In my continuing mantra that New York's ultra high-end restaurants aren't necessarily as great proclaimed, I've gotten to put Per Se to the test. I had the opportunity to to dine at Per Se (on business, thank heaven, no $150 per person tab on my Visa) the week before last, and went to The Tasting Room in the East Village over the weekend.
Tasting Room offered a far, far better meal. Yes, it's tiny and cramped and doens't have a Central Park view. But the food is so much more amazing than the one meal I had at Per Se.
Forget the unbelievable scallops I had at the Tasting Room. The roasted SHALLOTS that came with them were amazing. The roasted mushrooms in a plate of sauteed vegetables were more memorable than anything I had at Per Se.
Not that there was anything wrong with Per Se. Beautiful room, wonderful service, not tiny and cramped like Tasting Room. But the food was not dramatically memorable. I can barely recall one flavor I had there. It's certainly not up to the hype; Thomas Keller, French Laundry; Time Warner Center, etc. Of course, who COULD live up to that hype???
The Tasting Room has its own hype, but actually meets it. And though pricey, it's far less expensive than Per Se. My wife and I have eaten there recently for $109 and $133; each time with 3 glasses of wine total. Damn, I want some of the roasted onions that come with the excellent pork. Mmmmm.