cake. I’ll take any chance to eat more of Per Se’s chocolates.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
fudge, French macarons, truffles

The famous tiered mignardise box with dark chocolate, vanilla, and coffee fudge on top, passion fruit and mint chocolate French macarons in the center, and root beer, salted caramel, and lemon truffles on the bottom.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
assorted chocolates

Arnold Palmer, maple, and grapefruit chocolates from a wooden box full of approximately thirty, which a server opens for you before reciting the flavor of each chocolate from memory. And all of them sound amazing–balsamic vinegar, curry, fennel–and you want the box to be left at your table, but your stomach is nearing implosion at this point, so you only take three or four.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
coffee and doughnuts

One of the desserts I hope for (and receive) each visit, the creamy coffee semifreddo with sugared beignets. Behind the “coffee”, you’ll see the tiny frozen balls of buttered popcorn ice cream, which are so savory as to be closer to popcorn than ice cream.

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings
take-home treats

The parting gift: a bag of cherry nougats, caramels, hard candies, and a mint chocolate wrapped in gold.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Per Se NYC Chef's Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings and Non-Alcoholic Pairings

Think of the taste of any food you like and multiply that times ten if you want to understand what it’s like to eat at Per Se. Think of the taste of any food you just feel ambivalent about, and suddenly you’ll be Googling to find out when fava bean season is so you can have more. We’re always terrified when we see the bill–our drink pairings were $300+ even with me getting the non-alcoholic ones (which I highly, highly recommend)–and we always leave saying things like, “For that much at such-and-such, we could’ve eaten twice,” but the truth is that every now and then, I like my food a little precious. I like houndstooth plates stacked three-high and half-eaten bread taken from me because the kitchen wants each bite of my foie gras eaten on a fresh piece and take-home boxes of fudge tied with branded ribbon in branded gift bags. And no one does any of that better than Per Se does.

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

The Extended Tasting Menu at Per Se
Oct 13th, 2011 by donuts4dinner

Per Se NYC

Stepping through the sliding glass partitions to the left and right of Per Se‘s unmistakable and infamously nonfunctioning blue door should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a country gal like me, but I’m fortunate to have a boyfriend with an insatiable appetite for tasting menus (okay, okay, it’s not just him with the appetite). So when I was finally able to make a reservation for my birthday (after an hour and a half of nonstop calling and then holding), he started tossing around the idea of the extended tasting. He’d read that it was a couple hundred dollars more for a number of extra courses, and since we’d also heard that repeat visitors are lavished with attention, we figured we’d have a nice, simple, four-hour, 21-course lunch and then quietly explode later that evening at home.

We’d called ahead with our request for the extended tasting, so our server told us that a special menu had been prepared for us and sent the sommelier over to discuss pairings. Knowing that in the past, we’ve hit the outer limits of enjoyment after the 10th pairing, we requested eight glasses, including one Riesling and one cocktail. The sommelier asked our budget, and when my boyfriend said he was looking to spend about $150 per person, the sommelier very matter-of-factly told us that the restaurant recommends $250 per person. Which divides out to a little over $31 per glass. Which is about what our favourite wine costs by the bottle. But what was my boyfriend going to say? “I know it’s her birthday and all, but she’s not that special to me, so could you stick to the $12-a-glass wines? Thanks.”

Per Se NYC
Kamran, perusing the wine list via tablet

The meal started with two familiar sights from our first visit to Per Se earlier this year:

Per Se NYC
Gruyere gougères

Ridiculous? Or ridiculously cute? This little guy packs a lot more filling than you’d think possible; the creamiest cheese oozes onto your tongue the moment the bread is broken.

I mostly loved the serving vessel, which is like a giant spoon without its handle. I may have picked this up and pretended to scoop things off the table and shovel them into my mouth with it, and my boyfriend may have given me The Look.

Per Se NYC
salmon cornettes

I’d somehow forgotten that there’s cream cheese at the bottom of the cone. This is everything I want a Philadelphia roll to be but never is. The best part is the oniony cone, thicker and crunchier than you’d expect.

Per Se NYC

A shallow bowl of truffles arrived,

Per Se NYC

and a thick almond soup was poured around them.

Per Se NYC
almond “vichyssoise”, burgundy truffles, scarlet grapes

We’re right between truffle seasons at the moment, so Per Se boils and then freezes their summer truffles, our server told us, to preserve them for these non-truffley months. They had a different flavor that I would describe as more like above-ground mushrooms; they were still earthy and rich and slightly crunchy but not quite as intense. We were impressed that the grapes in the soup were slices from the midsection instead of just halves and loved imagining the chef using the intricate work as punishment for some back-talking line cook. The bottom of the dish was lined with chopped almonds that added texture and coaxed more flavor from the soup.

Per Se NYC
“oysters and pearls”: “sabayon” of pearl tapioca, island creek oysters, sterling white sturgeon caviar

Per Se’s famed “oysters and pearls” can be described in one of two ways:

1) sour cream and onion chips from the ocean, or
2) chicken and dumplings made with seawater.

