Per Se is very good. Because of its reputation and the fact that you (or maybe a subordinate) beat out other phone calls at the precise moment one month in advance to get a table, you should probably eat here. I struggled between 3 and 4 stars because my overall experience was a bit flat here in spite of excellent company.
For many of us, Per Se is not an everyday meal. It should go without saying that the meal, its anticipation, our attire, and any accompanying reason for the occasion are probably all on a much more hyped scale than a typical night at a chain restaurant. Therefore, I want to do a couple things in this review. 1. Review Per Se on a level with other comparable places, not the $12 lunch I also enjoyed; and 2. Give some insights that might help those who are trying to understand this place/make a decision about where to eat.
1. The tasting menu at dinner is $310. It consists of 8-9 courses. About half of the courses have an optional selection (such as black truffles or beef) that cost an additional $40-$125 per choice.
2. For my dinner I had...
A. Oysters and Pearls w/pearl tapioca Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar. These were delicious.
B. Big Island Hearts of Peach Palm "Bavarois" with sweetheart tomatoes, purslane and black winter truffle. This was the best dish of the evening.
C. Grilled fillet of gulf cobia. This was well-cooked, but bland.
D. Succotash with Maine Sea Scallops. The succotash was delicious, but the scallops were salty.
E. Four-Story Hill Farms milk-fed Poularde w/caramelized fennel "tapenade", pearl onions, radish sprouts.
F. Elysian Fields Farm's Saddle of Lamb with heirloom carrots, garbanzo beans, garlic, and charred egg plant. The lamb was perfectly cooked. Its accompanying sauce was a bit too salty, even for a salt lover! The lone carrot piece was wonderful.
G. Consider Bardwell farm's Rupert, broccoli crepe, granny smith apples, english walnuts and Merche. This was an excellent dish.
H. Assortment of desserts. This was a bombardment of two ice creams (both good, not great), truffles (delicious), beignets (the worst thing by far. Downright bad!), and candies.
3. The meal was very good, but very little stood out as brilliant or amazingly unique. Perhaps the best things here were the house made butter, the vegetables that accompanied each dish (and they do offer a $310 Vegetable tasting as well), and the truffles.
4. Wine pairings are perfect. The Hudson Chardonnay was my favorite, though nothing disappointed. Wine by the glass runs in the $25-$45 range. They also have a nice selection of beer.
5. The service was a bit rushed. I was asked twice about what cocktail I wanted before I had had time to take my jacket off. I felt like my server was a bit out of place at the restaurant. He seemed fidgety, constantly in a hurry, and not really a good listener. Other staff who attended us were much more professional.
6. I asked one of the attending servers, and he told me that Thomas Keller is seen here about once every couple of months. FYI.
7. The atmosphere here is similar to other nice places where large floral arrangements are used to add warmth and beauty to a fairly sterile place. Even though Per Se is on the 4th floor of an office building, the setting is nice. From the windows there is a nice view of Columbus Circle and the edge of the park.
Like others who have written reviews, I have had the good fortune of eating at several other great places in New York, as well as other San Pellegrino list places around the world, some of which are much more expensive than good. For me, this is a bit more middle of the pack on that list.
The best service and meal that I have had in New York (and maybe anywhere) is at Le Bernardin. After I ate at Per Se, I was glad I went, but given the choice, would return to other places in the city much sooner. You should eat here to say you've been. The meal is very good, as it should be at this price and hype point, but short of remarkable.