Per Se, NYC 5
May 20, 2014
Linda and I returned to Per Se to celebrate her birthday on March 24, 2014. We had been on the waiting list and were called the afternoon before offering an 8:00 seating.
There is a Chef’s Tasting Menu and a Vegetarian Menu, both for $310, including service, but not tax or beverages. There are a few alternative choices on the Chef’s Tasting Menu, all except one at significant supplements. From the i-Pad wine list with extensive choices, all expensive, we ordered a bottle of 2011 Brewer-Clifton (Santa Rita Hills) Pinot Noir.
We always enjoy Brewer-Clifton’s wines and find that the Pinot Noir goes with a wide variety of cuisine.
The first course was, as always at Per Se
“OYSTERS AND PEARLS”
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters
and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar
The oysters seemed particularly good this time. A delicious starter for which we always save some of our Champagne.
Linda’s second course was
“GÂTEAU” OF HUDSON VALLEY MOULARD DUCK FOIE GRAS
Royal Blenheim Apricots, Tokyo Turnips,
Brussels Sprouts and Whipped Honey Mustard
Served with Toasted Brioche
She said that the foie gras was as luscious as it should be, tasted alone or with the small very buttery brioche served alongside. The elegant tiny Tokyo turnips, apricot cylinders and tiny Brussels sprouts added crunchiness and color. The white stripe on the plate was the honey mustard.
SALAD OF HOLLAND WHITE ASPARAGUS
Cornbread “Panade,” Pickled California Rhubarb, Celery Relish,
Miner’s Lettuce and Grilled Green Almonds
A thick white asparagus stalk had been sliced in half lengthwise. It was breaded with cornbread and served with various “salad” toppings. The featured seasonal grilled green almonds were overly vinegary.
Our third course was
“CONFIT ” FILLET OF ATLANTIC HALIBUT
Caramelized Sunchoke Purée, Meiwa Kumquats,
Young Fennel and “Essensia Mousseline”
A chunk of halibut had been coated with a hollandaise enhanced with whipped cream and an orange-muscat wine. The slices of a sweet and sour kumquat were an inspired garnish that made this dish successful that otherwise would have been a bland combination.
BUTTER POACHED NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER
Sacramento Delta Green Asparagus, Romaine Lettuce,
Red Radishes and “Anchoïade”
This was very good; butter-poached lobster usually is. The anchovy sauce on the bottom added a nice fishy spark.
Linda’s first meat course was
“SUPRÊME DE POULARDE”
“Ris de Veau,” English Peas, Red Onion Rings and “Sauce Blanquette”
She said that the chicken breast meat was excellently prepared, the peas smelled and tasted of freshness and the onion rings colored with beet juice added a little crunch. The sweetbreads were cut in tiny pieces and had no discernible flavor.
FOUR STORY HILL FARM’S PORK JOWL
French Laundry Garden Leeks, Harry’s Berries “Sweet 100” Tomatoes,
Cocktail Artichokes and “Ranch Dressing”
This was disappointing. The skin of the pork jowl was not crusty enough and the meat not luscious enough. The garnishes made the dish seem like upscale airline food.
Our second meat course was
ELYSIAN F IELDS FARM’S LAMB
Smoked Ricotta “Pierogi,” Roasted Sweet Carrots, Fava Beans,
Braised Pine Nuts and Burnt Lemon Jus
The lamb and carrots were tender and good. The dumplings filled with smoked cheese were very nice, but the half Eastern European, half Mediterranean combination of the dish did not meld well.
Our cheese course was
JASPER HILL FARM’S “MOSES SLEEPER”
Toasted Oat “Tuile,” Heirloom Beets, Fuji Apples,
Red Ribbon Sorrel and English Walnuts
This dish had not been out of the refrigerator long enough and was uninteresting.
“ASSORTMENT OF DESSERTS”
Fruit, Ice Cream, Chocolate and “Candies”
(The ingredients below are from my notes taken from the waiters’ descriptions. They are incomplete and may not be accurate.)
The desserts started with a glass filled with a citrus granité, custard ice cream and rhubarb purée; an okay palate freshener.
Linda was served a luscious slice for her birthday. It was presented as an “Opéra.” As usual, there is a dispute as to the proper recipe. One source says: “It is made with layers of almond sponge cake (known as Joconde in French) soaked in coffee syrup, layered with ganache and coffee buttercream, and covered in a chocolate glaze.”
Festive and good.
At the end we were served Thomas Keller’s signature finish: “coffee and doughnuts.”
The “coffee” is a cappuccino semi-freddo. The sugar doughnut was fresh and hot, but I could not even think about having more sugar at this point.
The ambience was very nice and the noise level low. The pace was good; the service from the multinational servers was efficient, but not always gracious. Their accents sometimes lacked clarity.
The cuisine this evening was not up to Per Se’s reputation and prices. Half of the courses met that standard, but none were memorable and some were too typical of other fine dining restaurants. While I was not expecting a level to match the top European or Japanese restaurants, this did not approach the level of our recent meals in the U.S. at Atelier Crenn, Saison and Atera.
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Per Se’s website: www.perseny.com