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Per Se - Lunch Yesterday (REVIEW)


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Per Se - Lunch Yesterday (REVIEW)

binkis | Jun 23, 2008 05:16 AM

My wife and I had lunch yesterday at Per Se, with friends. This is the second time we've eaten there, the first being for dinner a year and a half ago on our first anniversary. The first dinner had individual dishes that were more memorable, but lunch is definitely a better way to go and it was great to share the experience with another couple. Overall, today's experience was even better than the last.

The descriptions below are directly from the menu, except the items not on the menu, which are my own descriptions. Here's a breakdown of the 13-course meal (that's right: 13 courses):

1. {Not on the Menu} Gruyere puff: Just a one-bite introduction to the meal, this puff was light as can be, with the perfect essence of Gruyere cheese. In other words, absolutely delicious and the perfect amuse bouche - just enough of a bite to whet your appetite.

2. {Not on the Menu} Salmon Tartare "Ice Cream Cone": I'm not sure what the official name of this is, but it's a tiny tuile ice cream cone with chive creme fraiche in the body of the cone, topped with the most incredible tiny-diced salmon tartare, tiny-scooped like ice cream. The salmon is so smooth and delicious, with the perfect offset of the chive cream and the crunch of the tuille. Awesome.

3. "Oysters And Pearls" ["Sabayon" of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar]: There's a reason this is his signature. It's a perfect dish, with smooth silky oysters and crisp, salty caviar nestled inside a delicious custardy sabayon with tapioca pearls.

4. {Not on the menu} Truffled Egg Custard with Veal Jus and Potato Crisp: Oh. My. Lord. This was an egg custard, with truffle in it, topped with a veal jus and more truffle everywhere. Stuck into the custard was a potato crisp with a chive in it. Picture a flat potato crisp in the shape of a wide, paper-thin tongue depressor, with a thin chive running the length of it. (How did they DO that?!) The entire thing was served inside a hollowed out egg shell. Truffle and veal jus. If you can't contemplate the ludicrous enjoyment that might ensue from that description, I can add nothing further.

5. Salad of Belgian Endive [Compressed Peacotum, Nicoise Olives, Candied Hazelnuts and Hazelnut Butter] What's a "peacotum", you ask? Why it's a fruit that part peach, part apricot and part plum. The fruit is cross-polinated on the restaurant's own farm. (Ludicrous, right?) The fruit is absolutely incredible and once again, the complexity and amazing flavor of the dish is difficult to describe. Suffice it to say, I'm skeptical that a "salad" can legitimately find a place on the menu of a 4-star meal (especially at those prices), but this not only had a proper place on the menu but was a legitimate show-stopper.

6. Sauteed Fillet of "Daurade Royale" [Confit of Fennel, Holland Eggplant and Rainbow Chard Ribs with Italian Caper "Ravigote"] This is the dish that got my friend. A perfect filet of fish (where do they source their products??) poached in olive oil, with sweet, soft vegetables underneath in a fruity broth that tied in perfectly with the olive oil and fish. Incredible.

7. "Beets and Leeks" [Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster with Melted Green leeks, "Pommes Maxim's" and Red Beet Essence] Pay attention here. Let's start with the butter poached lobster tail, which is the most tender, flavorful piece of lobster you can ever imagine existing in the universe. Then add a softened leek salad (nice counterpoint) and a beet sauce, which was a gorgeous vibrant red color, but with surprisingly little flavor effect on the dish. Not enough? Let's add little 1" rounds of thin potato formed into circular pancakes and perfectly fried with a touch of salt on top. My friend decided she wanted an entire bag of the potatoes. Who could blame her?

