Sunday, December 21, 2008

Per Se (New York, NY)

Per Se
10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019
Sun 12/21/2008, 09:00p-12:15a

Ahh Per Se...for many, the most formidable restaurant in all of Gotham, and the seemingly perfect end to my New York culinary tour--following Adour, Le Bernardin, and Jean Georges. When I was planning my trip to the City, I wasn't even sure if Per Se was going to be on the itinerary. Reservations here were only a slight bit easier to secure than those for Barack Obama's presidential inauguration, so we were put on the waiting list. We had some backup dinners planned (e.g. WD-50 and Momofuku Ko), but as luck would have it, the reservation came through just days before departure.

The story of Per Se started back in 2001, when Thomas Keller began plans for a triumphant return to New York--Keller had actually opened his first restaurant, Rakel, here in 1986. He knew who he wanted to helm the new restaurant early on, and tapped French Laundry alum Jonathan Benno for the task. Previously, Benno had worked at Craft, Gramercy Tavern under Tom Colicchio, and Aqua under Michael Mina. Teams from French Laundry were brought over for training, and the restaurant opened on February 16, 2004, almost exactly a decade after Keller took over French Laundry.

People often ask about where the name "Per Se" comes from. Anecdotally, when Per Se was under development, people would ask Keller if it'd be the same as French Laundry; he'd subsequently respond that it wouldn't be the same per se. However, the name actually came from an examination of the ampersand symbol ("&"). The word "ampersand" is a contraction of the words "and per se and;" further research led Keller to discover that the phrase "per se" was Latin for "by itself." It really captured what he wanted the restaurant to be, something that was unique from French Laundry, but that didn't forget where it came from.

Per Se occupies a relatively secluded space on the fourth floor of Time Warner Center. Immediately north is another Michelin 3-star eatery: Masa. Legend has it that Keller convinced owner Masa Takayama to shutter his Ginza Sushiko (now Urasawa) in Beverly Hills in order to move with Keller to New York; the two restaurants opened within weeks of each other in 2004. No matter, upon approaching Per Se, you're unquestionably drawn to the pair of iconic blue doors, seemingly lifted straight from the entrance of French Laundry. But as you approach, you realize that they're just a façade; glass doors to either side swoosh open, beckoning you in. The doors pay homage to the Laundry; but by making them false, the idea was to signal that Per Se was to be its own restaurant.

The Adam Tihany-designed space shines in earthen, woody tones of brown. The main dining room (pictured above) seats 75 and is divided into an upper (where we were seated) and a lower portion, with the lower housing the fireplace and possessing a view of bustling Columbus Circle below. In addition, two private dining rooms are available. The East Room also overlooks the Circle and accommodates 10 guests, while the larger West Room handles 60 diners.

Naturally, I asked for a Mojito to start. Our server suggested a special version [$20.00] made with walnut liqueur. Feeling adventurous, I went for it. The drink was interesting to say the least, and actually not very Mojito-like, with very little mint, and very little citrus. All I could detect was the liqueur, which itself tasted not of walnuts, but plum, specifically, vinegar- and salt-pickled Chinese suan mei!

Per Se offers at least two menus of French-influenced contemporary American fare: one Chef's Tasting Menu and a Tasting of Vegetables. On this night, a special Offal Tasting Menu was also available. Click for larger versions. Each is nine-courses, and $275 inclusive of 20% service and non-alcoholic beverages (which was surprising). Dinner is served nightly, with a five-course $175 lunch offered Friday through Sunday. Regarding Per Se's menu philosophy, Keller and company are well aware of the law of diminishing returns, and as a result, portions are purposely small to have maximum impact, to make the diner want just "one more bite." It mostly works.

