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Italian Waiters

I've had several Italian waiters at Babbo, and at least two of them were more than happy to engage in a quick conversation in Italian.

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Babbo
110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Manhattan

Top Chef Masters Season 3, Episode 3 - Spoilers

Thank you! I knew something was missing this season, but couldn't figure out what it was! Agree 1000%

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Food Media & News

Post-Benno Per Se

My recommendations certainly aren't ground-breaking or surprising, but they're the two places that consistently give me the best experiences: food, service, ambiance, and all.

My absolute favorite restaurant (anywhere) is Eleven Madison Park. If you haven't been, I think it's a must. If you've been, but not since the menu format changed, it's still a must. Many people on this board love and promote it, and I think all that praise is more than warranted. If you want to go all out, have the dinner tasting menu. Compared to Per Se, I think the EMP tasting menu is more exciting and not as heavy and full of fat/richness. There's a lot more diversity. For me, at least, Per Se's dishes seem a bit predictable and rarely surprise me; it's just the opposite at EMP. I also much prefer the service and ambiance at EMP; Per Se just seems too much like a temple.

I also prefer Jean Georges over Per Se. The first time I ate at Jean George, I was actually pretty disappointed in the food and service. But I decided to give them another chance a few months later, and it was like a completely different restaurant. I've been steadily liking it more and more since then, and it's now in my NYC top 3. Even though the dishes don't change, I never get tired of the signature dinner tasting menu. The young garlic soup with frog legs and the turbot with chateau chalon sauce are two of my favorite dishes anywhere.

You certainly deserve a few last hurrahs before moving!

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Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

Jean Georges
1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Manhattan

Fast Food Fries That Actually Taste Good?

I agree with the Five Guys fries suggestion. Their burgers are wretched and should be avoided at all costs, but the fries are pretty damn good. They have a nice potato flavor and none of the weird chemical-like flavors I often get at places like McDonalds. By far the best fast food fries I've had.

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Chains

What should I change about my home bar?

Rum: I agree with everyone who recommended changing your rum choice to Cruzan. It's a very solid choice and surprisingly cheap. Their blackstrap rum is also very good--it was my only option once when Goslings wasn't available, and I thought they were nearly identical (based on memory; I couldn't do a direct taste comparison).

Vodka: As for vodka, I really like Svedka. For some reason I can't stand stand Smirnoff vodka. I guess I'm just really sensitive to it, but I find it terribly harsh and abrasive. Svedka is very smooth and doesn't have any of those harsh qualities. And it's cheap, very cheap actually. Pretty much on par with Smirnoff, if I'm remembering correctly...maybe $1 more than Smirnoff for a 1.75L. Well worth it, in my opinion.

Tequila: I also agree with EvergreenDan's tequila comments. Any 100% agave tequila is worlds better than Cuervo, so if you haven't tried tequila in that form, give it another chance. El Jimador is a very solid brand, and you can get a 1.75L for a really good price.

Bitters: EvergreenDan is right on again with the bitters suggestions. Definitely Angostura bitters, which are available everywhere. Regan's Orange and Peychaud's are nice to have, but can be hard or impossible to find in some areas.

Orange liquor: I like Patron Citronage for a relatively inexpensive choice. It's far cheaper than Cointreau, has a nice, balanced bitter orange flavor, and is miles ahead of the cheapest orange liquors.

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Spirits

Tonic recommendations?

Q Tonic is my favorite so far. It's certainly far less sweet than the usual big name brands and uses agave syrup instead of corn syrup, if that's important to you. They also boast that it has 60% fewer calories than other brands (I'm assuming the big national brands), which may give you a rough idea of how it compares in sweetness. The balance is perfect for me, unlike the big brands, which seemed increasingly one-note or completely out of balance.

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Spirits

Cutting Sandwiches

I'm not so sure it's irrational!

I always cut mine diagonally and attack them from the large exposed area created by the cut. That means you're starting directly with the bulk of the fillings, none of that working-through-the-crust-to-get-to-the-filling nonsense! For me, the sandwich filling--regardless of what it is--tastes much better than bread crust, so that's pretty close to a logical explanation :)

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in General Topics

Dined at Blue Hill last night.

