Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A luxury hotel, dinner at Per Se, 'All That Jazz' and other superlatives

Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster at Per Se, which Chef Thomas Keller opened in 2004 as the New York interpretation of The French Laundry, his California restaurant.

Mediterranean Lubina or sea bass. Per Se's tasting menus use classic French techniques and what the restaurant calls the finest quality ingredients available.


After decades of visiting Manhattan and returning home to sleep, I spent a weekend at a luxury hotel and got to see the incredible island city from a well-heeled tourist's point of view.

We heard a small band and singer Petra Haden at a jazz concert, saw the musical "Chicago" on Broadway and had breakfast, lunch and dinner at four restaurants, all within walking distance of our West 57th Street hotel, the Park Hyatt New York, which is near Carnegie Hall.

The highlight was dinner on Sunday night at Per Se, the widely acclaimed restaurant where two can easily spend nearly $1,000 on dinner, and that doesn't include wine.

On the evening my wife and I visited, Per Se offered a 9-course Tasting of Vegetables for $310 per person, including service.

An 8-course Chef's Tasting Menu also was $310 per person, but extra charges for additional courses with caviar, foie gras, hand-cut pasta with black winter truffles and Wagyu beef would bring that to $650, again including the tip.

An 'affordable' side

But we saw a more affordable side of Per Se, which is on the third level of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. 

When the restaurant opens for dinner at 5:30 p.m., five tables are offered on a first-come, first-served basis in The Salon, where you can order some of the same tasting courses a la carte.

That's what we did on a rainy Sunday night, when we were the first to arrive and got what a staff member described as "the best seat in the house" -- a couch behind a long table with a bird's-eye view of Manhattan at night.

The food, including the bread, was simply the best we have ever had. And the service from a large, young staff was nearly flawless.

As you'd imagine at an expensive restaurant, the food is rich, even when it is made with only a little butter and cream, two ingredients I usually try to avoid.

We ordered one salad and two tasting courses -- all beautifully composed -- a glass of Bordeaux and coffee for a total of $130.

Still, with complimentary small bites to start the meal, wonderful bread, and white chocolate and other sweets at the end, we were both stuffed.

Our meal at Per Se started with complimentary small bites, above and below. These orbs were stuffed with warm Gruyere Cheese, which melted in our mouths.

Cornets of Salmon were filled with cream.

Per Se bakes its own bread twice a night. These wonderfully crusty rolls were served with two kinds of extra-virgin olive oil from Tuscany and butter.
A Salad of Slow Roasted Green Garlic at Per Se. The cloves melted in my mouth.

Per Se serves lunch

When I said I couldn't imagine how anyone could finish eight or more courses at dinner, our server told us Per Se now serves smaller tasting menus at lunch, but only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

A 5-course tasting menu at lunch is $205 per person.

On Sunday evening, after we were seated on a comfortable couch and offered a choice of still or sparkling water, the first surprise is that Per Se doesn't offer a green salad.

So from The Salon menu, I ordered a Salad of Slow Roasted Green Garlic with Hard Boiled Squire Hill Farm's Hen Egg, French Potato Puree, Pearl Onions and Nasturtium Caper Vinaigrette ($30).

My entree was Mediterranean Lubina -- a farmed European sea bass -- which wore a Sweet Pepper "Barbajuan" like a top hat and came with Marinated Fennel, Cerignola Olives and Saffron "Beurre Blanc" ($36).

My wife's selection, Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster, was made with Anson Mills' Blue Barley, Caramelized Salsify Root, Brussels Sprouts, Glazed Pearl Onions and Red Wine Vinegar Sauce ($40).

I ordered a glass of Morgon for $19, the least expensive available, and a Cafe Latte for $5, for a total of $130. 

We were presented with a hand-written bill for $141.54, including tax of $11.54. I added an optional gratuity of $10.

I toasted Manhattan with a glass of Morgon. Our hotel, the Park Hyatt New York, is in the tall, black building, center.

The Salon is outside the main, two-level dining room at Per Se, rear. We were told there are 19 tables in the main room, which filled up quickly on the night we were there.

Tables in The Salon are romantically lit, and the food is guaranteed to seduce you.

When we declined dessert, including a 5-course tasting menu for $70, our server said we had to end our meal on a sweet note, and brought out this complimentary selection, which included white chocolate and caramels.

I ordered a Cafe Latte ($5).

The entrance to Per Se on the third level of the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

Per Se, 10 Columbus Circle at 60th Street, in the Time Warner Center, New York, N.Y.; 1-212-823-9335.

Our king-bedded standard room at the Park Hyatt New York included a large bathroom with a heated natural stone floor, stand-alone tub, walk-in shower and twin sinks, below.

The room also had automated drapes and gauzy curtains, an iPad, flat-screen TV and a large, standalone bar with espresso machine and refrigerated drawer stocked with champagne, water and soft drinks. A half-bottle of Krug Champagne was listed on the bar menu for $180. The room service menu offered a bagel with a schmear for $8.

A remote control turns on a television in the bathroom's electric mirror.

Luxury for free

We received two free nights at the Park Hyatt New York, where the average daily rate is $675, after we spent $1,000 on the Hyatt Credit Card.

I applied for the no-fee credit card in December 2013, when we booked our rooms at the Hyatt Regency Montreal for the 2014 International Jazz Festival, and won the reward with that reservation.

At the Park Hyatt, our room on the 12th floor didn't have a view, but we were completely isolated from traffic noise and car horns.

We especially enjoyed the quiet, and soaking in the large stand-alone bathtub. We checked in on Saturday and checked out on Monday morning.

The modern luxury hotel opened in August on West 57th Street, across the street from the Russian Tea Room and near Carnegie Hall at the corner of 7th Avenue.

The entrance to the Park Hyatt New York on West 57th Street in Manhattan.

The Park Hyatt New York occupies the lower 25 of 90 stories in what is said to be -- at the moment -- the tallest residential building in Manhattan.

Park Hyatt New York, 153 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y.; 1-646-774-1234

Next: Landmarc Restaurant,
Cafe Europa and Le Pain Quotidien 


  1. Wow, you only tipped $10 on $130 meal??? You mention the service was excellent, and yet you tipped less than 10%.

    If you can't afford to tip properly, I suggest finding somewhere less expensive to eat. Food servers work incredibly hard, if you receive good service you should tip accordingly. Anything less than 15% for good service is unacceptable.

    Shame on you.

    1. The prices include the tip. I added $10 to the gratuity.


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