The Good Boy Says…

A blog about life, sports, music, politics, and the world in general

Our Dinner at Per Se

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For my Christmas gift, Erin made reservations for two at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s four star restaurant at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. We had an incredible evening.

Here is Erin’s detailed account of our experience:

As Brian wrote in the guest book at Per Se last night “In a word – Wow!”

So, as background (mostly for my mother who is reading this!), Per Se is one of only five 4-star restaurants in New York City. Chef Thomas Keller is the brain behind the restaurant, creating Per Se in 2004 as a take-off of his award-winning restaurant in Napa Valley, The French Laundry. Per Se is on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Building, which is on Columbus Circle overlooking the southwest corner of Central Park.

When we walked up to the restaurant, we saw these big beautiful blue doors (a trademark of The French Laundry, which was purposefully included in the design of Per Se). But when we got even closer to the doors, all of a sudden – Swoosh! – two clear sliding glass doors on either side of the blue doors slide open for our entry into this somewhat exclusive evening! Our coats were promptly removed and we were led through the bar area into the dining room. There are only 15 tables in the entire dining room, spaced very well so as to disallow eavesdropping on your neighbors for the three plus hours you are there! Our table directly next to the windows overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park. But we didn’t have much time to look at the view when we were about to embark on an amazing culinary orgasmic experience (yes, my mom is still reading)!

Our meal started with a little amuse bouche, not technically included in the 9 courses touted by the chef’s tasting menu, but much appreciated! Brian received a little dollop of salmon tartare set above a cone, reminiscent of a little ice cream cone, filled with creme fraiche,! And I, as a result of telling the waiter about my aversion to raw seafood, received a tiny little curved chip with a baby spoonful of a green chick pea relish inside. Great first bites! I almost didn’t want to take a sip of our first wine, an Austrian Grüner Veltliner (similar in taste to a sauvignon blanc, but more complex in body), for fear the flavors would dissipate! But, alas, I did! And the wine was a perfect match in my mouth! So much so that Brian and I decided to add a similar Gruner Veltliner to our wine registry!

Soon thereafter, our first official course was served. Brian’s was Per Se’s specialty of “Oysters and Pearls”, an oyster sabayon made of tapioca-like beads and black cavier. And I can’t go on without mentioning the fact that Brian ate his Oysters and Pearls with a petite spoon made entirely of mother-of-pearl! For my first course, the chef prepared a dish not on the menu because of my previously-mentioned aversion… a unique and utterly delicious black truffle-infused “substance” (because I have no idea what it actually was!) served in an eggshell. So much fun!

Our next dish was another that was not officially included in the nine courses… “with compliments from Michael” is what the waitress said when we looked perplexed at the dishes that we didn’t think we ordered. Of course, we didn’t find out until the end of the night when we got our check that Michael was the name of the head waiter who had taken our orders and checked on us throughout the evening. Anyway, Brian was served a dark jello-like matter that was explained to him, after he enjoyed every bite, to be Geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck) clam gele. And centered on my very large bone china plate was the thinnest film of sunchoke flan, served with wee cubes of sunchoke and some other colorful foodstuffs. Again, scrumptious!

On to official course number two – a celery root soup. The presentation was gorgeous… they placed a bowl with a few pieces of carrot, mushroom and celery root artfully stacked in the middle in front of each of us. Then the waitress took a small silver pitcher and poured the soup into each of our bowls. The smell was outrageous and the soup was a lovely, hearty, creamy creation.

The third course was a 2×2 inch square piece of the most tender halibut you’ve ever eaten in your life! It was served atop a parsley root puree, with a red pepper relish on top of the fish and some slivers of eggplant and red pepper. This was my second-favorite dish of the evening. Every bite was amazing! And the white china was sparsely sprinkled with red and green pepper flakes. You could lick your finger and pick one up and you could actually taste pepper just from this tiny red or green speck! I must mention at this point that the sommelier (mom: sommelier = wine specialist) recommended a very complex white wine from the Rhone Valley to go with these next few courses. When I first smelled the wine, it reminded me of Windex! After a few sips, it grew on me. And after a sip paired with the Halibut, I thought the sommelier was a genius! It’s amazing how much wine can enhance the food if it’s done right.

