Trading in the French Laundry’s country charm for New York’s urbane worldliness, you enter Per Se beside a replica of French Laundry’s famous blue doors (here you enter through sliding glass) and your dizzying expectations make your heart palpitate and your mouth water. Per Se is one of the ten best restaurants in the world. Which means on this night out of six billion or so people in the world perhaps a couple hundred are blessed to be eating in a restaurant of this caliber. The Monster considers himself lucky.
It’s a room that exudes both warmth and class. Huge floral arrangements, a fire flickering, the murmur of appreciative diners and the quiet flow of the servers. It’s not stuffy but it’s neither a party atmosphere.
Plenty has been written on Per Se. From the recent New York Times lovefest to countless reviews splattered across the internet singing its praises. The Monster finds the meal grossly uneven. There are tremendous highs the likes of which few restaurants can match. But there are as well some very pedestrian dishes that don’t warrant the high tariff and reputation of such a world class eatery. Service however is top notch. A wonderful sommelier and our waiter is fantastic.
A few nimbles to start you off. Gruyere puff pastry and smoked salmon in a pastry cone.
Oysters and pearls (sabayon of tapioca with Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar), a nod to the link to French Laundry.
May The Monster make love to the soup? It that weird? It’s perfect. Creamy, lucious, the toasted pumpkin seeds the perfect textural and seasonal compliment.
The halibut is near perfect. Wonderful flavors showcasing the fish. Only complaint is perhaps it could have been served a fraction warmer.
The langoustines, while delicious, are perhaps the first course that feels ordinary in execution. There is little going on in this dish that couldn’t be replicated elsewhere.
And then the crab comes out and it is so phenomenal as to make one think the langoustines purpose is to showcase how perfect this dish is. It is sweet with the apricot-Riesling butter which pairs with the natural sweetness of the crab, all offset by the turnip’s sharpness and the pistachios crunch.
The Monster learns what a flash is and finally uses it!
The chicken is boring. It’s chicken, it’s vegetables, it’s blah.
Cheese course. Mrs. Monster really enjoyed both hers and The Monsters.
And on to dessert. The sorbet is refreshing and tart. Perhaps a bit less foam, it is like eating your way through a spring break party in Cancun.
The purple cow is perhaps the weakest course all night. In fact, one bite causes both Mr. and Mrs. Monster to shudder from distaste. It’s disgusting.
Anything called a s’mores dessert is bound to be good and this is. Sometimes simple is all you need.
Really though, these desserts feel a bit weaker by comparison. No wow moment. The meal deserves that ending.
And of course it comes. Hazelnuts dusted in chocolate, assorted chocolates like Arnold Palmer and dulce de leche and then a smorgasbord of bon bons, macaroons and fudge. It is death by sweetness. A restaurant this assured is not leaving you with any feelings of want or desire.
A goodie bag of treats is your farewell send-off along with a growing sense that the credit card bill will be unreasonably high this month.
Why go? Because you can.
Monster rating: 4 ½/5 Monsters
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019