Per Se

Monday afternoon I was riding up to the Bronx for a late day meeting. Since I never have much “above ground” train time, I used it as an opportunity to peruse some of my favorite food blogs.  I just happened to look at Eater where they had a report that Per Se was going to start serving an a la carte menu in the lounge that very day!

Holy Cats!Anyone who knows about food, knows about Per Se. And anyone who knows about Per Se, knows it is extremely hard to get into and very expensive.  $275 for a prix fix dinner (not including wine, etc) and usually requiring a 30 day in advance reservation.  So when I heard Per Se was going to start this offer, I knew I had a golden opportunity.  I was so excited I decided to go that very night. As soon as my meeting was over I headed back into Manhattan and right to the Time Warner Center.

I knew they opened at 5:30 and it was only about 5:15 when I arrived. I decided to grab a glass of wine at the Bouchon Bakery bar. I didn’t want to be the first person there after all!  I tried to drink it slow, sipping like a proper lady, but I was so excited!!  By 5:32 my wine glass was empty and I was shaking with anticipation. I couldn’t wait a minute longer so I headed upstairs.  The velvet rope was gone from the entrance and I could see the blue doors of French Laundry fame. I was so giddy, so excited and maybe a little buzzed from slamming that glass of wine. I walked right up and pulled on the silver handle.

Nothing happened.

So I pulled again. Again nothing.

So then I gave a push and another push.

Push, pull, push, pull- what the hell?

I’m sure they said they opened at 5:30.

Then I see a woman standing to the left, waving me inside by way of the incredibly obvious openings on either side of the decorative doors.

OMG I felt like the BIGGEST loser in the world.

Here I was going to one of the best restaurants in the world and before I even enter I have completely embarrassed myself.  Every bone in my body wanted to run away but somehow I managed to walk inside.
The nervous embarrassment then caused me to fumble with unbuttoning my coat. I was somehow unable to place my scarf  in my coat pocket like I have done a million times before…I was a mess.  Lucky for me, the staff at Per Se were trained not to give notice to these little foibles and they warmly took my coat and gave me a big smile when I asked about their new bar menu.  They took me inside to the lounge which was much larger than I had imagined and right to a big couch with a table facing right outside onto Central park.

The view was fantastic! I couldn’t believe how perfect the table was-definitely the best one in the lounge area by far.  My nerves seemed to calm a little and the waiter handed me the wine list to peruse.  I knew I wanted to relax and enjoy my meal so I decided to go for a half bottle of wine.  The waiter came over and took me through the list, making sure I would fine the best wine suited for my tastes, but also in my price range.

I ended up with a fantastic bottle of California Zinfandel.  Onto the food- here’s the salon menu for that day.

Although this is cheaper than their prix fix as you can see it is certainly not cheap! I was already exceeding the budget quota my non-profit salary can hold with the wine so I decided not to completely blow all of my savings and just go for an entrée.  But there were many lovely things to come before that was going to arrive.

To start they brought out two little Gruyere Cheese Gougeres.  Hot from the oven, these little balls had a fantastic golden brown outside and a wonderfully cheesy, creamy innard that was absolutely delicious.  The melty Gruyere cheese literally exploded when I bit in and it was kind of like eating a fantastic ball of fondue.  Next up was a small bowl of Celeriac Soup with Black Truffles.

Oh my goodness- this soup seriously made me swoon.  It had a thick almost velvety texture on the mouth and a deep earthy flavor that surpassed any soup I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. This just tasted elegant.  Next up they came around with a little cone of Salmon Tartar with Caramelized Onion and Crème Fraiche.

They set it down and I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I used to love salmon but developed quite a strange food allergy to the fish late in life.I went back and forth debating...I mean this is Per Se! I want to have everything they’re going to give me here because when will I be able to make it back?  And it’s not like I’m going to die or anything. However it would make me feel ill for the rest of the meal.  So I decided to try a tiny bit of the cone only and then set it down on my plate. The waiter came around and noticed I hadn’t eaten the salmon and inquired as to why.  I explained my food allergy and he immediately picked up my plate and said he would be back with a replacement. I said I didn’t mind but about two minutes later another waiter came around with a similar looking cone this time made of Beet, Horseradish Crème Fraiche and Black Pepper.

I am so glad they brought me something else because this was phenomenal.  The Beet did not taste like a regular Beet. I almost felt like I was eating a miniature roast beef sandwich. It had a meaty flavor that totally blew me away. I thought I was done with the freebies at this point but then came the largest basket of bread for one person I have ever seen.

There were four pieces of mini French baguette, three pieces of some kind of onion roll and five pieces of pretzel bread.  I had to try them all of course and the big winner of the night was the pretzel bread. Salty with a slight crunch but not too much, this bread was awesome! It tasted like it was fresh out of the oven and I wouldn’t be surprised if they fresh bake it every night. The waiter said the butter was from Vermont and that Per Se then adds some special fleur de sel before serving.

