Some dining experiences are moments in time, others are a journey. My journey begins two months to the date when I called the reservations line for that coveted reservation. I reach them at 10:00am New York time on the dot but have to redial multiple times as others have beaten me to it. I manage to get an early lunch slot which is perfect as the lighting allows me to capture the moment perfectly for the blog.
On the day I arrive early and gaze at the stunning views from Columbus circle before making my way to Per Se to commence the dining experience.
The dining room is very spacious and filled with dark brown chairs and nicely spaced out tables with views of the New York skyline and tree tops of Central Park. It has a bit of an old world club feel to it, just give a big reading book and a glass of port and I could be at home.
A cosy fireplace burns bright inside reminding me that while its warm inside… New York is well and truly in winter time.
Champagne and Canapés
A complimentary glass of Josef Dhondt Blanc de Blancs, Oger, NV is served to start the proceedings. I am always captivated by the pouring of champagne… the gaze of the bubbles exploding on the pour leave me with that little tingle down the spine.
The champagne has gentle floral and herb aromas that continue onto a palate with a refreshing citrus zest and wonderful fresh minerality which flows through to a nice toasty finish
The canapés are brought out:
The rich gruyere cheese flows from the puffy casing to fill the mouth with a rich distinct flavour. A little richness of flavour never goes astray.
Smoked Salmon Cornett with Crème Fraiche
The rich oily smoked salmon combines with the crumbly sweet cornet pastry and the light base of crème fraiche for a nice little kicker to start the afternoon.
Oysters and Pearls
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar
The caviar is from the Californian White Sturgeon from the Sacramento River Delta and is farmed by Sterling Caviar. The oysters are from Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
This is a dish that just ticks the box on aesthetics. The lovely light yellowness of the sabayon, the dark translucent caviar, the creamy white oysters peering from their sabayon bath. I gaze at it for an age before I commence to disturb the arrangement. The starchy jelly-like pearls carry a good coating of the buttery rich sabayon onto your tongue, I gently introduce my taste buds to that super salty, minerally, burst of the “sea” flavour from the caviar which makes for quite a taste sensation. Then I carefully place the oyster with a mix of the other ingredients on my tongue – its slimy texture gives one a little rush, eventually on the tongue; its super creamy, deep in a saline minerally (similar to the caviar in some ways) flavour lights up every taste bud. It is a dish that deserves its world renown indeed.
I pair this with the introductory champagne. The acidity and freshness of champagne just cut through richness of dish with the sweetness of the champagne providing some balance to the inherent salinity of the dish. It makes for the perfect pairing
Torchon of Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck Foie Gras
Honeycrisp Apples, Piedmont Hazelnuts, Brussel Sprouts, French Leeks and Bitter Chocolate Emulsion Served with Toasted Brioche
The foie gras comes from the Moulard Duck (a cross between a Moscovy male duck and a Pekin female duck) from Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, New York.
The dish again has a real richness but I find the contrasts to be quite amazing. There is the sweetness of the chocolate, and the apples balanced with the a sprinkling of salt (from the range of salts provided on the table) and the savoury leeks and brussel sprouts. The rich creamy soft foie gras and the savoury onions is also balanced from a textural perspective of the crunch of the hazelnuts and the crispy brussel sprouts. I love a dish of contrasts.
In terms of the salts provided, there were ones from Essex and Brittany in the UK, Hawaii and even the Montana copper mines. They made for an interesting addition to the dish.
So the way this dish works is you take a little of everything, sprinkle the choice of salt over it and spread it onto the soft “plush on the inside, crispy on the outside” cacao brioche (below). They are very generous and bring out a replacement brioche each time you utilise the one provided to you. The cacao in brioche works well with the bitter chocolate on dish to add a deep sensuous sweetness to what is already a rich tasting experience.
I can’t fully discuss this dish without the wine pairing.
Felsina, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico (2005), Tuscany, Italy
The wine to pair with this dish is a Vin Santo; a sweet wine made from dried grapes. Felsina uses Malvasia, Trebbiano and Sangiovese grapes. The wine has a golden glow which radiates from the glass with an inviting allure. There is a good mix of stone fruit and tropical fruit aromas which exude from the glass. On the palate a deep sweet flow of flavours (a mix of vanilla, fruit and light caramel notes) dominate. The wine has good acidity and a decent amount of residual sugar in store for the finish.
