“Per se”…“Per se,” a year or two ago I used to feel chills running down my spine at the very sound of the Latin phrase (or is it a word?) Not only does it sound confusing and somewhat pretentious in my not-wired-for-a-dead-language- brain, but it also, more often than not, comes stringing behind words such as “negligence” which increases its confusion factor even more. Needless to say that law class was not my favorite. Nonetheless, a month ago, something completely eradicated any negative connotations I ever had for that word; the word Per Se has now earned its place in my good book (just “Per Se” though, “Negligence” still remains on the blacklist.)
Enough with the law rant, on with the food. For those of you who might not be too familiar with Per Se, Per Se is a Thomas Keller’s restaurant and one of only five restaurants in NYC to be awarded the prestigious three Michelin stars. Due to my complete lack of experience, just like its name, I also associated Michelin stars with pretentious snobbery. Yet, a very memorable dinner on June, 6th completely proved me wrong!
Had I started this blog earlier, I would have a much better recollection of the wonderful meal I had at Per Se (actually it was more like a feast since we had at least 10 courses.) Since it’s been a while since I tasted the Chef’s wonderful creations, I will not attempt to explain the dishes in detail since the only descriptions you would likely get from me would be “it was SO good,” “it was REALLY good,” and “it was I’m-willing-to-gain-two-pounds good.” And I’m nice enough to not bore you with that and, to be honest, most of the dishes were “I’m-willing-to-gain-two-pounds good,” so I do not want to emphasize the effect that this meal had on my waist line. There were at least 10 dishes, you do the math. Instead, I will give you lots of pictures and tell you why this meal was, very possibly, the best meal I’ve ever had.
As we entered the unassuming blue door at Time Warner Center, we realized there’s nothing negligent about Per Se. Their level of service and attention to details were absolutely amazing. When I made the reservation on the phone, I stated that the dinner would be my graduation celebration. The host politely congratulated me and went on asking about my food allergies. So I was very pleasantly surprised when we were greeted with some bubbly as we were seated. But the cutest part was the menu, which had “congratulation on your graduation” printed on the top.
The main server we had was extremely sweet. She made us feel comfortable because there’s nothing pretentious about her service. She made us feel like she genuinely cared about our experience there. I guess that’s one of the many factors distinguishes Per Se from the Gazillion restaurants out there and that earned it all its Michelin stars.
The restaurant offers two type of tasting menus –tasting of vegetables and Chef’s tasting menu. Our server was well informed about the fact that I do not eat seafood and kindly suggested that I chose the alternatives from the vegetable tasting menu instead. Here are some pictures of the dishes.
As we were enjoying this wonderful foie gras dish, all these waiters came and took our bread away. As I was about to open my mouth to inquire why they took my bread away, the server saved me from any embarrassment and brought out a new batch of fresh out of the oven breads. Good thing I was too busy chewing, huh?
My absolute favorite dish of the meal was also the smallest and the most simplistic. The concoction inside the egg, which I would not attempt to explain, was oh-so-creamy and SO SO SO good. (See? I warned you about my limited vocab!!) It was so fragrant, so decadently rich, and definitely best eaten in eggshell-sized portion, unless you want your heart doctor to have a heart attack.
And here are some more pictures of the wonderful culinary delights:
Another dish I could vividly recall was the 48 hour braised brisket. The beef was so succulently tender and the bordelaise sauce was so flavorful. I finished this whole dish, and that is a HUGE deal for someone like me who never finishes a plate (bad, I know) and only eats meat in very small portions.
By the time we got to desserts, my parents were so stuffed they did not think they could put another bite into their mount. But for me, a die-hard dessert fanatic, I was at the peak of my excitement. I saw that there were three different desserts on the menu, so I made sure I left some room for them!
I swear I think the mango sorbet and jasmine rice pudding creation was inspired by the very famous Thai dessert of mango and sticky rice because it tasted just like that.
Anyhow, after the three desserts, I was the fullest I had ever been since I left boarding school in England. So it was a mixed feelings of pain/excitement/joy when we were presented with a whole tray of chocolate. As the server proceeded to explain the different exotic creations –curry and saffron to name a few – the Swiss and Thai blood in me started fighting. The Swiss was telling me to take all the chocolates and worry about how my risk of getting a heart disease was tripling every second later, when The Thai in me was reminding me to think about all the skinny Asians back home with 22-inch waists. Luckily, they found some sort of compromise, and I took only(?) three to try.
To my shock horror, we were presented with ANOTHER dish. This time it took the shape of a cappuccino. It did not look that exciting, so as I was taking a tiny bite just to sample it, I was pleasantly surprise to know how wonderful it tasted. It was actually my favorite desserts out of them all!
Then we were presented with these white chocolate covered popcorns, which my dad really enjoyed. It was definitely the best popcorn we’ve ever had. But, hey, it’s a three Michelin star popcorn after all, right?
As you can see from the pictures, the meal was not even close to ending when we got to the last item on the menu. A 3-tiered metal container filled with goodies, such as assorted truffles, macarons, and caramels, were gently placed in front of us. Along with other nibbles such as tiny tiny mint candies and, yes, even more chocolates. Sadly, at that point all my senses were overloaded and I could not eat anything else. So all I did was stared at them. I did have the all butter shortbread that they gave us to take home the day after though, and it was, again, very very good. SURPRISE!
As the Sun disappeared and the city lights started to sparkled, we finally got to the end of our four hour long feast. My dad reminded me to ask for a copy of the menu for us to keep. As I was about to tell our lovely server about the menu when we were getting up to leave, she, to our surprise, told us that a copy of the menus is waiting for us at the host stand. And there it was, a fresh new copy neatly presented in an envelope. So now you probably understand why Per Se has, very rightfully, earned its place in my good book since there’s definitely no “negligence” when it comes to this “Per Se.”