It’s just not what you’d expect, at every level. The caviar doesn’t pop in your mouth like salmon roe does, nor does it get stuck in your teeth like flying fish roe does; you wouldn’t know you were eating it if it wasn’t for the saline taste. The oysters, tiny to begin with, fall apart in your mouth at the slightest notion from your teeth. It seems as if the texture of the tapioca would be too similar to that of the roe, but it really adds to the sense that you’re just eating a dish of mama’s creamy dumplings.

Per Se NYC

We thought this presentation was hilarious. Four dishes for four bites of food? Probably not necessary. But for me, little luxuries like the opportunity to dirty four plates are what’s missing at your less-acclaimed restaurants. It seems like a lot of thought goes into not just the arrangement of the food on the plate but the plate that it’s being arranged on. The houndstooth pattern is supposed to mimic the design on a chef’s pants. The lined plate you’ll see later with the uni dish made for what I think are some of my prettiest photos ever. And there are of course the very specific dishes for the egg custard and the salmon cornettes. These are the kinds of things that make Per Se feel special.

Per Se NYC
tartare of pacific sea bream, French Laundry garden radishes, tempura-fried broccoli, navel orange, mizuna (Japanese greens) and white sesame seed puree

I loved the texture of this fish. It was citrus-cured, so the very smallest bit of each edge had a slightly firmer feel, while the interior was left tender and fleshy. The first flavor to hit my mouth was citrus, and the dish in general was all fresh, bright, and light. The very hearty radish leaves complimented the crunch of the tempura, which complimented the crisp of the radish bulbs straight from the French Laundry garden.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
Santa Barbara sea urchin, granny smitha pples, cauliflower florettes, toasted hazelnuts, red ribbon sorrel, coffee puree

I love to taste each component separately, which many times leads to a realization about how important each ingredient is. Here, the hazelnuts added a saltiness, the cauliflower panna cotta was like buttery mashed potatoes, and the dab of coffee gel was the most unexpected partner to the bitter uni.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
white-truffle-oil-infused custard, ragout of black winter truffles

This had much more of the distinct truffle flavor than the soup did, and the richness of the white truffle custard under the black truffle ragout was like a direct punch to the wallet. The custard was airy, the ragout more of a syrupy gel. Paired with a leggy Madeira, this could have been a dessert course.

Per Se NYC
Snake River Farms’ beef short ribs, Tokyo turnips, medjool date “marbles”, petite mint, “sauce paloise” (béarnaise with mint)

This dish elicited a response my boyfriend heard from me several times that afternoon: “I won’t even have to describe this in my blog based on how awesome the ingredients are!” It was sticky and sweet, hearty and tongue-coating. The turnip puree provided a smooth, vegetal contrast to the succulent, tender beef and the brittle papadum. This was a standout course for me and really needed to be a full-sized entree.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
salad of caramelized parsnip, toasted marcona almonds, French Laundry garden radishes, cilantro shoots, banana, vadouvan curry

I really can’t praise this dish enough. It turns out that the parsnip, when not shunned to the bottom of a plate as a puree, is a meaty and firm-textured, much like a cooked carrot. The banana was so unexpected it confused me at first–my boyfriend had to name the flavor for me–but the sugariness of the fruit paired perfectly with the spiciness of the curry-like vadouvan, used here as a sauce and a layer of gelatin that contrasted the caramelization of the parsnip. This is what lesser Indian desserts (I’m looking at you, gulab jamun) aspire to be.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
“gateau” of Hudson Valley moulard duck foie gras, pistacho “financier”, hakurei turnips, vanilla streusel, white whine poached quince, toasted brioche

Dr. Boyfriend and I had the foie gras during our first tasting menu at Per Se as a $40 supplement and didn’t understand that the flower-shaped display of salts that arrived just before it was actually part of the course. Of the foie, I very ironically wrote, “We secretly wanted to spread it all over the soft rolls from the salt tasting course, but the crusty brioche was nice if extremely messy.” Hilarious! We seem so inexperienced, looking back.

Per Se NYC

This time, we were old salts. (See what I did there? Salts? Haha! No? Okay.) We had each had one bite of brioche before our server brought a fresh slice for each of us; it’s amazing how fast the stuff goes cold and stiff. Even though all of the salts tasted the same, I was really able to appreciate the texture of each. The courser salts were an incredible contrast to the smooth foie and its sweet vanilla gel. The bready pistachio base and the gelled duck consomme topping made the plate of foie its own dish, but the salt pushed it into five-donut territory.

This time, this was definitely a $40 dish.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
sauteed filet of Chatham Bay cod, fork-crushed potatoes, San Marxan tomato marmalade, hearts of romaine, Italian caper cream

This somehow tasted like fast food French fries and a fried fish sandwich. We thought it pretty funny that the server specifically mentioned the potatoes were fork-crushed, but the bit of texture did add to the dish. The tomato marmalade was sweet and chunky, the Pommes Maxim crisp and delicate.

My boyfriend told me about visiting relatives in Paris as a kid and standing outside Maxim’s and watching as a couple walked up and jokingly pretended to open the door; Maxim’s was too expensive for just anyone to dine at. I loved the irony of the story as we sat sipping champagne in a three-Micheline-star restaurant overlooking New York City; I guess I should congratulate Kamran for having “made it”.

