Perhaps I have become jaded in this fine city that I live in. Perhaps I ate at both of the restaurants within only six months of each other. I am not sure what the answer is but French Laundry is superior to Per Se.
Yes, the service is magnificent and attentive at both locations. The settings are both exquisite. But at the end of the day, I did not find the food at Per Se that unbelievable. Maybe I would have if I had never been to French Laundry but I doubt it.
Per Se is located in the Time Warner Building on Columbus Circle. The Mall, is how we refer to it. I still find the place very strange but the views from the top are extraordinary. Per Se is elegant. Everyone is dressed up. The room is warm and inviting. Even the bathrooms are done to perfection. BTW, you can go up there and have a drink anytime you want without having to eat dinner which I would highly recommend for the ambiance and the view.
Like French Laundry, there are 3 different choices. Chef’s Tasting Menu, Vegetable Tasting Menu and a 5 course menu where you can choose what you want. We opted to go with the Chef’s Tasting Menu.
They start you off with the signature ice cream cone. Round ball of chopped salmon tartare served over a tuille black sesame seed cone that has been stuffed with creme fraiche. It is quite delicious. The creme fraiche is the key here. We had champagne with this.
The first off the menu is "Oysters and Pearls". Rich buttery sabayon of tapioca with oysters and Russian caviar. It is incredibly rich and decadent. This is served in a tiny round container. A few bites is all you need. You can taste the butter.
For the second course, we all chose to upgrade to the Foie Gras. It was excellent at the French Laundry. They serve a dome shape piece of Foie Gras accompanied with a port wine poached mission fig and fennel bulb marmalade and toasted brioche. Laying on top of this is a crystallized fennel chip which is sliced so thin but is hard like candy. The mixtures with the Foie Gras work perfectly. It is incredibly rich. A sweet wine from Hungary here that the family had been making for 500 years. Yum.
The next 2 courses are fish courses. We had a wine from France in a region that none of us knew. It was incredibly earthy like nothing I had ever tasted in a white wine. We’re definitely going to find some and purchase. The first fish was a small piece of pompano covered amandine style. Tiny little pieces of crunchy almonds served over endive and coated in a brown butter emulsion. I was not wowed by this. It was a bit salty and way too buttery.
Lobster was fish course 2. They called this peas and carrots. Small tail of lobster, poached and served with tiny carrots, snap peas, pea shoot salad and a carrot butter. This was good. The key was really the carrot butter. Carrot juice that had been reduced added in with some ginger juice and heavy butter.
Now we move into the meat. We had a red wine with this course. I believe it was a syrah. A small leg of quail that looked like a lollipop chicken leg. It was served with turnips, huckleberries and mizuna. It was interesting but not that spectacular.
The next meat dish was a rib eye piece of milk fed veal over a fricassee of sweetbreads, almond mushrooms, cabbage and tiny crisp apples with a calvados sauce. The apples were the key. The sweet with the meat. I did not find this course that exciting either.
Next was their idea of a cheese platter. Squash, Swiss chard and 2 pieces of a goat type cheese. It was good but the cheese plate at French Laundry I still talk about so this one did not rock my boat.
The palate cleanser came next. Pineapple sorbet served over a rum cake with a hibiscus foam and a yuzu sauce. This was really good. The different flavors really worked here. It was cold and warm at the same time.
The dessert was a huge disappointment. I barely touched it. It was beautiful but didn’t taste that great. Chocolate cake layered with apricot marmalade and a nougat bread. Ginger custard down the side to dip into and a small scoop of Apricot Ice Cream. It actually tasted like it had been made a few days ago. Major drag here.
Then of course they bring out the truffles, the chocolates, a small creme brulee for the girls and a nectarine custard for the boys. Good but again not omigod. I actually brought the leftovers of this home. Jessica thought the white chocolate truffles covered in toasted coconut were wow. Emily thought the chocolates were just okay.
Maybe my expectations were too high? Maybe I am actually jaded on what is truly outrageous? Maybe it is the cost so I expect food to die for.
All and all a wonderful evening spent with very dear old friends but in terms of food, it was good but it wasn’t French Laundry.