The Vin Santo is perfect for the dish as its intense sweetness and good acidity cuts through the fat of the foie gras and infuses with the savoury and rich minerally salts provided with the dish. It is a first class pairing indeed.
Sauteed Fillet of Columbia River Sturgeon
“Ris de Veau” Heirloom Radishes, Mustard Frills, and “Sauce Gribiche”
The dish is very thoughtfully constructed. On the outside it looks like a well sculpted piece of potato. However the dish is essentially a sturgeon which been subsequently wrapped in some thin crispy potatoes.
The crunch of the potato surrounding the sturgeon has an oily and crunchy texture which is contrast to the beautiful succulent juicy sturgeon which parlay its natural flavours for the dish. The ris de veau is not easily discernible in the dish while the tang of pickled radishes and vegetables add a refreshing bite. The spicy / bite of mustard frills is noticeable and its smooth creamy texture provides a nice balance to some of the crunchy sides on this dish. The richness of the Sauce Gribiche stamps a classic signature to the dish.
To pair with this dish and the next, I opt for the:
Domaine Francois Carillion, Saint-Aubin, 1er Cru (2013), Burgundy, France
If only everything in life could be as easy as a Burgundy Chardonnay. A very mild aromas of apple, pears and a touch of honey leave a good first impression. On the palate, the wine flows beautifully with some beautiful flavours of green apple, hints of lemon with a mild acidity and some nice fresh minerality which positions well for the seafood dishes. The wine elegantly draws to close with a slighty dry finish.
The wine works so elegantly with the sturgeon. The freshness and brightness of the wine along with its fine texture is beautiful to dance with a buttery rich fish dish.
Georges Bank Sea Scallop “Poelee”
Glazed Salisfy Root, Wilted Swiss Chard and Roasted Chestnut Butter
The wine pairing works well (probably a touch better than it did with the sturgeon). The mild acidity and the refreshing crisp, some of the crystalline attributes of the wine with its beautiful texture just goes hand in hand with the scallop like a classic dance partner.
Red Wine Braised Four Story Hill Farm’s “Poularde”
“Pommes Puree” Caramelised Cipollini Onions, Tokyo Turnips and Sauce Bordelaise
The chicken (poularde) for the dish come from Four Story Hill Farm in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The chickens are fed a milk based feed which ensures their meat is softer and more tender.
This dish (and the next two) are paired with a half bottle of red wine.
Pauillac de Chateau Latour (2005), Pauillac, Bordeaux
The wine has some lovely aromas of cassis and mild liquorice with some hints of tobacco. On the palate the wine has wonderful dominant cassis flavours with little hints of sweet spice. The wine has good acidity and some very fine tannins which exude an earthy/dusty style impression on palate and flow into a lovely and long finish.
The wine integrates with and reinforces the Bordelaise sauce and has sufficient acidity with the sweetness of the cassis to cut through the fat in the dish. A very lovely touch indeed. The whole experience is an enthralling, sensuous and indescribable experience that leaves a memorable stamp on the afternoon.
Charcoal Grilled Snake River Farms “Calotte De Boeuf”
Sunchoke Rosti, Black Trumpet Mushroom “Duxelle”, Sweet Carrots and Bone Marrow Vinaigrette
The beef is from Snake River Farms in Boise, Idaho. The cows are cross from the American Angus and Japanese Wagyu cattle. The cattle are fed barley, golden wheat straw, alfalfa hay and Idaho Potatoes which result in well marbled meat. The host asks me for my thoughts and I actually respond that was similar to David Blackmores Wagyu which they serve in Australia which is a testament to quality and the marbling.
Now onto the dish itself. The rich buttery beef is juicy in the centre and has its charred exterior to provide a beautiful smoky contrast of flavours. The marbling is accentuated by the rich bone marrow vinaigrette. This is a minimalistic dish where the beef takes centre stage. There is the soft earthy mushroom flavours of the deluxe a wonderful crispy rosti and the comfort style buttered carrots which are a mix of firm on the outside but very soft through the middle. A very classic style dish.