Per Se NYC
butter poached Nova Scotia lobster mitts, arrowleaf spinach “pain perdu”, cauliflower mushroom, French leeks, mache, “hollandaise mousseline”

How adorable is it to call them “lobster mitts”? The mushroom was one of the major flavors on the plate, while the taste of the “lost bread” was really only evident when combined with other elements like the Hollandaise, which looks mayonnaisey in the photos but was actually formed into a dome that “broke” under the pressure of our forks. We loved the texture of the spinach bread and really wanted more of it; it’s funny how when you read the menu (which we did for weeks leading up to our visit, as it changes every day), you assume that every ingredient is going to be some massive, plate-hogging thing. And then it turns out to look like this tiny, one-bite afterthought. In the most well-balanced dish, though, every bit of the plate is important.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
hand cut “tagliatelle”, shaved black winter truffles

It’s almost too simple to be good and too simple not to be. My boyfriend called it “singular”, which is a nice way of saying that it’s just some pasta, but of course this ain’t Olive Garden, and “just pasta” at Per Se is pasta covered in, you know, one of the most expensive ingredients in the world that had to be plucked out of the ground by pigs. (I love that part.) It was perfectly al dente, creamy, and sinful. And you can bet I scraped every last one of those truffle shavings off the side of my bowl. I think the gnocchi with black truffle at Eleven Madison Park was superior, but that may just be because I’m biased toward big, fat gnocchi.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
Salmon Creek Farms’ pork belly “en feuille de brick”, glazed sunchokes, black mission figs, arugula, black olive puree

The only way to make pork more delicious is to wrap it in pastry; the shell was crispier than skin alone could ever be. I appreciated the juxtaposition between the sweet fig and bitter olive, but I have to admit that I just wasn’t sold on the olive puree, even by the end of the dish. Now, I’m an active olive-hater, but I’m really open-minded about it and have actually enjoyed it in other preparations; here, it was just overpowering, and I found myself avoiding it so as to not ruin the pork.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
herb roasted Elysian Fields Farm’s “côte d’agneau”, Per Se falafel, violet artichokes, fairy tale eggplant, sweet pepper relish, za’tar jus

I wonder if our servers, who had to be watching us from the sidelines to be at our sides the moment we finished a dish like they were, screamed “Noooo!” when they saw me cut into this without taking a picture first. If you can get past now knowing how badly I massacre my plates enough to keep reading, you’ll be pleased to note that I ripped this dish apart out of enjoyment. Sure, the lamb wasn’t quite tender enough, and the eggplant was far too vinegary for my taste, but as my boyfriend said, “They really captured the essence of the halal cart here.” With the deliciously spicy oregano-flavored sauce and the red peppers, it also reminded me of a pizza. A pizza with falafel.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
“hittisau”, English walnut “tapenade”, celery root “re’moulade”, Asian pears, watercress, aged balsamic vinegar

Slightly sweet to begin with, this Hittisau cheese made for the perfect transition from the savory courses. First, there was the fact that it was tempura-battered, and you know a country girl loves her fried cheese. Then, there was the sweet walnut spread, which retained its nutty texture and complimented the nugget of homogenous cheese. The celeriac was the slightly less-sweet element on the plate, but even it reminded me of a sugary cole slaw full of apples and raisins. The crunchy freshness of the tiny pear bulbs was the perfect finishing element.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
huckleberry sorbet, huckleberry “muffins”, whipped lemon verbena, red wine granite’, huckleberry sorbet

I don’t think this was meant to be anything more than a way to get our tongues ready for the real dessert, but it may have been the highlight of the sweets. It was so intensely flavored I could’ve been drinking straight out of a bottle of slushie syrup. With the fizziness and the acidity of the lemon, it was a dessert fit for a five-year-old. And that’s basically what I am.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC

Dr. Boyfriend complained that I never take pictures of the wine, so this is for him alone.

Per Se NYC
“coffee and doughtnuts”, cinnamon-sugared doughnuts, cappuccino semifreddo

We had this on our first trip to Per Se, even though we don’t believe it’s usually included in the regular tasting menu for first-timers. I actually think I liked it better this time, when we had done far fewer wine pairings and hadn’t already eaten enough dessert to keep five pastry chefs employed. The semifreddo was thicker than ice cream and more flavorful, too; it was like a half-frozen triple-thick milkshake. The donut was so delicate it was ready to deflate at the slightest touch.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
“S’mores”, dark chocolate torte, vanilla marshmallow, candied Virginia peanuts, caramel ice cream

All of my favourite dessert flavors on one plate! The wafer crust had a wonderful crunch, the vanilla marshmallows a super stickiness. I would never have thought to match chocolate and peanut butter with a cinnamon foam, but it really worked. And flavors aside, it’s just exciting to eat a dish like this, all deconstructed and ready for my custom rebuilding.

This was served with a firefly, a cocktail of vodka, grapefruit juice, and grenadine, and it was easily my favourite pairing of the night. The drink itself is so much like a dessert that it felt like an extra course.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
birthday cake

A little milk chocolate mousse round for my birthday. Simple but elegant.

