Per Se Kitchen Tour

There are 25,000 restaurants in New York, there are about 100 I should eat at. One of those restaurants is Thomas Keller's Per Se. I didn't get a chance to eat there this time but the staff was kind enough to give me a kitchen tour. I've eaten at Keller's restaurants, Bouchon in Las Vegas, Bouchon Bakery in New York and Ad Hoc in Yountville California. Memo to self - eat at Per Se and the French Laundry soon

As would be expected, the kitchen was impeccable. Plenty of working space by New York standards with a center cooking island plus an enormous staging area.


Kitchen shots

This was interesting. It's a setup of all the chocolates they'll be serving for the night with descriptions next to each one so the staff can memorize them.

A view of NYC from outside the front of the restaurant which is located in the Columbus Circle area. One floor down from Per Se is the Bouchon Bakery.

Le Bernardin

Le Bernardin is, well, incredible. As with any great restaurant there are many many talented people focusing on details and quality every minute of every day. I'll comment on two of these individuals.

Chef Eric Ripert - Ripert's statement on the menu says it all, "Fish is the star of the plate not the chef", that pretty much sums up the identity of the restaurant, serving pristine seafood in a style that allows the seafood to shine. Ripert's menu layout is unique, there are three categories on the menu with about a dozen selections in each category, "Almost Raw", "Barely Touched" and "Lightly Cooked". It's a great philosophy that acknowledges that all fish are not created equal and don't deserve a universal cooking technique. It also allow for a dining experience that escalates in texture, temperature and flavor.

Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis - Laiskonis displays an incredible array of ingredients, cooking techniques, flavor combinations and presentation styles. He's a well document chef who has two great blogs, Michael Laiskonis Notes From the Kitchen, and Workbook. I follow both of his blogs on a regular basis, especially Workbook because it contains formulas and some insight into his ideation process. Michael arranged for us to take a kitchen tour before our arrival, which was more than I could've asked for, but it didn't end there, when we ordered dessert he sent out almost the entire menu. Thanks Michael, It was sensory bliss. The dessert menu has a unique layout also, the desserts are simply labeled with their main ingredient, such as Carrot, Yuzu, Chestnut, Walnut, Chocolate-Sweet Potato, Etc.

Awards and accolades
The restaurant was voted 20th best in the world in the Restaurant Magazine Top 50 for 2008.

Le Bernardin is one of only four restaurants in New York awarded three Michelin stars.

It is also the restaurant which has held four stars from the New York Times for the longest period of time. Le Bernardin gained the superior ranking less than three months after opening in early 1986.

James Beard Foundation Award: Outstanding Restaurant 1998, Outstanding Chef -Eric Ripert- 2003, Outstanding Pastry Chef -Michael Laiskonis- 2007

Gayot Top 40 Restaurants in the US: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004. In 2008 it was given a rating of 18/20, one of the highest scores awarded.

Exterior Shot

Maine Shrimp with Celery Foam

Kampachi Tartare
Cucumber, Pineapple-Citrus Vinaigrette

Organic Scottish and Smoked Salmon
Apple, Celery and Baby Watercress, Jalapeno Emulsion

Layers of Thinly Pounded Yellowfin Tuna
Foie Gras and Toasted Baguette, Shaved Chives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

White Tuna Poached in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Beans and Potato Crisps, Light Red Wine Bearnaise

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with Peekytoe Crab, Black Truffle Sauce

Seared Spanish Mackerel, Parmesan Crisp and Sun-Dried Tomato, Black Olive Oil

Red Snapper
Bread Crusted Red Snapper, Zucchini-Mint and Coriander Compote in a rich Citrus Broth

Surf And Turf
Escolar and Seared Kobe Beef, Sea Bean Salad and Eggplant Fries, Mr. Kaufman's Pesto and Anchovy Sauce

Baked Codfish, Green Mango Salad, Red Lentil Stew, Yogurt Sauce

"The Egg"
At Le Bernardin, “The Egg” often appears unexpectedly as a special treat for guests, as there has never been any mention of it on any printed dessert menu.

Michael Laiskonis, executive pastry chef of Le Bernardin prepares "The Egg" — a milk chocolate pot de crème topped with caramel foam, maple syrup and a pinch of maldon sea salt, served in a eggshell.

Chocolate-Sweet Potato
Dark Amedei Chocolate Ganache, Sweet Potato Pearls and Sorbet, Pistachio, Palm Sugar, Vanilla Salt

Pineapple Buttermilk, Coconut, Mandarin

Rum Scented Carrot Cake, Golden Raisins, Sicilian Pistachio, Condensed Milk Ice Cream

Frozen Chestnut Parfait, Biscuit & Wafer, Mandarin Coulis, Coconut Sorbet

Panna Cotta
Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta, Pomegranate Pearls and Sorbet, Lemon Cream, Orange Peel, Mint

Gianduja Cream, Oregon Hazelnuts, Honey, Banana, Brown Butter Ice Cream

Petit Fours

Cooking line at Le Bernardin - If you watch Top Chef, this is the kitchen that was used on one of the recent episodes.

