My husband and I celebrated three years of matrimonial bliss at Perilla the other night.
We arrived on time for our 7:30pm reservation, but opted to start with a drink at the bar first. The joint was jumpin’, but they didn’t rush us, which I appreciated. It was “whenever you’re ready.”
When we sat down for dinner, the bread they served was neither here nor there, but the olive oil was very bright and grassy. Really good stuff and I couldn’t stop dipping. Fortunately, they place one piece of bread at a time on your side plate, as opposed to the Evil Basket, so I was able to say no and save my appetite for the bigger things to come.
Since the Perilla menu first appeared online at the beginning of May, I’ve had the spicy duck meatballs with Okinawa yam gnocchi on the brain. Spicy + Duck + Meatball + Yam + Gnocchi = obvious deliciousness. I knew there was really no way to lose with that combination, and I wasn’t disappointed. They shouldn’t be billing the meatballs as spicy, since they’re really not, but they were pretty tasty, especially when mixed up with the quail egg that was perched on top. The gnocchi was sort of gummy, but not in an off-putting way. Actually, the gumminess of the gnocchi and the texture of the ground duck in the meatball complemented each other. This dish needed a touch more salt, and I felt very Tom Colicchio/Gail Symonds/Padma Lakshmi when I pointed this out to my husband.
He had the soft shell crab appetizer, which was a special. The crab was battered and fried and served with a salad of fresh corn and tomatoes. The crab wasn’t greasy and the coating was crispy and flavorful.
I went for the fiddlehead fern ravioli. If Spring had a taste, it would be these delicate flowers of raviolic joy (is raviolic a word? it just sounds so poetic.) These bits of light and fresh loveliness are in a rich, buttery sauce and sprinkled with perfectly cooked fava beans and more fiddlehead ferns. Like the meatballs, this needed a touch more salt, to really bring out the vegetables, but I loved it.
My husband had the black bean glazed cod with spaghetti squash, marcona almonds, and snap pea sauce. It was delicious; the almonds worked really well with the snap pea sauce and the fish was cooked perfectly. It was a really nice blend of flavors.
We were pretty impressed with the desserts. They’re so often an after-thought, but here it seems like as much consideration has gone into how to make them a holistic part of the dining experience, as opposed to slapping another tired molten chocolate cake on a plate and calling it a day.
We shared two: the coconut cake and the goat cheese glace. The sticky coconut cake is a cute, little pyramid that’s accompanied by a watermelon salad and a perilla-flavored frozen yogurt. Perilla sort of tastes like the milder love-child of basil and mint and the yogurt was light, refreshing and clean. It worked incredibly well with the coconut and my only complaint is that my husband muscled me out of the way for the last bite.
Fortunately, I had the last laugh, because the goat cheese glace was closer to me. The texture was like an airy, frozen cheesecake, topped with some roasted red grapes. The grapes and the goaty tang of the glace were an absolutely beautiful thing. Both were excellent.
As others have mentioned, portions are a bit skimpy, but maybe that’s my piggy American belly talking. I certainly didn’t leave hungry and it was actually kind of nice to have had two courses and dessert and not have to waddle my way home, complaining of being too full.
I was really impressed with the service; it's a tough place to get a reservation, and when I called about three weeks ago to book it, I pleaded for a decent time, explaining that it was for our anniversary. They must have made a note of it, because they brought out dessert with a candle in it and wished us a happy anniversary.
The atmosphere was very pleasant; loud enough to make you feel like you’re part of something, but not too loud that you can’t hear your conversation. They were playing the Arcade Fire in the background (the first album), which I thought was cool.
As fans of Top Chef, it was cool to see Harold poke his head out of the kitchen. I think the whole Top Chef thing is certainly going to bring in the crowd initially, but his food is strong enough to keep people coming back.
The entire meal, two glasses each of champagne and wine, two starters, two mains, and two desserts came out to about $175 with tip. It’s a little pricier than an average Tuesday night calls for (at least in my world), but the quality of the food is certainly worth trying.