My memorable meal here was 8 years ago, yet I still remember it as if it were yesterday.
Thomas Keller’s restaurants are arguably the top places to go to in the whole United States. I’ve been wanting to go to The French Laundry for a loooong time. Then one day while I was still in school, manna from heaven fell on my lap in the form of a gift certificate to Per Se.
So off to the much vaunted Time Warner Center restaurant we went, all dressed in our Sunday best (sheer torture in the New York summer!) We ascended to the fourth floor -- home of the some of the most exclusive, priciest and hardest reservations in town (Masa, a Japanese restaurant, charges around $400 A HEAD. Sheesh!). Per Se’s entrance is quite amusing. Here you find a nice blue door with two round gold handles that you assume you push to enter the restaurant. Woe the poor fool who does so because the door is a FAKE. Step to the left of the door, and a glass wall slides open. Whose idea was that??! (Kinda funny, really.) Good thing there were two hostesses waiting for us outside.
The inside of the restaurant is done in impeccable taste. Nothing over the top. Very cozy and warm, with mostly wood accents. Twenty tables or so ONLY, and one turnover per meal. The best part? Everyone gets a beautiful view. Great touch.
The service -- also impeccable. Like watching a ballet. Waiters and waitresses glide by silently. After each course comes in, a waitress (in our case, two: a French lady, and a beautiful Indonesian) comes by to explain which is which -- believe me, you will need this. If you have a bag and even ATTEMPT to put it on the floor, a waiter will RUN TO YOU and offer... an ottoman. Yes, an ottoman. Your bag WILL SIT BESIDE YOU. How’s THAT for a nice touch? The best touch of them all was this... after ordering (hold you horses, the food descriptions come after this.), he asked if I wanted anything else. So I joked: how about an autographed menu from the chef? Not Thomas Keller, though that would have been cool, but of their head chef Jonathan Benno. He laughed and said “We’ll see..”. I dismissed this, of course, because I knew the chef was busy. After the meal, as I was about to walk out the door, the receptionist stops me and hands something over: my autographed menu from the chef. Outstanding job!
Anyway, onto the more important stuff. The food. THE FOOD. You will spend at LEAST $210 dollars on food, sans wine or beverages (though I’ve been told the price has gone up). If you hear anyone spending $400, $800 or even more here, it’s because of the incredible (and pricey) wines here. No Gato Negro at this joint, man. The cool thing is, for your 200 clams you get: an amuse bouche, fantastic freshly baked breads, an appetizer, a salad or foie gras preparation, a seafood dish, a meat dish, a cheese course, and what I call a dessert tasting: a fruit dessert, a chocolate dessert, a creme brulee or tarte, AND assorted pralines, truffles, cookies and sweets. And coffee. Can you still breathe? The portions aren’t big.. just right, in fact. But put them all together and you have a very substantial meal. AND you go home with a gift: a bag of macaroons.
EVERYTHING you put in your mouth was delicious and beautifully plated like little works of art. My highlights: a cauliflower panna cotta with a scoop of sevruga caviar (Amazing! The panna cotta had a very subtle cauliflower flavor and the caviar just enhanced it.) and Snake River Farms Wagyu with mushrooms, crispy bone marrow and sauce Bordelaise. Oh, and ALL the desserts.. down to the homemade truffles. Yeah, the softshell crab dish was great too! Did I mention the cheese? Ok ok. EVERYTHING WAS GOOD. Check the album in the “Images” section for some food porn .. uh.. shots. Too bad we didn’t have an SLR.
If you have the cash to spare.. if you’ve won the lotto.. if you have any chance at all to get in here - I highly recommend doing so. This is not some place you go to on a regular basis. It is an experience - and one that only a few restaurants in the world can offer you. If you have to eat hot dogs during your entire stay here in Manhattan to have one fine meal... this may be the place to do it.
PER SE 10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10019