My friends and I are food lovers from way back. When we were in college, we would go out for one "fancy" dinner every month, experiencing a different type of cuisine each time. That was where (and when) I really learn to experiment and enjoy food from other cultures. My mom used to tell me that I ate better than she did, and she had a real job.
When we decided to converge upon New York City, we knew that we had to continue the trend of having one really high-end meal. We wanted to go big, and to many, there is no bigger than Thomas Keller's 3-star Michelin eatery, Per Se. Thomas Keller was the first American to simultaneously have two, 3-star Michelin properties in the United States.
Per Se is more than a restaurant, it's an experience. With a chef's tasting menu that includes nine official courses (and plenty of extras), you better go there on an empty stomach or risk missing out on some of the thoughtfully-prepared cuisine.
Per Se also offers a tasting of vegetables for non-meat eaters, and some of the items on the list looked so creative, I wanted to try a couple. It was no problem for me to sub in some of the dishes from the vegetarian menu into my tasting.
A couple of the courses have supplement options like Wagyu beef, foie gras or Imperial caviar, but with the standard tasting clocking in at a hefty $295 (gratuity included) before beverages, you can enjoy everything Per Se has to offer without any of the add-ons.
Saffron Braised White Asparagus with Cherry Tomatoes, Ramps, Miner's Lettuce, Hazelnuts and an Orange-Thyme-Acacia Honey Gastrique
With Per Se consistently being named one of the top restaurants in the world (not to mention the three Michelin stars and the $300 price tag) my expecations were sky high. I was not disappointed in the least. Every dish was expertly prepared with combinations of flavors that I would never dream of, and just enough whimsy to prevent it from being stuffy or pretentious.
Service was impeccable with plates being distributed around the table and the exact same time. Our wine and water glasses were never empty, and while it was obvious that we were not typical Per Se clientele, we were treated just as well as every other patron.
The progression of the meal was also fantastic. I'm only covering the highlights, but just imagine twice as much food, and then you'll have an idea of the amount we actually consumed.
I'm not much of an oyster fan, but I can't think of a better way to start off any meal than the signature "Oysters and Pearls" dish. The creaminess of the tapioca and the brininess of the oysters were a perfect compliment (and if you know me personally, I know that previous statement may surprise you). Other standouts were the saffron braised white asparagus salad, some luxurious pork belly and of course, dessert. The toasted popcorn and chocolate was rich and decadent, and while it was the last course listed on the menu, the surprises had only just begun.
Our waiter brought out a stacked tray of macarons and taffy. We made our selections, thinking that it was a great way to round out the meal. But we wrong. Then our waiter presented us with an ornate box with 20+ chocolates, each a different flavor. So we each picked a couple and tried to find some room for all of the sweet treats.
The true final, final course was a Per Se staple, their version of coffee and doughnuts - a delicate, lightly fried, ball of cinnamon brioche served with cappucino semifreddo. It was probably my absolute most favorite thing I ate all night. I just wish I wasn't so full so I could have really enjoy it. (It didn't stop me from eating the whole darn thing.)
The highlight of the evening was being invited to meet the chef in the kitchen. Since it was 1 a.m., there wasn't much cooking going on, but it was great to see the space and understand how such great food is prepared night after night. There's also a live feed set up to show the kitchen at Keller's flagship restaurant The French Laundry in Napa. This system allows both kitchens to keep an eye on each other and make sure that things are running smoothly. The chefs at the French Laundry even took time out of their preparations to give us a friendly wave.
Per Se was an amazing experience (that took a little over 4.5 hours from start to finish), and it was worth every, single penny. I may not ever get back there again, but I'll definitely always remember waddling outside, my stomach full of some of NYC's finest cuisine,
10 Columbus Circle
New York City, NY 10019
Lunch: Friday-Sunday 11:30am-1:30pm
Dinner: Nightly 5:30pm-10:00pm