Iconic 3 Michelin starred New York restaurant from Thomas Keller
Per Se is the sister restaurant to The French Laundry (in Napa Valley) and is located overlooking Columbus Circle at the South West tip of Central Park, NY. Some signature dishes are served in both and they both share a very high-end setting and delivery. The service here is at the top of its game and if you were wanting to propose to someone in here, I have a feeling they would say yes even if they didn’t want to such is its romantically and stylishly designed feel(!). I was at the bar in the Salon for this meal which was fine by me as I was on my own and the experience was delightful. A few dishes were not at the utterly memorable level, but there were some extremely good offerings and I got away very lightly at $195 for the Salon prix fixe menu – if you were to go for the full-on chef’s menu in the restaurant you are looking at $355 per head (as at 2019) as the very base rate before any supplements and wines. So whilst this was perhaps not at the strongest 3 star level for me, the Salon menu represents a very good deal if you want a casual setting with some of the hits included in undeniably good hands.
The meal began with salmon tartare with red onion creme fraiche inside thin pastry cones and whilst not exploding with salmon flavour, these were very fresh and a welcome start. More successful was the cheese biscuit with Spumante cheese which was as good as they come. It was slightly better at French Laundry with a shinier glaze on top, but still, the cheese power coming through very well.
An amuse bouche of cold potato espuma with vegetables and curry oil was silky and crunchy but could have had a fraction more seasoning for my palate. The oysters with pearl tapioca is a signature dish from Keller and were a very welcome return having only had them weeks before in Napa at The French Laundry. These really are perfectly balanced buttery sauce with the saltiness of the caviar and a superb dish which they can very rightfully be proud of. Another classic was the truffled egg truffle egg which is also done very well and I also felt a much greater sense of the truffle here than at French Laundry. Beautifully done.
Foie gras with the pepper and pastrami and sweet corn was an experimental dish. Whilst good to try a different variant for foie gras, I was not completely convinced with the pepper and pastrami as the main co-pilots on this at all. Corn is sweet but not so sweet and thankfully the mustard was mild and a nice touch but altogether just overly savoury it arguably needed something less so to dispell the richness. What was good though was the immaculate timing of the additional parts of brioche served – I must have been given three of these brioche buns, even when I hadn’t finished one as it was simply too cold for being ignored and replaced with zero fuss by another beautifully cooked and fresh one instantly. Bravo here for making the guest feel truly looked after and no expense worried about.
Mackerel was superbly cooked and not too overflowing with natural oils, with utterly fresh tomato and the pretzel was beautifully soft with mustard butter that was superb. Applause on this was worthy in itself. Lamb from Pennsylvania was as good as any you are likely to have with wonderful, fatty flavour to it all. Then a string of assorted desserts in true gregarious French style and these, including the petit fours were as fine as you could hope for. The stand out sweet I thought was the sugar buttered ice cream which was frankly a masterstroke.
It has been super to visit both Per Se and The French Laundry to compare and after years of hearing about. They represent fine cooking indeed at a premium if you are doing with the full works and should therefore only be done once a decade or so and make it a special occasion when you do so that you can go the whole hog and not worry too much on the bill.
Food Grade: 91%
Location (Click google logo for directions)