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The Tasting Menu at Le Cinq, Four Seasons Hotel, Paris
Oct 25th, 2017 by donuts4dinner

I read aaaaall about the ten restaurants in Paris with three Michelin stars before my fiancé and I visited with the hope that one would stand out to me. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée was the most beautiful one. Astrance was the hardest to get into. Arpège was the vegetable-focused one. And then I read the review that opened the heavens and shone a light on the perfect three-star for me: Jay Rayner’s takedown of Le Cinq in The Guardian. It’s not worth your time to bother with the actual review–it reads like it’s written by someone who won’t go to a fine dining restaurant because they won’t let him wear cargo shorts–but this Eater post with cats reciting the worst lines is pretty fun!

A Barbie-sized silicone breast implant? Something so acidic you could use it to shine a coin? Sea urchin ice cream?! Sign me up!

Click here to read more ≫

Gabriel Kreuther Probably Deserves More Than One Michelin Star
Aug 23rd, 2016 by donuts4dinner

Chef Gabriel Kreuther left the Michelin-starred Modern a couple of years ago and took his pastry chef with him to open up his new namesake space in the Grace Building across from Bryant Park. Beloved from the get-go, the restaurant earned a Michelin star of its own in its first year, but having tried the 4-course, $125 tasting menu a few weeks ago, I can’t imagine that it won’t gain another star or even two in the coming years.

It wasn’t as fussy as the three-Michelin-starred favorites in the city thanks to touches of whimsy here and there in elements like a stork-patterned wallpaper (the stork is a symbol of rebirth in Kreuther’s native Alsatian homeland), but the main dining room felt classic and elegant with its cushy cream banquettes and exposed wood beams. The food was stunningly beautiful but still at times a little silly, and I mean that in the best way. Who doesn’t want a mezcal cocktail served in a coconut shell in the middle of a frou-frou French meal?

Click here to read more ≫

The Tasting Menu at Daniel
Mar 22nd, 2013 by donuts4dinner

I called our first visit to Daniel back in 2011 “as close to perfect a meal as Kamran and I have had in NYC”. It was our first time at a restaurant with three Michelin stars and our first time eating one of these over-the-top, wine-paired, France-fueled tasting menus.

Since then, we’ve been to all but one of the three-Michelin-starred places (if anyone wants to put in a good word for Masa, I’m listening) and have basically had so much good food that we’ve started to question whether or not it’s been a mistake to ruin ourselves for mediocre food, so we decided it was time to go back to Daniel and see if our first time still holds up.

This is the six-course tasting for $195 (with an added cheese course for $50), paired with wine for $105:

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
amuse bouche trio

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
amuse: salmon, pumpernickel, mustard

Mostly salmony but with just a hint of that bitter rye flavor.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
amuse: parsnip, onion jam

Creamy/crunchy/chewy textures, with chive oil at the bottom to add to and contrast with the flavor of the onion jam on top.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
amuse: shrimp, cilantro, parsnip confit

The most perfect, most singular bite of shrimp, with citrus flavor and the crunch of the confit parsnip chip below.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
Lauer Riesling “Ayler Kupp Faß 6 ‘Senior’”, Mosel, Germany 2011

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
squab terrine with pickled shiitake, confit grapes, muscat gelée, purple watercress, pistachio oil, young vegetables

Pretty gamey-tasting with a ham-like texture that made this like enjoying a charcuterie plate, sour gelee, and a very fresh, almost vegetal-flavored pistachio oil swipe.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
duck terrine with red wine poached forelle pear, Asian pear, ginger-onion jam, mâche salad

Sweet and creamy, with crisp brioche toast points. This was the gentler counterpart to the funky squab thanks to its sweet onions and crisp pears, which I love the texture of in any dish but especially in very homogenous ones.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
Salomon Undhof, Grüner Veltliner “Hochterrassen”, Kremstal 2011

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
Maine peekytoe crab salad with granny smith apple, pickled cranberries, celery shavings, walnut oil

This was one of my favourite dishes on both visits. Not only is crab just simply delicious, but Daniel knows just the fresh elements to pair with it to make it really sing, for lack of a better metaphor. Subtle and sweet with a vinegary celery sauce to make it bright. I don’t think anything was better for me all night than that first forkful of crab, celery leaves, and crisp apple.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
olive oil poached cod salad, mussel-parsley vinaigrette, pickled hon shimeji mushroom, chorizo, artichoke, smoked sablefish

