Per se is one of the finest restaurants in this country – the name meaning ‘unique’ or ‘in and of itself’- and it fully lived up to its reputation and name on this visit. We enjoyed the Chef’s Tasting Menu as opposed to the vegetarian menu that is also offered at lunch, and we took it as is and didn’t order either of the offered supplements. (That would be one objection I’d have: if you order the supplement you miss the
regular dish whereas I believe it should be an add-on). I didn’t see an a la carte menu but the bar area offers individual ordering if you don’t have time to spend. The meal is about 3 hours with a relaxed pacing and the service can’t do enough to try to make your visit memorable. They are friendly enough to make it fun but know when to unobtrusively meet your needs. The sommelier was very helpful in making wine selections and even suggested a cheaper wine than what we originally selected. He also took time to laminate the labels from both our wine bottles to take with us – it’s thoughtful gestures like this that set the place a part from others.
To start, per se is located on the 5th floor of a shopping center on Columbus Circle. An unlikely setting but it does afford the diner a marvelous view of the city if you visit in the daytime. At night the lights of the city are fun but I think I prefer a daytime meal. You never feel rushed or forgotten, but rather like an honored guest. Of the food everything was delicious and beautifully presented. They start with a few amuse bouche and first was a warm cheese gougere that I could have eaten a whole tray of. The buttery ball was filled with tasty liquid cheese – a flavor explosion. I’m not a big salmon fan but the salmon cone is simply delightful, the cone is crispy and filled with a cream cheese mixture.
The ‘oysters and pearls’ are a regular part of the ever-changing menu here and when you taste it you know why. It is like velvet in your mouth with just the right combination of sweet and salty. Next are the hot Parker House rolls that don’t really need the addition of either of the fine butters but this meal is about decadence and this was so fine I had to have a second, which of course is no problem. The sun chokes salad was a real winner with the slightly sweetened sauce underneath making a fabulous combo with the texture of the pine nuts. The halibut was combined slightly pickled peppers and something like guacamole/sour cream inside the roll crisp. It had a mild but buttery taste making it a less ‘in your face’ course than the others but nevertheless very nice. The scallop was divine with salty and savory textures and tastes and topped with a flavor packed mushroom slice. The sweet potato was also wonderful and the whole thing was a great blend of flavors. I hated to eat the quail it was so beautiful with the layered almond and a curry sauce. It was amazing in taste as well as appearance. The lamb was very nice and the cheese selection accompanied by a warm Madeleine. I might have liked to have a hard cheese in the selections but all were tasty. The palate cleanser of pear and ginger was a delicious taste explosion – a real tongue tingler. You might think you’re about done at this point but the desserts are endless and all winners. So many you can’t eat them all but the chocolate box is a favorite, where you can pick as many as you choose – what fun. The warm donuts and “iced coffee” are also a real treat. If we didn’t have enough, they sent us home with a couple of boxes of chocolate filled butter cookies.