After getting up at 9 in the morning and being put on hold for 15 minutes, I finally secured a dinner reservation for next month at the famous Per Se. Having been called the best restaurant in New York City by the New York Times, Per Se is a New American and French restaurant owned by Thomas Keller, a restaurateur and a chef of classical French cooking.
Upon arrival, I was led to the waiting room where I stayed for 10 minutes before I was seated at my table. The service was exquisite; everything was taken care of for me: pulling out the chair, bringing fresh flowers and even getting a small leather stool for my purse. During the course of the meal, the waiter constantly made sure that I was comfortable and satisfied with my food and brought out freshly baked baguettes, house rolls, sourdough or pretzels for me to munch on while I was waiting for the next course. Upon serving each course, each waiter was incredibly familiar with the ingredients and components of the food and had no problem answering any questions.
The full meal consisted of seven dishes (not including the appetizer, baked goods and desserts). Here are some of the highlights of the evening:
1. “Oysters and Pearls”
As the classic first course of Per Se, “Oysters and Pearls” consists of a sabayon custard of tapioca pearls, Island Creek oysters and sterling white sturgeon caviar. The saltiness of the caviar perfectly balanced the unseasoned, fresh oyster, and the creaminess and airiness of the sabayon wrapped all the flavors in one satisfying bite.
A noteworthy detail is that the spoon prepared for this particular dish is the caviar spoon. When enjoying caviar, a custom is to use spoons made of inert materials, such as the mother of pearl, because metal could bring undesirable flavors. Per Se made sure to attend to every little detail.
2. The Trout
The trout filet was perfectly cooked and was accompanied by lightly grilled Holland white asparagus, crisped shredded mushroom and “sauce chasseur.” The highlight of the dish was the crisped mushroom. The mushroom was so shredded that it no longer had the taste that could potentially overwhelm the trout, but its crispiness added to the texture of the fish and the sauce, making every bite balanced and just right.
3. The Abalone
The Australian abalone was crusted, slow cooked and accompanied with caramelized onion. The abalone was incredibly tender, and the crust made of mixed seasonings and herbs gave the star of the dish an extra crunch. The sauce was of a bright, orange-yellow color; unlike the thick, dark brown sauce of many traditional abalone dishes, this one was light, creamy and a tad tart, balancing out the dish perfectly.
4. The Chocolate Bridge
Dessert consisted of three separate plates and a small tower of “candies,” but the chocolate bridge was the most inspiring. A dark chocolate cylinder filled with thick, chocolate custard was topped with salted, toasted pretzel slices and a bit of citrus peel.
The plating was gorgeous, and the taste was a party in my mouth. The bittersweetness of the chocolate exploded with the saltiness of the pretzel and a zing of citrus, and the crunch of the pretzel balanced out the creaminess of the custard. Overall, it was a dessert leaving you wanting more.
The trip to Per Se was a great experience with top-notch food, inspiring flavor combinations and impeccable service. After being invited to the kitchen, I realized that such an elevating restaurant runs on one word: finesse. It is no wonder they provide people with such satisfying experiences.