These tender hunks of fish were served cold and had much stronger flavors than their crab counterpart thanks to a meaty mussel sauce and brunoise of bold chorizo. A combination of fresh and wilted leaves gave it differing textures.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
Florida frog legs fricassée, red wine stewed rye berry, kale, crispy shallot

My first frog! Except for the lollipop, which seemed more familiar due to its breading, I thought this had its own slightly aquatic flavor and didn’t just “taste like chicken”. The texture of the smaller bits reminded me a lot of sweetbreads with the way it was chewy and segmented. I loved the deep stew-like flavors of the this and the texture of the crispy kale.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
fennel ravioli with Scottish langoustines, sautéed cuttlefish, Sicilian green olive, artichoke and saffron cream sauce

Have I mentioned that Daniel really knows what they’re doing with shrimp? The sweet shellfish flavor was so strong in this despite the relatively bold flavors of fennel and olive. It was so buttery and familiar, less exciting than the frog legs but more comforting. I think I’m finally getting used to the taste of olives, too, because when I tasted them in this dish, it was more “that’s what an olive tastes like” than “eww, what is that weird gross flavor?” Grownup!

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
Copain, Pinot Noir “Tous Ensemble”, Anderson Valley, California 2010

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
grilled swordfish, pine needle gremolata, gourgane panisse, Brussels sprouts, pioppini mushroom, sauce diable

Our first time at Daniel, we were impressed by the way the kitchen made tuna taste like steak and sole taste like chicken, and this was another instance of their uncanny ability to bring the sea to land. It was just so much like eating a piece of steak, and the fava bean/chickpea cake was such the perfect starch to accompany it with its crispy exterior and dense middle. I loved the buttery Brussels sprout, the fresh garbanzos, and just the slightest heat from the sauce.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
oven baked black sea bass with syrah sauce, crispy yukon gold potato with tellicherry pepper, kale flan, shallot marmalade

Not really a kale flan but more like a crumbly kale cookie, with fresh bitter kale leaves on top. Deliiiiicious little cylinder of creamy potatoes with a crunchy shell. Sticky, dark sauce. The only misstep for me was the lack of crispy skin on the fish; the other elements on the plate were simply much more interesting than the sea bass.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
trio of milk fed veal, roasted tenderloin with king oyster, cheek “blanquette” with parsnip purée, crispy sweetbreads with green peppercorn jus

What’s more luxurious than a plate full of different kinds of baby cow? The tenderloin was tender, but the blanquette must have started cooking before that little veal was even born to have made it so buttery soft. The sweetbreads were very familiar inside, but the coating was this thick, flour-heavy batter I haven’t tasted before. Even the herbs themselves were salty and delicious; a lot of care was clearly put into this dish.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
duo of beef, braised black angus short ribs, wild mushroom fricassée with horseradish, seared wagyu tenderloin, rutabaga-mace purée, glazed chestnuts

I loved that this dish and the veal were just pure hunks of meat, unadulterated but for some sauce. The sticky sweet tender shortrib was such the perfect juxtaposition to the hard-seared wagyu. The chestnuts provided just enough texture contrast to the purées but were still softened and sweet.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
cheese plate

The frommelier (apparently this is a totally real word used to describe the fromage version of the wine sommelier) brought her cheese cart around to our table and named each selection. We knew we wanted the super-stinky Époisses de Bourgogne but otherwise left ourselves in her hands and received a plate with six different kinds ranging from firm to soft and sweet to stinky and goaty to sheepy to cowy. Slices of bread, apricots, cherries, and the sweetest red wine gelee accompanied them, and when we couldn’t begin to finish the plate, everything was wrapped up for us to take home.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
tropical-coconut vacherin, guava gel, mango-vanilla swirl, meringue

I secretly think meringue is too simple and bland when anything else is available, but this dessert really worked for me. The layers of whipped cream and cold meringue were so creamy and sweet, and then the fruits on the side packed a sour punch. I loved the guava gel specifically as someone who’s into tart flavors enough to go around sucking on lemons.

served with Château Pajzos 5 Puttonyos Aszú, Tokaji 2003

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
warm guanaja chocolate coulant, liquid caramel, fleur de sel, milk sorbet

