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Per Se exceeded expectations

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Per Se exceeded expectations

fooder | Jan 19, 2010 08:25 PM

As always, full review and photos on my blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

There were so many extras in addition to the written 9 course menu that the review will end up being in 3 parts. Perhaps my expectations were tempered a bit by the fact that they are in transition and that it was the MLK holiday (neither Benno nor Kaimeh were in house, but the sous chef in charge did an amazing job). Yet I don't think I went in expecting less than Robuchon at the Mansion, and I thought Per Se did a much better job.

The service was excellent as one would expect. Friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. My server, who had experience both front of house and in the kitchen, was engaging throughout the evening.

Ok, on to the food. I don't remember which were on the written menu and which were extras.

The signature salmon cornet and gougeres to start. The marinated salmon and onion mixture was nice, but I was more fascinated by the tuile batter used to make the cornet. So simple (I think it was only flour, butter, sugar, salt, and egg whites) but so delicious and worked really well with the salmon mixture. The gougeres weren't as warm as I would like, but the burst of the liquid cheese center was terrific.

CELERY ROOT "VELOUTE" with CELERY BRANCH "FILAMENTS" and CONFIT OF GARLIC CRISP
A terrific way to start the meal. The soup had terrific celery and garlic flavor. The crisps, confit, froth, and soup were a perfect range of textures coming together.

"OYSTERS AND PEARLS": "SABAYON" OF PEARL TAPIOCA with ISLAND CREEK OYSTERS and STERLING WHITE STURGEON CAVIAR
Another signature Keller dish. The caviar was bursting with flavor. While I feel that tapioca is often misused in dishes, the tapioca sabayon provided a perfect texture accompaniment here. Again, hitting a range of flavors and textures.

SASHIMI OF ATLANTIC FLUKE with YUZU, GLAZED TURNIPS AND SCALLION "EMINCEE" with MOROMI PUREE
Forgot to take a photo of this one. It was served in a vessel shaped like a sake carafe. While fluke is one of those fish that chefs love but I'm only ok with (like skate), the fish was fresh and I really liked the scallion slices that came with it. The moromi (mash that ferments to become sake) puree was not as strong as I would have thought.

PAVE OF SPANISH MACKEREL with TOMATO MARMALADE, HOLLAND PEPPERS, and SAFFRON RICE PUFF with PARSLEY OIL
This was the first dish where I thought I grasped the essence of the genius at work here. Similar to Barbot, the superiority here is about balance. A recurring theme throughout the night was how such strongly flavored components could come together in harmony without any one being overpowering. The fish was just right, and I could taste the different flavors coming together. Everything felt in place, whereas the last time I went to Corton, sometimes the flavors were there but felt forced and not harmonized.

WHITE TRUFFLE OIL-INFUSED CUSTARD with "RAGOUT" OF BLACK WINTER TRUFFLES and POTATO CHIVE CHIP
Another Keller classic. Hard to go wrong with this one. Smelled and tasted wonderful. I wasn't so hot on the chip though. I could kinda see the texture he was aiming for, but it just comes off like a stale potato chip because of how hard it was.

That's it for now, will continue with the heartier savory courses.

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