Course four was a perfectly-cooked large scallop served on a plate prettily smeared with honey butter. When the dish was first placed in front of us, we touched our fingers to the butter and it was sticky. After a few minutes, however, the buttery substance started to warm up from the heated plate and melted into a runny puddle of yumminess that was a perfect accompaniment to the scallop and the crunchy almonds mixture on top.

At this point, the sommelier switched us over to a nice Pinot Noir from Oregon… it reminded Brian and I a lot of another pinot noir we like made by the Coppola vineyards (of Hollywood fame, yes, mom!)

To pair with the wine, for our fifth course, we were served a bowl with a layer of earthy lentils and a few baby brussel sprouts, with what looked like a small pear sitting in the middle. We were told by the waitress that this was a quail leg wrapped in quail breast meat (what we thought was the pear’s stem was actually the quail’s leg bone!) When I cut into the meat, the juices that had been trapped between the breast and leg meat escaped into the bowl and every bite with the brussel sprouts was a pleasure!

Course six was the course to die for! Both Brian and I agree it was, by far, the best piece of steak we have ever eaten in our lives, hands down, par none, and whatever other clichés you can think of! It was a tender, juicy, medium rare choice cut of rib eye steak, measuring about 1” wide, 5” long, 1” high. Served in a sort of deconstructed way (meaning each ingredient I’m about to list sat separate from the other items on the plate) with hen of the woods mushrooms, potatoes au gratin, a single cippolini onion and a small piece of fried marrow. The marrow was surprisingly yum, it melted in my mouth like foie gras does. Each ingredient, eaten as a bite with the rib eye, made it seem like you were eating four different dishes, but all were on one plate! And meshed well with the pinot noir, if I do say so.

I’m feeling a little full by this point, especially considering the fairly strict 1500 calories per day I have been observing all month up until this point! But Brian and I trek on with the seventh course, a modest wedge of Chevrot (goat’s milk cheese) unexpectedly paired with savory fennel and a tart beet relish. Neither Brian nor I enjoyed the beet relish much, probably because we love beets plain and not tart, but the fennel was an unpredictable, yet fantastic, match for the cheese.

Brian and I enjoyed the lightness of course number eight – a spoonful of mouthwatering pineapple sorbet, served with little cubes of cake (like 1 cm square!) and a larger brick of nougatine.

Which brought us to our last [official] course, dessert! I, of course, ordered the chocolatey one and instructed my fiancé (who thankfully is not a sweets person) to order the other dessert, a banana bread pudding. I have to say I didn’t pay much attention to his banana bread pudding after I started digging into mine! But the one bite I did have was pretty good (right, Brian?) My chocolate dessert consisted of three meticulously shaped cylinders of varying chocolates stacked horizontally (kind of like you stack beer bottles when you lay them in the fridge) on top of a thin layer of chocolate cake. One of the rolls was a chocolate mousse, the second was a white chocolate mousse and the smallest roll on top was a strange dark chocolate jele. The rolls were topped with edible gold foil and served with a pinch of mocha ice cream and fun milk chocolate swirly things that you could pop into your mouth or share with your beloved, as I did! Mmm mmm good!

After those plates were cleared, the waiter brought out a tray of chocolates and told us to choose as many as we wished! I picked a raspberry balsamic, a grapefruit and another which was my favorite but we don’t know what was in it! I also had a milk chocolate truffle stuffed with creamy caramel! But my stomach was yelling at me to stop at this point because it was so full, so I finally listened to it!

And about 3 hours after we sat down, we sadly got our bill. It actually wasn’t as bad as we had imagined it would be… because the $275 per person for the food includes gratuity already! But with drinks, it was and will be the most expensive meal either of will eat in a long long time! Worth the experience, though. Definitely.

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January 18, 2008 - Posted by | Erin, Favorite Places, Food & Wine

3 Comments »

  1. […] on 14th Street.  For Christmas, Erin gave me an  amazing dinner at Per Se restaurant – details here.  We went on January 15th.  It was simply the most phenomenal dining experience of my life – 13 […]

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