Yes, I realize how lucky I am to be able to experience restaurants like this. I mean, what these people do is absolutely amazing. The intricacies, the details, the techniques, the creativity… on another level… really.
Now, that being said, the question that always comes up is “How does Per Se compare to the French Laundry?” Well, in my opinion, French Laundry still wins. I say that because, many of the best courses at Per Se come from the French Laundry… the Salmon Tartar Cornet, Oysters & Pearls and Truffle Custard, for example.
And beyond that, there were a few courses that just didn’t hit the mark (which sounds like a totally snobby thing to say… but it’s true). After tasting course after course of food that make you swoon, when something is just ‘good,’ it’s all of a sudden not good enough. Know what I mean? On their own they probably would have been delicious, but following such amazing stuff (and considering the capacity of one’s stomach) I would have been happy to do without them.
I’m not complaining (the whole experience was absolutely AMAZING), just prefacing.
And it begins…
There are 10 courses on the menu. BS! I have no idea how many we ended up with but it was way more than 10. I kinda wish they’d just tell you the truth so you could ration the courses.
This beautiful little salmon tartar with red onion creme fraiche is one of two (or 3?) amuse bouche. We were too slow with the camera to get the gougeres that came before it 😉 .
I honestly can’t remember what this soup was (it wasn’t on the menu either). All I know is there was a panna cotta like ‘custard’ in the bottom of a tiny cup with a bunch of lovely aromatic ingredients. I also remember it was delicious.
This was one of my favorite courses of the night: black truffle custard in egg shells. SO. GOOD. The kind of ‘so good’ that makes your eyes roll back in you head and everything around you go blurry. Yeah, like that.
This was the first course on the menu… finally! And not a bad way to ‘start’ it out. Caviar this way and that. We opted for one of each and switched half way through. This one had bath of sorrel soup with caviar and a tiny poached quail egg with potato ‘croutons’.
Oysters & Pearls is where it’s AT, though. Rich and delectable… I’m pretty sure I’ve never had anything like it (except at FL, of course). The poached oysters are sitting on tapioca ‘pearls’ and swimming in a heavenly butter sauce with their briny, salty caviar counterpart. Just ridiculously good…
Then this fabulous salt cellar arrived. Black, red, pink, gray…. volcanic, himalayan, sea… who knows. They were really fun to play with, though.
Apparently the salts were for the foie gras which was accompanied by a black walnut puree and peach ‘pate de fruits’ among other things.
The ‘Hearts of Peach Palm’ Salad was an interesting one. Quite unique flavors but not very salad-like. There were different melons that were compressed with different flavors along with a soft, swirly heart of palm and avocado puree. Kinda crazy but not a fave at the table.
Oh yeah… and we added a truffle course (because, clearly, there wasn’t enough food to be had). I can’t complain though. A delicate handmade pasta with butter and black truffles? I’ll stuff myself silly for that!
Keep ’em coming…
That outta do it! No pasta in sight! (Don’t worry… it was perfectly balanced in the end.)
This is what one might call a ‘shit-eatin’ grin’. Yes, very excited to dig into that pasta!
After that, the roasted striped bass was presented on a silver platter then removed back to the kitchen.
It came out again looking like this: cucumber, marcona almonds, caper, basil, garlic cream.
I can’t say anyone was swooning over the milk poached chicken with cherries and corn. This is one I could’ve skipped.
And of course, a cheese course. Ouchy. A cheddar with broccoli gratin, black truffle (yes, again), candied pine nuts, and a lemon-mustard sauce. Didn’t love this either. Are we goin’ sweet or savory here? What’s happening? Is it broccoli and cheese (which I, frankly, wouldn’t want at this point in the meal) or is it cheese plate with sweet accompaniments? Kinda disjointed.
Oh someone save us! The desserts! I’ll just say that the pastry chef gets the s*%t end of the stick here. How could anyone have enough room to thoroughly enjoy these wonderful creations?! It’s like you’re forced to enjoy them. You can’t stop now! Look how beautiful they all are!
First was this “Sake-Soda” Green Tea Ice Cream.
Then, my favorite: a layered cake that was SO AMAZING. The cake itself was somewhere between a cake and a cookie; dry and crumbly… but in a good way…structured. It was layered with hazelnut and vanilla buttercreams and chocolate ganache. Wowza.
This one was ‘interesting’. Rooibos tea ‘bavarois’ with a fluffy mint thingy and strawberries a million ways. It was one of those things where you can’t decide if you like it or not. I think I loved the texture and the interesting flavor of the rooibos bavarois but didn’t love how much strawberry was incorporated.
Oh no… it’s not over yet! This was a wonderful bite: white chocolate-popcorn truffle (not that kind of truffle). Salty and sweet and fabulous.
Then the handmade chocolates; 24 different kinds that this fine woman rattled off like nobody’s business. Seriously, how can she remember all those flavors (‘cuz you know they weren’t easy ones, either)?!
Everybody chose a couple (I should’ve just put them in my purse for later ;).
Don’t forget the coffee and donuts. This was one of my favorites at the French Laundry. A cappuccino semi-freddo with a donut. Unnecessary but totally worth it.
And more… I don’t know… It’s all a blur now. Chocolates and macaroons and chocolates, oh my!
And honestly, like it wasn’t enough… a canvas baggie of caramels to take home.
Was anyone counting? My best estimate is about 20 courses. Whhheeeeeeewwww! I lived!
That was some SERIOUS business!
Hope you enjoyed my recap!