The butter was creamy and not to rich, almost silky in texture. I thought it was great but it didn’t compare to what I had at Blue Hill Stone Barns. That butter still holds the trophy in my book, however this may be in a tie for runner up with Eleven Madison.

Then my entrée arrived.  I ordered the Elysian Fields Farm’s “Carre D ‘Agneau Roti Entier” which is “Ris ‘Agneau”, hand rolled Garganelli, Split English Peas, Pearl Onions and Tokyo Turnips with Lamb sauce.  Look at this beauty!

It had basically three different components to the meat itself. A lamb chop, a small lamb loin and a lamb sweetbread.  The lamb chop was incredibly moist, the loin had a fantastic lamb sauce and the lamb sweetbread…Don’t get me started. This fried little nugget of goodness really added to the rich flavor of the dish. I was in love!The only problem I had with the dish were the other components. The Onions, Turnips and Peas were all very coarse. I’m not sure how they were cooked but everything was a little too hard.

When I eat an amazingly moist piece of meat I just want something that is going to complement that flavor and texture.  I don’t want to feel a cold hard pea in the mix. I kind of wish they had gone for some kind of pea puree instead that would still have a great flavor but not be a distraction texturally. However the meat was amazing and I enjoyed every last bite.

I was having such an enjoyable meal I decided to splurge on dessert and went with my waiter’s recommendation the selection of Sorbets.

From left to right we have the Buttermilk Sorbet with Lemon Poppy Cake underneath, a Caramelized Banana Sorbet, Coconut Sorbet with toasted Coconut and finally a rich Chocolate Sorbet with Chocolate shavings.  I love desserts like this because you get to try so many different flavors and they were all fantastic. If I had to choose a winner though it would be the Banana. I just love a good banana dessert!  So you would think I wouldn’t be able to move after all of this food but then they brought out some complimentary mignardises.

Again quite the large amount of treats for a solo diner. There were some jelly candies, an amazing peanut nougat candy and two kinds of chocolates one made with Caraway seeds.  I thought the Caraway seed Chocolate was a little strange and I’m not sure if I liked it or not but the peanut nougat was the bomb!  I tried one of each treat and was planning to ask the waiter to box up the rest to bring home to Mr. T. However the next thing I knew though I was delving into the rest and ended up eating them all!

Yes I admit I ate the whole tray and was quite happy about it.

On the way out I stopped back at Bouchon Bakery and got Mr. T a vanilla macaron to compensate. The final bill for this wonderfully amazing meal?


Which is a HUGE amount of money for one person. Luckily I had just gotten my tax refund and felt I deserved the treat.  What made Per Se one the most amazing meals I have ever had was not only the food and view, but the service.  I have to say it was utterly impeccable.  My waiter was absolutely amazing. He truly seemed to take in interest in me not only as a diner but as a person. He would come by and casually chat as I waited between courses and never made me feel strange dining alone.

The service of the wait staff simply blew me away and that is the reason I am going to try even harder to save up my pennies for a full fledged meal in the main room.  Not only that but I completely forgot to check out the bathrooms! So I have to go back! Sigh…I have gotten a taste of Thomas Keller’s kingdom and I really hope to one day return to the castle.

Per Se


Maria said…
Good gawd - I want some NOW! Looks totally amazing, I'm salivating everywhere!
Paul Nahm said…

really enjoyed this post.

thanks for sharing.
Sharon said…
I saw your review on Chowhound and I almost skipped it because of the formatting, but I'm really glad I didn't. This was one of the best reviews I've read in Chowhound in a long time. I felt I was right there with you anticipating each dish.

I've heard excellent things about the service in Thomas Keller restaurants, but your review really drove it home. It sounds like an excellent place to it alone or bring someone who complains about NYC food service- of course they have to be really special to be worth the expense ;-)
Anonymous said…
This is the first time i have seen your blog ,itis great ,i love 11 madison and can relate to the salt with the butter!I shall save a day to reasd all of your cmmets.thanks dja
Tasty Trekker said…
Thanks for the comments everyone!

Glad you enjoyed the post and hope all of you have the opportunity to have the Thomas Keller experience!
burgerboy said…
Simply awesome. If only I could get out of work at 4.30...

And I can totally relate to the late-developing fish allergy and how frustrating it is! I've got the same deal, used to love salmon but now outta luck on that stuff.

That thing looked kinda phallic anyway.
Tasty Trekker said…
Lol!!! After I did the post I looked back at the salmon picture and thought the same thing James!
Ben and Tasneem said…
Hi there - thanks for your description and the pictures!! It is my first anniversary at the end of May and I would love to take my husband there for the a la carte. He would die! Do you know if they take reservations for the a la carte menu and if it will still be going on at the end of May or if it is just a limited time offer? Thanks!
Tasty Trekker said…
Hey Tasneem! I believe the lounge is walk in only- no reservatons nd it will be going indefinitly.

I got there right at 5:30 and had the best seat in the house. I'm sure you will enjoy! Happy Anniversary!!!
Kate said…
Thank you for posting this. You've made up my mind to splurge when we come up in September to see U2.