I previously complained about Adour's wine by the glass prices, and Per Se's are only a touch more manageable. What was truly shocking here was the corkage, at an incredible $90. And I thought the $50 at French Laundry was steep! In any case:
  • Rudi Pichler, Grüner Veltliner, Federspiel, Wachau 2007 [$22.00] - I've grown quite fond of Grüners, and this was a nice example of such. Citrus and minerals on the nose lead to dry, crisp flavors on the palate, with a bit of spice and heat on the finish.
  • Peay, Pinot Noir, "Pomarium," Sonoma Coast 2006 [$32.00] - A good California Pinot, I noted aromas of light red fruit and smoke initially, leading to plenty of herbal, spicy, and berry-like flavors in the mouth. Tangy and nice.

Pretzel, baguette, and semolina breads were paired with two types of butter. On the right was a fleur de sel butter from Vermont (made by Diane Sinclair exclusively for Keller), on the left a butter from Straus Family Creamery in California.

Canapé 1: Gruyère Gougères
The meal started off the exact same way as at French Laundry, with some positively addictive gougères, a French choux pastry with Gruyère cheese in the batter. They were delicious, and a touch creamier than I recall at Laundry, though I'd still have to give the edge to CUT's version.

Canapé 2: Salmon Coronets
The smoked salmon coronets ("crowns") are perhaps Keller's most famous dish. At French Laundry, I had them with red onion crème fraîche, but this time, the crème fraîche was flavored with sweetbreads, giving the coronets a somewhat heavier taste. The cone was a black sesame tuile with a peppery bite and crunchy texture that nicely contrasted the salmon.

1a: "Torchon de Foie de Lotte"
Green Apple Gelée, Crystallized Apple Chip and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar. Here, I noted an initial fishiness from the foie de lotte, or monkfish liver, which was definitely stronger than most preparations of ankimo I've had. It was a bit off-putting at first, but then the sweetness of the apple became apparent, right before the dish finished with the salty tang of caviar.

1b: "Oysters and Pearls"
"Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar. Scratch what I said above about the Coronets, this is Keller's signature dish. Of course, I had the same dish at French Laundry, but with Beau Soleil instead of Island Creek oysters. In any case, the oyster was actually not the focal point of flavor for me. The key was to eat everything together, to get the oyster as well as the cool brininess of caviar contrasting with the creaminess of tapioca--a magnificent multilayered study in texture and temperature.

Complementary Course: Calf's Brain and Scrambled Egg with Shaved White Truffles
Now this was a surprise. I initially thought that this was a course from the Offal Tasting Menu, but knew that wasn't the case when my dining companion also received the dish. We were told that this was calf's brain, which, coincidentally, I'd only had once before--at French Laundry. I was surprised once more when the truffle box was brought out, containing one of the largest white truffles I'd ever seen (the "smallest one we have" according to our truffle shaver). The consistency of the brain was soft, but not too creamy, actually quite similar to the scrambled egg. Flavor-wise, this was a bit milder and thus more palatable than the one I had earlier--a little like sweetbreads--while the truffles added simply abundant amounts of their signature pungent, earthy aroma. It was a near perfect pairing. I'm still not sure why we received this special gift. Perhaps it was because we talked about our experiences at French Laundry, or perhaps because we mentioned that we had been interested in the recent series of 20-course dinners Keller held with his famed protégé Grant Achatz (of Alinea fame). A very kind gesture, it shall remain a mystery.

2a: "Confit de Langue de Bœuf"
Horseradish-Scented Kendall Farms' Crème Fraîche, Roasted Heirloom Beets and Red Watercress with Red Wine Vinegar Sauce. This was easily the tenderest beef tongue I've ever had; sliced thin, it was almost like ham in texture. Its flavor was also extremely delicate, and thus really relied on the horseradish, beet, and tangy vinegar for support. About as light and refreshing as offal can get I imagine.

2b: Terrine of Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras ($45.00 supplement)
Black Winter Truffles, Frisée Lettuce and Balsamic Reduction with Toasted Brioche. This was one supplement I just had to get. I sampled the "Moulard Duck Foie Gras Terrine" on my visit to French Laundry, and it turned out to be the best foie gras I'd ever had; a comparison was absolutely necessary. But alas, there was no comparison--the Laundry's was better, an impossibly high standard. That's not to say that there was anything wrong here. Though it could've be a touch saltier, it was still among the best preparations of foie gras I've tried, and went wonderfully with the frisée, balsamic, and brioche especially.