This was the same chocolate cake I had back in 2011. The crunchy exterior gave way to a gooey molten center that oozed out onto the plate. Simple. But perfect.

served with Domaine de Rancy Rivesaltes Ambré, Roussillon 1996

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC
chocolate cake with lime

Last time, we were celebrating my boyfriend finishing law school. This time, we weren’t celebrating anything special, but the kitchen still sent us this extra dessert. We saw a lot of extra desserts going around that night, many with little notes written in chocolate on the plates. It’s little touches like this that make Daniel feel special. The fact that I especially loved this because of the super-sour lime gel didn’t hurt, either.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC

The Michelin Guide calls Daniel “luxury in the traditional style”, and I really think 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, creating this very protected and intimate feel, and the sunken center means that diners on the perimeter have a view of what everyone else is doing. I’m sure it doesn’t compare to dining in the skybox overlooking the kitchen, but I felt pretty regal at my spot along the wall on a plush banquette lit only by a candle and being served by friendly-yet-professional Frenchies. Pretty close to perfect indeed.

Daniel Tasting Menu, NYC

Daniel
60 East 65th Street
New York, NY 10065 (map)

The Tasting Menu at Bouley
Mar 13th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

My boyfriend and I have long had Bouley on our radar, but when we wanted to try a David Bouley restaurant, we went for his newer, Japanese kaiseki one, Brushstroke, and had a 4.5-donut experience. We’ve been trying to cover some new ground lately, though, and thought maybe it was time to pay respect to his eponymous restaurant that was so huge in the 80s and recently saw a facelift in the late 00s.

We booked dinner simply because we saw a reservation available on OpenTable, but as we looked into visiting, we wondered if we hadn’t made a very costly mistake. Dinner at Bouley is $175 for six courses, $280 with wine. Lunch is five courses for $55. So the darkness and that one extra course cost you $120. We thought about trying to switch to lunch. We thought about canceling our reservation completely after reading some of the unflattering reviews floating around the Internet. But we ultimately decided to go for the full dinner tasting menu and judge for ourselves, expectations appropriately set.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

Bouley (pronounced “boo-LAY”, just in case you’re like me and assume every name has an American pronunciation) is opulent. It’s like a country home where everything has been coated in gold leaf. Heavy drapes, tall candles, fresh flowers everywhere. Wood, iron, vaulted ceilings. Bathrooms the size of most NYC apartments and laden with enough tapestry to dress every diner for life. Private dining rooms where every inch seems to be covered in red velvet. Even the picture frames are upholstered in purple velvet. And the foyer is lined from floor to ceiling with shelves of apples so that the room smells like an orchard.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
amuse: blue cheese foam, beets, pecans

Very beety, with plenty of blue cheese flavor and nutty sweetness.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
amuse: kuzu, black truffle, aligot

Japanese flatbread, truffle, potato and cheese sauce. Yes.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
fresh Malibu sea urchin terrine

On top of and inside this cold aspic (savory gelatin) was uni made extra sweet by broiling. The complex ocean flavor of this dish was balanced by the cream and caviar underneath.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
forager’s treasure of wild mushrooms, sweet garlic, special spices, grilled toro, black truffle dressing

If you knew me just a few years ago, the idea of my ordering an all-mushroom course would be hilarious to you. I remember being at Cafeteria in Chelsea one night on one of my first dates with my boyfriend and piling millimeter-long chips of mushroom from my risotto on one side of my bowl and hoping he wouldn’t notice. But ever since I had the wild mushroom salad with jalapeno puree at Momofuku Ko forced on me and found it one of the most unforgettable dishes of my life, I’ll give any mushroom a try.

These were sweet, a little spicy with something like cinnamon or nutmeg, and so umami with that Parmesan foam and black truffle. There were so many textures on the plate, including an entirely different one from the grilled tuna.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
bread service

The bread man with his cage full of fresh loaves came to our table and offered us slices of anything we wanted. The flavors were varied and interesting: saffron, sourdough, black currant, French onion. I loved how different and personal the service was.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
porcini flan, Alaska live dungeness crab, black truffle dashi

Our server described this as a chawanmushi, but all of the chawanmushis I’ve had have been thick, broth-less custards. This was more like a creamy crab soup with a broth flavored like yuzu and cardamom. They sure didn’t skimp on the crab, though.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
live Scottish langoustine, bay scallops, some sort of mango sauce

