NYC: Per Se (Sep. 2012 #2): Koonho’s Birthday
Authors: Victor and Monty
Restaurant: Per Se
Exec Chef: Thomas Keller
Chef de Cuisine: Eli Kaimeh
Date: September 30, 2012
-We celebrated Koonho’s birthday today; he turned 29 a few days ago (and has received countless “old” jokes since).
-One thing I like about Per Se is that they’ll print out a custom menu if you tell them in advance. Our menus said “Happy Birthday Koonho” and also had no listed prices. It’s definitely a nice touch to make the whole experience more memorable for everyone! The birthday boy or girl also gets this delicious chocolate-mousse cake (which had hints of coffee, too)! Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of it :(.
Monte: Hi, Helen!
Chef’s Tasting Menu.
Victor: I got this, but I replaced the caviar dish with the vegetarian “Savoy Cabbage and Ruby Beet ‘Borscht'” dish. The “White-Truffle-Oil-Infused Egg Custard” and “Bellini” dishes aren’t on the menu (but we had them).
Vegetarian Tasting Menu.
Victor: Monty ordered this to try it out. The “White-Truffle-Oil-Infused Egg Custard” and “Bellini” dishes aren’t on the menu.
Gruyere Cheese Gougeres.
Cheesebread? A bread with cheese-like custard in it?? Wait, not even a cheez-whiz custard but instead premium Gruyere cheese??? This place fancy.
LOTS OF cheesy goodness packed in that small ball.
Boy am I glad I’m not an actual vegetarian. This amuse was DELISH, yes caps lock warranted. Perfection in the form of creamy salty flavorful salmon with a crispy sesame cracker and light creme fraiche, all complemented by aromatic chives.
SAVOY CABBAGE AND RUBY BEET “BORSCHT”
Watercress “Royale” and Horseradish Crème Fraîche
The beets were pureed into a thick and creamy bowl of sweet goodness. I love beets – they’re fleshy and feel like they have actual substance (unlike say cucumber/celery – which I like too, but are too watery to stand on their own). This dish was also a tad spicy since underneath the beet puree is a horseradish creme fraiche. The horseradish didn’t overwhelm the beets, but instead just added that wasabi-schnoz-clearing fresh scent. Emphasis on fresh, and as much de-emphasis on wasabi (this creme fraiche was far superior in taste/smell than the toxic green paste you eat at cheap sushi joints).
I LOOOOVE BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETS. The horseradish definitely mixed with the beet purée well. Then again, horseradish tends to go well with beets, so that’s not surprising; I don’t think the flavor combo is uncommon or anything. Still, each part of the dish worked well, no one ingredient overpowered another, and the combination of all the flavors was creamy bliss. It was a solid dish with great execution.
WHITE TRUFFLE OIL INFUSED CUSTARD
“Ragout” of Black Winter Truffles
I can’t think of anything to describe this dish. Other than “rich.” Nothing but trufflely richness. The egg custard is rich and velvety, the ragout is rich and velvety, and the cracker is – nope not rich and velvety, just rich and crispy. PSYCH! (haven’t heard that phrase since the 90s…it must be brought back)
I would totally describe this dish as also “intense”. Everything’s very intense in flavor. For me, “rich” means heavy—the dish IS kind of heavy, but it’s also packed with flavor (so it’s “intense” in that sense). (Also, I’m totally putting that period outside of the quotations. I think the UK system is more logical… The American way of putting the period/comma inside the quotations is silly.)
SALAD OF HAWAIIAN HEARTS OF PEACH PALM
Belgian Endive, Toasted Cashews, Cilantro “Pudding”, and Banana Geleé
This dish was delicious. The hearts of peach palm, endives, and cashews all mixed very well together, with each dish fresh and contributing a new flavor to the overall dish. The cilantro “pudding” wasn’t strong at all but still provided a subtle flavor boost that balanced well with the hearts of peach palm; this was surprising because cilantro is usually pretty strong. The banana gelée at the bottom provided an extra level of taste and texture that was just strong enough to improve the flavors of the other ingredients but not overpower anything. I really thought the banana gelée helped bring this dish to the next level, raising it from “great” to “amazing”.
In the words of Birthday Boy, aka “King of Blades” (such a badass name): “Monte, where’s the rest of your dish?” To be honest, it was an artistic presentation, but the large plate made the food look too underwhelming to my taste. Here’s a closeup:
This dish was quite interesting and tasted like nothing I’ve had before. I didn’t fully enjoy it though because it felt too much like a series of disjointed flavors (something that’s hard to solve with vegetable dishes, I think, since veggies are generally so much lighter than meat and don’t hold as much of a flavor to anchor the dish). The stuffed celery was crispy on the outside with a delightfully creamy salty filling, but then the walnuts were just too overpowering and the grapes added a random sweetness that seemed to fit in as well with the dish as Harry Potter would at an Edward Cullen party – it’s just random (as was that analogy).
