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27
Jan 09
Tue

Per Se, New York

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to write one of these restaurant reviews, so I was very much looking forward to visiting Per Se. Per Se is Thomas Keller’s restaurant in New York. Keller is best known for The French Laundry, located in the Napa Valley region on the other side of the country, and both of his restaurants have been bestowed with three Michelin stars. This was my first time eating in a three starred joint.

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Located on the 4th floor of the Time Warner Center, Per Se’s two-tiered dining room looks out over Central Park from its south-west corner. The interior is classy and, with its high ceiling and relative sparsity of tables, feels spacious. The ambient lighting is dim, but the tables are sufficiently lit. We were seated by the window, but curiously were pointed back towards the dining room with the view at our backs. The level of conversation in the room is not so hushed as to give the feeling of a mortuary, but not so loud as to be distracting. Great decor.

Per Se only takes bookings up to two months in advance and reservations tend to get snapped up within minutes of becoming available. Exactly two months’ prior, I called a couple minutes before the reservation line officially opened at 10.00am, but still was only able to obtain a 5.45pm seating (lunchtime reservations are easier to get).

The service was absolutely exemplary. Service staff were flawless, very attentive and even offered to escort me all the way to the restrooms when I asked where they were(!). The main server for our table came over to chat at one point, which was nice – it gave a personal touch to service which could otherwise appear clinical.

Per Se has two nine-course set menus, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian. Each has several options, some of which incur a supplemental charge. Two small amuse-bouche dishes (freebie hors d’oeuvres) kicked off the meal. The first course was Per Se’s signature Oysters & Pearls dish, followed by a palm salad, sea bream, quail, beef, a cheese dish, a couple desserts and mignardises (petit fours). I think there was another course, but I can’t remember what it was. Unfortunately, the food did not reach the very high expectations that had been built up by the surrounding press, Michelin stars, general hype, and exorbitant cost of the menu. This is not to say that the food wasn’t excellent, but it was clear to me that the best Sydney restaurants can easily hold their own against a giant like Per Se, at a fraction of the cost. The desserts were a bit of a let down, but that’s probably because I prefer something sweeter.

At the end of the meal, a server placed a small metal tray in front of each of us and walked off. Then another person sidled up to our table and said in a thick French accent, “This plate will now be filled with chocolates,” and walked off. Then a third person came along with the chocolates themselves. It was comical.

I mistakenly had a large lunch (an oversized $6 bowl of noodles from Ollie’s) and was absolutely stuffed by the end of dinner. With three chocolates still staring me in the face, someone came along and deposited another receptacle filled with yet more sweets. I threw in the towel and asked for them to be boxed. They happily obliged, wrapping everything up in a shiny silver box with brown ribbon. We also received a little nutty chocolate snack as a free gift.

One other gripe was that the courses were paced too quickly. Only a few minutes separated each course – for a restaurant like Per Se it felt like a barrage. Everything must have been delivered in the space of just over two hours. I have a feeling they were trying to ensure we were out of the way for the second seating.

All in all, Per Se is a nice venue for a special occasion, but I think the food is very much in the same league as Sydney’s three hatters, not a league above. $275 per person, plus state tax. The good news is that the tip is already included in the price.

  6:31am (GMT -8.00)  •  Food  •   •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)

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