Per Se

Last night, we returned to Per Se.  What is there to say?  The restaurant is beautiful, the service is fantastic, you feel so elegant when you are there….overall the experience is just tops.  Truly hard to beat.  It will also cost you a small fortune. 

I don’t like that Per Se is in the mall.  It is so strange in there but you soon forget where you are once you walk into the restaurant.  The views looking over Central Park are killer.  I love the small tastings of each course.  Since I have done it before, I did not find myself so full at the end.  When we went to French Laundry, I was surprised that my button didn’t pop out my pants on the way out the door.  When we went to Per Se the first time, same thing.  This time, I held back from tasting every bread in the basket and making sure I slathered both butters that are available on each bread.  It is easy to do because it is foodie heaven but contain yourself.

The meal begins with a small bite sized gourgeres.  Usually they are just hot cheese balls mostly dry inside but not at Per Se.  Here they are oozing with cheese when you toss the little puff pastry goodie in your mouth.  A nice way to start the meal. 

There are two options, chef’s tasting menu or vegetarian tasting menu.  Fred and I went with the chef’s and our friends opted for the vegetarian.  That was fun because we really got to see everything they made that night. 

Fred and I began with the signature tuna ice cream cone.  I could hardly wait.  A small scoop of chopped toro tuna served on top of a wrapped cone that is stuffed with creme fraiche.  It is an incredible combo of tastes and textures.  This is one of the most amazing things I have ever had in the land of restaurants.  One of those top ten things. The other two had the same cone but with a chickpea concoction.  Each of our friends have different food issues and Per Se couldn’t be happier to accommodate them.  So their meals varied a little based on their allergies. 

Next up is the oysters.  Small bite sized oysters, full of flavor, roasted in a tapioca ( think rich pudding ) and a huge dollop of black caviar on top.  So decadent and divine. 

One scallop appeared next that had been truly caramelized and served with a sweet yet tangy broth with tiny cut up vegetables.  Just the right amount.  Scallops are rich.  Bread came around this time too.  Four different options.  Sour dough, a Pullman, whole wheat and a rye bread that had been cooked with duck fat.   I went for the rye ….sounded interesting.  On the table are two butters.  One that is salted from Vermont and the other which is unsalted from California.  The bread server was particularly excited about the butters.  The rye bread was good but tasted like your standard rye bread to me.  Explanation sounded much more interesting.

Next course was the soup course.  Two plates, one larger than the other and then a soup bowl on top of that.  Spring vegetables were served on the bottom and at the exact same time, two servers both poured mine and Fred’s spring pea soup.  I love that.  You feel like you are having dinner at the King’s table.  It wasn’t too rich and the flavor of spring was in every spoonful.  I admit, I couldn’t help but think for a brief second why it was necessary for four serving utensils and plates to complete the dish.  Too many things to wash.  Wondering how many dishwashers they had back in the kitchen.

Our next plate was quail.  This was hands down the best course.  Tiny lollipop leg of quail that was rich, juicy and delicious.  Served with a tiny (maybe a tablespoon) of sauteed spinach, a few pinky sized roasted root vegetables and a layered brown sauce.  Excellent.  As you can see, this is coming straight from memory.  I forgot to ask for the menu of the day on the way out the door.

The following course is the "main" course.  I went with the lamb, Fred went with the beef and we switched half way through.  I preferred the lamb.  One round slice of lamb, rare, served with again a variety of veggies and a simple sauce.  The plates are always deconstructed so every taste stands out on its own yet compliments everything else on the plate.  The beef was the same, one small square of beef, rare with the veggies around.  It was really good.  Not omigod but simple and well prepared.

Dessert is over the top.  I had something with chocolate that I took one bite and let everyone else eat.  The one memorable thing on that plate was an apricot ice cream that tasted like I was literally biting into an apricot.  I sound like Willie Wonka.  Fred had something with English breakfast tea ice cream and small puffed pastries filled with cream and roasted apples, the size of my thumbnail.  They also bring out 18 chocolates on a silver tray and ask you which ones you would like.  You could probably take four if you wanted but I just chose one.  All made on the premises.  They also give you a bowl of chocolate covered almonds dusted with cocoa powder, handmade caramels, handmade pistachio chocolate caramels and hard candies that was smaller than my pinky, striped in many colors and about 12 flavors.  High end Lifesavers.  Oh, I also forgot the bowl of different chocolate truffles.  The coup de grace is the warm sugar donuts that are piping hot served with a small cup of cappuccino custard.  I had to hold myself back from inhaling the entire thing.

Most importantly, going to Per Se is about the company you keep.  Going there with someone who really enjoys food and understands the intensity that goes into each bite you take makes the experience all the better.  We did that last night and it was so much fun.  If you can swing it and get the reservation, eating at Per Se is a New York experience that is worth having.  A real memory.