Thomas Keller has been a chef I've been intrigued about for a long while, and even though I've lived close to his famed French Laundry, I was in no shape financially to visit that place back in College. Fast forward to 2010 as I was picking restaurants to visit in NYC, Kevin told me I shouldn't miss on Per Se, thus I took Kevin's advice.
When I made my reservation, I had a request with the menu. Since I had zero interest in the tasting of vegetables, and having two chef's tasting seemed quite redundant, I asked for a separate, and hopefully an offals only menu. While the offal tasting menu ended when the ex-chef de cuisine Jonathan Benno left for Lincoln, I hoped the new chef de cuisine Eli Kaimeh would have something up his sleeves.
Since I wasn't too interested in wine pairing, I went ahead with an order of Gin Rickey, a gin and lime based cocktail. It was quite refreshing.
|Butter: Left: Fleur de Sel Butter from Vermont. Right: Straus Family Creamery Butter from California|
I forgot to take a picture of the bread, but above are the famous butters Keller serves with the bread service. Both are different, and delicious.
|Canapé: Salmon Coronets|
Another famous course made famous by Chef Keller, the finely chopped salmon was served in black sesame cone with crème fraîche already inside. I truly enjoyed this one biter. The smoked salmon went wonderfully with the crème fraîche. The black sesame cone added a nicely needed texture.
|1. "Oysters and Pearls" - "Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar|
As the first main course arrived, I was happy to see it was the dish I've been anticipating to eat, Chef Keller's "Oysters and Pearls." "Wow" was the only word I could describe this dish. This IS Keller's signature's dish and it fails to disappoint. The saltiness of the caviar, the creamy "sabayon" that I wanted to clean, and the silky oyster. It's truly a match made in heaven. This was my favorite dish of the night.
|2. White Truffle Oil Infused Custard - "Ragout" of Black Winter Truffles|
Black truffles on a white truffle oil custard? Say no more, I'll take one! The flavors of the truffle was intense, but not overpowering. The custard itself was smooth and delicate. Delicious!
|3a. Salad Of Roasted Cauliflower - Hadley Orchards' Medjool Dates, Shaved Greenmarket Carrots, Cilantro Shoots and Mareona Almonds with Madras Curry Yogurt|
Roasted cauliflower assented by the curry yogurt. While the dish doesn't stand out, it was quite nice. The flavors of the curry went well with the vegetable melody.
|3b. Terrine Of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras - Honey Crisp Apple Marmalade, Candied Cashews, Watercress and Cherry Balsamic Vinegar with Toasted Brioche ($45 Supplement)|
"Go Big or Go Home," we went with the foie gras supplement. The foie gras was probably the best preparation I've ever had. Silky smooth, yet rich and delicious, I don't think it could be done any better. All the flavors worked, but the star of the dish was definitely the foie gras. This is one supplement you must get! The service was on the money, the brioche was actually changed while I was taking pictures of the dish. Chef Keller I guess doesn't want patrons to eat cold brioche.
|4a. Grilled "Pave" of Spanish Mackerel - "Langue de Veau Grillee," Capers and Meyer Lemon "Gastrique" with Preserved Horseradish Jus|
The mackerel was cooking beautifully. The meyer lemon added a much needed acidity to the dish.
|4b. Pan Seared "Pave" of Yellowtail - Sunchokes, Meiwa Kumquats, Spigarello Broccoli, and Brown Butter Crumble with Sunchoke Emulsion|
Between the two version, I definitely preferred the latter. The yellowtail was richer and the flavors of sunchokes and broccoli was more preferred on my point.
|5a. Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster - "Boudin Noir" and Mustard Cress with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce|
Lobster and blood sausage? Wow, I never would thought of that combination. The lobster itself was remarkably sweet and tender. The boudin noir was flavorful and delicious. The mustard sauce added a nice kick to the dish.
|5b. Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster - "Cassoulet" of Rancho Gordo Beans with Mustard Cress and Laurel "Nuage"|
Part two of the duel of butter poached Nova Scotia lobsters, had the poached lobsters on a bed of Rancho Gordo beans. Now, some of you know, aside from fried dough, and beets, I don't really care for beans. The "cassoulet" was quite tasty, but overall, I preferred the Nova Scotia lobster with the boudin noir preparation.
|6a. "Pressee De Lapin" - Loin Wrapped in Applewood Smoked Bacon, Global Artichokes and Black Winter Truffle Vinaigrette|
This is the reason I didn't bother with the tasting of vegetables. Would you rather eat rabbit food? Or the rabbit itself? Here we have the loin of a rabbit wrapped in applewood bacon served witha black winter truffle vinaigrette. This was truly a fantastic dish. I'm a fan of rabbit and this preparation was lovely.