Nice review! I don't think your expectations were too high; your experience pretty much mirrors mine: it's very solid food and worthwhile experience, but not so much that I have any desire to return. It just didn't stand out and wasn't memorable. Like you, my only complaint was related to the ambiance.

We weren't seated in the main dining room, but in a smaller attached room. It was just plain uncomfortable--the seats were uncomfortable, the table seemed very small, and worst of all, we were about a foot away from our neighbors on either side! I was almost sitting closer to the strangers on my left and right than I would sit next to someone I know when seated side-by-side on a bench! And we had the joy of hearing (and it was unavoidable given the distance) one of the groups talking all about their money and business dealings, which is always charming.

Blue Hill Stone Barns, however, is a completely different story. I've really enjoyed my experiences there and have returned several times. If you haven't been, don't rule it out based on your experience at Blue Hill.

I fully expect that Eleven Madison Park won't disappoint you! It's my absolute favorite restaurant, not just in the city, but anywhere. I know there are a lot of EMP lovers on this board and a lot of hype, but it more than lives up to it, in my opinion. I hope you're going soon and will report on EMP!

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Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Manhattan

Post-Benno Per Se

That's pretty similar to my experience with Per Se. The first time I ate there, I ranked it at the top of my list (or maybe tied for #1). But as dined around, other places began pushing Per Se further and further down the list. It's still an incredible experience, though.

I really like your idea of returning to see how it compares with all your new experiences since then--it's a good way of really defining what you like and don't like in a restaurant and how your preferences have evolved.

But yes, I think they're performing at the same level as they were under Benno, so if your rating changes, it's not because Per Se has gone downhill, it's because you've found something you like better.

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Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Manhattan

Top Chef Masters Season 3, Episode 3 - Spoilers

mariacarmen, see my response about the water in reply to your comment above. It's also important to point out that they seemed to be without water for quite some time, not just a few minutes, as might happen in a kitchen that had to cut off water for a quick plumbing fix.

It's mostly a health department problem. Violations surrounding sanitation are ridiculously (overly, I think) strict, especially regarding basics like water. "Incorrect" temperature at a hand washing sink is a common violation, let alone not having such a sink, not to mention having no running water!

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Food Media & News

What does "classically trained" mean?

In North America and most of Europe, it almost exclusively refers to being trained under the French culinary tradition: mother sauces, rouxs, brigade system, and all that. That's just the bias in those cultures--French cuisine is assumed to be the foundation.

If I were to venture a guess about your dad, I think that if they were talking to someone in one of the above areas, they'd be referring to the French training. If not, then I have no idea. What is "classically trained" in China, other parts of Asia, or other parts of the world? Good question, but I certainly can't answer.

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in General Topics

Top Chef Masters Season 3, Episode 3 - Spoilers

It's one thing to trip a breaker or otherwise lose power temporarily, but losing water is much different. Aside from being an essential ingredient, it's absolutely necessary for basic sanitation. I'm pretty sure any restaurant operating without running water for that long would be shut down by the health department.

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Food Media & News

Cheftestants announced for THE NEXT IRON CHEF AMERICA

I'm not saying it ever had all that much, but the title Iron Chef is rapidly losing any credibility or respect it once held. The whole concept is that the Iron Chefs are an elite group of the best, but they've practically tripled the number in just a few years, and now they're going for level of celebrity rather than level of talent.

Oh well, I haven't cared to watch the show in over a year. I used to watch every episode, but it seems like it's gone downhill over the past couple of years.

I just can't stand to see or hear Alton Brown anymore. His narration used to be funny and clever, but now he just seems like a total douche. Some of the comments he makes towards the challengers have crossed the line from gentle ribbing to coarse, rude, and condescending judgments.

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Food Media & News

Top Chef Masters Season 3, Episode 3 - Spoilers

I agree with pretty much all of the above. For the first time, I actually contemplated not even finishing the episode. Like Sarah said, the bug contest bordered jumping the shark. I'm also getting really sick of all the "twists" that have nothing to do with cooking and are completely unrealistic.