Per Se NYC

Per Se NYC
mignardises

A server brought around a wooden box as wide as his torso with indentations in the base to hold individual chocolates. I obviously wanted him to just leave the entire thing at the table, but we controlled ourselves and chose pineapple tamarind, orange marzipan, Arnold Palmer, madras curry, maple walnut, and dulce de leche. Each was interesting and flavorful.

Per Se NYC

At the end of every meal, Per Se famously serves guests a three-tiered tray of petit fours. For me, a meal couldn’t end any more perfectly. I mean, I love a plated dessert. I think those little dabs of peanut butter placed so deliberately next to the s’mores are the most perfect thing in the world. But I also get a real joy from just stuffing myself heedlessly, Willy Wonka style. We were of course already quite full by this point, so I asked our server pointedly if it would be too much trouble to wrap the tray up for us; my boyfriend had seen another blogger’s photos of three little boxes of mignardises, so we knew it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, but I wanted to be polite.

Well, this is what we ended up with. One little box, with one of each treat inside. Not even two of each, so we could at least both sample everything without having to hand over a half-crushed French macaron to each other after taking a bite. She really thought the people ordering the extended tasting menu wouldn’t want all of their mignardises? And more importantly, what did she do with the rest of them? Throw them out? Because that’s almost offensive. Save them for the next table? Because that’s much worse. I’ll tell you what–if I had known this was what I was going to find in the bag I was handed on my way out, I would’ve sat there all afternoon and finished every last one. And used a lot more of the fresh hand towels in the bathroom. And stuffed the entire bread service in my purse. How many thousands of dollars do we have to spend before we get to take all of our leftovers home?

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Per Se NYC

Per Se is the most technically perfect restaurant in New York City, and Per Se knows that it’s better than you. It knows that I’ll have to force myself to say a negative word about the food just to write well-rounded reviews, and it knows that the service is so impeccably timed that I’ll feel like Big Brother must be watching me. It knows that I’ll be on the phone the moment the reservation line opens up 30 days in advance of the date I’d like to visit, and it knows that if I’m not, someone else will be. And that I won’t complain when it doesn’t seat me by the window as I requested and that I’ll still want to go back.

In Sam Sifton’s much-talked-about final review as The New York Times‘s restaurant critic, he wrote of Per Se: “No restaurant in New York City does a better job than Per Se of making personal and revelatory the process of spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on food and drink.” And I think that the problem for me was that this time, it didn’t feel as personal and revelatory. We spent a full $800 more than we have at places like Daniel, EMP, and Momofuku Ko. It was our second visit, and my birthday, and we actually felt like we weren’t treated as well as well this time despite letting them know this time before we even came in that we were going to spend $200 more per person on the extended tasting.

And the extended tasting, by the way? It came out to about six extra courses, making each course more than $30 each. For two bites of short rib, two slivers of fish, and one fewer dessert than we had the time when it wasn’t my birthday. While I think Per Se’s regular tasting is well-priced at $295 per person including service, the extended tasting seems to be just for the expense account guy who doesn’t really care what he gets in return for a month’s rent.

We’re not that guy, and we felt the sting of that this time at Per Se. With the mignardises being held back at the end, finding that the wine list couldn’t accommodate our paltry budget, and being told that “a la carte items are served in the salon” (the less-formal area) when I was just trying to tell the server that I liked some of the dishes so much I’d come back more often just to order them. I almost hesitate to complain about these things, because like I said, Per Se doesn’t need us. We’ll never buy its most expensive bottle of wine, and we’ll never bring “high net worth individuals” by for expense account lunches. My hard-working Ph.D. and I are just a drop in their bucket, and anyone who’s going to quibble over a couple hundred dollars probably shouldn’t be eating at Per Se.

But I still want to.

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

Asiate Tasting Menu- American (New)/Japanese – Columbus Circle
Jul 11th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

I only became interested in Asiate because someone recommended it in an old Chowhound post I happened to find about undervalued Restaurant Week restaurants. The tasting menu–with its uni cream and its butter-poached lobster–excited me so much that I gave up my three Restaurant Week reservations in order to get at it as soon as possible.

Thirty-five floors up inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel, it has a better view than Per Se and the other Columbus Circle restaurants. It also has an entirely different aesthetic: bright, white, stark, and airy. We were struck the moment we walked in the door by the giant silver entwined-twig sculpture hanging from the ceiling and the overall simplicity of the decor that let the floor-to-ceiling windows speak for themselves. Unlike the dark, plush surroundings of restaurants like Daniel, Asiate feels less stuffy and pretentious. And the food is just as simple and elegant.

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
seaweed and cayenne gougéres

Compared to the gougéres we’ve had at Per Se and Tocqueville, these were sadly lacking. While I appreciated the spiciness that followed much later than the nori and cheese flavors, I found these crusty, too dry, and not nearly cheesy enough. My boyfriend reminded me of the liquid-center gougéres at Per Se, and we both gazed out the window with dreamy looks in our eyes.