8. "Cavendish Farm's "Caille En Crepinette" [Sunny Side Up Quail Egg, Creamed Corn, Sweet Peppers with Hobbs Shore Applewood Smoked Bacon Chip and Quail Jus]: How to begin to describe the brilliance of this dish? If someone had told me you could take a small quail leg (perfectly moist), top it with a small fried quail egg and a strip of bacon, and surround it with - seriously? - creamed corn, I would have said you were off your rocker. This dish was absolutely amazing. We all want it for breakfast every morning. Truly inspired and happily unlike any other thing you have ever eaten in your entire life. (Though many courses fall in the category, I think.)

9. Tenderloin of Marcho Farm's Nature Fed Veal [Glazed "Ris de Veau," Forest Mushrooms Duxelle, Thumbelina Carrots and Fava Beans with "Mousseline Bearnaise"]: I have always wondered why, in a steakhouse, say, one would top a perfectly good piece of meat with gloppy yellow bernaise sauce. Well, when it's done right (as it was done here, naturally), it's a thing of absolute beauty. I have to say that the texture on the veal was stunning, though it was done more than I would have preferred. The "rus de veau" was small (2 bites) and was absolutely incredible. At the time we thought it was veal cheek or something similar. After the fact, we discovered that it was veal sweetbreads. This dish was lovely and surprisingly light for a meat dish.

10. Di Bruno Brothers' "Burrata" [Heirloom Tomato "Vierge," Watercress, Endive Spears and Thyme Oil]: Imagine a classic mozzarella, basil and tomato dish, but cooked in heaven, by heaven's best chef. This was a dish about the ingredients. The cheese was the most perfect cheese, the diced tomatoes more "tomatoey" than you've ever experienced and the thyme oil - oh lord, who knew that olive oil could be so fruity, flavorful and mind-blowing. Add little pieces of olive that showed me, an olive-hater, just how luscious and olive can be. Throw that on top of the olive-oil toast points which were thoughtfully included, and it was the perfect step backwards in the menu from the heavier dishes as we point towards dessert. Our friends both found the dish over-salted, but my wife and I loved the salt, which proves that it's all personal preference anyway.

11. Apricot Sorbet [Nyons Extra Virgin Olive Oil "Pate de Fruit" with Tellicherry Pepper "Sable Breton"]: All that description for "just" a palate cleanser. The sorbet was more apricotty that you can even fathom, with a nice smooth olive oil and smoked paprika (though not listed in the description). Smoked paprika with sorbet? You bet your @##!$. Simple, uncomplicated, and perfect.

12. "Peanut Butter and Milk" [Butter Chocolate Mousse with Salted Peanut Cream and Reduced Milk Ice Cream]: Dessert was a bit of a letdown, since the last time we went we had the dessert that deserved to be voted "THE GREATEST DESSERT PLATE EVER CONCIEVED OR EXECUTED!" But this dessert was still delicious with smooth milk ice cream and very salty (this is good) peanut butter ice cream, balanced with a chocolate mousse "cake" underneath, topped with chocolate shavings. Fabulous.

13. "Mignardises": Hand-made chocolate candy (a la Godiva), ma'am? Sure! Delicious. Oh wait, they're also bringing 3 different kinds of hand-made truffles (the chocolate and caramel one weakened my knees - and I don't have a sweet tooth!). Not enough? How about this dish of chocolate covered hazelnuts? Excellent! Wait, what about the new dish of hand-made sugar candies? PHEW! And while you're finishing up, here's a celophane-wrapped "granola bar" to take home for later. Well, if I must!

WINE: We had 3 bottles of wine along the way, (1) a Rose wine, (2) a white Burgundy and (3) an Australian Pinot. All three were delicious and none were terribly expensive - including the ones directly recommended by the sommalier.

The meal lasted 3-1/2 hours and was followed by a tour of the enormous kitchen (at our request). The kitchen area, which is really 5 different kitchens) is easily 3 times the size of the dining room itself.

As I mentioned above, the first time we went had individual dishes that were more memorable that the ones today. But the overall experience today was noticeably better. Was it because we went for lunch? Because we went with friends? Because the summer menu is lighter than the winter menu we last experienced? Who knows? And who cares? It was an incredible, memorable meal.

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