May 3, 2004 | About Gael
Is Per Se worth the wait?
Fate was a cruel bitch to Thomas Keller, shooting flames up the wall of his precious kitchen, closing down his $14 million Per Se in its infancy. Now, as it sprouts from the ashes ten weeks later, any tiny bitches from me, or parody of menu reverence for butter churned exclusively for Keller from the milk of cosseted cows, seems redundant. Rather, I’m savoring memories of a delirious high at an early chef’s tasting. Oysters in pearls of tapioca and black pearls of osetra. A coddled hen’s egg tasting like a new invention, in brown butter under a ton of truffle debris. Buttery hand-cut noodles with more truffle dust. Lobster—just barely jelled—in that butter. Foie gras so exquisite I’m reminded why I first fell in love with foie gras. Red-wine-braised beef from a farm that raises cows as if they were Kobe. A revelation of vacherin with sweet-potato mille-feuille. And a citrus sorbet, sharp as a scalpel, to keep me alive for the yogurt panna cotta and variations in chocolate. That was winter; now spring’s precious harvest has arrived. Yes, the backup for a table will be more maddening than ever. But set aside $500 to finance a chef’s tasting for two, and surrender to an evening, a longish evening, of sensuous drama—Western kaiseki—quite unlike anything in town.
Per Se In the Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, at 60th Street, 4th floor 212 823 9335