It wasn’t the first time I had eaten at a Thomas Keller restaurant. In fact, this time last year I had found solace in the form of his Bouchon’s restaurant at the Venetian in Las Vegas after an underwhelming experience at Picasso’s (at Bellagio by Julian Serrano). Not only was it a delicious dinner but I was able to afford a few more Black Jack hands.
|The most fantastic “cheese puffs” you’ll ever have!|
Now I was on to try Keller’s Per Se in New York which has a much different atmosphere than Bouchons and requires the guest’s complete attention for three and a half hours of pure culinary pleasure. This is what three hours of eating Keller’s genius looks like….
|3 Beef Carpaccio cones and 1 Salmon Carpaccio with creme fraiche inside.|
Upon entering the famed blue doors of Per Se, after escalating three floors in anticipation – and confusion of how those doors fit in with the cold glass architecture of the Time Warner Centre – the dinning room is quiet despite being filled with people both snobby and accepting but no matter the attitudes the fact is everybody waited at least a month for this moment. At Per Se you can only make a reservation one month in advance maximum and if you procrastinate a day or two (say 28 or less days before your desired date of reservation) you probably won’t get in.
|Wild King Salmon Gravlax
Toasted Rye, Horseradish Creme Fraiche and Kirby Cucumber Sorbet
I should probably mention that after a hangover and three days of staying up late and waking early that we thought about cancelling our birthday reservation at Per Se on the day of. However, when I called to do so the woman notified me that it would be a $175 charge per reserved seat (4 in our case). If we were to be paying no matter what we would most definitely be eating. Not only did we wonder what we were getting ourselves into but wether or not we belonged.
|Oysters and Pearls
Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters & Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar.
This caviar and the tapioca was absolutely one of the best pairings I ever ate!
We were seated overlooking Central Park and the blurs of taxis through Columbus Circle. I took a look around us, measuring up the other saps wondering if they too had been suckered in by the pricey cancelation fee or if this was a monthly, perhaps weekly ritual, a drop in the bucket for New York City folk. Despite being properly dressed we still got some glares, some looks of wonderment, perhaps asking themselves the same questions I was of them.
|Pate de Canard
Hadley Orchards’ Medjool Dates, Celery Branch, Belgian Endive and Black Walnut Puree
Before we received the menus the atmosphere was similar to that of a wake, everyone eyeing each other up, whispering, staring out the window. Finally our waitress broke the silence and handed us the menu which is changed daily. Upon opening we saw “Happy Birthday Dana” printed on each page and immediately we returned our focus to why we all were here in New York, let alone Per Se, in the first place. It was mom’s birthday.
|Sole A L’Amandine
Pearson Farm’s Peaches, Melted Belgian Endive, Green Almonds and Brown Butter
Realizing that New York is usually over $2000+ (we got a deal at $1200 pp) away from us at any given time in the West Coast of Canada we decided to immerse ourselves in what Keller and his staff had intended for us on July 7th, 2012.
|Hand Harvested Main Sea Scallop
Arrowleaf Spinach Raviolini, Toasted Cashews, Petite Basil and Madras Curry
You have your choice of a 9 course Chef’s tasting menu, a 5 course menu, or a 5 course vegetable menu suited for vegetarians. I specifically chose to visit Per Se for lunch so we would have the option to order the 5 course ($185 per person). The three of us girls decided on the 5 course menu while my dad, a true luxury pleasure seeker, ordered the 9 course menu ($295 pp).
|Sauteed Fillet of Atlantic Stripped Bass
Russet Potato Gnocchi, Chanterelle Mushrooms and Brentwood Corn Ragout
The following is true for all Keller plates: At the first moment of taste, I would call it a moment of conception, you are impressed with the flavours but then there is another moment a few seconds after conception and that is what I call the moment of ascension where the flavour rises to a new level of complexity and suddenly you realize that you don’t know when the next time you’ll have food prepared with such precise care and genius…but that’s okay because you still have so many courses coming, some you ordered and some that are complimentary. There are so many dishes coming your way during the three hour tour de food that by the end each dish served is verging on hilarious and you laugh because you are happy yet full or because you find the irony in being full and yet wanting to finish every last bite of a $1200 lunch that has lasted 1.5 hours more than what you thought it would.
|Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Farm’s Lamb
Pommes Boulangeres, French Breakfast Radishes, Romaine Lettuce
and Creamed English Peas
Green Tea Ice Cream
|A Play on Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla
Buttermilk Sherbet, Compressed Green Market Cherries, Cornbread and Chocolate Marquise
It would be a waste for me to try and describe each dish to you because by the time you decide to book your reservation the menu will be altered or changed completely. However, I have supplied images that do contain descriptions thanks to the menus that the staff supplied us with in a quaint Per Se folder to take home, frame, hang and brag to your guests about (or for you to stare at in your home on the night your boyfriend decided to make Kraft Dinner with hotdogs and die a little inside knowing that he isn’t accompanying it with a blackberry ketchup with that extra Keller oomph). The food looks good and the taste is slightly supernatural. Warning: Your taste buds will be haunted by the memory of your meal at Per Se.
|Don’t be fooled, there’s ice cream inside…|