No running water? Yeah, that's a realistic test of a chef's skill. No wait staff? Yeah, same thing.

And the critics...what's going on there? I actually loved Oseland last season, but tonight he was off and his critiques seemed very strange. I was really annoyed when he criticized Suvir's dish (although he loved its flavor) for being too much in line with the chef's style. WTF? If he's a master chef on Top Chef Masters, it's only fair to assume he'll cook the food that made him a master. It's like criticizing Thomas Keller for making the food that earned him his reputation instead of trying to make BBQ or Indian food.

Finally, the decision seemed completely unjust. The pudding and risotto were equally uncreative/uninspired (according to the critics), but the risotto was well-executed and tasted good, while the pudding was poorly executed, tasted bad, and had an unappealing texture. So naturally they send home the risotto...

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Food Media & News

Spring themed menu?

I'm not sure how formal/casual you want, your preferred type of cuisine, etc, so knowing that may help narrow the options. The first thing that came to mind was Jean Georges.

The last time I was at Jean Georges for lunch (about 3 weeks ago), the captain told me that they were going to launch a massively overhauled menu in 2-3 weeks, focusing very heavily on spring ingredients and replacing about 3/4 of the entire menu.

I can't vouch for the accuracy of that, and their online menu is notoriously out-of-date and is often completely different from the actual menu. Has anyone seen the menu in the past week or so?

In any case, lunch is an incredible deal and they have some wonderful vegetarian and pescetarian dishes. In fact, their vegetarian options are often some of the best on the menu (in my opinion), and I've had several of my top vegetarian dishes there.

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Jean Georges
1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Manhattan

Post-Benno Per Se

I think the quality is the same now under Kaimeh as it was under Benno. The execution, types of dishes, and overall philosophy remain essentially unchanged.

As for the best, that's obviously subjective. For me and my tastes, I don't think Per Se is the best food in NYC, but if it was for you while Benno was running the kitchen, I'm confident that you'll still think that under Kaimeh.

Apr 21, 2011
ryansm in Manhattan

Le Bernardin - Three Strikes, It's Out!

I have no idea what to make of the discrepancies I often read about! But for us, this was the general theme over three different meals. The most recent was, of course, the most extreme, but the coldness, pretentious attitudes, and rudeness (sometimes fairly explicit, sometimes bordering on it) was present all three times. And I really don't think it was me misinterpreting formality as rudeness or pretension, it was just a bizarre experience.

I really don't know what could explain all this. I tried to engage the service staff, as I do everywhere, but that went nowhere. There were some notable exceptions, all of whom were sommeliers and were quite friendly, but this never translated to the captains. I tried to like it because I loved the food, but I couldn't get past the service issues. But I'm glad you had a wonderful time!

Apr 19, 2011
ryansm in Manhattan

Le Bernardin - Three Strikes, It's Out!

After seeing the recent comments surrounding Le Bernardin, especially steakrules85’s extensive review, I’ve decided to share my own recent experience at Le Bernardin. Some background: this was our third visit to Le Bernardin. On each of first two times, we ordered tasting menus with wine pairings. We both thought the food was incredible, but found the service to be quite off-putting. Nevertheless, the food was so good that, despite the subpar service, we decided it was worth returning.

We returned for lunch a couple of weeks ago for what would be our third visit. As it turns out, this was their third strike, and they’re now out—neither of us have any desire to return to Le Bernardin ever again. To sum it up: the savory courses were wonderful, dessert was mediocre, and the service was the worst I’ve ever encountered, ranging from humorously pretentious to absolutely incompetent. In fact, the service was so bad that I sometimes wondered whether I was at a 3 Michelin star restaurant or if I was at Applebee’s.