3a: "Aile de Raie Farcie aux Crêtes de Coq"
Braised Red Cabbage with Whole Grain Mustard Emulsion. When this came out, I didn't know what it was; I thought it was just fish. Turns out it was skate stuffed with cockscombs, or chicken crests. I had eaten skate a couple nights earlier at Le Bernardin, and comparatively, this was a firmer, more savory presentation, which my dining companion likened to a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish! The combs themselves were pretty nondescript, and contributed simple saltiness to the dish, while the cabbage added a bit of tangy sweetness.

3b: Fillet of Mackerel "Cuit à l'Huile d'Olive"
Saffron Poached Yukon Gold Potatoes, Caramelized Cauliflower and Shallot Shoot with Saffron-Espelette "Aigre-Doux." The mackerel, barely cooked in olive oil, was actually quite fishy, the skin especially, but had a very delicate, silky flesh. It wasn't too far off from what I had at Le Bernardin actually. An aigre-doux or agrodolce is a sweet and sour sauce, and it really helped temper the strong flavor of the fish, as did the heavy vegetables. The result was a superbly balanced dish.

4a: "Trippa Piccata"
Monterey Bay Abalone, Globe Artichokes, Meyer Lemon and Parsley Chips with "Sauce Piccata." This was tripe (cow's stomach lining), done "piccata" style, meaning dredged in flour, sautéed, and served with lemon and spice. The tripe was actually not very distinctive, and could've really been nearly any fried meat. Rather, it was the abalone that stole the show; the two generous portions were extraordinarily tender, almost not like abalone in texture in fact, and marvelously delicious. Both tripe and abalone were complemented by the super-sour suprêmes of Meyer lemon.

4b: Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster
Confit of Fennel, Niçoise Olives and "Mousseline des Topinambours." I'd had a version of butter-poached lobster at French Laundry as well, and compared to that, this was a bit tougher and lacking in the former's creamy crispness unfortunately. I liked the tartness of the Jerusalem artichoke mousseline (hollandaise with cream), as well as the slight pungency of the fennel, but the dish was forgettable overall.

5a: "Bacon and Eggs"
Crispy Four Story Hill Farm's Pig Tail, Deviled Quail Egg, Haricot Verts and Frisée Lettuce with "Sauce Ravigote." I don't think I've had pig's tail before, but it turned out surprisingly lean (I was expecting something really oily for some reason), tender, and almost like pulled pork in consistency. Thus, I liked the contrast between the aforementioned interior and the tail's hard, crispy outside, which reminded me of a croquette. I'm generally a fan of deviled eggs and the version here turned out very well--the first time I've had quail egg done this way. A fairly rich dish, the medley was lightened up by the vegetables as well as the Ravigote--a tart vinegar-based sauce seasoned with onion, capers, and herbs.

5b: Herb Roasted Cavendish Farm's Quail
"Jambonette en Crépinette," Turnip "Mostarda," Blood Orange "Suprêmes" and Sylvetta with Quail Jus. A crépinette is a small sausage, and a jambonette is a stuffed poultry leg, so this was a sort of quail sausage made from a quail leg. I had a similar thing, albeit on a much larger scale (with the whole bird involved), at Leatherby's Cafe Rouge in Costa Mesa. In any case, it was quite delicious--juicy, tender, and flavorful--while the breast portion was a touch leaner and milder, but still tasty. The mostarda was a condiment made from candied turnips, and along with the blood oranges, lent a sweet/sour flavor to the quail that unfortunately didn't quite sit well with me; the bird stood on its own. The sylvetta (a type of arugula), meanwhile, was there pretty much for decoration only.

