Thomas Keller is most renowned for his world famous Californian restaurant French Laundry. It remains exceptionally exclusive and difficult to land a reservation. I tried and I failed. Per Se, its sister restaurant in New York, was a slightly easier proposition to get a table.
You only have to call up at 9am local time, exactly four weeks out from the date that you want, and you should get a booking. For Jen and I, that meant staying up to 1am and then dialling both of our mobile phones and sitting on hold for half an hour until one of us got through. Luckily, Australian IDD call rates to America are reasonably cheap nowadays.
We visited Per Se for a night time tasting menu. Unfortunately the lighting conditions weren’t particularly condusive to taking photos so I’ve cribbed some off the internet from other people to give you an idea of what we had.
After the relative disappointment we had with our experience at Le Bernardin, we were a little pensive about Per Se. It turns out we needn’t have worried. We had a fantastic evening and were blown away by the experience.
The service there was world class and everyone from the sommelier to the dedicated server was friendly, knowledgeable and eager to make our night as memorable as possible. When we discussed the menu for the night, the server was happy to change and tailor the dishes to our liking. When they found out that we were pretty adventurous and happy to try some more experimental options, she went away to the kitchen and came back with an appropriately unique degustation for our ninth anniversary together.
Our tasting menu at Per Se was a balance of playful, creative courses and more traditional fare that was cooked to perfection.
The amouse bouche was a very cute salmon tartare that has been prepared to look like an icecream cone. This was followed on by their famous oysters and caviar course which tasted mouth-wateringly divine. I should probably get it out of my head as its not really a course that I can afford to get used to. That said, it really was superb and my favourite course of any of the restaurants we ate at.
From there, the rest of the dishes were of the same calibre. Fish seared and cooked to perfection. Succulent and flavoursome lamb. Impeccable presentation. Wine from all around North America and Europe to match. Perfect.
To cap off a memorable evening of culinary indulgence, our server unexpectedly offered us a tour of the kitchen where we got to a peak behind the curtain to see how it all goes down. As you’d expect, it was a hive of activity and there seemed to be some sort of barely controlled chaos that held the whole thing together. And I distinctly remember a chef guarding what looked to be a kilo of white truffle. I imagine that bad boy would be worth a small fortune.
What else is there to say? Per Se was one of my favourite dining experiences in New York. It lives up to its reputation and gave us a memorable way to celebrate nine years of eating well together. It was worth every penny.