Saturday, January 23, 2010

Per Se exceeds expectations Part 3 (food)

Done with the main savory courses, we move on.

"TOMME CRAYEUSE" with CAULIFLOWER FLORETTES, CANDIED CASHEWS, and PETITE CILANTRO with MADRAS CURRY "AIGRE-DOUX"
The cheese was good. I also liked the candied cashews. I thought they were better than using fruit or dried fruit to bridge the savory-sweet courses. The sauce, though, might have been too subtle for me as the spices in the curry didn't play a big role and I don't remember the sour component of the aigre-doux.

BUTTERMILK THYME SORBET with RED VERJUS and PER SE SHORTBREAD
I loved this. I did not know buttermilk and thyme went this well together. Beyond this combination of flavors, the use of sorbet here was terrific because the water base made it much lighter and allowed the vibrant, refreshing flavors to pop out. The verjus pate de fruits and shortbread were ok but the star was the sorbet.

"PRETTY IN PINK" PINK LEMON SORBET, PINK GRAPEFRUIT "SUPREMES" and PINK CHAMPAGNE GRANITE
This was indeed quite pretty, and tasted... well, like pink. I'm no synesthete, but I wouldn't be shocked if this was what pink tasted like. The different textures were good and the slight bitterness from the grapefruit worked well here. That being said, none of the flavors were particularly special, and after the taste bud-opening sorbet this was somewhat disappointing.

COFFEE and DOUGHNUTS
Another Keller classic that was just amazing in execution. A cinnamon-covered beignet with cappuccino semifreddo. How does a fried ball of dough completely covered in cinnamon end up this light? Light and airy, greaseless, with a light crunch and a soft interior. These were amazing, and I'm really not a fried dough kind of guy. I'm not a big coffee guy either, but mixing bites of both combined into this sublime match of textures and temperatures. Again, even with cinnamon and coffee, neither flavor managed to be dominant or overpowering.

"MONT BLANC" CHESTNUT "GENOISE", SWISS MERINGUE, CHOCOLATE-JUNIPER "CREMEUX", RUM PARFAIT and "MARRON GLACE" with CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM
For my main dessert I had the chocolate option. This was good as one of those "chocolate's best hits" desserts with juniper, chestnuts, sponge cake, cremeux, ice cream, etc. However, I didn't feel like the components themselves came together like other dishes throughout the night. I didn't think the chocolate ice cream was anything special either. I did like that for all that was on the plate, it still managed to be light, which was important considering how much food I had eaten to that point.

Still going strong, I was finally served this greek yogurt pot de creme with honey and hibiscus. This summed up the theme of the night. A balanced and light use of cream, sweet, sour, and strong flavors.

The hibiscus was at the bottom.

Assortment of chocolates, photographed here after I had taken my choices. There were 27 different options in all, with the first three rows repeated in the back.

My choices included brown butter and pear, baileys cheese cake, olive oil, cherry balsamic, raspberry, rocher and one other that I forgot. I still don't really know how I managed to eat them all at that point.

The three-layered tin had truffles and pistachio nougat, the bowl in the middle had chocolate covered hazelnuts. I was so done at (probably even much before) this point.

Before the night ended, the maitre d' showed me the kitchen. I was surprised to find it smaller and less "surgical" than I would have imagined. Then again, the prep kitchen was hidden from view. There was a good buzz of people working, and it's quite a thing that they power through service every night often until 1am and often serving large groups.

The meal was grand, the bill was grand. $275 with service included but not tax. Add another $30 each for the foie supplement and a glass of wine. While I liked the idea of having the service included, it is awkward if you feel your server deserves a little bit extra. I don't know what kind of message it sends if you were to write an additional gratuity of 5 or 10 more dollars.

All the food was done at a very high level, but I can definitely see why the well-known Keller classics pushed him into that upper upper echelon of chefs. While I was offered some of these courses even though they weren't on the menu, I recommend that you ask either way. Once they get you in there paying these prices, it does feel that they want you to truly enjoy the food that their talented chefs offer.

For Part 1, click here
For Part 2, click here

4 comments :

Memphis MOJO said...

Nice shot of the kitchen. It looks like it was taken with a digital camera and the others with a cell phone, yes? When are you getting your new one?

The Pretender said...

MOJO,
Actually all were taken with the new digital camera. Canon Powershot. 12.1 megapixels. I used the auto-focus/environment thing, so the camera decided everything. Granted, I probably should have used flash for everything even when the camera didn't judge it necessary. Then again, I forgot to photograph a dish! I'll try to get better at this!

Victoria said...

mmm I have yet to visit Perse (astonishing). I'm excited to give it a go eventually!

Great addition of the kitchen view!

The Pretender said...

Victoria,

I put it off for a really long time too. But with news that Benno (the chef de cuisine) was finally leaving it reminded me to give it a try. I now realize I should have tried sooner!