6a: All Day Braised Elysian Fields Farm's Lamb Neck
"Ris d'Agneau," "Pommes Boulangères" and Tokyo Turnips with Lamb Sauce. The lamb and sweetbreads were formed together into one rich, tender, decadent piece. Perhaps even better were the pommes boulangères, or "bakery potatoes," basically a gratin of thin-sliced potatoes, named so because traditionally they were given to bakers to cook in a bread oven. I also enjoyed the juicy bitterness of the Tokyo turnips, which did their part in tempering the heaviness of the lamb and potatoes.

6b: Elysian Fields Farm's "Selle d'Agneau Rôtie Entière"
Herb-Scented "Panisse," Sweet Peppers, English Cucumber and Meyer Lemon Coulis with Lamb Sauce. Compared to the braised lamb, this saddle was much milder and a bit tougher, resulting in a somewhat flat piece of lamb, which was not helped by the overly-tart lemon coulis. The block-like panisse, by the way, is a creation from Northern Italy/Southern France made from fried chickpeas. This was my first time having it, and it was absolutely lovely, almost like a potato cake--the best part of the dish.

With the cheese courses, we received three new types of bread: mustard, cranberry, and pecan.

7a: "Pecorino Pepato"
Salumeria Biellese "Guanciale," Confit of Eggplant and "Salsa Verde." Pecorino Pepato is a type of Italian sheep's milk cheese infused with peppercorns. It had a great texture and was moderately spicy, but was overshadowed by the guanciale, a type of bacon made with pork cheeks, sourced from Salumeria Biellese in New York. The guanciale lent an extremely "porky" flavor to the whole dish, and, along with the eggplant and tart salsa verde, made the course a bit too in-your-face for me.

7b: "Manchester"
Compressed Mutsu Apples, Celery Branch Filaments and Marcona Almond Butter. Manchester is a goat's milk cheese produced by Peter Dixon at Consider Bardwell Dairy in Vermont. Milder and nuttier than the Pecorino, it went superbly with the crisp tartness of the Mutsu (a.k.a. Crispin) apples and celery. A simple, light presentation of cheese.

8a: Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras "Parfait"
Per Se Raisins, Juniper-Tellicherry Pepper Melba and Sultana Coulis. Due to its high fat content, foie gras can be made into a sort of ice cream, as I found out for the first time here. Eating it was honestly a bit disconcerting, as the flavor of the foie really was apparent, but the texture and temperature just seemed incongruous. I noted strong foie gras flavors initially, which then gave way to the thick sweetness of the melba and sultana (grape) coulis, finally yielding once again to foie gras. A fascinating dessert.

8b: Pineapple Quince-Cider Sorbet
"Pain au Lait," Rice Pudding and Maple Gelée. Humorously, as soon as I took a bite of this, I stated that it was "like eating a scented candle." I noted strong fruit, vanilla, and medicinal notes, and the effect was further heightened by the textural mélange of rice pudding and bread. Interesting, but not entirely pleasant.

9a: "Jam Roly-Poly"
Pumpkin Jam, Chestnut Steamed Pudding and Smoked Bone Marrow with Four Spice Ice Cream. The name here is not a reference to the pill bug, but to the traditional British dessert (rolled suet pudding with jam). The dessert had a great spicy kick to it from the ice cream, and I really appreciated the crunchiness and savoriness of the bone marrow, along with the textural contrast of the whole amalgam. Probably my favorite of the four desserts.

9b: "Mille-Feuille de Poire"
Walnut Mousse, Confit Bosc Pears, Candied Walnuts and Licorice Ice Cream. I didn't get much licorice from the ice cream; rather, it was a cinnamon-y spice that got my attention, along with the crispness of the pear. The "Mille-Feuille" was a bit of a letdown. Tasty, but not nearly as interesting as the other desserts.

