Since I returned to Kyoto from New York I have been putting off writing two particular posts. Not because I don't want to wax lyrical about Per Se and Blue Hills Stone Barn but because I have been a little time poor of late and both restaurants deserve text with a certain amount of consideration. Or do they? Both are well recognised by foodies as destination restaurants. Albeit for slightly different reasons. Per Se having a higher international profile and Blue Hills - well a destination in itself!
Needless to say that both experiences were exemplary. I will focus on Per Se for this entry and introduce you to Blue Hills shortly.
Firstly, its hard not to feel special when you arrive and the staff know who you are (because another of the world's amazing chefs made the booking on your behalf - you know who you are and thank you again!) and then, resting against the gorgeous vase of flowers on your table is an envelope containing a handwritten note from Thomas Keller welcoming you to the restaurant.... There's a glowing fireplace next to the table you have scored by the window with a view over Manhattan to die for. And the moon above is full and perfect. Like a scene from a movie. You and your guests are poured a glass of complimentary Champagne. Not a bad start to night that continued in that general direction.
The staff are delightful and welcoming without a hint of the kind of pretension you might associate with such an esteemed fine dining dining venue - but oh are they polished. The kind of slick you don't even notice at first because they know how to read their guests and provide them with exactly the level of service, attention and information they require.
Needless to say the food was superb, as you would imagine. So I won't ramble on too much about individual dishes but will give you their names (where I can remember). There were about a thousand items so forgive me for not getting all the detail down. It was my last night in NYC after 2 weeks of feasting and I was a little weary to say the least. Unforgivable I know but that's the way it was. I wished it had been at the start of our trip as I would have been even more blown away than I was. If that is possible. But this is a very special dining experience, and although this might sound a little predictable, the kind of place you'd wanna to get proposed to in - just the perfect for making memories. I am pretty sure the table behind us was doing just that.
The famous Salmon cornets
Tiny choux amuse bouche
My friend Alex seriously perusing the iPad wine list while the gorgeous Lindy Thompson concentrates on the menu...
Oysters and pearls
vegetarian option - Sour apple pearls
caviar for the non oyster eater
Truffled egg custard - an extra course and signature dish of sister restaurant The French Laundry
Butter and 6 different salts
Gateau of Hudson Valley Duck Foie Gras with pain d'epices, white sesame pudding, Tokyo turnips, apricot membrillo and toasted briocheoption 2 - butternut squash in brick pastry,compressed apple, brussel sprout leaves, chestnuts, pomegranate seeds and maple syrup vinaigrette
Vegetarian option - Salad of braised bambino eggplant, aji dulce peppers in "Blue Ribbon Pickle", marinated cucumbers, cilantro and salsa verde
the wonderful breadbasket
Sauteed fillet of rouget with marinated tomatoes, Maine peekytoe crab, globe artichoke farci, aji dulce peppers, piccolo basil and bouillabase nuage
Vegetarian option -Sesame pain perdu, romaine lettuce pacquet, parmesan gelée, parsley shoots and san marzano tomato marmelade
Butter poached Nova Scotia lobster, black mission fig demi sec, fennel gelee, sunchoke puree and fennel mousseline
Veg option -Yukon gold potato mille fuille with red wine braised Belgium endive, petite mache and shaved Belgium truffle
Four Story Hill Farm's pork Presse, hen egg ravioli, red onion marmalade, parsley shoots, yukon gold potatoes en ravigote
Vego option - matsutake chawan mushi with mustard frills
Herb roasted lamb with medjool dates, broccoli puree, caramelised parsnip, lemon puree and pine nut jus
Sublime pasta with truffle cream sauce
Slow cooked beef rib for the non pork eater
Rainbow ridge "Meridian" cheese with hazelnuts, Asian pear,celery branch and black winter truffle aigre-doux
and below with divine mini brioche loaf
I think this was the Huckleberry sorbet - huckleberry muffins, whipped lemon verbena, red wine granita
S'mores - dark chocolate torte, vanilla marshmallow, candied Virginia peanuts and caramel ice cream
..Honestly don't know....
Purple cow - concord grape soda, vanilla genoise, caramelised filo chips and grape sherbet
Um hello - a beautifully presented chocolate box - and yes the waiter recited all 24 flavours.. you could select as many as you liked... dangerous. I didn't realise how dangerous until the next lot of treats showed up..
then a few more....
oh, on top of that you'd like to offer me some miniature doughnuts and ice-cream balls coated in white chocolate ? sure.... why not.... I'm not nearly enough stuffed full of Per Se Decadence..
No! really.... "just one more wafer thin mint....."... er yes, I did manage to squeeze in the teensy cup of gorgeous, chewy coffee ice cream that lurked beneath the sweet foamy topping
Ok, I was done at this point... not like me to leave such things but I was completely overloaded - my own greed. But they kept offering... and how could I say no?!?!?
As we left they handed us each a Per Se "lolly bag" filled with homemade nougat ( I'm not sure but it tasted like dried cherry and shiso) and some peppermint mini candy canes - neither of which I could not bring myself to eat until 2 weeks after the dinner.
An incredible experience although I waddled away claiming I would never eat again.... Knowing full well of course that I'd totally be up for a decent breakfast the next morning...come on, who am I trying to fool??
Thank you so much to Thomas Keller, chef Eli and the entire team at Per Se.