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
amuse bouche: melon

I’m not an egg-hater by any means, but I sure liked that this little egg-looking amuse was actually a spherification of melon. Its skin, so thin as to be almost indiscernible, burst open in our mouths, filling them with light, slightly-sweet melon juice. It would’ve been better cold versus room temperature, but maybe mine had just gotten warm while I tried to figure out how to use my new camera on it.

Tuna Dégustation: Schramsberg, Brut Rosé, North Coast, California 2007

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
tuna sashimi, cucumber salad

This preparation was too subtle for us; the cucumber “pasta” was surprisingly the standout flavor, and the remaining ingredients were almost entirely bland. I did love the play between the tender tuna and the crunchy cucumber but needed something spicy or salty to make the bite more about flavor than texture.

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
tuna tartare, uni

I decided recently that I either need to have some really awesome uni or give it up completely, because I keep being disappointed and sometimes even a little grossed out by it. This was the perfect preparation to bring me back around. The tuna was pleasantly chunky and imbued with a citrus flavor that managed to lessen the usual bitterness of the uni. I wrote in my notes that the roe was a good addition, but that can’t be right, can it?

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
tuna tataki

This was again an unfortunately bland bite, but I think I need some more tataki in my life. Biting into this little hunk of tuna was like chewing on a piece of steak. I really mean that. And I swear I hated fish up until a couple of years ago. The crunchy little rice balls on top were also a plus.

Schramsberg, Brut Rosé, North Coast, California 2007

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
“Buckwheat and Eggs”, soba noodles, osetra caviar, uni cream

When this dish was presented to us, my boyfriend said, “Look! All of your favourite things!” And it’s true that the sight of sturgeon roe, salmon roe, uni-flavored cream, and nori might have made me pass out in the not-so-distant past. The flavors in this dish were, in fact, all very oceany–the nori was the foremost one–but the pasta really brought it back to the land for me. I was concerned about being overwhelmed by the fishiness, so I secretly mixed all of the ingredients together and ended up with a perfectly-balanced, perfectly creamy bite every time.

Shirataki, “Sara Wind”, Junmai Sake, Japan

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
clam ceviche

On the restaurant’s website, this was listed as “blue prawn, scallop, Meyer lemon”. On one hand, I was excited about the prospect of shrimp, scallop, and lemon together. And I thought that as a twenty-five-year hater of seafood, it was a big deal for me to admit that. But then my boyfriend saw a picture of the dish in which the head and legs were still attached and warned me. I said, “Maybe I’ll just ask the kitchen to remove the head and legs before they serve it.” He said, “That would be embarrassing for you and offensive to the chef.” I offered that I’m paying for the meal, that I should get to eat what I want, and that having to see the head and legs would lead to a diminished experience for me. He countered that a chef’s presentation is a form of artwork and that I wouldn’t paint an extra nose on a Picasso. In the end–and it took a while–we agreed that I would have the dish served as-is for the photograph’s sake and that he would then remove the head and legs for me if they were bothering me.

And then of course we were brought an entirely different dish that turned out to be perfect. The texture of the clams was so pleasantly chewy and cut into just the right-size pieces. The bite and crunch of the radish next to the sweeter watermelon really stood out. The fruity, refreshing marinating citrus juices were so delicious my boyfriend wanted to drink them when he finished eating all the solid bits, and our Sauvignon Blanc–which I usually don’t care much for–tasted wonderfully grapefruity.

Kingston Family Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, “Cariblanco,” Casablanca Valley, Chile 2008

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
black cod, potato noodles, summer squash, miso broth

This was my first time eating pattypan squash, the fruit-vegetable with the cutest name ever. And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, the fish itself was even delicious. It was super-salty but in the best way, and it just flaked so perfectly. (I don’t actually think I understood what it meant to describe a fish as “flaky” until that moment. The way it was breaking off into equal sections was impressing me so much that I looked to my boyfriend for a way to describe it, and he said, “Um, that’s what they mean by ‘flaky’.” Ohhhhh.) The potato noodles added a nice crunch but little flavor, but luckily, there was a giant pile of enoki mushrooms hidden under one end of the fish that had soaked up some of the miso broth and was earthy and flavorful.

Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot, Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France 2009

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
butter-poached lobster, white polenta, kaffir reduction

Whoever decided to pair vanilla with lobster long, long ago was a genius. And whoever in the Asiate kitchen decided to pair their vanillaed lobster with a sauce that tasted like Fruity Pebbles cereal should at least get shortlisted for a Nobel. The snap of the beans with the buttery chewiness of the lobster was nice, and I enjoyed the creamy-gritty texture of the polenta sprinkled with vanilla bean. I absolutely could have done without the rubbery mushrooms, but I understand some people actually enjoy the look of the common mushroom cap.

Hirsch Vineyards, Pinot Noir, “Ngima’s Cuvée,” Sonoma Coast, California 2009 (this tasted like the smell of Band-Aids to us!)