|6b. Liberty Farm's Pekin Duck Breast - Ruby Beets "Cuites Sous Vide," Northstar Sour Cherries, Compressed Red Endive and Field Mizuna with "Sauce Perigourdine"|
I love duck, I especially love eating them. This one was quite lovely. Cooked a perfect medium rare, the duck was tender, juicy, and just plain delicious. The sides were okay, but the star was definitely the duck itself.
|7a. Elysian Fields Farms "Selle d'Agneau Rôtie Entière" - Globe Artichokes, French Breakfast Radishes, Persian Cucumbers, Young Lettuces and San Marzano Tomato Marmalade with Lamb Jus|
Next, we were served the "Selle d'Agneau Rôtie Entière," or roasted lamb saddle. I personally love lamb, but sadly I didn't remember much about this particular dish. My bad.....
|7b. Tartare Of Japanese Hime Wagyu - Crispy Bone Marrow, Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm, Maitake Mushrooms and Hakurei Turnips with "Sauce Japonaise" ($45 Supplement)|
A second supplement option, and really, who the heck would turn down a Japanese wagyu tartare? The wagyu tartare is exactly what you'd expect. Rich. Creamy. Fatty. And most importantly, delicious. The crispy bone marrow added a nice layer of fatty goodness with a wonderful texture. The hearts of palm, the maitake, and the turnips provided a much needed refreshing balance to this dish. This was the last savory course of the night.
|8. "Garrotxa" - "Pain de Campagne" Melba, Royal Blenheim Apricot "Membrillo," Celery Branch "Filaments" and Pickled Holland Peppers with Pimenton "Ravigote"|
I don't remember this course, but I know I didn't care for it. I don't particularly enjoy cheese. If anything, I prefer cooked cheese than eating it in this preparation. Next time when I do a tasting, I'm going to substitute the cheese course. Meh.
|9. Mandarin Orange Sorbet - Wild Peppercorn "Sable" and Orange Lace with Nyons Extra Virgin Olive Oil Emulsion|
When I was eating the sorbet, I didn't realize this dessert had peppercorn or olive oil. It was refreshing and a nice way to cleanse the palate.
Before the next round of dessert, we were asked and served a cup of some delicious coffee.
|10. "Coffee and Doughnut" - Cinnamon-Sugared Doughnuts with Cappuccino "Semifreddo"|
While I rarely order doughnuts, I wasn't about to miss Keller's famous Coffee and Doughnut dessert. The doughnut was actually quite light and airy, a good thing since I normally hate the idea of eating fried dough. The "coffee" was delicious. I could have gone through a few cups of that stuff.
|11a. "Mont Blanc" - Chestnut "Genoise," Swiss Meringue, Chocolate-Juniper "Cremeux," Rum Parfait and "Marron Glace" with Chocolate Ice Cream|
This one was nice, a true chocolate lovers dessert. I loved the texture of this dessert and the cool ice cream to finish everything off. It was just fantastic!
|11b. Pear and Caramel - Madagascar Vanilla-Poached Bartlett Pear, Caramel Mousse and Pear "Pate de Fruit" with "Glace au Beurre Noisette"|
I loved "Mont Blanc," but I loved Pears and Caramel even more. Here you have a dessert ofpear and caramel done four different ways. Each one was unique by itself, but I loved tasting each of the components, the flavors, the texture. It was just a great way to end the dessert portion of the meal. So I thought....
|12. Crème brûlée|
They must be mind readers here. Crème brûlée is truly my favorite dessert of all time. I savored each bite of this one.
|13. Yogurt Pot de Crème with Guava Jam|
Originally I thought this was a panna cotta, but it was a Yogurt Pot de Crème with Guava Jam. The Pot de Crème wasn't too heavy, and the sweet guava jam added a nice touch to it.
By this time, I could barely move. I wish I had a doggy bag so I could put these candies, truffles, chocolates, etc in it. As is, I was able to try each of the mignardise selection that was brought out to the table. I loved the caramel candy and the truffle, but was able to try two of each. This was the end to a truly remarkable meal.
|Take Home Gift|
Last, but certainly not least, a cake for the road home.
As I stepped out in the cold January New York evening, I had time to recollect the meal and debate if it was truly worth it. Food alone, it was probably the best meal I ate during my NYC trip. All the courses were at least solid to just fucking mind blowing. The atmosphere was quite stuffy, but that was expected going in. Now, would I pay another $400+ to eat here again? The fact Per Se is omitted from my upcoming New York trip is a pretty telling answer. While the meal was truly fantastic, I just didn't have any interest dining here anytime soon. If anything, I'd rather eat at French Laundry. While Per Se was still one of my top 5 meals of 2010, to me, one time is enough for me. Overall, I enjoyed my time at Le Bernardin and Eleven Madison Park just a little bit more, at half the price tag.
10 Columbus Circle