Mignardises 1
The first round of after-dinner goodies began with a Yogurt Pot de Crème with Guava Jam and a selection of chocolates. The yogurt was mild, with a bit of tartness, but was mostly there for body and contrast, as the main flavor came from the guava jam. As with French Laundry, there was also a crème brûlée option, which we were offered upon inquiring. The chocolates were: Chuao (solid dark chocolate from Venezuela), honey-thyme, hazelnut, cherry-vanilla, fennel, maple-pecan, raspberry, and vanilla.

Mignardises 2
Next, we were brought bowls containing Housemade Hard Candies and Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts, which we didn't eat much of, leaving us to wonder if they're reused among diners. Next was the familiar tri-level metal container, filled with Salted Caramels (soft and slightly salty), Walnut and Cherry Nougat, and finally, three types of truffles: White Chocolate with Coconut, Milk Chocolate with Caramel (wonderfully savory), and Amedei Dark Chocolate (my favorite).

As a parting gift, we were given two boxes of the treats above. This was in place of the normal takeaway, which I believe was some sort of cookie.

As expected, comparisons to French Laundry would be inevitable. Thus, in that vein, my feelings were that Per Se wasn't quite as good. Now, this was a great meal, which I enjoyed dearly, and I'd definitely go back to Per Se; but at the same time, I didn't feel that the flavors or the presentation had the finesse and elegance of French Laundry. It's close, but not quite there. Per Se is supposed to be an urban interpretation of French Laundry, but somehow I get the feeling that it's still reeling in its big brother's shadow. Per Se's setting in Manhattan and its resulting supply of raw materials make it necessarily different than Laundry; it cannot be merely a copy. On the flip side though, Per Se can never forget where it came from. It's a tough balancing act, so maybe it'll just take some time to figure out.

Interestingly, a friend of mine from New York recently dined at French Laundry after experiencing Per Se, and her conclusion was that it was Laundry that wasn't up to snuff (although she says that may have been attributable to Corey Lee's absence that night). I strongly suspect that had I eaten there instead of at Per Se, it still wouldn't have lived up to my first experience. That really brings up an issue that I've been struggling with as of late. Perhaps I'm the problem, not the restaurant. As you eat more and more, at better and better places, your palate evolves. You become more knowledgeable, more discerning, and more picky. I've certainly noticed that I'm much more critical now than I was when I started this blog, being able to pick up on more nuances, more subtleties, and more flaws. This is troubling to some extent, as it means that it takes more to impress. To really wow me, it seems like something can no longer be just delicious, it has to have novelty, something new, something unique. I've dined at enough of the "best" restaurants that I'm left to wonder: where do I go from here?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great recap. I've also eaten at Per Se and French Laundry and I also prefer FL (I went there first) -- a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Yountville location is truly a magical place. Per Se, including its servers, seemed a bit stuffy. I also appreciate your final you dine at the very best restaurants first or save them until last? Except for Cyrus, I've never had a meal that came close to the French Laundry. -- David

Friday, January 16, 2009 5:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin, I kind of felt the same way you did when I ate at Jean Georges. The meal was really great but that "wow" factor was somehow missing for me. Now, Per Se - well, that was the worst of the 5 stars for us, but seriously maybe they just had a bad day when we were there? Here's my review of Per Se - and let me know how it compares to your experience.

Friday, January 16, 2009 8:33:00 AM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

"I've dined at enough of the "best" restaurants that I'm left to wonder: where do I go from here?".

Kevin, the first thing that popped in my head was "Beef Bowl... you go to Yoshinoya Beef Bowl"! LOL

Great post. I'm jealous as ever, but it's always a treat to see your photos and read your blog. I'm still trying to imagine what " crème fraîche flavored with sweetbreads" tastes like. Cheers!

p.s. I LIKE Yoshinoya

Friday, January 16, 2009 9:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think you need to clean your palate at the apple pan or the volcano again.

Would you say that the French Laundry and Ursuwa are the best resturants in the US?


Friday, January 16, 2009 9:19:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

David: I wouldn't say that I try to order restaurants in any way, but in New York, it worked out that the meals progressed in quality, though the differences were not huge. It's interesting though that you mentioned Cyrus, as I dined there the night before French Laundry, and found it lacking in comparison.