We arrived perfectly on time for our lunch reservation and were greeted by the maitre d’ with a cold, unwelcoming look that silently asked, “What are you doing here?” I must pause here and agree with some other commenters that Le Bernardin seems to hold a special disdain for younger clients. I’d also like to point out that we were on time, more than met the dress code, and—if I do say so myself—were better dressed than anyone else in the dining room. All we had going against us, as far as I could tell, was the fact that we were 20-somethings who dared enter. Despite this, we received a stone cold greeting, with the maitre d’ not even attempting to fake a smile. After giving my name, we were told it would be several minutes before we could be seated (despite the fact that the dining room was half empty), and the maitre d’ turned and walked away, leaving us standing at the podium.

After awkwardly waiting several minutes, we were shown to our table. Almost as soon as we were seated our drink order was taken and the wine menu was left. It would be 10 or 15 minutes before the captain would arrive with the menus. He welcomed us to the restaurant with a condescending, “Do you know how the menu works?” That was it, no, “Welcome,” or, “Hi,” or, “How are you?”After we answered “yes” to his question, he nodded, turned around, and walked away.

Then, despite the fact that it took him 10 to 15 minutes to bring the menus, he returned 5 minutes with, “What would you like?” Right down to business again, not asking whether we were ready, if we had any questions, or anything else. Just as when he presented the menus, he approached us as coldly, rudely, and condescendingly as possible. He certainly gave the impression that we should be honored that he was willing to take our order. Clearly.

The rest of the meal followed this pattern: interactions brimming with rudeness and pretension followed by long periods of absence or ignoring our table. There were also a few times when I wondered whether we were actually in a 3 Michelin star restaurant. When entrees arrived, my dining companion received his plate, the captain presented it, and then left. I was left with nothing and the captain said nothing to me, not even to tell me there was a delay with my food or that he’d return shortly. He simply left wordlessly. Several minutes later, he finally returned with my plate. Several minutes! Several minutes of half the table sitting with their hot entrée while the other half had nothing at all—and no word as to when it would arrive. I said in my introduction that I wondered whether I was in a 3 star restaurant or if I was at Applebee’s. But actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been to an Applebee’s (or anything on that level) that served diners so far apart. And, of course, the captain couldn’t be bothered to apologize for the delay or give any explanation. He was his usual charming self.

Unfortunately for us, this service lapse wasn’t a freak accident. Soon after ordering dessert, I left for the restroom. A few minutes later, when I returned to the table, I found that dessert and mignardises had been served in my absence. The frozen components of my dessert had already started melting and were pooling in the middle of the plate. Never did anyone come to present or describe my dessert, which, unlike the savory courses, was mediocre at best. I remember describing its flavor as being remarkably similar to the key lime pies you can get in the frozen foods section of the grocery store.

After dessert, we were eager to get far, far away from Le Bernardin and its wretched service. But, of course, finding someone who could present the check was quite the challenge. After spotting our captain when he reemerged, I made eye contact with him, gestured that I needed his assistance, and watched as he walked away, blatantly ignoring our table. Charming, once again.

In sum, I was quite frankly disgusted by the service we received at Le Bernardin. It was a charming mix of coldness, arrogance, pretension, and incompetence that I’ve never encountered anywhere else. When comparing Le Bernardin’s service to that of Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, Jean Georges, or anywhere else for that matter, Le Bernardin ranks dead last. Hell, the service at Momofuku Ko is more friendly, engaging, accurate, and on-point than Le Bernardin. This meal was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The (savory) food is good—damn good—but the scale finally tipped, and no food, regardless of how incredible it may be, is worth enduring such a pitiful excuse for service.

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Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

Apr 19, 2011
ryansm in Manhattan

Change to Per Se's reservation policy

Hi all, I haven't seen this reported here, and I apologize if it has and I missed it!

Anyway, I called Per Se this morning trying to make a reservation for January, and I found out that starting with reservations for January 13, 2011 (when they reopen from their winter closure), Per Se will be taking reservations only one month in advance. So gone are the days of calling exactly two months ahead, and in are the days of calling exactly one month ahead! This only applies to Per Se, The French Laundry will still take reservations two months in advance.