Sweet, with perfectly-cooked langoustine and scallops. The sauce was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. Maybe it could have been more spicy and salty for my taste, but it really let the natural flavors of the scallops and langoustine shine through.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
pistachio miso marinated fresh black cod

Flaky fish, smoky almond milk, and so much sweet ginger.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
Chatham day boat lobster, turnip, black truffle

Tender, buttery lobster with a crunchy black truffle julienne. I enjoyed the texture contrast between the slice of turnip on top and the puree underneath.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
Japanese true Kobe mille-feuille, toasted garlic, frisée, carrot, turmeric ($50 supplement)

We’ve had a lot of Kobe, a lot of Wagyu, and a lot of Kobe and Wagyu that were probably not actually Kobe and Wagyu, so we wanted to try this “true Kobe”. Just to be sure. We were both entirely underwhelmed. The point of eating a really good piece of beef for me is to cut through it and notice how tender it is, but with the way this was sliced so thin, any cut would have been tender. Although I liked the crunchy texture with the beef, the watery frisée completely diluted the taste of the Kobe. Having just had the much-better calotte de boeuf at Per Se last month, this was an unfortunate let-down, and one that came with a hefty price tag.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
organic Long Island duck, black Nevada dates, Hudson Valley organic hand milled polenta, Washington huckleberry

Delicious crispy skin aside, the star of this was the date “paper” spread on the bottom of the dish. When heated, it became like a sauce, and it formed such an interesting new flavor when eaten with the lima beans. I loved the black pepper chunks in the polenta and the buttery fingerling potatoes served on the side.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
white chocolate cloud, green tea foam

Light and fluffy on top, a little icy on the bottom, and milky throughout. When the server put this down, my boyfriend and I immediately went to work imagining how it was made, and when the woman next to us tried to ask her date the same thing, he said, “Let’s wait for our neighbors to figure it out.” Food nerds!

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
tangerine, clementine, Mandarin parfait, lychee sorbet

This very sweet and lychee-ful sorbet made the accompanying fruits VERY tart. This was a complex dish that I secretly wanted to simplify by just eating a big, ol’ scoop of that delicious sorbet.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
chilled fall rhubarb soup, Santa Barbara organic strawberries, buckwheat gelato

Mmm, grain-flavored gelato. I wasn’t a huge fan of it on its own, but the creamy soup and strawberries (which were such a treat out of season) were so pleasant with it, and my boyfriend actually liked that it was like eating a field.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
tree ripened golden Hawaiian pineapple soufflé, pistachio melting core, 10 exotic flavor sorbet

Not a souffle in the molten cake sort of way but more like a meringue. “Pineapple egg foam”, we called it. So many things were good about this, from the warm pineapple chunks throughout to the sugar granules on the bottom to the unexpected pistachio core. The “10 exotic flavor sorbet” was really just two flavors for us: pineapple and yuzu. But it was very intense and delicious.

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu
hot Valrhona chocolate soufflé, white coffee cloud, coffee ice cream, chocolate mousse

This was the souffle I was expecting, with a liquid center and a little crunch to the exterior. I liked the semi-sweet mousse and the crumbled cookie crisp, but the coffee ice cream really made the dish.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarBlank Star

 Bouley NYC Tasting Menu

Truthfully, the food at Bouley was only okay. It looks like it should have three Michelin stars, but it only has one, and the reviews about it wavering from delicious to just decent were spot-on. Date paper duck? Delicious. Kobe that should be pretty hard to not make amazing? Just decent. For the price, which is well above a lot of the better tasting menus in the city, I would either expect plenty of off-menu courses (think Eleven Madison Park, where you could almost make a meal of all of the amuses they bring you) or at the very least, much more complete courses; two langoustines and three bay scallops does not a complete dish make. This was the same complaint I had about the three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin, though, so perhaps the protein with very little else is just the mark of a really French-y restaurant.

And yet, we left Bouley talking about what a great time it was. Despite not loving all of the food, we loved the experience of eating here. The decor is completely different than in any other fine dining room we’ve seen in NYC–not modern and simple but full and almost flamboyant. When I asked the sommelier, who was excellent, if I could take photos of the bottles, he said, “You SHOULD!” The guy on the bread cart joked with us every time he wheeled by, while the more serious servers would slide the food down in front of us, rattle off the ingredients in their French accents, and turn on a dime to go back and stand in their corners. It didn’t feel stuffy here, just professional and special. Maybe I’m not dying to go back for the food, but the overall dinner was something I’ll talk about.