Le Bernardin Pastry Line - Executive Pastry Chef, Michael Laiskonis is in the foreground

Jean Georges - Lunch

Jean-Georges Vongerichten is "one of the most celebrated chefs on the planet." He was born in the Alsace in 1956 and now resides in the United States of America. Vongerichten commands a global empire of restaurants that includes venues in London, Paris and Shanghai, as well as New York.

In March 1997, Vongerichten opened Jean Georges restaurant in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, earning a four star review from The New York Times less than three months after opening, and the "Chef of the Year Award" from John Mariani at Esquire magazine. Jean Georges Restaurant remains one of 4 restaurants in the city awarded four stars by the New York Times and three stars by the Michelin Guide.

Frank Bruni of The Times said it offers “accessible elegance,” providing “classic French indulgence with a contemporary flair.” The restaurant trades “the richness of traditional French cooking for a different kind of intensity,” he added — it eliminates “thick sauces and embraces oils and broths, preferring them for their lightness and for the way they release their scents, like the perfume of lemon grass that rose from a bath of Asian herbs and seeds around a delicately baked lobster tartine.”


Japanese Snapper Carpaccio, Crystallized Ginger, White Radish and Olive Oil

Goat Cheese Royale, Roasted Beet Marmalade and Crushed Pistachios

Pan Roasted Sweetbreads, Sweet Potato Raviolis, Black Truffle Vinaigrette

Roasted Veal, Quince-Pineapple Compote and Roquefort

Red Snapper Crusted with Nuts and Seeds, Sweet and Sour Jus

Soy Glazed Beef Short Ribs, Apple-Jalepeno Puree and Rosemary Crumbs

Jean Georges' Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Warm Chocolate Gnocchi, Grapefruit, Gianduja, Basil

Cranberry Parfait, Walnut Nougatine, Soft Vanilla Meringue, Cinnamon Doughnut, Prune-Armagnac jam

Chocolate Pop, Coffee-Caradamon Ice Cream, Caramel Curd, Dehydrated Sponge, Roasted Pineapple Sorbet


Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca

Mario Batali is another chef who doesn't need any introduction. I talked with Mario briefly, he was busy but said he'd be back to talk with us. We were seated right next to the kitchen entrance, which most people would object to, but of course this is the perfect seat for me. I knew it wouldn't be possible for him to make it back to the table because when I looked up there was Marco Pierre White walking in the front door. White is in NY filming his new show, The Chopping Block. Mario worked for White in London in the 1980's.

Here's a little background on Mario Batali.

During college, Batali started working as a dishwasher at "Stuff Yer Face" restaurant in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He quickly moved up from dishwasher to pizzaman. Batali went on to spend time as an assistant in the kitchens at the "Six Bells public house" in the Kings Road, Chelsea under Marco Pierre White, the Tour d'Argent in Paris, the Moulin de Mougins in Provence, and the Waterside Inn, outside London. In 1985 he worked as a sous chef at the Four Seasons Clift in San Francisco before being promoted to helm the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel's La Marina restaurant in Santa Barbara. At twenty-seven, he was the highest paid young chef in the company. In 1989, he resigned his post at the Four Seasons and moved to the Northern Italian village of Borgo Capanne to apprentice in the kitchen at La Volta, where he sought to master a traditional style of Italian cooking. He was inspired by the cooking of his grandmother, Leonetta Merlino.

In 1993 he opened "Po" with Steven Crane, but sold his interest in the restaurant in September 2000. In 1998, with his business partner, Joseph Bastianich (son of Lidia Bastianich), he went on to own the recent Michelin star winning "Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca". They have since opened seven additional restaurants, Lupa (1999), Esca (2000), Otto Enoteca Pizzeria (2003), Casa Mono (2004), Bar Jamon (2004), Bistro Du Vent (2004, closed in 2006), Del Posto (2005), Enoteca San Marco (2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada), and B&B Ristorante (2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada) and a shop named Italian Wine Merchants (1999).

Exterior Shot

Marinated Chick Pea Bruschetta

Fennel Salad
With pears and Gorgonzola

Winter Vegetable Salad
with Goat’s Milk Ricotta and Pumpkin Seed Oil

Roasted Beet Tartare
with Chianti Vinegar and Ricotta Salata

Armandino’s Salumi
Hot Sopressata and Lamb Prosciutto

Marinated Fresh Sardines
with Caramelized Fennel and Lobster Oil

Pig Foot “Milanese”
with Rice Beans and Arugula

Duck with Red Cabbage, Speck and Black Ceci

Gnocchi with Braised Oxtail

Wild Striped Bass
with "Passato di Zucca" and Chorizo Vinaigrette

Coffee service condiments

Lemon Crostata
with Lemon Straciatella Gelato

Pistachio and Chocolate Semifreddo

“Zeppoline alla Napolitana”
with Cinnamon Cream, Warm Chocolate and Raspberry Jam

Biscotti and Cookies