Sunday, June 8, 2008

Anniversary dinner at Per Se

Per Se: ExteriorAfter hearing endless stories of how great Per Se is, we arrived there with a very high expectation. Even though we were still full from our earlier lunch at L'Atelier, we eagerly anticipated our experience at Per Se.

Per Se is located on the 4th flour at Time Warner Center. After walking across a nice small garden in the front area of the restaurant, we were welcomed by the famous blue double door. My husband noticed that there were sliding doors on each side of the blue double door, but I did not. So I walked to the blue door and tried to open it while he was laughing at me. Luckily the glass door slid opened and I realized my mistake :-)

Per Se: InteriorWe gave our name to the hostess who then graciously lead us the way across the waiting area to our big table (supposed to seat 4 people) in the main dining room. I guessed they must have reserved this table for a group instead of a couple, lucky for us they cancelled their reservation. As soon as we were seated, one of the server came bringing a small cushioned stool to put my purse.

The interior was spacious, elegant and lovely with enormous windows overlooking the beautiful Central Park. My husband said that it would be nice to see the Fall foliage from up here, wow, he could read my mind :-) The tables were widely spread covered with white tablecloths, there were white floral arrangements and candles on top. By the way, Chef Thomas Keller personally designed the silver pieces and the china that feature houndstooth pattern around the rim.

Per Se: InteriorThen came our captain, who brought us the personalized menu since we told them that it would be our anniversary (they asked this over the phone a couple of days ago). I know it was easy to print our names on a piece of paper, but I still felt very special. There were 2 choices of tasting menus, the chef's tasting menu and the tasting of vegetables. The courses change everyday, but total number of courses remain at 9 (unless you're one of the VIP guests).

Since we mentioned that we don't really like to drink alcohol, we asked if they had any non-alcoholic beverages. Luckily there were 3 choices, I chose French sparkling apple cider and my husband chose pinot noir. As for the food, we intially were thinking of having one of each menu - so that we could try everything, but then we remembered that we are meat lovers (and they're priced equally). When our captain came back with our drinks, we told her that we chose the chef's tasting.

Per Se: French sparkling apple cider Per Se: Non-alcoholic pinot noir
French sparkling apple cider and Non-alcoholic pinot noir

The food parade commenced, beginning with the amuse bouche which were Chef Thomas Keller's signature gruyere cheese gougeres followed by salmon cornets. The gougere was good -- warm, fluffy and filled with cream cheese. The salmon cornet was a small black sesame tuile cone filled with red onion creme fraiche, topped with Atlantic salmon tartare and garnished with a single chive. The tuile was crispy and buttery, the creme fraiche was tangy, the salmon was silky and melted in my mouth, just prefect.

Per Se: Gruyere cheese gougeres (another view) Per Se: Salmon cornettes
Gruyere cheese gougeres and Salmon cornettes

When our first course arrived, the servers walked to our sides, then after pausing for a second as if to synchronize their moves, placed the plates down and simultaneously lifted small ceramic lids to reveal the oysters and pearls, a sabayon of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and sterling white sturgeon caviar. Each course followed the same choreographed service. Regarding the food, the sabayon was rich, the tapioca was cooked perfectly, the oyster was tender and the caviar was shockingly unsalty (in a good way). It was divine! By the way, there was a mother-of-pearl spoon that accompanied the plate since we shouldn't eat the caviar using a metal spoon, it would change the flavor of caviar.

Per Se: Oysters and pearls - my portion
Oysters and pearls

Then came the bread service, the selections were mini French baguette, Italian ciabatta, potato sour dough, Alsatian rye bread with duck fat and riesling, sweet brioche roll. I chose the rye bread which was very good -- crispy outside, soft inside. My husband chose the brioche which was sweet and tender. The bread came with 2 types of butter, salted butter with fleur de sel and sweet unsalted butter.

Per Se: Basket of bread
Basket of bread

For the second course, my husband had the non-supplement option which was salad of braised abalone mushroom with heirloom radishes, persian cucumber, petit shiso and goma vinaigrette. I opted for the supplemental one which was torchon of elevages perigord moulard duck foie gras with Sicilian pistachio butter, red wine poached brooks cherries, tokyo turnips and field mizuna. When it came to the foie gras, it was sweet and fatty, served with buttery toasted brioche. They kept bringing out more warm brioche, I literally took one bite from each piece and another fresh slice was delivered right in front of me. When I asked their simple answer was: it's better with warm brioche. I guess the warmth of the brioche was needed to help the foie gras became more spreadable. I'm still amazed up to this day.

Per Se: Salad of braised abalone mushroom (close up)
Salad of braised abalone mushroom

Per Se: Torchon of elevages perigord moulard duck foie gras
Torchon of elevages perigord moulard duck foie gras

Our third course was sauteed fillet of Atlantic halibut with confit squid, fennel bulb, holland eggplant, sweet peppers with pattypan squash vinaigrette and pimenton oil. The halibut was firm in texture and delicate in taste with the sauce underneath that complimented it well, yet I felt that this dish was too bland for me.

Per Se: Sauteed fillet of atlantic halibut (close up)
Sauteed fillet of atlantic halibut

The next course was pan roasted Maine sea scallop with ragout of king richard leeks, yukon gold potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms with meyer lemon mousseline. The scallop was seared perfectly, firm on the outside, soft and sweet inside, it was wonderful.

Per Se: Pan roasted maine sea scallop
Pan roasted maine sea scallop

Then came the next dish which was Cavendish farm's caille en crepinette with pickled ramps, applewood smoked bacon lardons, frisee salad with smoked hen egg emulsion and quail jus. The quail was moist and tender, the sauce was tasty and not overpowering, it was superb.

