Monday, February 27, 2012

Per Se

Every six years, on February 25th, I have lunch at Per Se. At least that's the pattern so far. And this was the year I was supposed to go, so I went.

I'm not obsessive about rankings, but it's worth noting that PS is either the best or second best restaurant in the United States and, by one poll, 9th in the world. So it was lovely. More than lovely, in fact. Although less than celestial--which is how I would have described the 2006 lunch. But that was either the best or next best single meal of my life, so the bar is pretty high (the other one in the running happened in Belgium in the 80s when my then-employer Jay Van Vechten and I pulled off the road and decided to grab a bite at an out of the way place we just stumbled over).

Several elements bumped this particular meal down into the merely extraordinary category. The first was the impenetrable accents on a couple of the members of the wait staff (half the fun is staring at what they've just given you and listening to them tell you what it is). The second was the Sicilian pistachio "panna cotta", which was a jarring note. It's always worth worrying when the menu puts quote marks around something that you think you are familiar with. I should have dropped the forty bucks and gotten the foie gras instead. Which didn't have quotes around it. That, I suppose, is what you get for being cheap when the very act of dining at a restaurant like this suggests that "cheap" has already been tossed out the window.

On a positive note, they famously do a thing called Oysters and Pearls that is really something.



Something, certainly, to make me think back fondly to Saturday as I stare at the foot-long BMT I just got from Subway.

The only thing wrong with the weekend was that the Daytona 500--which I rushed home to watch--was rained out. Ditto today at noon. So they are going to try to run the thing tonight. Predicted order of finish: Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick. Stewart will be coming on strong late, pass Patrick with perhaps half a lap to go and try to take my boy Juan Pablo out of the last turn, only to end up half a car short.

This, of course, is just a prediction.

More on Per Se later, but I will say the most extraordinary thing I tasted the whole day was a chocolate num-num (called this because that's the noise you make repeatedly while eating them) filled, perhaps, with balsamic vinegar that had been aged in cherry-flavored casks. I say perhaps because, as I noted earlier, it was sometimes hard to understand the help. But the chocolate, with the dark sweet cherry essence and the sharpness of the balsamic mixed with whatever medium they use to create the filling of the num-num... Well, Lord have mercy.
So you're saying you paid an amount equivalent to the price of a used car for lunch and the best thing was one of the chocolates?
Yes, although you exaggerate the cost. It was, however, more expensive than what I paid to see the Rolling Stones a couple of years ago.
Lord have mercy.
The chocolate was amazing. One of those moments when you realize, like Kirk, that you're boldly going where no man has gone before.
A revelation, you're suggesting?
I am. Like when Bruce Springsteen found the secret of the universe in the engine of an old parked car.
Please.
No. It was that good.

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