January 13, 2016

"... limp, dispiriting yam dumplings... [in] a lukewarm matsutake mushroom bouillon as murky and appealing as bong water."

Insulting the chef, big time, it's Pete Wells in the NYT, knocking the fancy-ass restaurant Per Se off its 4-stars.

Don't miss the slide show. Keep in mind that the restaurant folk posed for these NYT photographs with no idea what was going to be in the text. It lends an intriguing subtlety to their smarmy smiles. The buttery softness, served cold, is rubbery and and hilariously flavorless.

39 comments:

Brando said...

Normally I read the food reviews in the Washington Post, and while I find that critic pretty even-keeled it would be nice to see more focus on the everyday places--the sort of places you might decide to drop in on in a whim when you're in the neighborhood, rather than the "experience" places you would plan to go to a month out.

Also, I'd love to see more focus on a rating system based on not just noise levels (which they do, and it's helpful) but whether people are likely to bring in screaming kids that the restaurant cannot handle, or seats are too close together so you get others' conversations, and approximate wait times on popular evenings when you don't have a reservation.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

The picture of the salmon cornet with tartare and crème fraîche fitted into an ice cream cone is especially unfortunate.

Henry said...

That's some beautiful snark. My favorite description? The "bacon-wrapped cylinder of quail".

rehajm said...

As murky and appealing as bong water? Clearly they are authorities on the subject at NYT so it's harder to discern their intended meaning here.

rehajm said...

Perhaps it's time for Ratatouille style rescue for Per Se? New York certainly has plenty of rat candidates for the job.

rhhardin said...

Dogs favor cottage cheese over plain yogurt, a two-dish order test shows.

I still have to test chicken rice and peas, and egg yolks, into the ordering. This will take four dog dishes, though.

Dog kibble is certainly last. Two stars.

rhhardin said...

Hautecuisine for the dog.

holdfast said...

Translation: Per Se is full of evil Hedge Fund guys, and mere NYT scribes can't get reservations let alone afford the bill. So since I got in on the clock, let's slag them.

There are places I like better, but Per Se is still very good.

CJinPA said...

Some of the highest-rated comments for that article were along the lines of 'It's obscene to pay so much for a dinner. You're not getting taxed enough. I'm voting for Bernie Sanders!'

Politicking. In food review comments. These people don't eat. They are sustained by politics the way a plant absorbs light for energy. The New York Times comments section is their chlorophyll.

To me, it is a ridiculous price to pay for dinner, but I'm not paying it. It's a choice.

Laslo Spatula said...

Limp, dispiriting yam dumplings: see also:

Listless, discouraging yam dumplings.

Debilitated, dismal yam dumplings.

Drooping, disheartening yam dumplings.

Flaccid, demoralizing yam dumplings.

Waiter, there is a disembodied cock in my soup.

I am Laslo.

Terry said...

It like the end of Joyce's "The Dead", where dude is trying to make love to his girlfriend but he can't because everything is limp. Limp clothes thrown over the backs of chairs, empty boots with their limp tops hanging down, snow falling down . . .
I could never make love in a restaurant like that. No frikkin' way.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

a good first step would have been allowing the washed-rind cow’s milk cheese to warm up to a buttery softness; served cold, it was rubbery and flavorless.

That's a pretty fundamental error, especially at a restaurant at that level. Hell, my wife and I get the cheese out to warm up before our guests arrive when we are hosting football parties.

Terry said...

CJ in PA wrote:
"They are sustained by politics the way a plant absorbs light for energy."
Politics is public policy. They really, really, really, want to control the lives of others. For example, they simply cannot bear the thought of you enjoying reruns of Dukes of Hazzard because it has features a gas-guzzling, planet-destroying automobile named after a Confederate General. They stay awake nights thinking of possible ways to circumvent the constitution so they can stop you from doing that. And if you don't like that, well, then you are a bad person, and who cares what you think anyway, hillbilly.

David said...