5 Star Foodie: Your meal sounded quite uneven, even moreso than mine. I did think that Per Se was a bit stronger than Jean Georges though. Neither truly "wowed" me.

MyLastBite: Believe me, I've been to Yoshinoya and have been thoroughly unimpressed lol. But maybe I'm just getting the wrong thing, since you do like it...

Paul: I've actually never been to the Apple Pan before. And believe me, I've been back to Volcano! As for best restaurants, I'd rank Joël Robuchon higher than Laundry actually. Urasawa yes.

Friday, January 16, 2009 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you have defenitely become a much tougher critic since you're early posts (i was thinking that as I was reading - and then you made mention)...there seems to be something else at play here that resulted in a mixed experience --- was the service so-so?

and who funds these exercusions? i mean can you share some background about you (you are beginning to have a real talent in this food writing so I'd like to learn more)

ps - i thought French Laundry was OK


Friday, January 16, 2009 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

rereading my previous post - please forgive my grammatical errors and spelling mistakes


Friday, January 16, 2009 1:39:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

radman123, the service was actually quite nice. Our server was among the most pleasant I've experienced, and the complementary calf's brain was a very kind gesture as well. I think it's an issue of me being harder to please, as well as the lofty expectations inherent with Per Se.

As for funding, almost all meals are funded by me. There are a few exceptions, and they are noted as such. Writing about my restaurant experiences certainly isn't my job, nor do I derive income from it.

As for French Laundry, sadly, I bet that if I were to go back today, I may feel the same way as you did.

Friday, January 16, 2009 2:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin..i have been going to apple pan for all my life. while its not the greatest burger in the world, the charm of the place (not selling out to the behemoths around it), the waitstaff that has been there for the entire worth it. Get the steakburger with cheese (my fav) or the hickoryburger. Fries are great. Apple or banana cream pie is delish. Closed on Mondays.


Friday, January 16, 2009 2:30:00 PM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

I was just trying to think "what would be the opposite of Per Se?".... and thought "Beef Bowl"! I really only eat at Yoshinoya for hangover recovery (which isn't that often thank goodness). Sticky rice, sliced beef and tummy comforting ginger. lol

Question for you. Are you planning on trying out any DineLa deals?

Friday, January 16, 2009 6:09:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Paul: Thanks for the tips. It does sort of look like one of those iconic LA eateries!

MyLastBite: Well you didn't mention anything about being drunk! That changes things. ;)

No plans to do dineLA currently. The problem is that a mere 3-course meal doesn't really satisfy me. What about you?

Saturday, January 17, 2009 12:45:00 AM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

this doesn't have much to do with the food but how do you get your pictures so bright? are the places just really well lit?

Saturday, January 17, 2009 2:06:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I use a Fujifilm FinePix F30, a compact camera legendary for its low-light acumen. I also use Photoshop for post-processing.

Saturday, January 17, 2009 4:21:00 PM  
Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

I would have sworn that I left a comment. What happenned to it ?

Sunday, January 18, 2009 1:07:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Annie, I just checked my records and I couldn't find anything. What did you say?

Sunday, January 18, 2009 2:52:00 AM  
Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

That is is hard not to become jaded when you are used to dining at such wonderful places frequently :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009 5:02:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Ah yes, I am finding that to be true. Perhaps I need to recalibrate by going to some lower-end places. ;)

Sunday, January 18, 2009 6:11:00 PM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

Hi Kevin, re; DineLA... so far just Bazaar... I wonder what we will get for $44? They better have cotton candy foie gras!!

Monday, January 19, 2009 2:51:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Hopefully it's more than three courses!

Monday, January 19, 2009 4:53:00 PM  
Blogger TheKillerPotato said...

