Having not been to Perilla in more than a year, I figured it was about time to head back for another visit. My partner and I originally intended to partake of the RW menu, but ultimately we decided to stick with the main menu. This was my fourth visit, so while I knew not to expect mind-blowing food, I figured I was in for a pleasant evening and solid food. *sigh*
We had the:
Spicy Duck Meatballs (mint cavatelli, water spinach & quail egg)
Pan Roasted Striped Bass (corned beef, wood ears, mustard greens & horseradish parsnip sauce)
Grilled Prime Creekstone Hanger Steak (sunchoke creamed spinach, hen of the woods, red shallot puree & natural jus)
Farro Risotto (artichoke confit, parmesan & chili-grape salad)
A special dessert -- a chocolate soufflé
I've seen a lot of reviews lately, particularly over on Yelp, that complain of over seasoning -- particularly over salting -- at Perilla. Frankly, put me in that camp, as I would prefer that to the alternative; unfortunately, the food was just bland.
The duck meatballs arrived to the table a bit on the lukewarm side, though it was nice that they split the order for the two of us. The quail egg on top, at least every time I've had this dish in the past, had been properly separated -- only the yolk had been served. This time, the entire egg had just been cracked on top. The yolk blended with the sauce as usual; the white, however, just remained slimy and I had to push it around in the bowl. There was absolutely no "spice" present. Not even a hint. No seasoning other than mint (which was sprinkled on top). If I didn't already know that the meatballs were made from duck, I honestly would not have been able to decipher what meat I was actually eating. The flavors were that flat. Meh.
I had the striped bass... and I got it because I had previously had their skate wing prepared in a similar manner. I remember quite liking it. This time, I received an overcooked piece of striped bass... that had not received any seasoning; there were two very small pieces of corned beef; the wood ears and mustard greens had been cooked to a similar mushy, under-seasoned mess; and the horseradish parsnip sauce was essentially non-existent (aside from the 90s "chocolate swipe" on the edge of the plate). Suffice it to say, without the presence of any real sauce, the dish was incredibly dry. Ugh.
My partner had the hangar steak, of which I had a bite. Again, no seasoning. No salt. No pepper. The only flavor that came from the beef was severe char (read: burned, not yummy caramelized flesh). And please don't tempt either one of us with the words "creamed spinach" -- as we both love a good creamed spinach -- when you are only going to serve straight-up sautéed spinach. Neither of us were impressed.
I've had the farro risotto before. I remember loving it. This time, no artichoke flavor. No parmesan flavor. Only this incredibly pungent flavor of creamed cheese. Unmistakably, creamed cheese. And it did not taste good... at all... and 3/4 of the dish was taken away when the table was cleared.
A preface: love a good chocolate soufflé. I make a pretty darned good one myself. So, when I have to commit to ordering it at the beginning of the meal, I assume that the kitchen should be able to put out a proper soufflé. What we received was a completely undercooked mess. It was hot chocolate soup. The soufflé had not begun to set at all. The incredibly thin crème anglaise sank straight to the bottom of the oversized teacup used to serve it. I don't think I had previously ever left a chocolate soufflé partially uneaten -- I guess there's a first for everything.
Service was ok-ish. The waitress seemed to perk up slightly when we said we weren't going with the RW menu (not a particularly good first impression), but never checked in with us to see how the food was. We had to track down a runner to get bread at the beginning of the meal, though our water classes were always full. The ok-ish cocktails we had when we sat down at the table were enough to convince us that we didn't really need another.
While I would never have claimed Perilla's food to be particularly memorable, I previously had found it to be a solid option in the mid-range. After last night's meal, I have no design to ever go back. What happened? Has the quality slid that much since the last time I was there? Did we happen to come in on an incredibly off night? I will say that, under normal circumstances, I probably would have spoken to a manager and mentioned my disappointment; however, the two of us had had a really unpleasant week and just needed to get out and enjoy some time together. Didn't want to "go there," a sentiment I'm sure some of you have felt in similar circumstances.
9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014