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
wagyu beef tenderloin, smoked potato purée, yuzu koshou

You know how people are always saying, “Kobe beef is unmatched,” and “Oh, sure, my much more sensitive palate can totally tell the difference between Wagyu and traditional American beef”? And you know how you’re always like, “I’ll just stick to my big, fatty porterhouse, thanks”? Well, Asiate is doing something different than everyone else, because I actually felt like I was eating a more-delicious chunk of beef. It seemed more tender, more flavorful, more perfectly-cooked. Plus, there was visible salt on top of the hunk, which is the best steak topping next to butter. Everything else on the plate was just okay, but like anyone’s paying attention to you, asparagus.

Château Côte de Baleau, Grand Cru, Saint-Émilion, France 2007

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
Kamran, lovely view

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
strawberry-rhubarb consommé with lemongrass froth, warm chocolate cake with some sort of crazy blue gel, Campari-grapefruit sorbet, coffee-cardamom parfait, red velvet cake

Whether it was because we were enjoying the savory courses so much or just because we’re gluttons, we weren’t ready for dessert yet. Having a giant dessert assortment placed in front of you is a pretty good way to take your mind off of that, though.

I’m glad we tried the grapefruit first, because it was the least-sweet element on the plate and would’ve tasted bitter after anything else. The little chocolate cake round was very rich and dark with a lovely gold-flecked liquid frosting. The coffee ice cream didn’t taste of coffee to us at all but of blueberry and yuzu. The red velvet cake was one of the more interesting elements with its lychee and celery topping; I just love celery in general but especially in dessert. The strawberry consommé looked very light and refreshing but was actually thick and viscous but for the lemony foam on top.

I wouldn’t say we disliked anything on the plate, and in fact, all of it was delicious. The problem with assortments like this one and the one at, say, Nougatine at Jean-Georges is that there’s just too much going on to ever seem like a well-composed dessert. As much as I like the novelty being able to sample the entire dessert menu, little bites only get my palate all excited for a big finish, and when there isn’t one, I feel unsatisfied. I think a better choice would have been to serve the consommé first (as the menu had indicated) and the follow up with a bigger version of any of these components.

Brachetto d’Acqui, Coppo, “Passione,” Piedmont, Italy 2007

At this point, we were allowed to sit for a while without any other sweet treats and may have started to murmur some misgivings about the 4.5-donut rating I had been considering. I mean, charge me whatever you want for your tasting menu, but wow me at whatever price point you set, right?

But then this little plate of mignardises arrived with the check, and everything was set right.

Asiate NYC Tasting Menu
mignardises

Chocolate cake (very moist), pâte de fruits (passion fruit or guava), macarons (lime!), peanut butter and jelly chocolates (with flavor that lingered well after we left the restaurant).

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

I don’t think I should’ve liked Asiate as much as I did. Asian flavors are interesting to me, but they’re usually too unfamiliar to provide that perfect balance of comfort plus ingenuity that makes for my favourite kind of meal. Yet in each one of these dishes, Chef Brandon Kida managed to combine something that may have scared me off in the past–multiple preparations of uni, roe all over the place, nori taking center stage–with other ingredients like steak and noodles that feel homey.

Plus, this tasting menu and wine was about half the price of those at places like Per Se and Daniel. Certainly we missed some of the service aspects of those restaurants that have made them the institutions they are–unexpected courses, take-home treats, personalized souvenir menus–but this made for an excellent alternative to those sometimes-pretentious, luxury-claustrophobic meals.

Asiate
80 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10023 (map)

Per Se – French – Columbus Circle
Mar 18th, 2011 by plumpdumpling

Proving I like seafood enough to make a trip to Per Se worthwhile has been my goal for a couple of years now. I’ve made an effort to eat every oyster, every bit of fish roe, and every octopus mosaic my boyfriend, Kamran, has offered me in the hope that I could weasel the tasting menu out of him. So when he finally relented, it felt like a real victory for me. Even if he really just wanted to reward himself for finishing the New York bar exam.

Getting a reservation at Per Se is quite a complicated maneuver, at least in our experience. We watched OpenTable for weeks and never saw a Friday or Saturday night free, and calling the restaurant was always fruitless, too, but they’re very quick to offer to put you on the waiting list for a stretch of three nights. Starting a week ahead of time, you can also check OpenTable for weeknight availability. I put us on the waitlist for a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and did get a call about a Sunday spot early in the week, but we saw a Thursday night on OpenTable and took that instead so we wouldn’t be drunk on food and wine for Monday.

And all of the work was definitely worth it. Here’s the chef’s tasting menu in all of its having-to-wait-for-it-makes-it-even-better glory:

Per Se NY
Gruyere cheese gougeres

I’m a lover of choux (especially its pronunciation), and this half-a-bite of pastry stuffed with cheese was an excellent indication of what was to come. It tasted exactly like a Nips cracker! But didn’t leave the nasty soggy bits clinging to my teeth.

Per Se NY
salmon cornettes, chives

Biting into this was like eating a fishy potato chip. With chive!

At this point, our server brought me a tiny cushioned stool for my purse (apparently this is a thing now) and a Per Se notepad. I was taking notes in the little 3″x5″ notebook I always use, but apparently he thought it was too small and offered me the notepad. I declined, but he left it at the table just in case, and I ended up liking it and the protective cardstock cover that wraps around it so intricately that I’ve since used it at other restaurants, no doubt causing jealousy and scorn.