Also: "grand, hermetic, self-regarding, ungenerous restaurant"

Full Definition of hermetic [Merriam Webster Online]
1
often capitalized
a : of or relating to the mystical and alchemical writings or teachings arising in the first three centuries a.d. and attributed to Hermes Trismegistus
b : relating to or characterized by occultism or abstruseness : recondite
2
[from the belief that Hermes Trismegistus invented a magic seal to keep vessels airtight]
a : airtight
b : impervious to external influence
c : recluse, solitary


Hard to know which definition he might have intended.

mezzrow said...

From the NYT comments, here's my winner:

In retrospect, we now know the first incidents preceding the revolution were seen at Per Se. Servers argued with diners about the wine, dropped napkins were allowed to remain on the floor and mon Dieu, the lobster could be gristly. The 400 began to worry about their safety with good reason. A date began to be chalked on the sidewalks outside the New York's best restaurants: "10 September 1977" which up to now, was the last date France used the guillotine for an execution. It is still available.

David said...

"grand, hermetic, self-regarding, ungenerous"

The direct opposite of my local breakfast fave, Waffle House. Except for the hermetic part. Waffle House does seem impervious to external influence. That's a plus.

Fabi said...

Two Stars? Thomas 'Volcano' Keller will not be amused.

I am not 'Oysters and Pearls'.

CJinPA said...

Terry,

As bad as their zeal to control is their insistence on a New Reality: We used to live our lives in this spot here < and politics used to be way over there >. Politics was something you engaged in twice a year at election time to run the various levels of government. They insist that politics is not a part of life, it IS life.

As much as I love political debate, I know where politics ends and life begins, and I will resist efforts to erase the line.

lgv said...

We have had the pleasure of dining at some very nice restaurants, including a couple of Michelin starred venues. We have been amazed at the wide disparity of our opinions. Some didn't deserve a Michelin tire, let alone a star. Others were truly great flavor fests. Many were just overpriced, but well executed mediocrity with a lot of hype.

Here's what I gleaned from the images: a large portion of the cost of the experience isn't food.

Roy Lofquist said...

Many years ago I was friends with the proprietor of a nice restaurant. How nice? Dianna Ross and Gene Wilder were regulars. He was not fond of critics. His most printable comment was that whether the review was good depended upon whether they got any the night before.

Titus said...

I never go to a restaurant where I have to wear a jacket.

John said...

I once had dinner at Le Cirque. It was $125 per person plus tip plus wine.

The food was OK but there are lots of places where the I think the food is better. Culvers, for example. I had some kind of fish. Bonefish Grill does fish way, way, better.

What was really disappointing was the portion size. For $125 we didn't get enough food, in all the courses, to feed a small hungry boy much less an adult. My son and I stopped at a McDonalds on the way back to the hotel to fill up.

One difference from Culvers, the food was presented very artistically. If the purpose of food is to be pretty I give it a 10.

Another was that they did not have frozen custard.

Other than that, I thought is was a waste of money. Glad it was someone else's money, not mine.

John Henry

John said...

Blogger Titus said...

I never go to a restaurant where I have to wear a jacket.

In general I agree. The food will probably be overpriced and not even all that good. I don't mind wearing a jacket. I mind being forced to.

Back in the 80s I used to get invited for lunch to the Bankers Club from time to time. Very hoity-toity. So hoity-toity that if you did not have a jacket and tie they had a rack of them behind the maitre de stand. Ties all pre-tied, of course.

I don't know which is worse: someone in an open neck polo shirt or someone in an open neck polo shirt with a jacket 5 sizes too big and a necktie hung loosely around their neck.

I was at the Medinah Country Club for dinner last fall and was looking at the dress code in the lobby. Luckily I had a sportcoat on or I would not have been admitted to the dining room. One of the other rules is that men can't wear ball caps with the bill to the back, ever, anywhere on the premises.

John Henry

traditionalguy said...

That Wall Street wealth has to be spent on something. One wonders if they say Grace to thank God before the meals.

But French cuisine remains unsurpassed. They perfectly match the wines to each of the five courses. We also like La Maison Waffle.

CWJ said...

Titus wrote -

"I never go to a restaurant where I have to wear a jacket."

