Back in the time when we stayed in the Bay area for one entire summer, I was trying hard to reserve a table at French Laundry but, unfortunately, no success. French Laundry is located in Yountville, California. It is owned by Thomas Keller, one of the best chefs in America. I guess I don’t need to share story in my blog about how famous French Laundry is. If you google his name, you can certainly find much better articles about Thomas Keller and his famous restaurants. After his huge success with French Laundry, in 2004 he opened another restaurant, called Per Se, in New York City. A year later, Per Se was awarded a three-star Michelin-Guide rating, which is exceedingly rare. He is the only American chef who has multiple Michelin star awards for two different restaurants.
Once I knew that we would move to NYC, I started to think to have a dinner experience at Per Se. Considering that my belly was already big and I could not travel to a warmer place during Christmas and New Year holidays, so I decided to make a reservation at Per Se for our anniversary celebration. I’m well aware that to secure a reservation at Per Se is not easy at all. They start to take reservations by phone two months in advance, starting from 10 AM. Exactly two months prior to our anniversary day, we dialed Per Se’s phone number right after 10 AM and we were put on hold and anxiously waited for about 25 minutes. We finally managed to get a table for two for a 9:15 PM dinner on Dec 26th, 2009. We were so excited. Yay!
Positioned in the Time Warner Center complex at Columbus Circle, Per Se has a fabulous view of Central Park. Immediately after arriving there, we were warmly greeted and notified that our table was still being cleaned and prepared. We were told to wait in the bar area. Not over than ten minutes, they guided us to the dining room. With no more than sixteen tables, the dining room is divided into two floor levels with gentle and dim lighting. It is very elegant. Then we began our four-and-half-hour culinary journey.
We both chose to experience the chef’s tasting menu but due to some pregnancy food restrictions, they replaced some of the menu for me.
We started with amuse bouche, “Goujeres”, a typical French finger food pastry with cheese inside, and “Mini Ice cream cone with salmon tartare and crème fraiche”. For me, they replaced the salmon tartare with beets.
For the first menu, A got “Oysters and Pearls”, which was Sabanyon of Pearl Tapioca served with Island Creek Oysters and sterling white sturgeon caviar. This is Thomas Keller’s signature dish. And I had “Parsnip-Vanilla Veloute”, which was Quatre Epices Mousse with garden tarragon and served with prune puree poured into the cup. I know it is my loss for not tasting his famous dish. I wish I came here while I was not pregnant.
Second, A had “Terrine of Hudson Valley moulard duck foie gras” served with honey crisp apples, hakurei turnips, mulled cider gelle, candied pecans and mustard cress with warm unlimited toasted brioche. Whereas for me, I had “salad of young beets” consisting of garden mache, navel orange marmalade and crispy oats with black winter truffle “aigre-doux”
Third, “Crispy skin fillet of madai”, which was a Japanese fish served with compressed English cucumbers and French breakfast radishes with watercress pudding.
Fourth, “Pan roasted Maine sea scallop” served with black trumpet mushrooms, glazed Brussels sprouts and parsley shoots with sunchoke-almond puree.
Fifth, “Cavendish Farm’s Caille en Crepinette”, a quail served with cranberry relish, confit chestnuts and celery branch with celery seed in a bit of quail jus poured over it.
Sixth, “Elysian fields farm’s Selle D’agneau Rotie Entiere”, a rib eye of lamb with caramelized globe artichoke, red pepper coulis, young fennel and sylvetta leaves with lamb sauce.
Seventh, “Serpa”, a Portuguese cheese served with panisse croutons, royal Blenheim apricots, cauliflower florettes and frisee lettuce with Za’atar dressing.
Eighth, “Mandarin Orange sorbet”, which was a refreshing sorbet with wild peppercorn sable and orange tuile served in nyons extra virgin olive oil emulsion.
Ninth, A had “Pumpkin-chocolate”, which was mast brothers’ chocolate marquise with pumpkin bavarois served with hazelnut marshmallow and spiced ice cream. And I chose to have “Pear and Caramel”, which was a Madagascar Vanilla-poached Bartlett pear filled with caramel mousse, served with pear pate de fruit and glace au beurre noisette.
The tenth menu was “Coffee and Doughnut”, which was a cinnamon-sugared doughnut with cappuccino semifreddo. It is also another chef’s signature dish.
And the last menu was assorted “mignardises” ranging from different kinds of chocolates. Three leveled tray of tasty treats were served on our table as well. They also gave two packages of chocolate cake for us to take home. I finished it couple days later and they still tasted great.
On our way back, we were given a kitchen tour by one of the waitresses. Sadly, it was a little over 1 AM and the kitchen was pretty much closed down already. However, some of the chefs were still there discussing and planning for the next day menu.
Overall, a dinner at Per Se is very pleasant. You obviously should go there at least once for the outstanding dinner experience and the impeccably creations of Thomas Keller. And we’re happy to be there to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. So, the question is: Will we go back there again? Uhm… Perhaps, it would be better if we can try French Laundry first before going back to Per Se for the second time. It would be exciting to visit both of Thomas Keller’s restaurants.