16 July 2008

You turn 30-something only a few times in your life

So we went to Per Se last night and dropped an obscene amount of money, but less obscene than I thought when at the start of the orgy, someone in our party summoned the sommelier and ordered him to choose for us "interesting wines" to pair with our 9 course meal. I was certain he'd sneak a legendary vintage (pre-war!) or a wine produced only from the vines that nurtured Mozart or Marie Antoinette or Bono. In the end, the wine bill turned out to be too reasonable, for a line of wines deep and delicious and nicely varied. However, for the price, the food was only so so. The Nova Scotia lobster was strangely chewy, but the oysters and caviar embodied the essences of oyster and caviar perfectly. The striped bass was salty, but the familiar duck foie gras a rich revelation nonetheless. The sweetbreads was nothing more than good, but the lamb was the best I've ever had. Consistent with the theme of the evening, the service was attentive but amateur, the young servers oddly nervous as they announced the ingredients of every course.

And so Jean-Georges remains safe on top of my list of upscale New York restaurants, with seafood-centric Le Bernardin a very close second. (Opera-related sidebar: on one occasion at Jean-Georges a few years back, I spotted from across the dining room the pretty Juan Diego Florez, who was then just wrapping up a successful run of La Cenerentola at the Met. After dinner, I introduced myself as a fan, and he was shocked speechless that someone actually recognized him. Fast forward, many high C's later: if he ever chooses to dine there again, I'm certain that Chef Vongerichten himself would come out of his kitchen to pay homage.)