Executive Chef/Owner: Thomas Keller
Chef de Cuisine: Johnathan Benno
Sommelier: Paul Roberts
Pastry Chef: Sebastien Rouxel
Private Dining Chef: Joshua Schwartz
Every table was full Friday night at Per Se, including the 10 seat private dining room. It appeared that 1/3 of the tables were designated as one seating only and 2/3’s were set aside for 2 turns. I asked Michael (one of my favorite waiters from FL who is now at Per Se) how many first timers and he said most of the room. We were seated by the window at the table next to the fireplace on the PDR side.
As always, we never look at a menu and approached Per Se the same way we approach FL with a “we are ready for anything and everything.”
We were treated to the same type of menu as we get at FL -2 preparations at each course. We have developed the over/under method — my husband and I eat half of each course, he passes under, I pass over, for a tasting of the second half.
The most significant difference between Yountville and New York is that Per Se is a designed space with elegant detailing while home base in Yountville is country simple. The room “works” because everyone has been trained to make it work. There is no noise, no fumbling, no bumbling. The sound level is hushed, though not a temple, because there is more than ample space between tables.
This is refined food in a superb space, but it is not formal, fussy or pretentious. It is Thomas Keller’s food done perfectly and served perfectly.
The biggest difference for us between FL and Per Se is that there is no garden to visit on breaks…down in the elevator, up on the escalator…watching careening taxis is not as much fun as sitting in the garden and peeking in the kitchen windows. I wanted to have a terrace installed cantilevered out from the dining room so I could just wander out over Columbus Circle.
Cornets of Atlantic Salmon Tartar with red onion creme fraiche
Parsnip Apple soup with cinnamon toast croutons
A bowl containing just the small bits of apple and the tiny croutons are presented to the diner. The actual soup is poured tableside.
Butternut Squash soup with diced Perigord truffles
The presentation is similar to the parsnip soup. Tiny bits of pungent truffles covered the bottom of the bowl and then a silky, rich “bursting with fall” butternut squash soup poured on top.
Oysters and Pearls
Cauliflower Panna Cotta and Itanian Oscetra Caviar
Benno has these preparations nailed. There is absolutely no difference between the FL and Per Se re the signature dishes.
Sable Fish with Crème Fraiche, Smoked salmon and mache
Little bits of the smoked salmon was mixed with the sable fish and sat atop the creme fraiche sauce. The smoked salmon was an important component as it moved the dish from bland to sparkling.
Hamachi Sashimi with Daikon
My thought was who needs to go to Masa, also in Time Warner when you can have such perfect sashimi at Per Se.
Coddled Hen Egg with Truffle Beurre Noisette and Brioche “soldiers”
The soft runny yolk with the truffle beurre nosiette is a match made in heaven. Again, sharing is sometimes very hard.
White Truffle Custard with a ragout of Perigord Truffles with Veal Stock served in an egg shell
Another FL classic, again perfectly executed.
Confit of Four Story Hills Farm Veal Tongue, Heirloom Tomato Relish and Young Cilantro Shoots
This was off the charts perfect. The Veal Tongue melted in your mouth – it was an extraordinary taste, which was highlighted by the tomato relish.
Pork and Beans
I know there is a lot of controversy re Keller’s theory of small portions leaving you wanting more. But the tongue dish and this pork dish was a lesson in a chef’s restraint and a diner’s longing for three more portions.
Heirloom beets, Pickled baby carrots, Pearl Onions, Braised Radishes and Truffle Vinaigrette
These vegetables were singing – I have sometimes been disappointed by the salad course, but not this one.
Hawaiian Hearts of Palm with a Confit of Ruby Red Grapefruit, Garden Mache and Black truffle Coulis
The grapefruit was essential to this dish as well as the coulis.
Carnaroli Risotto Biologico with White Truffles from Alba
This was just sinful, toothsome risotto with enough white truffles, shaved tableside from their special humidor to feed at least 3 people.
Hand-cut Tagliatelle with an equally obscene amount of white truffles shaved Tableside
Beurre Noisette was added to both tableside.
Striped Bass Shank with Apple “Melon balls with Brussel Sprouts and Apple Mignonette
The apples were a brillant addition. The Bass was cooked to perfection. The Bass was first presented whole and then a small piece of the fish was served. I asked what happened to the rest of the bass and was told only the choicest piece is served – the rest is used in stock.
Scottish Prawns (Langoustines) “cuit sous vide” with Braised Dill, Fennel and a Confit of Grapefruit
This was heads and shoulders above any langoustine I have had in the States. Per Se and ADNY are using the same Scottish purveyor for their langoustines and game birds and the quality of both is extraordinary. I wish I could convey how extraordinary the taste of these langoustines were – one of the finest langoustine dishes I have had anywhere.
Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster with Chestnut Puree, Celery Root Fondant and Cutting Celery Salad
At this point in the meal a break was desperately needed. This is when I missed FL the most. I went down the far elevator to take a much needed break. I decided to quickly find the closest bathroom. My husband stayed outside and I went on a search. Yippee – a door right by the 3rd floor elevator. Under no circumstances should anyone do this. For some reason, I ended up in the inner bowels of Time Warner. Electrical equipment everywhere and there was no way to get out – every door to civilization was locked. I had visions of being found 2 months later – a skeleton whose last meal was at least a good one. Finally and frantically running through corridor after corridor, I found a door that worked. There was a guard, with gun in hand, asking me how I got there. I said I didn’t have a clue, but all I wanted to do was finish my meal at Per Se. I must have looked desperate enough for I was shown to the mall.
FOIE GRAS (BOTH)
Whole Foie Gras cooked sous vide in Sauterne (’86 Ramonet) and Vanilla served with heirloom radish
This was the only miss of the night. When you cut into the foie, it was raw with bloody strings – veins. I asked a chef I trust and admire what happened. He felt from my description that the foie was not prepped properly. The next night, Brad, the sommelier at Bouley, mentioned that they are having trouble with their foie. He said that the geese/ducks were being force-fed too much, too quickly and as a result the foie didn’t stay intact.
Breast of Wild Scottish Grouse “rotie a la broche” – Pommes Sarladaises (cooked in duck fat) and Slow Baked Heirloom beets
OH MY! An A+ dish. I am ready to marry this Scottish purveyor. The grouse was perfect – like nothing I have ever tasted.
Snake River Farms Calotte de Boeuf Grille with Braised Oxtail en Crepinette and Cipollini Onion Stuffed with Bone Marrow Farci.
Tomme Du Berger (sheep cheese) served with Prune Bread Pudding and Sicilian Pistachio Vinaigrette
OK, but nothing to write home about.
Fondue of Boerenkaase Gouda with a tasting of Heirloom Apples
A definite Keller type of whimsical dish. Tiny cubes of apple are presented on toothpicks. You then dip the apple in the gouda fondue – orginal and tasty.
Almond Milk Foam, Banana Sorbet, Cilantro Shoots with Carolina-Puffed Rice Crispies
Muscovado Sorbet, Root Beer Foam, “Genoise au Caramel”
Coffee & Donuts, sans Coffee
2 chocolate desserts – I had stopped writing at this point and don’t have a clue what they were. Delicious, but we were completed stuffed like balloons.
Conclusion: There is no doubt in my mind that this was a four star meal. The service was extraordinary, the pacing perfect and all but the foie dish was excellent. After the meal, I saw Chef Benno in the kitchen. My one comment to him was, “You are kicking a….!”