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Per Se comparisons with French Laundry

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Per Se comparisons with French Laundry

JoeG | May 30, 2004 01:45 PM

Had my first meal at Per Se last night, and as expected, incredible. Won't recount the blow-by-blow 4 hour, 52 minute extravaganza, but a couple interesting things to pass along:

1) The gentlemen who took care of us, Peter, mentioned that since Chef Keller had heard buzz about Per Se surpassing the French Laundry in the eyes of the dining public. Keller was due back in NYC Sunday (today) with an eye towards checking that out. Any thoughts from folks out there who have dined at both within the past couple years?

2) I heard by word of mouth that if multiple people have the chef's tasting menus, you can have different dishes for different diners. Depending on how many diners are involved in this, it's called a "2 by 2," "3 by 3," etc. The premium for us ran $50 per diner. You have to specifically ask for this, because it's not explicitly offered.

3) Unlike many other restaurants, the entire table does not have the engage in the same tasting menu. I "forced" my parents to fast yesterday so that they wouldn't "wimp out" and go with the five course menu. Our extremely knowledgable waiter Peter (server, captain?) said that their goal is that you get the same quantity of food with a five course or nine course, but just more variety. In the end, my folks were able to do a five course menu without impairing my ability to consume my weight in gorgeous food.

4) Not being incredibly knowledgable about wines (nor a large consumer of them), I decided to do a wine pairing. They charge by the glass, so this ended up costing about $80 for five wines, but it was well worth it. There did not appear to be a sommelier on the floor, so either Peter and their staff are extraordinarily well-trained and/or there's someone behind the scenes helping out. The selection and backstory on each wine was very well thought out and explained, and the selections themselves were unique in their taste, but well-matched with the food. I felt like I received a lesson on wine-tasting along with dinner.

5) I'm a big fan of Gramercy Tavern in part because of the service attitude there. Great food, no snootiness, and a great knowledge of how dinner comes together. Per Se takes that to the next level. OK, the salt presentation was a bit over the top, and knowing the name of the four cows who provide the salted butter may not have been necessary. However, my party of four had numerous questions about the ingredients and preparation of our dishes, and the three or four people who served our table routinely never lacked a concise explanation. It was as if every dish had a hyperlink.

So what if a dinner for four set me back $1,010? Cheaper than a plane to San Francisco and a rental car. I'll definitely be back.

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