Followed over from your myspace! Good review of Per Se. I think now and then it's good to clean the palate with some simple cheap eats! :P

Monday, January 19, 2009 9:26:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Thanks! Glad you made it over. I definitely agree about "cleansing" the palate.

Monday, January 19, 2009 9:50:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

I wonder how many diners there were that night, and if the economy has affected their business. You had some great photos there, despite the low light.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 3:43:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

following today's 4-star review of Daniel, you must go. and take me with you haha.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 3:44:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Thanks. Lighting conditions were challenging, notably worse than FL's. Copious Photoshopping was required.

The restaurant was pretty full while we were there. Per Se seems to be weathering the storm fine so far:

“The differences we’re seeing are minimal,” said Raj Dagstani, director of operations at Per Se. “Gratefully, yes, our restaurant is fully reserved every night.”

from Bloomberg.

As for Daniel, it's definitely on the roster for the next excursion to Gotham. The question is: are you down?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

jeez, what kind of photoshop doctoring do you have to do? Levels, brightness, contrast et al? Time to use your SLR. haha

Friday, January 23, 2009 9:51:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Levels is usually all that's required in Photoshop. I'd be a bit wary about using an SLR at a place like this, since the camera's so unwieldy. I'm actually looking forward to Fuji's new Super CCD EXR sensor, which is the first new chip that really has a chance of stepping up low-light performance in the compact camera class.

Friday, January 23, 2009 3:42:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

True, SLRs can be unwieldy. I think with what you have (or that new camera with the improved CCD), you can't get much better. You should just use what's comfortable.

Friday, January 23, 2009 4:07:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I actually have a dinner at Sona next week where we have a private dining room. I think I might try to document that meal with my DSLR, given that the private room lets me shoot without bothering other diners. I am a bit concerned about not having macro capabilities though. I'll probably use a 50mm f1.7, with a magnification of 1:5.

Friday, January 23, 2009 5:07:00 PM  
Blogger mattatouille said...

yeah, that definitely works. with that crop factor, you're 75mm, which is decent for portrait like food photos. looking forward to them. w/o macro you won't be able to get too close to the food, perhaps about 1.5-2 feet away, which isn't too bad.

Friday, January 23, 2009 5:10:00 PM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

I was looking at the top restaurants in the world at work today and figured you might have come here during your NYC trip.

I have to say, even though it's slightly below French Laundry per your review, the food still great. Whether it's FL or PS, I want to try the Oysters and Pearl dish. It's weird, after going to Urasawa, spending $300 on a meal doesn't seem so bad...but hell, it's probably just me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 5:35:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Danny, I was looking at the list recently as well. Per Se was arguably the highlight of the NY trip, but still fell short of expectations, which were admittedly high.

I used to think that spending $75pp on a meal was excessive, but now that's "cheap" to me. Our tolerances definitely escalate as we broaden our gastronomic experiences.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

it really seems that you've done most of the top restaurants in the US. to get some wow factor, maybe it's time to take a food trip to france, spain, and japan =)

Friday, June 19, 2009 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

You're absolutely right Rich. A European trip is definitely in order for me, France and Spain especially. The only question is when.

Friday, June 19, 2009 1:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Joce {Foodie Finder} said...

To answer your initial question: Where do I go from here?

It's called, ElBulli :)

We plan to make our first reservation attempt at the end of the year or Jan 2010. The key is getting the email out within the 3 days that the book is open.

Thursday, June 25, 2009 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

El Bulli indeed--I tried getting reservations last fall but failed. From a broader viewpoint, I would like to garner some more international experience, as the US has been largely tapped out.

Saturday, June 27, 2009 6:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to go to France and see what the Yanks repeatedly fail to copy! Yes there are good restaurants here in the US. Yes there are outposts of famous European chefs here (Guy Savoy, Joel Robuchon, etc..) but let's face it, everyone in America is simply imitating what has been in France for ages. I don't know about Japanese food as really the only top-end meals you can get here are sushi (Urasawa is nice, but it's far from the best sushi I've ever had -- Best dining experience in general, well that's debatable).

