A visit to Per Se

Per Se, NYC
Tasted Sunday, April 13, 2014 by jshufelt with 170 views


It had been a very long time since we had been to Per Se, and after hearing about the "health inspection violations," it was clearly time to return. If you've ever eaten at either of Thomas Keller's flagship restaurants, and in particular if you've visited the kitchens, you know that by any meaningful standard of cleanliness, these restaurants would be at the top of the list. I don't want to speculate on what might be going on behind the scenes with NYC food inspectors, but suffice it to say that this felt like a good opportunity to land a reservation somewhat more easily than usual, and it was. (The inspections have since been successfully appealed, so I imagine tables will quickly return to being as hard to come by as they have been in the past.)

Needless to say, the food and service were impeccable, as they have been on every other visit. The signature "Oysters and Pearls" dish sits comfortably at the pinnacle of the comfort food pyramid, and the foie gras torchon preparation remains our favorite. But I think the highlight this time around was a saucisson of Wagyu beef, with subtle yet assertive seasoning that was a bit outside the typical Per Se profile of silky smoothness, and all the better for it. Don't get me wrong; I like the luxurious textures as much as the next person. But 11 courses of that can be fatiguing, and it's refreshing to get something a bit more rustic and exotic along the way.

Because it was just two of us, we went with a mixture of 375s and individual glasses of specific wines where it made sense.

Flight 1 (5 Notes)

  • NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée 94 Points

    France, Champagne

    From a 375. In the glass, very pale, clear yellow. On the nose, very yeasty and buttery, even a bit of fresh mown grass. On the palate, a lovely mixture of green apples, nougat, citrus, and bread, with a round, creamy texture on the mid-palate and crisp acidity on the finish. A delicious accompaniment to "Oysters and Pearls."

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  • 2001 Château Guiraud 94 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes

    Ordered by the glass. Rich medium-gold in color, with loads of botrytis on the nose. On the palate, still young and somewhat fruit driven, with noticeable notes of apricot and lychee, but oh so silky, creamy, and lush on the palate. With torchon of foie gras and fresh brioche, it's hard to find any meaningful fault with this wine.

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  • 2010 Domaine Drouhin-Laroze Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 92 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru

    From a 375. In the glass, ruby red at the rim, fading to a darker violet at the core. On the nose, forest floor and a slightly oxidized buttery note. On the palate, tight and lean initially, but over an hour or so, dark crushed fruit and spices began to emerge in stages, coupled with a texture that I would describe as layered; just when you think it's silky, it turns rough, and when you decide it's rustic, back to silk. I think the best days for this wine are still a few years away.

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  • 2000 Château Latour Grand Vin 91 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac

    From 375. In the glass, very dark red, verging on black. On the nose, very closed; only with aggressive swirling do we see currants, cedar, tobacco, the Pauillac signature aromatics. On the palate, more of the same, with substantial but not overbearing tannins, and hints of much more complexity under the surface; asian spices, cocoa, crushed black fruit. It's clear this will be magnificent in a decade or two, but right now? Keep waiting, it's just not ready.

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  • 1968 D'Oliveiras Madeira Boal Reserva 92 Points

    Portugal, Madeira

    By the glass. In color, clear rust-brown shading to deep orange. On the nose, orange peel, burnt sugar, and allspice. On the palate, marmalade, toffee, and sherry, with savory and sweet flavors competing for attention. Somewhat dry texturally, with significant acidity on the finish. Very complex and interesting, probably best by itself, rather than with dessert.

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Eventually I'll learn to stay away from great-vintage Bordeaux with less than 30 years of age. Hopefully soon. I'm reminded that I also need to begin exploring the world of champagne. The last few bottles we've had have been really nice accompaniments to a variety of dishes, and that was certainly the case here.

And, of course, we'll need to come back for dinner!