The wonderful tannins in the wine are perfect for the beautiful rich marbling of the beef and the richness of the bone marrow and leave a wonderful mouthfeel after every taste. The wine just seamlessly integrates into the dish and I wouldn’t dare dream of separating them. It is a joy to pair the two together.
Camembert Le Pommier
Poppy Seed “Madeleine”, Meiwa Kumquats, Celery Branch and Ruby Beet Relish
The cheese is brought out and cut at the table with a somewhat touch of grandeur and showmanship.
The eventual plate up of cheese has such elegance:
The Normandy camembert cheese has a lovely mushroom flavour which is intense initially on the palate but grows milder as the taste lingers. The sweet crumbly madeleine with the crunchy poppy seeds is a delight and the creamy sticky consistency of the cheese holds the crumbs in your mouth. The lovely glazed ruby beet relish and cumquats provide a nice sweet introduction to the dish as well. A stylish cheese and condiments course.
Assortment of Desserts
Strawberry and Champagne Granita with Almond on Glass Tip
A dish all about freshness and overflow – the champagne bubbles are still airy but have some frozen firmness to them, while the strawberries are super sweet intense flavour overload. There are some mini sweet musk style candy on the top and the crunch of the almond which slips from the glass is a nice touch indeed.
Madagascar Vanilla with Green Tea Swiss Roll, Yuzu Curd and Hibiscus Filo and Bitter Berry Jelly
The dish is a mixture of the “bitter-sweet”. The sweet intense vanilla flavour comes through discernible in the ice cream. The filo has that flaky crumbly texture which one is accustomed to. The light yuzu custard carries a distinct citrus bite, while the bitter berry jelly has juicy sweetness which melds into a slight bitterness in the finish. The green tea Swiss roll carries the distinct bitterness and green tea notes one would expect. A good mix of differing flavours expressing themselves through the different components of the dish.
The Chocolate Selection
I sample a few of these and they are amazing indeed. The maple pecan one is just the best with the rich flavours of the maple and the wicked crunch of the pecan.
Cappuccino Semifreddo and Cinnamon Doughnut
This dish is sort of play on whole American concept of coffee and doughnuts. The rich cinnamon flavours of the fluffy doughnut is just oh so lovely. The foam of the cappuccino is moved away and the ice-cold semi-freddo arrives (it’s not frozen and can easily be handed by the spoon provided). It is rich and creamy with a lovely “wake-me-upness” element which I probably need at this stage of the afternoon.
Tier of Sweets
I finish off a lovely tier of sweets (macaroons, chocolates and toffee).
The host kindly takes me through a tour of the kitchen and lets me know how it works.
It is quite an elaborate operation indeed. There are different staff for lunch and dinner. The lunch staff work through until the shift is over then debrief and look and the ingredients they have (based on seasonality and produce) and craft up the lunch menu for the next day. Then the dinner staff head in and prep for the night ahead (and it can be a different menu for dinner). There is also a live feed to the kitchen at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Restaurant in California. It is very impressive.
I leave the kitchen and head out. I review my notes from the lunch and pour over the experience once more to see if I missed anything – a slight flaw maybe or something that I had overlooked. I blog about numerous restaurants but I do not publish a score just a narrative with only one exception; if a restaurant has received a 10 / 10 score.
The produce was interesting and knowledge of the staff as to why certain produce was chosen and paired with others stood out versus any other restaurant I have been to. The hosts were friendly, engaging, attentive and I could not even think of a moment where a glass was left idle and needed to be filled or dish was empty and was sitting on the table.
The dishes were well thought through, aesthetically pleasing, contrasts of texture in produce were always on display and every dish had an array of interesting flavours. The produce is king and above all the ingredients for each dish were based on quality produce. The sommelier who work with me through the wine list as we settled on the right wines to pair with the relevant courses was extremely knowledgeable on the dishes and the wines, as such the wine pairings were on mark.
I reflect on this and so here it is with no further adieu…. Per Se: 10/10