Does anyone have any info about why they made the change? Maybe they're getting too many cancellations by having New Yorkers book so far in advance? I imagine a lot of people who eat at TFL travel to Yountville especially for the food and drink, so I would guess that reservation retention is much less of an issue there. Maybe this makes it seem less impossible to get into, which might encourage people to look for empty seats and last minute cancellations?

Whatever the actual reason, I found this snippet from a Per Se rep on the Zagat blog: "Reps for the restaurant say that the change is 'designed to complement New York City’s fast-paced and evolving dining culture.'" Typical vague corporate speak that doesn't actually answer a question--what else would you expect?

I don't live in the city, so I know well in advance when I'll be traveling there, so it doesn't make a difference to me whether they open the books one month or two months in advance. What about all you who do? Is this change something that might influence whether you'd make a reservation?

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Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

Nov 23, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

My experience with EMP's new format

If you've been following the thread on EMP's new format, you may remember that I was extremely skeptical about the new changes. My worries were based mostly on the fact that they chose to remove the 11-course Gourmand menu and only offer a 4-course option (although there's now a 5-course option). This weekend, I had the opportunity to try out the new format. I had actually made this reservation before learning of the changes, so I had expected this dinner to be yet another Gourmand menu feast.

Despite my skepticism, I vowed to go into the restaurant with an open mind and fairly evaluate the experience. I was not interested in basing my evaluation on how different the food/service/menu/format differed from my previous experiences, but simply on whether it was better, worse, or the same compared to before. Although I did not go in with a cynical or negative mindset, my expectations were rightfully set at the level of all my prior EMP meals: the Gourmand. Since they had already set the bar so high with the Gourmand, they would have to exceed this seemingly untouchable level of overall quality in order for me to see this as an improvement.

I’m thrilled to say that I was wrong. Dead wrong. This was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and it blew my prior 11-course Gourmand menu experiences out of the water. I think I was justified in my skepticism—as long as I didn’t allow it to dictate my evaluation—but they proved me wrong. And this was one time I absolutely relished in being shown just how wrong I was.

Once we were seated, we discovered the menu folded in with the napkins. One of the first things I noticed was how much more spacious the dining room was due to the removal of so many seats. Our captain briefly explained the new concept, telling us that we would choose one core ingredient from each row for a 4-course menu, and for a 5-course menu we could select an additional ingredient from any row and they would bring it out where they thought it would fit in best. We ordered cocktails, were brought gougères, and decided on the 5-course menu. I chose langoustine, snapper, squab, beef, and chocolate; my dining companion chose foie gras, lobster, chicken, pork, and apple.

After ordering, Megan, the service director, came to our table to chat about the new menu format. She explained that they had noticed people were increasingly ordering tasting menus, and they had originally planned on switching to an all-tasting menu format. Long story short: they decided on the current format in order to please as many people as possible. For those who like total control, they can select their main ingredients, learn what will be in the dish, and remove any components they don’t like. For those who want some control, they can choose the main ingredients and not hear about the dish, or, if they’d like, hear more about how the dish will be prepared. For those who want no control, they can say they want either 4 or 5 courses and let the kitchen choose.

She also explained that this format allows them to have relationships with small farms and bring in small amounts of ingredients. With the prix fixe menu, the kitchen had to buy of Ingredient X for all possible orders of that dish, limiting the choices for what the ingredient could be. Now they can bring in small amounts of several ingredients, which are often hard-to-find or grown in small amounts, and use those throughout the night. When they run out of one of those ingredients, the dish will change and be made from a different ingredient.

Megan then offered to show us the kitchen and gave us an overview of all the changes. They removed almost 30% of the seats, moving from about 114 seats to 80 seats. The service stations on the floor have been removed and such work is now done in the new pantry area, which also houses the coffee station. I had no idea EMP takes coffee seriously! She told us about the new coffee program, and the equipment they have is outstanding. After seeing how much thought and effort goes into it, having coffee at EMP is a must! Finally, we moved on to the kitchen, which was also renovated and reorganized. We were led to a demo station where a chef began preparing a liquid nitrogen “cocktail,” which was a Concord grape whiskey sour. Chef Humm came over and chatted with us and helped prepare the cocktail. It was basically diluted whisky frozen with liquid nitrogen, which was then crushed into a powder. Concord grape foam was put into a ladle and also frozen. Pop rocks and white grape juice were also involved. This was a wonderful treat and a great experience!