Good to know.

Terry said...

I never go to a restaurant where I have to wear pants.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Probably the most high-end restaurants I have been in are K-Pauls and NOLA, both in New Orleans. The food was fantastic, but they were awfully proud of it. Don't know that the experience was worth the price. We sometimes consider going to Commander's Palace or Brennan's, but always end up going to Johnny's Poe-Boys or the Central Grocery or finding some place that we haven't ate at before that is way more working class than Commander's Palace.

My wife doesn't like to go out for dinner much anyway. She insists that what I make is likely to be better than anything we can get at a restaurant. For the most part that is true.

Big Mike said...

Is the article describing Belgian Booyah?

prairie wind said...

When I asked to see the truffle being shaved over somebody else’s plate, it was whisked under my eyes for a nanosecond, as if the server were afraid I was going to sneeze. I know what truffles look like; what I wanted was to smell it.

Wine glasses sat empty through entire courses. Once, the table was set for dessert so haphazardly that my spoon ended up next to my water glass instead of my plate. Sitting down after a trip to the restroom, one of my guests had his chair pushed back into place with a hard shove.


The guy wanted to stick his nose into something that is going to the plate of another diner (who paid exorbitant money for unmolested food, presumably) and a misplaced spoon upset him? No wonder his chair got a hard shove.

I do not understand food worship.

Ann Althouse said...

"The picture of the salmon cornet with tartare and crème fraîche fitted into an ice cream cone is especially unfortunate."

Yeah, I noticed that. Had to be intentional. So mean!

Ann Althouse said...

"'I never go to a restaurant where I have to wear a jacket.' In general I agree. The food will probably be overpriced and not even all that good. I don't mind wearing a jacket. I mind being forced to."

I think the reason you don't want to go to a restaurant where you have to wear a jacket is that it's a reasonable bet that it's for boring people who aren't going to look that cool or pretty and if you're not boring/uncool/unpretty it's going to drag you down.

A jacket improves a lot of men. If you're expecting men like that, it's a good idea to make them put on a jacket.

Ann Althouse said...

"The guy wanted to stick his nose into something that is going to the plate of another diner (who paid exorbitant money for unmolested food, presumably)..."

I know. He's trying to get something extra that he didn't pay for. Smells. I don't want other customers sniffing at food that's going to be served to me. And he might have sneezed and ruined what was very expensive.

coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

"A jacket improves a lot of men. If you're expecting men like that, it's a good idea to make them put on a jacket."

And pants. Never forget to wear pants.

David said...

Ann Althouse said...
"The picture of the salmon cornet with tartare and crème fraîche fitted into an ice cream cone is especially unfortunate."

Yeah, I noticed that. Had to be intentional. So mean!


It could have been worse. Think of a dollop of creme fraiche in place of the little green thing.

CatherineM said...

As I read the review I thought of the restaurants in American Psycho. I picture customers furrowing their brows in serious consideration of the menu being recited by a waiter (in a raspberry coulis...).

I worked for a Patrick Bateman of sorts who, as someone from humble beginnings, he loves to show off his success by getting a reservation (did you tell them it was me?) and spending his money at the Per Se's of the world. He also would get the $1000 bottles of wine (the one time he took me out he chose our wine. I thought it tasted like mildewed basement with a hint of oak...but perhaps I have no taste). I bet he won't go there now after a review like this even if he truly enjoys their food because that's not the point for him.

I worked for another man, the opposite of Batemen, who treated me to Gordon Ramsey 8 years ago. I don't know the cost, but that was the best meal of my life. I was also satisfied, not full. I would plunk down $1500 for that experience again if it was guaranteed.

Fabi said...

The salmon tartare cornet on an 'ice cream cone' (they're actually shaped tuiles) is one of Keller's signature dishes. Are you saying that the food is unfortunate or that it's a bad photo?

CatherineM said...

Fabi- the photo makes the dish look like a penis, so yes, it is a bad picture.

veni vidi vici said...

The salmon cornet looks like an herbed cock wrapped in a Bounty sheet.