Left: Unsalted butter from Straus Family Creamery in Marin County, California.
Right: Salted butter from Animal Farm in Orwell, Vermont.
Behind: Six different salts and the warm Parker House roll. The salt’s for the foie gras terrine dishes that the other two ordered.
Warm Parker House roll.
SAUTEED FILLET OF COLUMBIA RIVER STURGEON
Savoy Cabbage “Choucroute”, Heirloom Carrots, Whole Grain Mustard, and Crispy Rye
The sturgeon was great as always. Monty tried some, and he was pretty much about to moan in pleasure from how good it was. (You can read more about that when you read about the duck.)
BUTTERNUT SQUASH “PORRIDGE”
Soft Boiled Hen Egg, Charred Eggplant, Petite Basil, and Pumpkin Seed Oil
This tasted like an oatmeal – and pleasantly so. The squash lent a firmer texture to the dish than actual oatmeal, and the egg was a rich velvet that complemented the porridge well. The pickled eggplant was slightly sour but not overwhelmingly so. I wish the dish had a saltier/sweeter tone to it, but I still enjoyed it.
“BEETS AND LEEKS”
Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster, Melted King Richard Leeks, “Pommes Maxim’s”, and Red Beet Essence
-Thomas Keller is famous for his butter-poached lobster, and it’s almost always amazing. The texture, the scent, the flavor—everything about the butter-poached lobster dishes at Per Se is always wonderful. It’s not too rich or heavy, but it’s ALWAYS full of flavor.
-Keller actually helped popularize butter-poached lobster in America.
This tart was rather odd – I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The mushrooms were rich, the tart was crisp, the leeks were oniony, the apple lent a crisp sweet element, and the little droplets of hearts of palm gelee were sweet and tart at the same time. Again though, while all these individual parts were well made, I wasn’t sure it made sense as a whole coherent dish. It was only slightly rich from the mushrooms, but not satisfyingly so – and the sweet elements of the dish were overwhelmingly sweet and overpowered the rest of the tart. It’s a nice dish, but just so far from the perfection that Dovetail’s ratatouille achieved.
LIBERTY FARM’S PEKIN DUCK
Marinated Black Mission Figs, Petite Turnips, and Foie-Gras-Madeira Emulsion
kekeke, just read Monty’s description below ^__^. (And, yes, he actually did moan with pleasure.)
“TERRINE” OF TOASTED ROOT VEGETABLES
Swiss Chard, Brussels Sprouts, Celeriac “Velouté”, Pomegranate Kernels, and Mushroom Essence
So I tried Victor’s rich, delicate duck with its fork tender meat and crispy skin accompanied by the rich foie sauce and sweet fig – it was amazing. It just melted in my mouth and sent off happy signals to my brain, causing me to momentarily melt in my seat and moan with pleasure. Then I had this vegetable terrine – it was light, fresh, slightly bland, but herbacious in scent. It was pretty much the complete opposite of the mind-melting experience of the duck, and instead was just a clean-tasting course. At this point, I was very much regretting my decision to go out of my comfort zone and order the vegetable tasting. #Firstworldproblems
u mad, bro?
SNAKE RIVER FARMS’ “CALOTTE DE BOEUF”
Garden State Tomato “en Persillade”, Compressed Cucumbers, Cherry Belle Radishes, and “Béarnaise Mousseline”
Per Se’s Snake River Farms’ beef…. is SO GOOD. DELICIOUS. AMAZING. FOODGASMIC. omggggggggggggg. It’s tender, juicy, and FULL OF FLAVOR. The beef was charcoal-grilled, and I still think that part of the outside texture reminds me a little bit of a hamburger (a really, really good hamburger). Monty seems to disagree, though. BUT KOONHO SAID IT REMINDED HIM A LITTLE OF A HAMBURGER, TOO!
This dish partially redeemed the vegetable tasting. The agnolotti was perfectly al dente, the crisp cracker on top added a nice crunch, and overall the dish had a rich buttery spirit that was awesome. An additional plus: the mushroom essence reminded me of an okonomiyaki sauce – and I love okonomiyaki. Hopefully I can write a post soon on this hole in the wall that serves Osaka eats.