When we returned to the table, we were brought fresh cocktails because ours “had gotten too diluted” while we were in the kitchen. I’m certainly not going to complain! Now for the meal. The new hors d'oeuvres make the old ones look like an amateur effort. Gone is the long plate of little bites and in is a progression of much more sophisticated, delicious, and substantial preparations. These are all brought out and explained by cooks, who obviously take delight in answering any questions about the preparations and ingredients. I really enjoy this interaction, and it’s great to talk to them about the dishes they were involved in creating and see their passion and excitement.

Hors d’oeuvres (most brought in duos):
1. (a) Tomato tea infused with lemon thyme. (b) Parmesan lavash, topped with piment d’espelette. Lovely way to start the meal. The tea was comforting, full of flavor, and aromatic, and the lavash added some nice crunch.

2. (a) Celery lollipops made with celery root ice cream, dipped in cocoa butter, and sprinkled with celery seeds. (b) Truffle marshmallows topped with porcini powder. Both were very good, but the celery lollipops were delicious! The texture was outstanding and the flavor was so clean and refreshing. The marshmallows were also quite good, and I liked these better than some of the previous savory marshmallows I’ve had here.

3. (a) Smoked Balik salmon with dill. (b) Hamachi crudo. I don’t remember all the details of what accompanied these, but both fishes were absolutely wonderful and full of flavor.

4. “Snow cone” made with snows of green apple, salted caramel, and foie gras. Very creative and very good. Each flavor was quite nice on its own, and all combinations were even better. The salted caramel had a wonderful bitterness that paired nicely with the foie gras.

5. Egg filled with smoked sturgeon sabayon with a pool of chive oil at the bottom. Baby gem lettuce topped with crème fraiche, smoked sturgeon, and caviar. Wow. That egg was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Ever. There are no words to describe how incredible those were.

These new hors d’oeuvres cannot even be compared to the old. These are much more substantial and felt like 5 tasting menu courses. Absolutely wonderful! The breads and butters came out next, and these were the same as usual, and were still very good.

1st Course:
Langoustine: Langoustine ceviche in a broth of celery root, apple, and lime. Beautiful dish. The sweetness and acidity of the broth really brought out the delicate flavor of the langoustine.
Foie gras: Foie gras mille feuille with shiso and umeboshi plums. Very balanced dish, and a new combination for me. The sourness and acidity of the garnishes went perfectly with the fattiness of the foie.

2nd Course:
Snapper: Very, very gently poached (barely cooked) fish served in a delicious broth. This was absolutely perfect, an impeccable piece of fish.
Lobster: Butter-poached lobster with fennel puree and roasted fennel. Very nice, and the fennel was incredible on its own.

3rd Course:
Squab: Squab breast with reduction sauce, squab pate, and red and green cabbage. The breast was perfectly cooked and wonderful. The pate was out of this world! It included liver, heart, and several other parts, and was creamy, savory, sweet, and earthy at the same time. Absolutely beautiful! The red cabbage was braised in port (among many other things) and was the best cabbage I’ve ever had.
Chicken: Chicken breast with oats, grapes, and reduction sauce. Probably the best chicken breast I’ve ever had, but this wasn’t my dish, and I don’t remember too many of the details.

4th Course:
Beef: Beef coated with a brioche-bone marrow crust, served with marrow-infused bordelaise and Swiss chard. Outstanding! A beautiful, beautiful dish. Everything on this plate was incredible.
Pork: Suckling pig belly and loin with squash puree and fruit. Perfectly cooked and the pork belly had the crispiest skin I have ever encountered everywhere. It was like breaking through a crème brulee!

Pre-Dessert: Milk and honey. Orange blossom honey encapsulated in milk snow and sprinkled with bee pollen. Very nice palate cleanser, and the honey was the most flavorful I’ve ever had. It just exploded with flavor!