Per Se: Cavendish farm's caille en crepinette - my portion (close up)
Cavendish farm's caille en crepinette

Next was the degustation of eden hollow farm's spring lamb with gnocchi Parisienne, greenmarket carrots, glazed sunchokes and split english peas with lamb jus. This featured a mini-tasting of seven preparations of lamb on one plate, on the photo from left: breast, shank, tenderloin, rack, sirloin, sausage and shoulder on top right. It was very interesting, but we found some were better than others.

Per Se: Degustation of eden hollow farm's spring lamb - my portion (close up)
Degustation of eden hollow farm's spring lamb

The cheese course was boerenkaas, slow baked beets with wood sorrel and violet mustard, served with lemon currant bread and walnut rye bread. The boerenkaas, which by definition is a handmade Gouda, had a creamy texture and sharp flavor, the beets added a sweet taste to it.

Per Se: Boerenkaas (close up) Per Se: Boerenkaas (the bread)

Finally it was time for the sweets, which itself was a production. It began with apricot sorbet, Nyons extra virgin olive oil pate de fruit with tellicherry pepper sable breton. The sorbet was light and refreshing, the olive oil pate de fruit was surprisingly good, the sable breton added some crunch to it, so yummy!

Per Se: Apricot sorbet - my portion
Apricot sorbet

My dessert was caraibe, caraibe meringue mousse, caramel cremeux, devil's food cake, golden pineapple and cashew ice cream. It was creamy, rich, chocolate-y, sweet, just delightful! My husband's dessert was glace a la fraise, strawberry biscuit, almond panna cotta and mint syrup with tristar strawberry ice cream. It was plated beautifuly, but the taste was even better -- soft, light, creamy, sweet, just delicious!

Per Se: Caraibe Per Se: Glace a la fraise
Caraibe and Glace a la fraise

The server brought me a miniature creme brulee, while for my husband was a miniature yogurt pot de creme with blueberry jam. They were creamy and not too sweet, pretty good.

Per Se: Tahitian vanilla creme brulee Per Se: Yogurt pot de creme with blueberry jam
Tahitian vanilla creme brulee and Yogurt pot de creme with blueberry jam

When we finished, another server came bringing a silver tray filled with assorted of chocolates: ginger caramel, rocher, lime, mocha, guanaja dark chocolate, honey thyme, mint, green apple. She asked if we would like to try one of each and we definitely would like to, eventhough our stomachs were already starting to burst.

Per Se: Chocolates tray
Chocolates tray

Then came the mignardises: cocoa covered piedmont hazelnut in an off-white porcelain bisque covered bowl; butterscotches, sour cherry almond nougats and truffles (milk chocolate salted caramel, dark chocolate hazelnut cream, white chocolate toasted coconut) in a stunning silver staircase; assorted of housemade mini hard candies (chocolate, licorice, banana, orange, lime, cherry, mint).

Per Se: Cocoa covered piedmont hazelnuts Per Se: Mignardises

We were done and ready to see the "damage", so my husband called one of the servers for the check since we didn't see our captain. Surprisingly when she came back, in addition to the check she also brought us 2 nicely packaged of florentine cookies to take home, how lovely! By the way, the florentine cookies were very good, soft and not too gooey.

Per Se: Check and florentine cookies
Check and Florentine cookies

Our captain came and asked if we would like to see the kitchen, of course I said yes, but since my husband was too full to walk, I went by myself. I was given the grand tour of the kitchen and amazed at its cleanliness. There was a large, flat-screen television with live feed of French Laundry where Chef Thomas Keller spends more time at. They said that French Laundry also had the same thing, I guess this is a way for Chef Thomas Keller to monitor his restaurants. Unfortunately Chef Thomas Keller was not in that night, but I've already had an opportunity to meet him during his demonstration of sous-vide at International Restaurant & Foodservice Show back in March. Chef Jonathan Benno was there though, so I requested to have my picture taken with him, which he graciously allowed :-)

It took about 4 hours for us to complete the 9-course meal extravaganza. They were fantastic -- flawless presentations paired with a perfect combination of texture, scents and seasonings. The staff was very professional and knowledgeable yet very nice, friendly and helpful, attentive yet not intrusive. They were not intimidating at all, they made us felt at home and allowed us to fully appreciate each course without feeling being rushed.

Per Se: Interior
Waiting area

During the dinner, we mentioned to our captain that we were lucky there was a cancellation. She informed us that there are only limited tables for two and they usually hold the tables for bigger parties. I was very surprised and disappointed since most of the time I go to fine dining restaurants only with my husband. However I understood why they do that, it usually takes 3-4 hours per sitting and they will make more money from a group of people rather than a couple.

On the way out, we noticed that there was a guestbook and I couldn't leave without writing something on it. The book was placed on top of a glass table and there was a set of stone blocks with some words engraved on it "one must read everything, observe everything, hear everything, try everything, see everything in order to retain", that's true.

Per Se: Interior
"one must read everything, observe everything, hear everything, try everything, see everything in order to retain"

This was definitely a spectacular and memorable culinary experience, what a perfect way to celebrate our anniversary! We realize that this was the most expensive dinner we've ever had so far, however for those who really enjoy cuisine it is justified. We are looking forward to return, hopefully in the near future.


Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10019
(212) 823-9335


Linda Ong said...

Hi, I found your link from Flickr. I am wondering what camera you use? Your photos are good and bright, did you use flash?

yummyinthetummy said...

I use Canon A570 and Canon S5, and depending on the restaurant sometimes I use flash.

Heather said...

I love your write up of your experience -- especially since that was your follow up to lunch at L'Atelier. I'd been dying to go to Per Se since I moved to New York five years ago, but just this past summer they began offering a "salon menu" (a la carte in the lounge) to counter the recession. So finally I was able to go and it was worth both the hype and the wait!