Bouley
163 Duane Street
New York, NY 10013 (map)

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)

Minetta Tavern: the Burger, the Bacon, and More
Feb 27th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

Stepping into Minetta Tavern, you can’t help but feel reminded that this is New York City you’re in. The bar is packed for Sunday brunch, with fortysomething women turned backward on their barstools to flirt with fiftysomething men. The floor is that classic checkered black-and-white, the ceiling is hammered tin, and the walls are covered in a mural that looks like it’s been there since the 1800s. Only the Minetta Tavern of today opened in 2009. It was opened by Keith McNally of Frenchy favourites Balthazar and Pastis, though, so you can bet it’s the perfect mix of the used up Minetta Tavern of the 1930s and sparkling new, classic and newly-conceived. And nearly impossible to get a reservation at.

My boyfriend and I went solely for the Black Label Burger, which is mostly talked about because of its $26 price tag. And also because it’s really, really good.

Minetta Tavern NYC
Black Label burger

A mix of different meats from famed purveyor Pat LaFrieda, this thing is dry-aged for weeks like a fine steak is. The New York Times review that gave Minetta Tavern three stars said, “It’s without question a riveting experience, because burgers seldom pack the discernible tang and funk of aged beef. But for that same reason, it’s unsettling and arguably too intense.” MAYBE FOR A PANSY. For me, biting into this thing with its caramelized onion topping was like sipping a cup of French onion soup. Beefy French onion soup. Except better, because it was on a bun. The meat was so dark and had such deep, rich flavors that it tasted expensive, gentlemanly, and refined. Served with a side of slightly crispy, slightly curly fries to soak up all of those beef juices.

Minetta Tavern NYC

Minetta Tavern NYC
“fried green tomatoes”

Neither fried nor green, these tomatoes were a big broiled disappointment when they arrived at our table. But once we got over the menu lying to us, we found that these were perfect to spread over our burgers like natural ketchup. Of course the burger was perfection on its own and didn’t need them, but at least we found something to do with them aside from throwing them onto the floor in anger.

Minetta Tavern NYC
thick-cut bacon

The bacon was your steakhouse staple, with that just-right chewy-melty combination of meat and fat.

Minetta Tavern NYC
Green Mary cocktail

The bloody mary list is five-deep and ingredient-thick here, and this one had green tomatoes, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and Southwestern spices. Tex-Mex in a glass.

Minetta Tavern NYC
coconut layer cake

With fresh coconut in the cream and toasted coconut on top to make it extra coconutty, and a nice, balanced amount of sweetness. There are rumors of rum being added to the cake, which would explain how moist it was.

Minetta Tavern NYC

Living in a city so crowded, I have a preference for sparse, modern, clean-lined dining rooms, but I have to admit that I was charmed by the hubbub and ballyhoo of Minetta Tavern. It felt like half of NYC was crammed into the restaurant that afternoon, all of us sipping cocktails and listening to the conversations of the people next to us.

Minetta Tavern NYC

Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012 (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 Tasting Menu at Corton
Jan 30th, 2013 by donuts4dinner

My boyfriend and I were looking for a tasting menu for last weekend. We mentioned Corton and then moved past it, figuring that there’s a whole world of NYC restaurants we haven’t been to. For days, we mulled over Gramercy Tavern, Corton, Scarpetta, Corton, Ai Fiori, Corton, Aldea . . . and then we actually read the menu on Corton’s website. SOLD. “Wacked-out modernist cuisine”, my boyfriend calls it. With two much-deserved Michelin stars to boot.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

This is the $155 tasting menu with wine pairings also at $155:

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

This cracker with a micro shiso leaf (that’s Japanese mint, although it has a flavor all its own) came way too fast for me to have my memory-bearings about me. You can’t beat the cuteness of that leaf, though.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
arugula Gorgonzola cake

Soft and slightly bitter, with a kick of blue cheese.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
lemongrass tuile and some fried balls of something

