The signature dish, Truffle Custard with Chive Potato Chip/Photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

I hadn’t planned this post but when my wife, Donna, started emailing these iPhone shots of the dishes she was served at per se yesterday at lunch I just had to put them up. First of all, Thomas Keller and his ace staff two years ago began offering dishes a la carte in their salon area, outside the dining room. It’s a fabulous way to taste what the per se chefs, led now by CDC Eli Kaimeh, are up to. (It’s no wonder that Sam Sifton, in his final column as restaurant critic for The New York Times, called it the best restaurant in New York City.) Chef Kaimeh did not work lunch yesterday; in his stead was Chef David Breeden.  I once complimented Deborah Jones on her amazing photography in Under Pressure (she’s photographed all of Keller’s books). She said, “Don’t compliment me, compliment the chefs. They make my work easy.”

The meal, as always begins with the salmon cornets, salmon tartare in a tuile cone. Keller has been serving every diner these nifty little cones for nearly twenty years and they never get tired. They are always a pleasure. Gougeres followed, and then the main dishes.

These gougeres, cheese puffs, are now filled with mornay sauce.


Celeriac veloute with marcona almonds and sour cherries.

Osetra caviar with langostine tartare, meyer lemon emulsion and crispy rice

Agnolotti, little Basil ravioli with pea shoots and glazed sunchokes.

Now this is the way to serve lobster!

Butter poached lobster with bell peppers, artichokes and spicy lobster broth.

Brioche, foie, salt

Foie gras terrine with chocolate financier crust, black mission fig marmalade, cipollini onion shoots, little lettuces and a guiness chocolate sauce with brioche and two salts.

Two desserts: Floating island, almond tapioca, creme Anglaise, mandarin confit and black tea ice cream and, below, lime meringue compressed pineapple, hibiscus and coconut sorbets.

What’s amazing to me about this is that the salon was meant only as an elegant waiting area and a bulwark separating the dining area from people entering the restaurant, diners using the restroom, hostesses taking coats; but what Keller has done is turn it into its own kind of restaurant. The dishes are still fabulously expensive (and the photos here show why), but it’s a way to have a taste of what Chef Kaimeh and his staff are doing without having to spend many hundreds of dollars on a full tasting menu.

Donna and I just talked about it again.  She said, “You know what was so wonderful about it? The service. It’s just so elegant and you feel so well taken care of.”

The food’s not bad either.

If you liked this post on Per Se, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved



86 Wonderful responses to “Salon Service at Per Se”

  • rpw

    The best service I’ve ever had was at Per Se. I’ve been lucky to eat many extraordinary meals and it’s hard to compare them. But when the service is so thoughtful it raises the experience as a whole.

  • Deanna B.

    I just made my first recipe from the French Laundry cookbook and I was so proud of myself. I’ve only eaten at Bouchon, but all of his restaurants are on my bucket list.

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  • roopa

    I’ve been to Per Se several times, but never the salon – my husband and I were just talking about making a mid-winter visit there, and this post just convinced me to go. 🙂

    Although, a question for you: the salon menu has not had any desserts listed on it for a short while now – is there a separate menu for that or did your wife get them on request?

  • twoshoes

    holy crap! thomas keller is kinda an idol of mine. I can’t wait to finally eat at per se, though I’d prefer the french laundry as it’s more in my neck of the woods and one of my favorite places in the country. wonderful post and thanks for it.

  • Jennifer

    Everything looks amazing and each dish looks almost like a work of art. When I was in New York last year on holiday I desperately wanted to visit Per Se, but I’d left it too late to book. A visit to Per Se is definitely on my must do list next time I am in New York.

  • Anna

    Beautiful….. I’ll be heading to New York in May to celebrate my hmmm 60th birthday. I was planning on Le Bernardin which is delicious, but now I thinking I should branch out and explore some other options…hmmm

  • Jane@Ohio

    Awesome! its really look so delicious. I really like the style of it so creative. hope your havin fun always.
    looking forward for the next post. Thanks!

  • John

    Great Post!! Michael, or anyone else reading this, can you give us some advice on getting a booking at FL or Per Se? My wife and I are looking at visiting the U.S in September from Australia, and their booking time lead in makes planning that around the rest of our trip difficult to say the least. Any thoughts? I’m not holding my breath for an easy solution.

  • allen

    Thank you Donna, that butter poached lobster could not possibly taste as good as it looks!

  • Beachfinn

    “can you give us some advice on getting a booking at FL or Per Se?” You can get reservations online through their web page or, 30 days before your planned meal. Plan on Calling or logging on first thing, they sell out in minutes. Well worth it though 🙂

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    This is not related to the current subject matter but love your book Charcuterie. Tried making some sausage that had to cure for two days in the fridge after grinding and mixing. Should one add water to make the sausage more pliable before stuffing? It was really difficult stuffing the casings with a vertical stuffer.

  • Tags

    Next time I get photographed for my driver’s license, I’m bringing Donna – money is no object!

  • Mike

    Been eating out in Mannattan for 25 years. Did not like Per Se one bit and neither did my dining buddies. Just across the street Nougatine (attached to Jean George) kills it. So does Blue Ribbon across the street to the South. Well the list will go on and on. I didn’t like the Per Se room either. That awful, formal, hotel feeling.

  • Kelly Reising

    My parents lived in Manhattan from 2000-2009, and frequently went to Per Se, amoug other super fine restaurants. They were friends with the Roux family, Albert and Michelle.

    My parents own a property in Lake Conroe Texas called La Torretta which my Dad and Albert collaborated on CHEZ ROUX. THe food is imaculate. Wine is heart pounding. Head of House Garrett Donovon makes sure of that.
    I had the privilage a few years ago to eat at the CHef’s table. And it was magic. They even sent us off with a lovely bottle of their best bubbly to enjoy on our balcony with a sweeping view of the infinity pool. Just beautiful.
    So to recap what made this place special? The staff tending to all 6 other restaurants on property. The staff taking care of the world class Spa and wellness center. The staff at the kids hut entertaining the owners kids. The pool side bartender who poured us our morning cocktails the night after my Dad passed away. Whether is a special restaurant, a hotel or resort. Or even a hospital. People rise to give comfort where it’s needed most. THat’s the point of hospitality.

  • thehealthyfarmer

    Work of Art. What else can be said about those dishes. It’s amazing, the more sites I explore, the more I am amazed by the artistry in food.

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