So drop some real money (think $500-1000 per person minimum without wine!!) and get your head around the best of the best. It helps if you know some French.

Friday, August 20, 2010 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

The most romantic, elegant restaurant I've ever been to, and I have been to a half-dozen Michelin 3 star restaurants elsewhere already between England and the USA.

The view of Central Park was stunning at lunch.

Our table was huge and comfortable, the room was quiet, service was outstanding.

Presentation was lovely, but to be honest, out of the 9 courses, I was only crazy about 4 of them.

Was it worth $275 per person inclusive of tip? I'd say yes, for the experience -- but not for the food alone by itself, if that makes sense.

I wish they'd let you order a la carte, and just have 3 courses. THEN I'd definitely go back.

Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:55:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Annie, which are the other 3-stars that you've been to?

Don't they have a bar menu that's a la carte?

Friday, October 29, 2010 4:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you ever make it to Europe? As others have said, the US simply copies what they do on the Continent. French food you've eaten here in the US might just surprise you compared to what you have in the Motherland. I for one prefer the dining experience overseas, but that's just me. As much as I enjoyed French Laundry, you can talk about Michelin stars all day and night but Thomas Keller is still a nobody in France. Always has been, always will be. The French like American music, we go gaga for French chefs.

Sunday, March 06, 2011 9:55:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

No, I've not made it out to Europe yet, at least not for a gastronomic tour. It's not so much the cost, but the time and effort involved that's keeping me away. That being said, I definitely would like to go, and fully expect that my meals there will be stellar. In any case, I don't know if I'd really consider the food at Per Se French; it's more like modern American to me, with some French flair perhaps.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011 2:30:00 PM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

just went this past sat for lunch. i really enjoyed the oysters and pearls (which i wasn't able to try at TFL when i went back in 2009). i have to say i enjoyed my experience at TFL more. i think it may have been the horrific weather (the freak storm that descended on nyc on saturday), the restaurant location (up in a sterile concrete/steel tower vs. located on an idyllic country road), or the setting (kinda sparsely spaced tables in a stadium-styled seating vs. cozy country home). anyways, the food was great (although the foie and the lobster from TFL was far superior), the service wonderful... i'd go back to TFL in a heartbeat (that's if i can get a reservation there)...but per se...i don't know.

on a different note, the price for the tasting went up to $295 since your visit. and i believe TFL's pp price includes the 20% gratuity AND alllllll the non-alcoholic beverages (cuz we were drinking diet coke to no end!).

btw, rick bayless was there with his family. and they went all out i think they had like 14 courses, all with wine pairing.

you planning on going back anytime soon?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Thanks for the update Dan. I'll probably be in New York next year, but Per Se isn't on my list, given that there are so many restaurants I still need to try in NYC.

Why weren't you able to get O&P at TFL though? I thought that they always had it available.

Monday, November 07, 2011 2:29:00 AM  
Blogger daniel s. kim said...

yeah that was my understanding too...until we arrived and didn't see it anywhere on the menu!!!!

no O&P and no coffee&donuts either...

it's all good cuz i finally got to try them at per se...

i know you like to dine at highend, but if you haven't already tried, check out halal, aka chicken over rice. i recommend the white sauce, but if yur brave enough, go for the hot sauce.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011 2:03:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Funny you mention the halal cart, as that's where I ended up after my meal at wd~50.

I tried the chicken and the lamb, and enjoyed both. Had the white sauce *and* the hot sauce, which is pretty hot actually.

Friday, November 11, 2011 1:12:00 AM  
Anonymous S Lloyd said...

Awesome conclusion, Kevin. True, it is unfortunate that at some point we get to a point of saturation. This, when you'll tour Europe and Asia, on a gourmet aspect, will be quite fun for you: you'll need the most exciting tables they have (for eg, the most exciting of Spain, Italy, Japan) or else, everything will look just good, merely great.

Saturday, March 09, 2013 5:37:00 PM  

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