Thomas Keller's Per Se has enjoyed a good ride as one of NYC's most venerable Michelin starred restaurants, but the caviar veneer has come crashing down in an entertaining takedown by NY Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, who compares one of the dishes to bong water. In a single paragraph alone, the critic employs the words "dismal green pulp," mushy," gluey, oily liquid," "swampy mess," "limp, dispiriting," "lukewarm" and "murky." Don't hold back, Pete!
Back in 2011, then-Times critic Sam Sifton wrote a glowing four star review, which Wells rectifies with a merciless hatchet job on restaurant's "mangled" food and "sleepwalking" service, ultimately calling the restaurant "among the worst food deals in New York." Other lowlights:
- "rubbery and flavorless" cheese inside a crepe of pickled carrots, peanuts and a date
- the sabayon in the restaurant's iconic "oysters and pearls" dish that had "broken and separated, so fat pooled above the tapioca"
- butter-poached lobster "intransigently chewy: gristle of the sea"
- "...like peanut butter to which something terrible had been done"
- "a slick of cold oatmeal"
Service misfires during Wells's visits included an argumentative sommelier, haphazard place settings and servers that "give you the feeling that you work for them, and your job is to feel lucky to receive whatever you get."
Still, after all of this, the critic demotes the restaurant only down to two stars, a courtesy rating if ever there was one. He may not have awarded Senor Frogs any stars, but at least Wells didn't label it a "no-fun house."
Even when Per Se was firing on all cylinders, there was cause to question the insane price tag, which has only gone up in recent years. The new model—which adheres to the new service included trend—had a meal for four people ringing up near the $3,000 mark, a figure apparently forked over at least once (if not three times) during the critic's visits. That's a princely sum to flush down the toilet.