Per Se

10 Columbus Circle New York, NY 10019(212) 823-9335 • perseny.com

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If you should manage to get a reservation, congratulations. Now the bad news. While I found the dining room nicer than The French Laundry, the food isn’t quite up to the same astronomical, nor is the price tag .  And I’m not one to shit on Thomas Keller. I’m actually quite the fan. But when you’re playing at the tippy-top of the game, and the only chef in history to have two restaurants open at the same time with three Michelin Stars apiece, I expect nothing less than a life changing experience, and I’m sad to say it was not. Wallet-changing, maybe. But most definitely not life-changing. Thus, I am still the same old cocky, opinionated, know-it-all, blowhard.

Now, to be fair, one must take this review with a huge grain of- no, make that an entire industrial-sized bag of salt, because Per Se is still very, very good. In terms of service alone, it is on a whole other level. Not since Bouley in the early 90’s have I experienced anything like it. Swat team precision meets Russian ballet meets the “Be Our Guest” routine from Beauty and the Beast. I know you might be thinking, “really, how good can service truthfully be?” Well, just pick up a copy of the book “Service Included” and you will understand that Per Se makes a place like Daniel look like amateur hour service-wise.

As for decor, Keller likes to keep things “undistracting.” He doesn’t want the ambiance to compete with the plate and thus you won’t find anything the likes of a Jean-Georges restaurant. And while I did find it a touch boring, it still out-shines The Laundry simply due to one stunning trump card- floor to ceiling windows overlooking Central Park.

Now for the food. This is where I think many a Richie Rich, is over-convincing themselves that the cuisine here is spectacular simply because of the price. Which I get. Who wouldn’t want to rationalize spending all that coin? You need to justify it somehow, otherwise you’re libel to throw a conniption when you get the bill and wind up on the front page of The New York Post. But rationale aside, at this price and with this much hype, it should easily be one of the best meals of your life, and I can honestly say it doesn’t even crack my own personal top 100, in New York City alone!

3 teeth

CUT

The Palazzo • 3325 Las Vegas Blvd S. Las Vegas, NV 89109(702) 607-6300palazzo.com/dining.html

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Wolfy, ya still got it! I’ve been to several of Puck’s restaurants over the years, from Chinois to Spago, and this is my favorite. Chinois being a close second. That said, in terms of décor CUT wins by a landslide. Very sleek and modern, almost like dining in Elysium.

And speaking of idyllic, the service was great too, granted that tends to be the theme in Las Vegas, I’m guessing a tenet of their tourism based culture.

But most remarkable of all was the food, especially for such a cheesy town located in a godforsaken desert with no natural resources. I don’t know how they even pull it off. I mean screw Copperfield, this is the real magic show. A rib eye so marbled it almost looked like wagyu and tasted as good or better than any steakhouse rib eye I’ve ever had. In fact the only place I can think that tops it is The French Laundry.

Other dishes were equally impressive from sides to pasta. So if you’re not a carnivore fret not, Wolfy has you covered. And not with some mediocre afterthought to placate you. Every dish appears to be treated like a main event and it shows. All in all, the best meal I’ve had in Sin City.

5 teeth

Norman’s

4012 Central Florida Pkwy Orlando, FL 32837(407) 393-4333 • normans.com

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Oh Yelpers, I find it laughable that you compare the service here to the likes of the French Laundry. I have been to both and it’s like comparing Michael Jordan to some guy who owns a basketball. The sommelier , while good, was an apprentice as opposed to a master. The waitress and back servers made several mistakes including taking away a plate while my friend was still chewing and leaving a newly presented dish go unexplained. I think you’re letting the fact that it’s in a Ritz Carlton fool you. Now I’m not deducting a knife or anything for this, but I am calling bullshit on the “impeccable” service.

And as for the romantic décor, it isn’t. It’s nice. But you can’t help but notice you are in an expansive hotel wing.