5th Course:
Chocolate: Chocolate and mint in various forms. Three quenelles of ice cream, two of which were different types of mint, and several preparations of chocolate. I don’t remember all the components, but a very successful dessert.
Apple: Apple ice cream and some other preparations of apple. Again, I don’t remember all the components, but what I tried was very good.

We also ordered espresso, and it was very good. They have an interesting coffee menu, and I’d recommend trying it out.

Mignardises:
As before, they brought out a bottle of cognac to end the meal.
Ginger and pomegranate pate de fruit. The ginger had the most pure ginger flavor I’ve ever had in a dessert, including the wonderful spiciness. Pomegranate was okay, but it just tasted like sweet fruit, the flavor didn’t come through.
Caramel apple pop. A pop with a liquid center that exploded with flavor when I bit into it. Very, very strong apple and caramel flavors—this was outstanding!
Sunflower seed brittle. Meh, nothing special.
Peanut butter and jelly truffle. Good, but to too memorable.
Liquid shortbread truffle. Again, good, but not memorable.

The mignardises were the weakest part of the meal. Only two things were very good, the ginger pate de fruit and the caramel apple pop. I really wish they still served macarons, which I found to be infinitely better than the current mignardises. This was my only disappointment. And finally, we were brought jars of granola to take home (and yes, it's very good and very savory).

Overall this was an incredible meal and, in my opinion, even better than the “old” EMP. The service was as friendly and impeccable as ever. The food was even better than before, and I think this was driven largely by the improved hors d’oeuvres. If it weren’t for these, I think I would miss the Gourmand menu and wouldn’t be as happy as I was. But the procession of hors d’oeuvres is so much more substantial and composed that it’s like adding another 4 or 5 courses to a 4 or 5 course meal. I found that 5 courses was not too much and allowed us to try 10 courses because we shared.

Again, I happily admit I was wrong. My meal with this new format was my best meal at EMP yet, and I think they’ve addressed all my concerns. If you don’t want to know what’s coming, you don’t even have to choose ingredients, and if you do, you don’t have to know what will be on the dish. If you like tasting menus where you don't have control and like surprises, those elements are certainly still in play. On the other hand, if you don't like surprises or are concerned with what will be coming out, it may be a little tedious to hear all the details about all the courses you’re interested in, but that’s what you get when you want to fiddle with the chef’s creations! ;)

Sep 20, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

Question about tipping at Per Se

That's really interesting. In that case, it appears they've either added that since my last visit or they only give that message to certain parties. Was this on the printed receipt/credit card slip?

Sep 18, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

need a 2nd person for momofuku ko lunch tomorrow, fri sept 17, 12:45pm seating

Why the hell would they reject the idea of you paying for two seats/two meals and actually getting two seats/two meals? Isn't the idea of a cancellation fee for the restaurant to make the money they would have lost by not filling a seat?

I certainly understand the problem when someone has a last minute cancellation and the restaurant loses that profit. But in your case, it seems outrageous because you offered to get what you paid for if the seat weren't filled (seems fair), but they demanded that you pay for the food, but actually get nothing for your money. Seems like greed gone wild.

But at least someone took the slot!

Sep 17, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

Question about tipping at Per Se

Thanks so much for the clarification. I think what you described really is the best way to enjoy a meal like that. The staff does a great job of reading the temperament of tables and interacting accordingly. For me, it's so much more fun to have a lighthearted meal with servers who make jokes and seem to enjoy themselves. Last time I was there, at the adjacent table was a very...well, let's say stern couple who only engaged the staff to make demands. The change in demeanor when servers moved from their table to ours was almost comical because it was a complete 180 degree change!

Sep 16, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

Question about tipping at Per Se

Because I didn't remember any such statement either, I dug up an old Per Se bill and credit card receipt. The handwritten bill looks exactly like the ones theOGbigguy posted. The credit card receipt has lines for "Additional Gratuity" and "Signature," and printed below that is "Service Included." Nothing else.