SEQUATCHIE COVE CREAMERY’S “CUMBERLAND”
Tellicherry Pepper Shortbread, Sicilian Pistachio Butter, and Bartlett Pear “Pâtes de Fruits”
This is one of my favorite cheese courses in a while. The shortbread was a great compliment to the cheese, and the pear pâtes de fruit cut into the cheese and brought a slightly acidic flavor profile into the dish. I’m not sure if someone who generally doesn’t like cheese courses would enjoy the cheese, but I think most people who are used to cheese courses would definitely love this course. The shortbread, pear, and cheese mixed very well. Some cheese courses admittedly cause me to cringe; this one was enjoyable to eat from start to finish.
It was a delicious french onion soup. The cheese was rich, melted well, and the onions and beef added a rustic feel to the dish. I love this kind of dish.
Peach-Leaf Ice Cream and Champagne Granite
A great palate cleanser, with the peach ice cream being surprisingly herbal in flavor. The granite packed a punch – eat a dozen of these and start saying silly things that tipsy people say.
I LOVED this palate cleanser. It was very light, yet it was also strong in flavor. The champagne granite didn’t overpower the peace ice cream at all; instead, it provided a nice compliment to the flavor and creamy texture of the ice cream. Each bite was really a joy to eat. DELICIOUSSSSSSS… and creative!
“Biscuit Dacquoise”, Whipped Orange Cream, and Garden State Raspberry Sorbet
Huckleberry Compote, Vanilla Crepe, and Greek Yogurt Sorbet
Monte: The huckleberry was a bit too sour, but this is a fun dish.
Caramelized Popcorn (a.k.a. Thomas Keller “Oreo”), Manjari Chocolate “Pudding”, Whipped Earl-Grey Tea, and Salted-Caramel Ice Cream
-This dessert felt like a play on “cookies and cream”. There were lots of different textures in this dessert, which kept it interesting to eat. It went from crispy (“oreo”/popcorn) to solid but very soft (the chocolate “pudding”) to creamy (salted-caramel ice cream) to almost foamy (whipped Earl-Grey tea). Overall, the flavor profiles weren’t too different, to my disappointment. It was delicious, but it didn’t feel too creative; it was a solid dessert, but that was it. This review sounds kind of negative, and it’s because I’m somewhat used to their desserts delighting me more!
-The ball on the left is what the server called a Thomas Keller “oreo”. (You can google this online—apparently the French Laundry and Per Se serve these.) Did you know that Thomas Keller is a fan of oreos? He tweeted about it recently hahaha: https://twitter.com/Chef_Keller/status/231112291913961472. (I found the tweet pretty entertaining.)
Damson “Pate de Fruits,” Steamed Swiss Meringue, Lime Tapioca “Pudding” and Ginseng Ice cream
This was like a giant pudding of several delicious elements. The fruity elements worked quite well with the rich tapioca. Although, to be honest, at this point, I was ready to be done with vegetables and ready to eat rich fatty chocolates and donuts…
BEGINNING OF THE MIGNARDISES:
-24 House-Made Chocolates
Flavors include madras curry (bottom left), dark chocolate (4th on bottom row), Hendrick’s gin (second-to-last on bottom row), Arnold Palmer (bottom right), maple pecan 1st on middle row), smoked cinnamon (3rd on middle row), vanilla (4th on middle row), some weird Chinese tea flavor (2nd-to-last on middle row), dulce de leche (last on middle row), tamarind ginger (top right), and more. I always forget, though I’m getting better at remembering them haha.
-24 House-Made Chocolates (though only 13 are left in this pic)
-Cinnamon-Sugared Brioche Doughnuts with Cappuccino Semifreddo
-Top tray: Salted Caramel
-Middle tray: Cassis and Strawberry-Lemonade Macarons
-Bottom tray: Lemon Custard, Dark Chocolate, and Milk Chocolate Truffles
-Cinnamon-Sugared Brioche Doughnuts
Monty and Koonho pretty much finished off the chocolates by themselves.
Monty and Helen finished off almost all of the doughnuts by themselves. (Monty ate… quite a lot.)
Holy freaking cow I ate way too much of the desserts. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get diabetes tomorrow. Totally worth it though.
Next time… you should finish EVERYTHING.
Oh, if only I am so lucky to have a next time. I wonder if there’s assumption of risk for all the bad things that will inevitably happen (heart attack, diabetes, food coma) from finishing EVERYTHING…what would a reasonable person say?
Not gonna respond to your law joke!
Anyway, Koonho and Helen really enjoyed the meal (and so did Monty and me), so it was a success! (Per Se tends to have successful meals hahaha.)