Per Se NY
“Oysters and Pearls”: “sabayon” of pearl tapioca, island creek oysters, sterling white sturgeon caviar

If you’ve never had oysters because you’re afraid of the texture or don’t know how to eat them, these are the first you should ever try. Unlike raw oysters, which you sort of massage between your tongue and teeth to extract the flavor before swallowing them, these cooked oysters fell apart in our mouths. That pure, clean ocean flavor I associate with oysters was still there, but otherwise, it was like eating a bowl of dumpling soup made extra-thick by the tapioca. Caviar is one of the more recent fruits of the sea I’ve begun to sample, so I usually find myself remembering what it is and getting weirded out halfway through any dish and leaving some of it behind; this just blended with the thick broth and the bite of the scallions so well, though, that I finished every last bite.

Jose’ Dhont, Blanc de Blanca, Oger MV

Per Se NY
egg custard, black truffle ragout, potato chive chip

The custard filling this eggshell (one of the best presentations possible, right?) was unflavored save a slight egginess, but I think it was the dense texture that was the point of it. The flavor came from the rich black truffle ragout, a buttery layer of liquid on top of the custard. The chip was oddly chewy but made for a nice truffle vessel.

Per Se NY
salt tasting

We were given salted and unsalted sweet butter, warm brioche rolls, and this array of salts ranging from Hawaiian volcanic to Himilayan to deep ocean. We basically had no idea what to do with them, so we spread a little butter on our rolls and sprinkled a little salt on top. Because of the tininess of the rolls, we were each only able to sample two or three of them. We were a little bewildered. As expected, we couldn’t taste the differences between them, but the texture differences were . . . interesting.

Per Se NY
cauliflower panna cotta, Iberico ham croquette, Big Island hearts of peach palm, compressed Granny Smith apple, hazelnuts, cilantro

Kamran called this “the baby food course” due to the texture of the dish’s focal point. The panna cotta was perfectly creamy, sweet, and salty with cool, refreshing tones provided by the apple and cilantro. The croquette, surprisingly, seemed like an afterthought; it was just a breaded chunk of ham. On the opposite end of the surprise meter were the simple hazelnuts sprinkled on top of the panna cotta, which were highly present both in their flavor and crunch.

Per Se NY
terrine of Hudson Valley moulard duck foie gras, white celery glaze, “Parisienne de Betteraves” (Parisian beets), baby leeks, sorrel, Blis Elixir (sherry vinegar), toasted brioche

This was the creamiest little sliver of foie gras with absolutely none of the bite organ meats sometimes have. We loved the ring of pepper on one side of the plate and the very pungent celery flavor from the glaze. We secretly wanted to spread it all over the soft rolls from the salt tasting course, but the crusty brioche was nice if extremely messy.

Per Se NY
herb roasted sturgeon “ail confit en persillade” (garlic confit and parsley): violet artichoke, parsley shoots, English pea coulis, Meyer lemon emulsion

This dish was such a pleasure because it was such a surprise. The drab colors on the plate made us think it was going to be a boring, throwaway course, but in fact, both the fish and the garlic packed a punch in entirely different ways. The confit garlic was soft enough to be made into a paste with the slightest fork-touch and sweet enough to not even be recognizable as garlic. The sturgeon was soaked through with this wonderful salty, smoky flavor that really complimented our dark, almost leathery wine. But as always, we couldn’t used a lot more lemon in that lemon emulsion.

Selbach-Oster, Riesling, Kabinett, “Zeltinger Sonnenuhr”, Mosel 2009
Willi Schaefer, Riesling, Auslese, “Graacher Domprobst #6”, Mosel 2005

Per Se NY
butter poached Nova Scotia lobster, brioche melba, caramelized salsify, romaine hearts, watercress, Squire Hill Farms’ hen egg purée

The meny changes daily at Per Se, so I was not only super-pleased but also a little relieved that it was a lobster night and not an octopus night. It makes sense that the colors in my photo look like neon puffy paint from the 90s, because this dish was a stand out. I wrote the word “buttery” down on my notepad three times, if that’s any indication of what the overarching flavor of it was. Even the romaine lettuce, probably the most boring ingredient ever next to boiled chicken, shocked me with how buttery it was. The crunchy melba with the springy lobster and the creamy puree was dreamy. The pairing of this with our wine made the wine taste like butterscotch.

Per Se NY
Liberty Farm’s Pekin Duck (Long Island duck, not Peking duck!) “Rôti á La Broche” (spit-roasted): Meiwa kumquats, Persian cucumbers, French breakfast radishes, red ribbon sorrel, basil-sesame purée

Maybe it was the sesame, or maybe my mind was tricking me with the distinction between Pekin and Peking, but this dish did taste Asian-influenced to me. I loved the spicy radish with the cool cucumber and the crispy skin of the tender duck.

Patrick Javilier, “Les Tillets”, Meursault 2008

Per Se NY
tenderloin of Marcho Farms’ veal, “coeur de veau” (veal heart), pickled cabbage créme fraîche, new crop potatoes, braised shallot, mâche

Beef heart! It was new to me, but the way it was sliced so thin made it taste as familiar as deli lunchmeat. The tenderloin itself was entirely undersalted, but we realized why when we tasted the salty accompaniments like the sour cabbage and soft potatoes.

