Sunday, November 23, 2008

Most Memorable at Per Se New York

By: Finance Foodie

This weekend, I headed to NYC for a dinner set up by my NYC foodie friends at Per Se. Per Se is owned by the renowned chef Thomas Keller (also of French Laundry in the Napa Valley) and it is one of only four restaurants in the US to be awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide. I was UBER-EXCITED about this dinner, as I have been told it is a "gastronomic experience of a lifetime" by friend who had dined there before. In order to conserve my stomach for this occasion, I kept food consumption to a minimum (aka a can of Diet Coke and a cup of coffee) during the day. Our reservations were at 5:30pm (ungodly early for NYC, but it does take about 4-5 hours to finish the 9-course prix fixe chef's tasting menu). By the time we arrived, I could barely walk/stand due to lack of food, but the excitement and anticipation of the delicacies that laid ahead kept me strong enough to pose for commemorative pre-dinner pictures.

Below is a play by play of each course (will keep descriptions as easy to understand as possible), with pictures and commentary:

Amuse Bouche: gruyere cheese balls and salmon roe cones filled with creme fraiche. Not a fan of creme fraiche in general, but salmon roe topping was very fresh. Not a fan of the cheese balls as I dislike warm soft-creme cheeses.
First Course: Sabayon of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters and sterling white sturgeon caviar. I liked this dish very much and I thought the pearlized "oyster" spoon it was served with was especially fitting (I was tempted to take it home as a souvenir, but then that might have been interpreted as stealing). The oysters were very tender and not slimy. The sauce was excellent as well; very rich, well seasoned but not greasy.
Second Course: Salad of marinated chicory with prosciutto. I loved the prosciutto, which was thinly sliced to perfection and flavorful without being too salty. Not a fan of the chicory, as I thought it was too bitter to be tasty.
Third Course: Kindai blue fin tuna with matsutake mushrooms, sunchokes and pepper cress with kalamansi glaze. I thought the tuna was seared well and very tender, but it did have a slight metallic hint (mercury perhaps?). The kalamansi (citrus fruit) glaze was fantabulous; sweet enough to give the dish flavor but discrete enough to not be overbearing.
Fourth Course: Scottish langoustines with picked quail egg, celery and caramelized onion mousse. FAVORITE DISH OF THE NIGHT! I had never heard of langoustines before Per Se, but now these pocket sized crustaceans have replaced lobster as my favorite seafood (langoustines are similar to lobsters, but are much more tender and are perfectly bite sized). The onion mousse sauce was a rich but not heavy; a perfect complement to the my new shellfish discovery. The quail egg was also a great touch, as it provided the salty kick to the dish.
Fifth Course: Boudin blanc with heirloom beets, dates, and a garlic chip. WORST DISH OF THE NIGHT! The boudin blanc (which now I have discovered is basically a white sausage made with pork liver and heart meat) looked like spam in a can but tasted like bratwurst sausage without the skin. Our server noticed that half the table did not finish this dish and asked if he could replace the dish. Deep inside I was screaming "Hella Yes!" but a polite "No, that is fine" came out of my mouth instead (amazing how well I censor myself in different environments :). Not to worry because the gracious waiter man sent out a new dish anyways! Which brings me to.....
Fifth Course Part 2: black truffle custard served in an egg shell with Per Se signature potato crisp to use as a dipper. SECOND BEST OF THE NIGHT! The custard was smooth and decadent; and the crispy chip was an excellent offset to the creamy texture of the custard. I am the biggest fan of truffles (I have been known to sprinkle truffle oil liberally over any dishes) so I was thrilled to have had a truffle based dish included our tasting menu.
Sixth-Eighth Course: Lamb dish (R), peccorino cheese plate (not pictured), and plum sorbet with plump raisins (L). By this time I was pretty full (had trouble breathing) and running out of steam (like an engine running out of oil). Our table was tempted to take a break and take a quick walk to settle our stomachs, but then we realized we couldn't move due to the amount of food in our stomachs. The lamb was okay as there was no gamey stench. The cheese dish was pretty standard, although I did like it alot because I am a big fan of peccorino cheese. The raisins in the plum sorbet were ginormous (perhaps genetically modified?) and eons better than your run of the mill Sun Maid box.
Ninth Course: FINAL COURSE. DESSERT. I always save room for dessert, but by that point I was to a point where I was afraid I might have a heart attack if I ate another bite. However, when they brought out the dessert, an exquisite apple cake with brown butter ice cream, well......I just thought to myself, "if I die eating this dish, at least I went out in style" Luckily, I managed to stay alive (and blog about the night for you my readers :). The brown butter ice cream was like something from the heavens (or maybe the Devil), as it was extremely creamy, rich, and sinfully good. The apple cake was moist, dense, and the tinge of apple flavor bits did not overpower the overall composition of the dessert. Hands down one of the best desserts I had ever eaten!
After dinner: Courtasy of Per Se's gracious manager, we were able to tour Per Se's kitchen. Mr. Keller was not there that night (on a book tour...its good to be a celeb chef...sigh) but the kitchen is probably one of the most sophisticated and modern kitchens I had ever seen (and there was a flat screen that showed what the kitchens in French Laundry were up to...clever!). We were also given commemorative menus and a little bag of Per Se cookies at the end of the night to take back home with us.
All and all, a truly spectacular experience I will never forget. Experiences like Per Se remind me that taking time to enjoy great food with amazing friends is part of a life worth living.

Per Se
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019

Per Se on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

nice pics! Looks like you had a great meal

Anonymous said...

Hi the blog


Anonymous said...

Dear Athena!
Greetings from Shizuoka, Japan!
It seems that restaurants in Tokyo are going through a complete (globalisation) fusion!
langoustines to kidai (could be kinmedai).
Great dinner that was, although portions are a bit minimal and plates extra big!
Oh, well who am I to complain? After all I live in a superlative part of Japan where wasabi was first grown, which has the best sake in Japan, grows 70% of high-grade tea, has major fisheries, ... stop me!
Expect more visits (and comments!)!
Cheers and all that!

Anonymous said...

"if I die eating this dish, at least I went out in style"
hahah! so funny:)
food sounds AMAZING!!!

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