When I was planning my trip to New York, I know there was that one restaurant that I want to try – Per Se.
Months before the trip, I was reading Grant Achatz’s Life, On the Line. In the book, Achatz illustrated the time he spent at the French Laundry, and the way he described Thomas Keller (owner of the French Laundry and Per Se) made me really curious about Keller and his food.
So precisely a month before the date we wanted to dine at Per Se, I tried to book a table via Open Table which was IMPOSSIBLE – there was never an opening. So I decided to go traditional and call up the restaurant. After a 15 minutes wait, I got a table on 19 July and 545pm (I was offered a table at 9pm but I think I will just fall asleep while eating).
Per Se – three Michelin stars –US$295 for the tasting menu – I have high expectations. I was prepared to be blown away. My heart was pounding when I reached the Warner Time Center. But first we needed to find the restaurant. The moment we reached the 4th floor of the building, Kat and I walked one round and we couldn’t find the restaurant. Thanks to its minimalist decor, we finally discovered that Per Se was behind the blue door that we walked past.
We got ourselves seated in the main dining room facing the Columbus statue and were shown the menu and were asked to make the selection. Once that was done, complimentary amuse-bouche was served to us.
The first was gougeres – cute, warm and cheesy – which we easily finish off with one bite. The next was the famous salmon tartare cornets – this whimsical amuse bouche was served on a cone stand, and we bit off like an ice cream. I love the freshness of the tartare but I thought the “cone” was alright.
Once the amuse bouche was cleared, our tasting menu began. First, Oysters and Pearls. This dish essentially was a sabayon of pearl tapioca with oysters and caviar. This was my favourite dish of the night – the pearl tapioca was delicious and not overcooked. The oysters and caviar (pearls) tasted like the ocean – refreshing, and salty.
For the second dish, I have chosen Heirloom Tomato Salad. This was my first time trying heirloom tomatoes. For me, the taste of the tomatoes was like a cross between a plum and a tomato – they were sweet and juicy. As Kat was not a fan of the vegetable, she chose Foie Gras which was served with a side of brioche and a selection of salt. I did not have a taste of the foie gras (not a fan of the liver) but Kat did tell me that they were a bit salty (hence she did not need the salt given). For the brioche, I think once they have left it at your table for five minutes, the waiter would swing by and replace with another plate of warm brioche – which we thought was a bit excessive and wasteful.
Once we were done, we were presented with the bread basket. Kat didn’t get any and I saw a pretzel roll and I couldn’t resist it. I was sad – the roll was cold and chewy.
Next was the fish course – Sautéed Fillet of Mediterranean Lubina. The fish was simple and perfectly cooked, and flaky. What I love was also the presentation of the dish – adored the little vegetable flower cut out.
The next dish we had was Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster. I was unsure is it because of the size of the lobster meat – I found it to be a bit too much and slightly overcooked. However I enjoyed the accompanying ragout of Brentwood corn – it was sweet and delicious.
For the poultry course, we got Hill’s Farm Poularde. The chicken was tender and well seasoned. As I think they have stuffed the leg with (possible) bacon or pork (which I can taste it), I couldn’t finish the chicken.
At this stage, we were struggling – our tummies were feeling the strain. And we got another meat course – Calotte de Boeuf. For me, it was perfectly cooked – medium rare (I must see blood!), salt crusted; and the jus was flavourful and light.
For the vegetable course, we got a Roncal which was a medley of (mashed) vegetable. I don’t remember much of this dish as I didn’t really like it and I thought was the weakest among the lot we had. I believed I left the plate half eaten.
At this point, our waiter suspected that we were too full to stuff ourselves with any more food – he brought us a complimentary “palate cleanser” – it was some sort of flavoured sorbet with lavender meringue and sake. This was a life saver – it was light and refreshing – something that was much needed.
After the palate cleanser, desserts were served. Desserts at Per Se were never ending. They just kept giving us more! The first of the many desserts was the coconut and melon sorbet. The flavours were subtle and it was a nice and light start to the dessert course.
Next, we got the Maple Sour Mash which was a caramelised puff pastry topped with bourbon-maple syrup ice cream. The pastry was buttery and crisp, and for the ice cream – the flavour was once again subtle and not overpowering.
At this point, I was expecting them to serve us their famous Coffee and Donuts. But NO. Perhaps they thought we were full and didn’t serve it to us? Why? I maybe stuffed but I am greedy! Still Per Se managed to overwhelm us with chocolates, truffles, pulled-candy, macarons.
At the end of the meal, Kat and I got a pack of sandwich cookies which sadly did not make it into my stomach. They were crushed to bits on the way home to Singapore.
For me, the service at Per Se is a reflection of Thomas Keller – organised, (sterile), consistent and swift. I am not totally blown away by Per Se – I just feel there was always something missing. Still, it was a great experience which I am proud to have.Per Se
10 Columbus Circle (60th Street)
New York City