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Exquisite Brunch at Perry St

shivohum | Apr 27, 200809:07 AM

Perry St: This simple minimalist Jean-Georges restaurant is on the eponymous street, right around the corner from a building full of condos. As I came in, I saw the sparse area, filled with elegant lamps and quietly chattering people, the muted light of a Saturday morning further dimmed by the kind of window shades that look like television static.

When I sat down and got my menu, I was at first skeptical -- it seemed to have few traditional brunch entrees, and the menu was fairly sparse for vegetarians compared to a lot of brunch restaurants.

But my concern was misplaced. The pricing system at Perry St. works by offering two plates plus dessert for $24, with each additional plate for $12. I was offered a choice of wine or cocktail, too, but instead I opted for the -- gasp -- $8 glass of grape juice.

Grape juice? This is no ordinary grape juice. For someone whose last glass of grape juice was Welch, this was a complete revelation. My first glass was a Navarro 2005 Gewurtzheimer grape juice. It's a white grape juice, and it is like ambrosia. It has an amazing fruity, honeyed taste that's mild and clear and light. Later on in the meal I tried the Pinot Noir red grape juice from the same vineyard, and it was even fruitier, with a greater boldness and darkness and depth, though both are phenomenal (in fact, the white is my favorite).

For entrees, I had a tomato soup and a ginger rice bowl. The tomato soup was carefully poured tableside into a porcelain bowl in which a bottom layer of cumin oil was patiently pooled. The resulting soup was homey and slightly tart, with an exotic cumin turn every few sipfuls. The soup was served with a simple strip of grilled sourdough with white cheddar sprinkled on top. The sourdough was crisp initially but turned chewy in the mouth, and worked well to present a contrasting texture to the soup.

The other entree was truly memorable: the ginger rice bowl. This small, exquisitely prepared bowl of Japanese Nashiki rice, gently spiced with ginger (definitely no sting here), each grain delicately separate from the rest and begging to be savored individually, was served with a complement of graceful scallions, a mayonnaise-like emulsion of sriracha with a hit of spicy heat, and an astonishing poached egg, served in a deep fried batter, with a luscious yellow yolk spilling out onto the rice when pierced. The whole thing was amazing in look and taste. Indeed, that was true for the entire meal.

Finally, the dessert kept up the trend of quality. I chose a chocolate pudding, which came served as a multi-layer dessert. Unsweetened whip cream, at just the right soft, smooth texture, covered the chocolate pudding (a chocolate pot-de-creme in reality? probably.), which was a semisweet mixture. The pudding in turn hid a simple chocolate cake at bottom. In one corner of the dessert bowl were piled a small heap of candied violets, which looked nothing more to me than tiny fruity pebbles, which smeared a blue trail behind them as I ate them.

Perry St. is calm and zenlike in its devotion to great tasting food that is pleasing to the eye. Service was similarly professional. Highly recommended.

The Vegetarian New Yorker: http://vegny.blogspot.com/

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