The tuile (or crispy wafer) tasted like Froot Loops, and we seem to think the fried balls were cheesy, but don’t make this your sole reason for making a reservation just in case I’m wrong. They were served alongside a homemade XO sauce (that’s Chinese dried seafood sauce, although I think any non-seafood-lover would like it), and we love XO, but the fried ball was sadly the wrong vessel for the sauce, and I didn’t get the flavor of it at all.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
XO sauce

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
pretzel and candied chestnut brioche

Pretzels in the bread basket make me swoon. So did the candied square of chestnut at the center of this roll.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
sweet cream butter, apricot black olive butter

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
black bean chawanmushi, confit citrus

There was about an eighth of an inch of custard in this pot, but it packed a salty flavor punch with notes of bacon and leafy greens. The confit citrus peel was a deliiiiicious crunchy addition. Black bean and orange–who knew?

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
black truffle: classic foie gras and black truffle spiral, toasted buckwheat, kombu toffee

I love how the menu calls this a “classic foie gras and black truffle spiral”. I’ve never seen anything remotely resembling it before. The foie torchon (so smooth, so creamy) was surrounded by a gelee layer of black truffle that was unfortunately overpowered by the flavor of the liver, but the dish overall was really nice and really savory. For someone who likes the flavor of mushrooms but thinks they’re kind of weird-looking and weird-feeling, this completely homogenous sauce-like preparation was perfect, and the apple sliver and crisp kombu (kelp) strip added the necessary crunch. A scoop of radish added brightness and sourness. The toasted buckwheat roll on the side was perfectly soft on the inside but provided enough structure to make a great foie vessel.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
spirit of sweet potato: sweet potato gnocchi, pumpkin seeds, warm Serrano ham consomme

The juxtaposition between the rich potato gnocchi and ham consomme and the fresh leaves and tiny romanesco (prettiest vegetable ever, right?) made this a much more complex dish than I expected at first glance. The egg nestled next to the gnocchi broke to spread a single drop of balsamic, making the consomme even richer.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
smoke and winter: flavors of smoke and winter–smoked cod cheek, smoked mackerel, ricotta whey, whole grain mustard and hazelnut, green olive paste

I was excited to try my first cod cheek (foreground), but the sliver of smoked mackerel (background) was actually more flavorful and more tender. This wasn’t the first fish in whey I’ve had recently, and I still love the tenderness and simplicity it lends to a seafood dish. I also liked the crunchy whole-grain mustard and the meringue-like texture of the triangular black . . . thing.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
kalamansi mandarin mochi, Persian lime

This little sweet and sour ball was delivered in a box dotted with ripe calamansi (sour citrus) fruits. I almost didn’t expect it to be sweet, coming so soon in the meal, but it was a whirl of orange-y, lime-y, yuzu-y ice cream wrapped in a mochi skin. I loved the little speck of gold leaf, because I am a glutton for luxury.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
Atlantic turbot, fine mousseline of white pine and black truffle, delicate puree of Winesap apple and pine, bergamot paste, creamy veloute of chestnut and mussel

Wonderfully gelatinous charred turbot belly (foreground right), a curry-like sauce, sweet apple gel, a tender mussel, cabbage stuffed with chopped chestnut and resembling a little brain (background left), a tiny caterpillar-like cylinder of something crunchy like a radish (background right). The “tarte rouge” served on the side was like a side salad with fresh beets and radishes and a cracker instead of croutons. The yuzu cream on the edge of the plate–heaven.

This dish was a huge mishmash of textures and sour and bitter flavors. I’m not sure how composed you can call a dish with so many elements, but I’m not sure I care about composition when everything is so delicious and interesting.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
tart rouge

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
buckwheat soup dumpling with oxtail, truffle, sweet bread

I’ve had a soup dumpling or two hundred in my time in NYC, but this sour-rich-deep-dark one was completely new to me. We debated about whether the oxtail, truffle, and sweetbreads were all necessary since none of those specific flavors came through, but we decided that the dumpling wouldn’t have tasted the same without each one of them, that the overall outcome was more important than the presence of individual ingredients. My boyfriend said it reminded him of a Persian beef stew with Persian lime.