So I can also confirm that there is nothing even close to resembling what tony_brisbane said on any bill or receipt I've ever gotten from Per Se.

Sep 16, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

Question about tipping at Per Se

gutsofsteel asked: "You think someone would ever wonder 'gee, I wonder if it would be okay to leave extra?'"

lisavf (original poster) asked: "So can anyone advise me, would it be completely inappropriate to leave an additional cash tip at Per Se?"

So yes, yes I do think someone would ever ask that. Very much so :)

Sep 16, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

Question about tipping at Per Se

As I said, I don't remember that being on the bill. But if it is, I agree that it could convey too much pressure or an expectation to tip additionally. Rarely is the service not extraordinary at Per Se, so I can see how reading that could make you feel like you're cheap or are cheating the wait staff if you don't add an extra tip. However, how one interprets that likely depends on one's familiarity with built-in service charges.

I think part of the problem is that we're not accustomed to service-included menus in America, so people are often confused about "what percentage" of a tip is built in, not knowing the staffers are already paid a (hopefully) sufficient salary, and additional gratuity is just a bonus. It's not required for them to make a living wage (again, hopefully), and not knowing this may make someone feel more pressured to tip.

tony_brisbane mentioned that Per Se is the only 3* restaurant in the world where he's encountered this, but I'm guessing that's because other 3* restaurants don't include service (in the US) or people are so familiar with this system that everything is understood (pretty much everywhere outside the US). What are your thoughts on that, tony_brisbane?

I can see the restaurant's predicament when they have customers who aren't familiar with this system. They have to balance making customers feel comfortable simply paying the built-in service costs with not discouraging people who want to add an additional tip. The original poster's husband seems like a good example of this. If someone is unsure whether leaving an additional tip is appropriate, they may not ask about it at the restaurant (talking about tips with a server is usually awkward for everyone), so there is a legitimate reason to explicitly say additional gratuity is welcomed.

Sep 16, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

Question about tipping at Per Se

I don't recall there being anything in writing suggesting an additional tip is expected or desired. I know the handwritten bill you receive says "Service Included" at the bottom, and the line on the credit card receipt says "Additional Gratuity," but I don't remember anything saying servers would appreciate additional tips. I could be wrong, but that's what I remember.

Sep 16, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

Question about tipping at Per Se

I just read an article published in the SF Gate a few days ago about The French Laundry that relates to this topic:

""Minimum" VIPs might be people who have visited many times - they receive a few extra courses in addition to the regular menu. Maximum VIPs, Hollingsworth said, "might be a chef coming in, or someone who is well regarded in their industry, someone we have a relationship with." If the kitchen has the time, these special guests get a completely off-the-menu menu, created that day especially for them."

So it looks like you and I are correct about this being reserved for super VIPs. Though I'd also be interested in hearing about any exceptions.

Sep 16, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

Question about tipping at Per Se

It seems outrageous to be expected to give an extra tip when service is explicitly included. It seems perfectly fair to only add a tip if you'd like to show appreciation for impeccable service. I think they say you can add extra tips to make it easy for people to do so or let people (like he original poster) know it's appropriate.

Also, when they increased their price a couple of years ago and began including gratuity, the increase was well above 20%. Not that this means servers are getting the equivalent of a 20% tip from the built-in gratuity. But in either case, their salaries aren't dependent on tips, so you shouldn't feel pressure to add extra gratuity.

Sep 15, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan

Question about tipping at Per Se

Right, there is definitely a difference between the two. I know it's pretty common for regulars to get extra canapes, but Cpalms seemed to suggest that they also "upgrade" regulars to an extended tasting on occasion for whatever reason. Perhaps he meant extra canapes or desserts rather than an extended tasting as we're thinking of it? Or maybe these people were VIPs?

I know an extended menu upgrade is common for VIPs, but not so much for non-VIP regulars. They probably have multiple levels of VIPs, and I have no idea what gives one his distinction (maybe extra tipping as Cpalms suggested?). Cpalms, can you (or anyone else familiar with their workings) clarify?

Sep 15, 2010
ryansm in Manhattan