Thursday, October 4, 2012

per se, NYC

Oh, per se. Where do I start? I could start by saying how it is ranked the 6th best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino, or that it has garnered 3 Michelin stars and 4 stars by the New York Times, or that it is Thomas Keller's flagship on the East Coast of New York - no, I'm sure you already know all of that. With so much to live up to, did per se, ultimately, live up to its hype? Did the experience live up to the high expectations that comes with the name? Well, read on...

We were ushered into the per se dining room, which was extremely elegant - tables were spaced far apart, the flooring was immaculate, the living room was airy and bright, with lots of plants to give some greenery and to provide a cheery disposition to break the stuffiness of the room. These pictures probably tell a much better story - take a look.

One thing I have to say about per se is that the service, from start to finish, was immaculate, impeccable. Extremely well-trained, they were friendly, personable, and even enjoyed giving their own spin on the dishes provided, were just so competent in engaging with us on friendly banter, and having the discreetness to know when to leave us alone - just top notch service, just what you'd expect from a restaurant of this name. 

But now, on to the food. We started off with some amuse bouches, of course. Some cheese balls to start off. 

Next up, salmon tartare, lime, creme fraische - shaped in an ice cream cone. I really loved the butteriness of the cone. 
The bread course came next, and it was apparently a brioche baked in some bakery somewhere - of course, on hindsight I can't remember which bakery it was, not that it mattered - the brioche was really buttery! It came paired with two kinds of butter - a more savoury version and a sweet cream-style version, which made things, well, interesting. 

(We asked for more bread later when the bread trolley arrived - and this time I picked out a sourdough, and a pretzel, which you can see in this photo - always loved pretzels).
But on to the first course, which was "Blue Crab Bisque: Peekytoe Crab Galette, Hass Avocado Puree and Cilantro Shoots". This was rather good - the crab's natural sweetness came through and the bisque was very savoury indeed - loads of umami. A good dish, if rather, well, uninventive. (8/10)

The second course was a "Four story Hill Farm's Guinea Hen Ravioli", with sweet carrots, compressed button mushrooms, arrowleaf spinach and red wine consomme. This was also quite a nice dish - the red wine consomme was expertly done and was extremely robust and flavourful - although the problem about ravioli is, well, you don't really taste much of the meat since it's hidden under the ravioli. Quite a delicious meat it was though, with a tinge of gamey flavours. A comforting dish, definitely - warm and robust. (8/10)

The third dish was a "Hand Harvested Maine Sea Scallop Poelee" with Belgian Endive Marmalade, Caramelised Black Mission Fig, Watercress and Serrano Ham Vinaigrette. This was quite delicious - the scallops were seared very well, to give the contrast between the sweetness of the insides of the scallops and the seared flavour of the outside; the endives were very tasty, with a tinge of yuzu (?) giving it some zest to cut through the scallops; the figs were delicious as well, and the Serrano Ham vinaigrette was again so full of flavour - it was a great combination to pair scallops and serrano ham, who would have thought. Very well done. (8.5/10) - would have given a 9/10 if there were at least one more scallop. 
The fourth dish was probably my favourite of the lunch - a Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Farm's Lamb, with eggplant "en persillade", summer squash, genovese basil "pistou" and Nicoise olive oil. The lamb was quite amazing, very very delicious, flavourful, and fatty, with melt in the mouth fat. The lamb was delicate and yet...just, delicious. Great dish. (9/10)

I was not impressed with the dessert course, however - it says "cookies and cream" - thomas keller "oreo", manjari chocolate "cremeux" and double cream ice cream. To me, it tasted like it says - cookies and cream. Sure, premium ingredients were used, but, hey, that wasn't very creative at all, thank you very much. (7/10)

And after that, one of the stunning waiters brought out a chocolate tray and started describing from memory all the different chocolates in that tray, for us to choose a few to savour. I chose a few, but one of the highlights was the maple pecan which was exquisite - very sweet, with a strong butter pecan flavour. 

The petit fours just kept coming - there was a cappuccino of sorts, with a pudding-like inside underneath the foam; some white chocolate balls; some donuts; and some lovely raspberry macarons which were nice. We were stuffed, and I guess we could not finish all the petit fours, lovely though they may be. 

Overall, per se was a great dining experience, no doubt. All the ingredients were top-notch, the pairings worked, albeit rather safe flavour pairings, and there were some standout dishes such as the lamb (in my opinion) and possibly the scallops. All the dishes were full of flavour, albeit, as I said, rather safe flavour combinations. The ambience was just lovely and the service was impeccable; immaculate - more than you could ever ask for in terms of service and ambience. 

If there was something to fault per se about was the value factor- all that cost me USD200, and it was just, well, 5 courses and each of the courses was rather, small in terms of food. It just didn't feel that satisfying paying so much and eating so little, for example, ONE scallop, albeit a really large one. Still, per se firmly deserves all the accolades as one of the top restaurants in New York and, indeed, in the world. 

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