Also: gold leaf.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
calotte de boeuf cooked in black birch, slow-cooked oxtail, turnip and white miso puree

Apparently the calotte de boeuf is the meat that forms that cap of a prime rib. This is either the best part of the cow or the part that butchers throw away, depending on which blog Google directs you to. Apparently this cut is sometimes called deckle but is different than the deckle used in pastrami. I’m confused. But I’m not confused about how totally tasty, totally homey, totally sausage-y this calotte was–completely at odds with the sour black miso and onion served on the side. I loved the tender artichoke slice (foreground right), but the best part of the dish was the little chilled cube of gelatinous tea (background left). Something about how delicious it was just sent me over the edge, and I had to stop eating for a second to keep from crying. WHAT.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
black miso and onion

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
tartare de boeuf, delicate gelee of beef shin, green mango, hazelnut cream

Served on the side of the calotte was this tartare with chive and onion flavors and that sweet and fatty gelee underneath. The “bread” was a puffed beef tendon similar to the one we saw at wd~50 a few months ago. It’s like a packing peanut covered in movie popcorn butter. This one wasn’t as buttery as theirs, but I was happy to see it on another dish at all.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
beef tendon

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
Salers raw cow’s milk cheese from the Auvergne region in France, lemon date gelee, sable of Malabar pepper

“These cows graze on shoots”, our server told us, “so it’s a very floral cheese.” What he meant was that this was going to taste like a really stanky barnyard. Luckily, it was diluted by the sweet fig and Malabar (Indian) spice-covered bread sliver that reminded us of gingerbread. The gelee was unfortunately unflavored, but overall, I thought it a well-composed dish.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
tarte a l’orange

This was shown to us whole and then whisked away to the kitchen so that we’d forget about it and enjoy the two bites that would arrive on our next plate.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

The sommelier, if it’s not clear, was excellent.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
tarte a l’orange: blood orange tart, blood orange sorbet, blood orange dentil

This blood orange sorbet tasted like the white Smarties candies. My boyfriend observed this with his extra-attuned palate, and he was entirely correct. The tart was like an old-fashioned cream pie with a pink iridescent top, and the sorbet was almost too sour for how tame the flavor of the pie was, but both were delicious in their own right. They also made our glasses of Sauternes taste herbal. I can’t find any information about what a culinary dentil is that doesn’t involve Chef Paul Liebrandt, but its traditional definition calls it an architectural detail, so maybe the delicate slice of blood orange candy garnishing the sorbet is the architectural detail on this dessert in Chef Liebrandt’s eyes.

Also: gold leaf.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
fig: cremeux of Mast Brothers Moho River Chocolate, black mission fig ice cream, tarragon gelee

There was again no discernible flavor to this gelee, but the creamy dark Brooklyn chocolate with notes of peanut butter made up for that in spades. I loved the texture of the seeds in the fig and the fact that it was cold.

Also: gold leaf.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
mulled wine pate de fruits

Just as bursting with flavor as you want them to be.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
nougat

Is anything more seemingly-boring and yet actually-delicious than nougat? It was so good that I got distracted and have no idea what the pastry was. But I do know that the chocolate on top is Chef Liebrandt’s initials.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Something chocolatey!

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

A tray of French macarons being lowered onto the table.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
banana and gingerbread French macarons

Perfection.

Corton NYC Tasting Menu
assorted chocolates

Included a grapefruit one that we both agreed was straight-up gross, and I say that as someone who simply loves grapefruit. Luckily, I had saved the salty caramel one for last and made up for it.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Corton NYC Tasting Menu

Even as someone who has given Corton a perfect rating both times I’ve visited, I can see why the reviews of it include extreme highs and extreme lows. It has, for instance, only three and a half out of five stars on Yelp but also two out of three Michelin stars on a list that only includes about fifty New York City restaurants. The “problem” with Corton is two-fold:

1) There are a LOT of ingredients on the plate. You can rarely taste all of them, which leads you to question how necessary they are.

2) The portions are extremely small. It’s not a matter of my being a glutton, because I always leave Corton satisfied with plenty of dessert left on the table. The problem is that I want to taste each element on its own and with the other elements on the plate. This just isn’t possible when there’s one bite of smoked mackerel, one petal of artichoke, a piece of turbot belly that isn’t even equal to a single forkful. Once you taste it, it’s gone. I think this could come off as too precious to someone who doesn’t have patience for rarefied food.

