Per Se: Perfectly beautiful and exquisite

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Dear Food Diary:
Per Se was just named #6 on the 2012 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (moving up 4 spots).

A while back, our dear J was leaving NYC after her nuptials, so for her bachelorette party/day, we took her to Per Se for lunch to start the celebration. We wanted this to be a memorable time for all of us and surely we weren’t disappointed. And though I can’t say it was the best meal ever, it surely was one of them.

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Being a large group, we had our own private view of Central Park and Columbus Circle. Service was superb, in the most detail oriented way. Professional yet friendly. Our 5 course tasting was $185 and the menus were personalized with name, occasion and date.

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The array of fresh baked breads were hard to choose, but I do love a good raisin/walnut. The contrasting butters could really dress up any bread. The sweet one is from the West Coast (I wonder if it has anything to do with “happy cows”, that was from an ad! If you didn’t get it, just skip this and ignore me) and the salty from Vermont. I couldn’t decide, but I think sweet has a slight edge on me.

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Our first Amuse bouche came in the form of a bite size soft buttery choux pastry oozing with a warm gruyere center.

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I was excited about the much talked about and never duplicated Sweet Onion Cornet with Salmon and Creme Fraiche. The salmon melted away with a salty hint and the cone was a delicately thin, with a buttery crunch. The aromas of onion and butter lingered. Now I know why this is so highly praised. The amuse bouche of all amuse bouches. Loved it, but it was such a tease, immediately after my last bite, my tastebuds were desperately longing for more…

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OYSTERS AND PEARLS  “Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar”
The sabayon is an egg-based sauce, rich and luscious. The subtle flavors were very elegantly brought out by the salty pearls of caviar. The oysters were plump and fresh, without being overpowering or briny. Oh so sexy, it was creamy, then sweet and salty… wait, or was it the other way around? It was hard to capture 2 spoonfuls with the same blend of flavors. Regardless, this was by far my favorite dish, every tiny spoonful was a blissful moment. My only complaint? I wished for more.

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MASCARPONE ENRICHED PARSNIP AGNOLOTTI “Honeycrisp Apple Parisienne, Young Onions and Picked Mustard Seed Beurre Blanc”
Small pockets of Angnolotti aka ravioli are filled with that fluffy and creamy mascarpone cheese. The sauce is light and buttery with a kick. Sweet apples play in the background while the tender onions are translucent and true to their natural flavors.

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SALAD OF SLOW ROASTED BEETS “Young Fennel, Navel Orange Confit, Red Ribbon Sorrel and Nicoise Olive Gelee”
The most beautiful presentation of our meal, almost too pretty to eat. Sweet beets were complimented by the tart red ribbon sorrels and brightened by the citrus. The gelee below was a fun and creative substitute for olive oil. 

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FILLET OF CHATHAM BAY COD EN PERSILLADE “Cannellini Bean Veloute, Fennel Bulb Confit, Jingle Bell Peppers and Pimenton de la Vera”
While the cod was cooked just right, moist and meaty. I wasn’t in love with the rest of the ingredients. The bean veloute didn’t seem to have that creamy texture I was hoping for. And though the tender fennel added that licorice aroma, overall, it just didn’t wow me. Perhaps because I was spoiled by the amazing fish dishes at Le Bernardin and Daniel.

For our meat course, Elysian Fields Farm “Cote D’Agneau” lamb was served with Butternut Squash Porridge, Cauliflower, Cilantro and Sicilian Pistachio Jus. Everyone around the table sang praises “Juicy! Tender! Hmmmm”. Since I don’t like lamb, they were accommodating enough to substitute with beef instead.
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Coarse salt flavored the beautiful piece of meat. While the herb puree and jus added to the dish, it wasn’t as memorable as that medium rare beef, cooked perfectly. Wildly tender. The intense flavors of beef were bold and unmistakable in the most respectable way you could treat an ingredient. Made this carnivore tres tres happy.

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M&M’s “Pretzel Chips, Candied Peanuts, Madagascar Vanilla Mousse and Mast Brothers’ Chocolate Ice Cream”
This was as satisfying to my sweet tooth as a dessert could be. The chocolate ice cream is rich and decadent. And I’m a big fan of the sweet & salty dance and that fragrant and creamy mouse.

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COFFEE AND DOUGHNUTS “Sugar Cinnamon Doughnuts with Cappuccino Semifreddo”
An playful approach. The semi frozen cappuccino was intense and creamy but not overly sweet. The milk foam on top was luxurious and fluffy. I almost licked it clean.

The MIGNARDISES took center stage and showered us with sweet everything! The most treats I’ve had post dessert ever!

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The chocolates were introduced one by one amongst a treasure chest of jewel like pieces. It was hard to choose. I opted for praline, hazelnut and olive oil.
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White chocolate popcorn. I’m not a big fan of white chocolate.

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At this point I couldn’t even remember what flavors the macaroons were nor the truffles or caramel.
I was deep in this sweet dream, literally, where I wanted just one more bite but couldn’t. Too much of a good thing I guess. I just felt so spoiled.

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The cocoa dusted hazelnuts are one of the treats I get from Bouchon Bakery from time to time, it was a shame that I couldn’t eat another one… not even one… But just so we would remember this in the morning, we were presented with a tower of the most buttery and crumbly short bread cookies as our parting present. Merci!

I was wrestling with giving 5 Chubby’s, after all, the food, service, ambiance and view deserved it. But at this price point, the fish was a bit of a let down so I had to lower it to a 4.5. In true honestly, I slightly preferred Le Bernardin, even without the magnificent view. Overall it was beautiful, exquisite and surely memorable. And I would definitely return on another worthy occasion.

P.S. Chubby’s Rating: chubby rating 5
10 Columbus Circle

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