Switchback Ridge, Merlot, Napa Valley 2007

Per Se NY
“Caerphilly”, heirloom carrots, young fennel, arugula leaves, fennel pollen grissini (breadstick)

This hard white cheese from Wales had just the right amount of funk to contrast the sweet yellow carrots (with their tops still on!) and to compliment the bite of the arugula. We loved the bacon, the spicy mustard, and the wheat beer pairing.

Allagash Brewing Co., “White”, Maine

Per Se NY
Young Coconut and Lemongrass “Float”: young coconut and lemongrass mousse, passion fruit meringue, coconut sorbet

This was a neat way of introducing the DESSERT ONSLAUGHT that was to following. The layering of different flavors in a cup is nothing new–I can’t count the number of times we’ve had a palate-cleanser of one or two bites thrown into a shot glass–but this one added a texture dimension that kicked it up a notch with everything from freeze-dried to foam. I can still taste the passion fruit meringue with its super-concentrated flavor.

Per Se NY
“Opera”: candied Marcona almonds, Manjari chocolate mousse, almond ice cream, “Whiskey Tonic”

The best thing about this dessert was that alienesque chocolate ball on the left. Its gelatin-like chocolate skin enveloped the chocolate mousse, so it was a weird, though enjoyable, soft-on-soft texture combination. Being a lemon freak, I loved the citrus gel and the way it so smoothly transitioned us into the next course of pure tang overload.

Per Se NY
“Florida Cocktail”: ruby grapefruit “biscuit,” Buddha’s hand soda, candied Cara Cara oranges, Okinawa brown sugar ice cream

This was another dish that displayed all that the Per Se pastry chefs can do with texture. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t pay better attention to the server’s description at the time, because this is certainly the first time I’ve ever been served Buddha’s hand, and not only can I not remember it, but I can’t even see anything in my photo that resembles soda. Maybe someone else who’s had the dish can remind me where I tasted it.

Felsina, Vin Santo, Chianti Classico 2001
Domaine Huet, “Clos du Bourg”, Moelleux, Vouvray 1985


“MIGNARDISES”: the barrage of post-dessert desserts that you have absolutely no chance of even making a dent in

Per Se NYPer Se NY
homemade chocolates

The best. We only took two each despite the lesson we learned at The Modern, but that’s okay where there are THIRTEEN KINDS OF SWEETS coming your way.

Per Se NY
bottom layer: coconut, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate truffles; middle layer: French macarons; top layer: caramels

I mean . . . come on. These are all of my favourite things in one neat little tri-level hinged box. To call these desserts “the best way to end a meal. ever.” is to do them a total disservice. The truffles were solid on the outside, creamy on the inside, and the kind of complimentary flavors that make you want to start over at the beginning once you’ve had all three. One of the macaron flavors was cinnamon, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t let Kamran have a single bite of any of those. The caramels weren’t the super-chewy, get-stuck-in-your-teeth kind but the super-homemade, melt-in-your-mouth kind.

Per Se NY
hard candies

These little slivers of candy were about the thickness of a chive and packed that much flavor, too. Even the anise one was delicious. We didn’t want to waste the already-nonexistent space in our bellies, so Kamran just shoveled handfuls of these into his jacket pocket so we could enjoy them for days afterward. Don’t tell anyone.

Per Se NY
chocolate-covered hazelnuts

These sweet nuts were dusted in about a pound of cocoa each, making for a thick layer of chocolate to bite through. It was perfect for those people I have nothing in common with who like not-sweet desserts.

Per Se NY
popcorn-flavored ice cream

This one-bite dish really did taste just like buttered popcorn! The outer shell was solid and had the crunch of the popcorn bits on its side, but the inside was pure creaminess.

Per Se NYPer Se NY
“coffee and donuts”: coffee ice cream and beignets

I like coffee, but I love coffee ice cream, so it was a real delight to dip my spoon into my little cup and find out it wasn’t filled with liquid. The beignets were perfectly light and fluffy and tasted much better with the coffee than they do with your usual chocolate sauce.


And that was that! We didn’t get to eat nearly as much of the dessert deluge as we wanted to, and I’m sure we could’ve knocked some more of it out had we been able to stick around longer, but A tasting menu with wine pairings is always much easier in thought than in execution. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t do it over and over again a thousand times.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Everything about Per Se is impeccable, from the service staff who know just how much attention to pay you to the houndstooth place settings to the ribbon-tied chocolate cookie sandwiches they send home with you. The view overlooking Central Park is one of the more romantic in all of NYC (so be sure you request a seat near the window when you make your reservation), and the decor is deep-hued enough to feel rich but modern enough to feel unpretentious. The food is the kind you remember long after you’ve forgotten what you had for lunch just yesterday, whether it be the actual taste of it or just the way your spoon felt in it. It’s truly a special kind of restaurant where you feel like the chef really considered everything from flavor to texture to what little extra might really knock your socks off when he imagined each dish. You sense that this is a restaurant always striving to do better than itself.

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

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