But don’t think this is another bash session on Yelpers, after all, they got a few things right. For example, the Yucca stuffed shrimp with habanero was very good. I expected a little more heat from the dish, but it’s still definitely worth ordering. Another great recommendation was the pork belly served with an artichoke puree, brussel sprouts and a sherry reduction. Best thing we ordered. And finally the key lime cheesecake was another solid call from the Yelping contingent.

But here’s what they missed:

The ciabatta bread is insanely good, tasting more like a beignet than ciabatta to me, but no complaints there. Just try to control yourself or you’ll never make it to dessert. I know, I sound like your mother.

Another miss is the consensus of praise for the fried green tomatoes. I’m guessing most of these people have never had the dish before because it’s typically savory and even a touch tart. Whereas Norman’s serves it in a tempura batter with a tomato jam on top that turns the dish decidedly sweet, which isn’t to say it was bad, but when you order an iconic dish, your mouth starts to prepare itself for a certain set of expected flavors, so to zag so drastically from it just didn’t work for me.

And the biggest infraction of the night was the chicken. So overcooked and dry it was humiliating… for the chicken. To have died in vain for such poor performance is a poultry tragedy. And while the preparation surrounding it was nice, it was brought down by its headliner.

The second biggest miss came right on the heels of the chicken, with the Havana Banana dessert. And normally I’m bananas about bananas, but this dish is so unworthy of the hype I almost want to hunt down the Yelpers who touted it and pull out their tongues because they obviously aren’t using them properly.

Funny enough, however, the free dessert that comes with your check was the best of the lot. The dark chocolate, hazelnut truffles are incredible. Great way to end a good meal. And while I am only giving it three knives, it’s definitely better than Primo across the way, which I also gave three knives. So consider this an honorary three and a half.

3 teeth

The French Laundry

6640 Washington St. Yountville, CA 94599 • (707) 944-2380frenchlaundry.com

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Granted it takes selling a vital organ to get a reservation at this place. And the cost of dinner will be more than the airfare you paid to get there from JFK… AND, it’s hyped like no other restaurant on the face of the Earth- BUT, with all of that said, I can honestly say, it’s still pretty worth it.

The amuse bouche of salmon tartar on a cone filled with creme fraiche set the tone by giving my wife and I a simultaneous foodgasm right out of the gate – sorry for the TMI.

There were, however, a few courses here and there that were just okay, but then came the foie gras terrine with assorted salts including one dating back 40 million years! Now, while I do loves me some foie gras, I am more of a seared foie gras kinda guy – but I must say, this was the best terrine I have ever had.

And speaking of the “best,” the highlight of the meal was the rib-eye. Easily the Ultimate steak of my 44 year life.

A deconstructed cobbler for dessert was also quite stellar as were the little cookies and the amazing macadamia nuts rolled in chocolate, dusted with pistachio.

Then, as an added surprise, for my birthday they took us on a tour of the kitchen where they literally have a giant flat screen TV hooked up to a live feed with the kitchen at Per Se in NYC, so they can keep an eye on both places at once.

So why the four knives and not five? The decor is actually a bit of a let down to be honest. I know Keller likes to keep things minimal so as not to detract from the food, but I don’t buy it. I have been to many an amazing meal where the decor is jaw-dropping and in my not-so-humble opinion, actually ADDED to the experience. Just like service and presentation, which he seems to value greatly, as exhibited by the judicious use of great precision and artistry.

Also, one other pretty significant ding, compared to Cyrus (R.I.P.), I found the courses to be far more inconsistent. Some incredible. Some great. Some just okay. Whereas at Cryus, out of nearly a dozen courses, there was maybe one miss, with more than double the number of hits. And it was half the price.

Oh, and one more nit. We had a wine pairing with each course and I have to say, I have had better pairings at Frasca in Boulder, CO and at Aja (R.I.P.) in NYC.

But 4 knives is nothing to sneeze at. I sincerely can’t wait to go back- ideally on someone else’s dime.

4 teeth