Friday, January 02, 2009

per se New Years Eve 08 (Manhattan)

My second visit to per se after a two year break I was expecting something very special, particularly as the price tag for the meal was US$750/person plus drinks. This time we were with friends and I valued their opinion too which largely paralleled my own. It was a 10 course degustation menu which started with a glass of good champagne and a complicated amuse bouche - a phallic looking coronet of salmon tartare with gentle flavouring.

A good start. The first course was "Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters (two tasty little ones) and a very handsome serve of Osetra caviar.

An excellent dish, the textures melded well and offset the saltiness of the caviar it melted in the mouth. Next came a white truffle oil infused custard -a "ragout" of black winter truffles served in a decapitated egg shell.

Strong in truffle bouquet and flavour it brought a primitive memory of the terroir of Alba to mind. A very rich custard another fine entree. Then followed a
mascarpone enriched white corn polenta with shaved white Alba truffles with "Castelmagno" cheese and "Jus de Poule".

The cheese melted into this dish increasing it's richness Lots of truffle married well with this fine dish. The next dish was lightly roasted Turbot (from South America). Served with black winter truffles, Russet Potato "Mille-Feuille" sweet carrots, Tokyo turnips Banyuls vinegar sauce.

A very fine dish (the turbot was much bigger than the potato!) with a good balance of tastes and textures. It was rather fanciful calling the couple of slices of potato 1000 leaves but it was the sort of quality I was expecting. The butter poached Nova Scotia lobster with compressed Matsu apple and fennel bulb a good size serve buried under the brown butter mouseline was a great combination. The sweetness of the apple complimented the lobster and blended perfectly with the mousseline - no truffles! but this was the best dish so far.

I loved it. Next came the meat dishes. Four Story Hill Farm Squab. Sauteed Moulard Duck Foie Gras, wilted Dandelion greens and Garnet yams with mead jus.

By now I was getting fairly full and the I could almost feel the super rich outstanding foie gras oozing with cholesterol. The squab was superb and would have a made a great main course at any restaurant. The last 'main' course was a sirloin of Blackmores Wagyu "confit de Langue Boeuf", caraway seed pain perdu, caramelised Savoy cabbage and pickled pearl onions with a Bordelaise sauce.

Another extremely rich dish the Wagyu was extremely tender but had much milder taste than what I expected perhaps because of the way it had been slow roasted. They were unable to tell me what grade of Wagyu it was. The bourdelaise sauce was much to heavy an overwhelmed the rest of this dish. The "Vacherin Mont d'Or" with celery root on a pepper shortbread and garden Mache and puree de Pruneaux d'Agen preceded the desserts. My companions found this too rich after the series of very rich dishes that preceded it but it was certainly a delight to the taste buds.

Excellent dish again but so rich after so much very rich food. The Carnoroli rice pudding was not improved by the shaved white truffles - they seemed to be fixated on them. Finally the Devils Food Cake, chocolate "Marquise"and malt cremeaux with banana creme fraiche sherbet

which was delicate and delicious though an almost sickeningly rich finish to the meal before coffee and chocolates. We ordered a bottle of Alsatian Pinot Gris (2004 ?Boxler) $155 which turned out to be excessively sweet unlike the sommellieurs description, and left it for the dessert having a bottle of Pol Roger instead. ($135). The service was impeccable, the venue spacious and the tables large, the cutlery and crockery extremely fine. After all that though the dinner was too dominated by truffles and extremely rich food to be enjoyed to the end. The first half of the meal was fine with tastes of the various ingredients marrying well but too much rich food jades the appetite and the palate. As we left we were presented with a most extraordinary gift. A nice bag containing some of the breakfast things sourced from purveyors with whom they have been collaborating for many years, The most surprising item being two fresh eggs from Squire Hill Farm now a staple on their menu.

While each of the dishes was excellent the meal did not achieve the heights aimed for by it's designers because it was so very unbalanced. To give them their due this was a special night and they attempted to much. There was insufficient time to recover from each magnificent dish. This tired the palate and jaded the appetite. Two of my companions stopped eating well before the end of the meal.
Score: 16.5/20


neil said...

Elliot, I feel for you, all those truffles!!! But it is a good point; a meal is a collection of dishes that have to work together as a whole, if all the dishes are too rich, it just doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

Hi Neil,
After that dinner I felt I'd had enough calories for a week and couldn't bare to think that I was going out to eat again in only a few hours but that famous medical remedy tincture of time did its work. What's more the best truffles I've eaten so far was dinner at your place!