The SO and I were going to be in NYC so we decided to splurge on dinner at Per Se. Neither of us have ever eaten at a three-star restaurant and we decided to go for it. Making reservations was trickier than anticipated but not really difficult in the grand scheme of things. I attempted to make reservations on OpenTable at 10 AM exactly one month prior. I was unsuccessful: I went from "your request exceeds the maximum" to "no tables are available within 2 1/2 hours of your request". Undaunted, I checked back frequently. Then by chance, I tried checking for a four-top. There were tons of options, which means the tables were available just not to a pair of diners. I called for a reservation which was taken immediately over the phone.
I scoured the daily menu each day beginning a week before, looking for hints at what would be on the menu. I was mostly correct. Asparagus, ruby beets, salsify, rabbit, and lamb were all on the menu as predicted. My one big miss was scallop: they had featured a pan fried scallop the night before but had butter poached Nova Scotia lobster when we went. All in all, my little game impressed the SO, which is never a bad thing.
We showed up just a few minutes early but we're seated promptly at a nice table on the lower level near the fireplace and the staircase. We had excellent views of Central Park as the sun set. After dark, the fireplace made for lovely ambience.
The wine list on the iPad is a nice touch but we found it impractical for both of us to review the list together. Inside of the first few minutes, no fewer than three people asked us if we wanted wine. We did not want to start the meal with wine but wanted to peruse the list for later. The third server to come by was slightly pushier than the first two. I did explain that we would have at most, a glass of wine each because we had to drive home and we really wanted to enjoy the food. I find I don't enjoy my meals as much when I'm sloshed! Oddly enough, that server only came back to pour our glass of wine later in the meal. In retrospect, he may have been the sommelier. If so, he did not introduce himself in such nor was he dressed any differently than the other servers: charcoal gray suit.
The first amuse bouche did not disappoint: the Gruyere gougeres. Smaller than I anticipated, but buttery flaky and so delicious that I wondered how such a small thing could be so intensely flavored.
Amuse #2: salmon cornets. All I can say is, I intend to practice these until I can get them perfect to serve at Thanksgiving.
Course 1: oysters and pearls. Everything you've read about them is true. Nothing new to cover about these.it took me about 10 minutes to eat these because I was savoring every last morsel.
Course 2: torchon of fois gras. Its fois gras, of course its wonderful. Accompanied by a beautiful thomson grape terrine.
Course 3: lubina with a saffron infused billi be sauce. I had never heard of billi be, but I will be making it in the near future. It was an amazing yellow color from the saffron and tomato. The taste was one of perfect balance between the briny mussel and the sweetness of the cream. The fish was cooked perfectly and given the difference in thickness between the edge of the fish and the middle, I don't know how he did that.
Course 4: butter poached Nova Scotia lobster. Forgettable. The dish included pieces of mitt and tail. The mitt was cooked perfectly, the tail was rubbery. Mine still had a piece of the shell membrane on it,which actually snapped when I bit into it. I left it visible on the fork to see if the server noticed it. If he did, he didn't say anything. The only miss of the night.
Course 5: rabbit sirloin with sausage meat wrapped in bacon. Delicious, but the real star was the accompanying chasseur sauce. It was bold but not overpowering. Between the sauce, the bacon, the sausage and the rabbit, there were a lot of flavors. The whole thing went together really perfectly.
Course 6: lamb ribeye. Perfectly red and with only the slightest rim of fat. I am not a fan of lamb, but this was delicious.
Course 7: cheese - didn't write down the name but it was smooth and creamy with an apricot glaze. IMHO, the glaze was unnecessary and distracted from the absolutely gorgeous ruby beets paired with it. If I were on death row, those beats alone would make a satisfactory final meal.
Course 8: desserts - far too many and all delicious but none particularly memorable: a lemon curd, a creme brulee ice cream and a chocolate marquis with pretzel chip, and the mignardises. Throw in a small tower of macarons which went back uneaten and you have an insane amount of food.
One of the best parts of the meal was the tea. I enjoy an Earl Grey and I was bowled over by the fragrance from the moment they brought the pot to the table.
I am a very skilled home cook and the only part of the meal that I will attempt to re-create is the cornet. The food was utterly fantastic and the service (aside from pushy wine guy) was flawless.
I had a singular meal, with a fantastic view, a very good pinot noir (pushy wine guy gave me a decent pour so I can't dislike him too much), and sparkling conversation with my SO. Well worth the $800. The little gift bag with cookies (shortbread sandwich of milk chocolate) was an added bonus which we enjoyed on the flight home.
We may never be back, but we both enjoyed ourselves tremendously and so Per Se will never be far from us.
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