I finally made it to Thomas Keller’s Per Se, the coveted NYC sister restaurant of The French Laundry in Yountville (Napa), California. I had heard from many French Laundry frequenters that it was best to have the 5-course lunch rather than the 9-course dinner, which could take up to 5 hours to finish (one even reported a break midway through to walk around the garden in Yountville). Plus, the pricing (wince) is somewhat more easy to rationalize… So two months out, I called their reservations line and, sigh, sat on hold for 40 minutes (after about 15 minutes–and transitioning from initial eagerness to “oh, come on” to then resentment and finally to resignation–I decided there’s no way I’m hanging up now; I’m in it to win it).
Finally booked, our party of 5 enjoyed a truly exceptional meal. I think the major difference at Per Se is that every ingredient is so perfectly curated, so carefully though out, complementing every other ingredient on the plate, not a flavor out of place. I apologize in advance that I forgot to photograph the amuse bouche and the third dish; I was obviously distracted! But descriptions of everything are included, and a few photos to wet your lips. If you’d like to read about the inner workings of Per Se (it is truly scrupulous!), check out the book Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch; very entertaining.
Cover photo, Second dish: Tartare of Pacific Big Eye Tuna, “Croûton de Pain de Campagne,” Heirloom Tomatoes, Castelvetrano Olives, Sweet 100 Tomato “Raisins” and Olive Leaf Sylvetta with Roquette Coulis
Other option: “Galantine de Poulard,” Grilled and Marinated Young Leeks, Hakurei Turnips, “Pureé de Pruneaux d’Agen,” Frisée Lettuce and Dijon Mustard with Toasted Brioche
Fourth dish: Elysian Fields Farm’s “Carré d’Agneau Rôti Entier,” Violet Artichokes, Marinated Holland Peppers, Fennel Bulb “Bâtons” and Smoked Eggplant Pureé with “Sauce Gremolata” — hands down, the best lamb dish I’ve ever had.
Other option: Four Story Hill Farm’s “Pigeon,” Sautéed Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras, Bing Cherries, Braised Rainbow Swiss Chard and Candied Walnuts with Blis Maple Syrup-Squab Jus
Fifth dish: “Brownie and Malted Milk,” Double Chocolate Brownie with Pecan “Marquise,” Caramel Ice Cream and Malted Mousse
Amuse bouche (not pictured): Japanese Bigfin Squid “À La Poêle,” Haas Avocado “Croustillant,” Compressed Asian Pear and Mustard Kress with Kanzuri Aïoli.
Third dish (not pictured) — Choice between:
Sautéed fillet of Long Island Striped Bass, Hearts of Romaine Lettuce, Sugar Snap Peas, Confir of Lemon and Fino Verde Basil with Bottarga Emulsion
Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster, Herb Roasted Abalone Mushroom, Cauliflower Florettes, Garlic Scapes and Cilantro Shoots with Madras Curry “Beurre Blanc”
(I chose this, and yes, it was delicious)