Had a wonderful first meal at Per Se last night, to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.
I must say I was apprehensive of Keller living up to his mythology, having also lived in San Francisco and never managed to make it up to French Laundry (nearly once but ended up having to cancel). To make matters worse, a few days prior I'd been told by a trusted friend that I wouldn't like it as much as last year's anniversary at Bouley, that it wasnt as intimate...
My reaction now, the next morning as I hold it in absolutely equal regards to Bouley, just entirely different.
The dining room is lovely. It was an early reservation at 6pm but the sky was already dark and the view of the city was very nice. We had a charming 2 seat booth table with piles of pillows to sink into.
To start the evening, one of our waiters came over to wish us a happy anniversary and poured us a couple of glasses of champagne (I had no note pad so apologies for periodic lack of details like which champagne that was).
The first amuse was 2 cheese puffs. Followed by salmon 'ice cream cones'. The cheese puffs were simple but nice. The ice cream cones were divine and left us determined to prepare more salmon at home.
We opted for the 9 course tasting menu and since we were both having the fois gras course, we asked them to prepare two different ways and were obliged.
We ordered a half bottle of a lovely white wine that our sommelier suggested (french burgundy, $70, wish I had the name, it really was a beautiful wine) to start the meal, to be followed by a bottle of 2001 Robert Sinskey Vandal Pinot Noir ($135).
1st course - "OYSTERS AND PEARLS". We were brought another couple of glasses of complimentary champagne to enjoy the dish with which was another nice touch. I've wondered about this dish for a long time, having read Soul of a Chef. It really is a wondeful flavor and not at all what I expected. I'm typically not such a fan of the saltiness of caviar. But prepared this way, it was delicious.
2nd course - He had TERRINE OF MOULARD DUCK "FOIE GRAS", I had SAUTÉED HUDSON VALLEY MOULARD DUCK "FOIE GRAS". The Terrine was very well prepared with a lovely texture and we both especially enjoyed the granny smith apple gelée. My sauteed fois gras was a very generous piece. My only qualm was the heaviness of the dish so early on in the meal, knowing how quickly I can begin to feel full in a 9 course meal ! But it really was a great dish.
4 styles of bread were brought out, 2 types of butter (one sweet, one lightly salted in house). I found myself preferring the sweet butter though I normally prefer salted butter.
3rd - Sea Breem - I wish I could remember the other details of the dish and the beans it was served on top of. Neither of us have had Sea Breem but both really enjoyed the fish, pefectly cooked of course.
4th - "MACARONI N' CHEESE" - quite possibly my favorite dish of the night, I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this and smiled. I could have eaten a bowl full of the marscapone with orzo and the lobster was perfect.
5th - a dish with quail and brussel sprouts. The quail was shaped to look like a pear. Charming presentation and the quail meat was very good. Not quite as exciting as the prior few dishes but still very tasty.
6th - Saddle of lamb. Beautifully cooked and tender cut of lamb, again regretfully dont have the rest of the details in my head now, the next morning.
7th - cheese course - this was a french brie from just south of paris. Out of this world, texture of butter. Served with choice of pecan bread or fennel/fig bread.
8th - grapefruit sorbet - I've hated grapefruit most of my life but managed to enjoy the dish :)
9th - this was a chocolate course with a chocolate cake filled with apricot jam. And the most amazing part of the dish was an apricot ice cream which was oddly one of the high points of the meal for me, I just could not get over the trueness of the flavor. And along with salmon, I plan to experiment more with apricots now.
I had a cappucino with the dessert and it was unique in that the rich, thick froth was more the consistency of whipped cream (though obviously milk). Really the best cappucino I've ever had.
Then we were barraged by an array of chocolates (I opted for the apricot truffel, new fan that I am of the fruit), shortbread, and coconut truffels.
We were given bags of cookies to take home.
The service was stellar, esp our sommelier. At one point he stepped in and had the kitchen slow our meal down, just prior to the cheese course, as he felt the pace to that point was too hurried (which was true).
Tab with service included as it now is, was $768.