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Per Se

Written by
Perfect For: Fine Dining

I got kicked out of Per Se.

Allow me to elaborate.

Back in September, I had a 5:30pm reservation for four on a Saturday night. One member of our group was coming in that day from outside of the country, and her flight ended up getting severely delayed. This presented us with an interesting dilemma - cancel the reservation and pay a $175 per person fee, or keep the reservation and hope for the best, meaning that she'd be late but not by much. We decided on the latter (because this is dinner, not live television) and headed to the restaurant. Once we got there, we explained the situation to the staff, who seemed annoyed but aware that they should at least try to be somewhat accommodating. 5:45 and 6:00 passed, and the hosts began to express some displeasure. Finally our tardy guest arrived at 6:15, and we were seated for dinner.

From that moment until the end of our meal, we had a pleasant and impressive experience, just as you would expect from one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world. The food was excellent, and everything seemed to have turned out OK, despite the fact that we were very late for our reservation. Dessert, petit fours, and coffee were served, along with the check which was settled in a reasonably hasty manner. That's when things got interesting.

Not all that long after our check was paid - let's call it fifteen minutes - a staff member arrived at our table. This man in a suit chatted us up for a while with some small talk, and then explained that he would like to show us the kitchen. We obliged, because we are New Yorkers, and real kitchens are majestic places that we usually only see on vacation or Pinterest. About three minutes into our boring and seemingly pointless walkthrough, it occurred to me what was happening. We were being tastefully ejected. Sure enough, when our tour concluded, we were not brought back to the dining room, but through another door that led directly to the foyer and a hostess holding our jackets.

Now, before you decide who the real asshole in this equation is (me or him), consider this. I would argue that even though we were late, there would have been a much easier and far less dickish way to handle this situation -honesty. Had this guy simply walked up to us and said, "I'm sorry folks, but we really need this table," we would have jumped up immediately and finished our conversation in the lounge, or even somewhere outside if they so wished. We're all adults here, as evidenced by the fact that we just spent a Vespa on dinner. But that option was never afforded to us. Instead, we got played.

Clearly this situation is unique, and hopefully not something you'd encounter if you decided to visit Per Se. But it's also not our first bad experience here. There seems to be this thing at Per Se where the staff acts like it's your privilege to be in their restaurant. Instead of a warm welcome, it feels more like you've been granted access to the king's palace, and they're worried that you're going to act like a commoner. Even when we came here previously to eat in the salon, our waiter treated us like we were sitting at the kid's table during family dinner, and I wasn't even the one who ended up spilling the wine. This guy dribbled on our placemat when he poured both of our glasses, and then he just walked away. That doesn't happen at Daniel, no matter where you're sitting. Then again, the staff at Daniel will also give you a tour of the kitchen that doesn't end in sadness. All you have to do is ask.

Food Rundown

Oysters And Pearls

Probably one of the most well known restaurant dishes to ever be created, this is a fixture on both the French Laundry and Per Se menus. Two Beach Point oysters sit atop a pearl tapioca sabayon, and next to a bunch of white sturgeon caviar. It's warm, it's salty, it's silky smooth, and it's incredibly delicious.

Filet of Dover Sole

Dover Sole is decidedly French, but the spätzle and borscht on this plate probably not so much. It turns out those foreign things are what made this dish so memorable. I think I want spätzle on everything.

Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster

As if there is any chance that lobster in a place like this isn't going to be good.

Liberty Farms Pekin Duck Breast

Another dish that you'll see from time to time at both French Laundry and Per Se. This time ours came with some Black Mission figs and a foie gras Madiera emulsion, and it was mighty good.

Elysian Fields Farm's "Selle D'Agneau"

"Selle D'Angneau" is French for lamb saddle, which is English for the loin plus the hip. The meat was perfect and this plate also featured things like "pappadum," Medjool dates, and "toasted Cumin jus," all of which are things that we like to say as much as we like to eat.

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