Despite these complaints, the overall effect of the dishes at Corton is still, for me, sheer bliss. To me, the preciousness feels special, not stupid. Because there’s so little of everything, every single bite has to be perfect. And I haven’t been anywhere in NYC that’s making this kind of tiny-yet-hugely-thoughtful food. But let me know if you do, because my life is pretty low on five-donut dinners at the moment.

Corton
239 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013 (map)

Tocqueville Continues to Go Above and Beyond
Jun 25th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

With their creative, delicious dishes and impressive service that always delivers more than expected, it’s no wonder Tocqueville has long been one of my favourite NYC restaurants. They’re so good to their repeat customers that I secretly felt a little guilty buying the incredibly cheap four-course tasting deal that came up on Gilt City recently, but it was a great excuse to invite along some friends who hadn’t yet tried the restaurant. I walked away with my Tocqueville love reaffirmed, and they walked away with plans to return as soon as possible.

Tocqueville NYC
warm cheese gougeres

Brought to the bar area while we enjoyed some wine and whiskey, these had just enough jalapeno to add a kick without overpowering the cheese flavor inside.

Tocqueville NYC
The Thinking Man’s Man: Isle of Jura ‘Superstition’ Single Malt, Amaro Ciao Ciaro, Agustura Bitters, Lucid absinthe wash, chamomile grappa sugar cube

Once we were seated in the dining room, the kitchen sent out a sampling of snacks from the bar, starting with a fresh basket of gougeres and continuing with:

Tocqueville NYC
red beet canelloni with Montrachet goat cheese

Simple and beautiful, this incredibly crisp sweet beet wrapper paired so nicely with the dense, tangy cheese inside.

Tocqueville NYC
croquettes of celery root and potato, black truffle mayonnaise

So decadent, with the entire slice of truffle over the already truffle-infused mayo. The bright bite of the celery balanced the rich, earthy truffle and potato.

Tocqueville NYC

Tocqueville NYC
crab salad

Tocqueville NYC
Cato Farm Bloomsday aged cheddar salad, roasted bosc pear, fennel, frisee, hazelnut dressing

I generally don’t approve of salad, but biting into this one was like eating a really complex savory dessert. The hazelnuts were caramelized and broke apart like toffee, and the pear was divinely sugary and tender. The sweetness of the dish never overpowered the tang of the cheese nor the bitterness of the greens, though. Now I understand why my boyfriend orders this almost every time we visit.

Tocqueville NYC
truffled creamy Parmesan grits and sunny side up country egg: Squire Hill Farm Araucana egg, house cured veal bacon

Grits and eggs seem like such the low-brow rural breakfast, but they don’t make grits like this on the farm. So thick and frothy to begin with, they became even richer when I plunged my fork into the egg and swirled its dense center deep into a dish already heavy with truffles. The bacon, remarkably, was the lightest element on the plate; its prosciutto-like texture allowed it to unify with the grits rather than battle against them like fried bacon would.

Tocqueville NYC
seared diver scallops and foie gras, wild mushrooms, braised artichoke, cider vinegar gastrique

It seems too indulgent to have two pleasures like this on the same plate. The fresh, mild scallop and assertive, funky liver should have been at odds with each other but were perfect dishmates in this sour sauce that lent depth to the seafood and brightness to the offal.

Tocqueville NYC
lightly smoked duck breast, baby bok choy, Asian pears, citrus-star anise consommé

If the kitchen was trying to lure us back soon to try the rest of the current dinner menu when they so graciously sent this dish out to us, they knew what they were doing. Even the duck-skeptic among us was convinced by this absolutely gorgeous slice of breast in its orangey-licoricey broth. The bok choy took on a new personality when its bitterness was subdued by the sweetness of the sauce, its usually-limp leaves suddenly seeming like a welcome fruit of the summer harvest.

Tocqueville NYC
chocolate souffle, cherry ice cream

I usually look to Tocqueville for the light, citrus-based desserts, but I’ll never argue with an airy chocolate cake. This one was a bit dry and could have benefited from a sauce poured over top with the first bite, but the side of cherry ice cream with its extra-sweet but not extra-medicinal flavor and beautiful fruit splayed on top provided the moisture we needed.

Tocqueville NYC
mignardises

We’d already seen twice as many courses than we’d expected, but of course Tocqueville delivered their plate of petit fours to make the meal a complete feast. And you can bet I ate one of the macarons.

Tocqueville
1 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10003 (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)

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