176 Perry Street
New York, NY 10014
As of late, Myna and I have not been eating out much. Saving money, diets, planning trips, lack of time, marathoning Arrested Development on Netflix. All of these factors have reared their ugly heads. However, this past week was our anniversary and I was determined to add a blog post in celebration of it. I had some criteria. First, I didn't want to sell my car to pay for the meal. Second, I didn't want to be surrounded by tourists or businessmen using an expense account. Third, I didn't want to be told that I had to wear a jacket. It's ninety degrees out there, in case nobody told you. So I chose Perry Street, the Jean Georges Vongerichten restaurant spearheaded by his brother, Philippe.
For the record, I wore a jacket anyway. Because I'm not a bum who's afraid to show a little class.
Walking in past the unfortunate construction outside, you enter a spotless dining room of white leather, large windows, and clean lines. The lighting is right out of a Design Within Reach showroom and the booths were separated at birth from BoConcepts. You also might enter a very empty room. We arrived at 7pm and there were only two other tables occupied at the time. Admittedly, our anniversary happened to fall on a Monday but I was still surprised. It almost felt like we had walked into the Hotel Largo lounge before the mobsters showed up to wait out the hurricane. Eventually, seats filled up, but never to capacity. Still, the ambiance was just about perfect and the light European jazz music ensured that your conversation was never a public one.
Our dinner started with a round of cocktails and, after that, I ordered a glass of wine. Myna and I are trying desperately to be good and healthy people these days. An amuse bouche arrived. Very mild peppers in a balsamic sesame sauce. To die for. Amazing. Delicious. When I think about the kind of stuff that I'd want to serve at a dinner party for my friends who'd probably never appreciate it, this comes to mind. The cocktails were great too by the way. I ordered that tall Pimm's Cup you see there. Myna ordered the drink that appears to be a watered down highball but is actually a tropical milk drink. I'd tell you the name, but I took notes on my phone and just today it crashed. So... nope.
Myna ordered the Soft Shell Crab, served over a bed of sugar snap peas on a ring of sweet chili sauce. I have, until this moment disliked soft shelled crab. In fact, after she ordered and asked if I liked soft shelled crab (we share everything) and I told her not really, Myna, with agitation in her voice said "well had I known that, I'd have ordered something else!" Nope. If I only ordered what I already knew I liked, I'd only order bacon cheeseburgers and jalapeno poppers. I have enough friends as it is who only order the food that they're comfortable with. I can't go having a girlfriend who won't cross a bridge when her tongue demands it. And the crab was sickeningly good. Changed-my-mind-about-soft-shelled-crab good. Make-me-angry-at-the-other-chefs-who-made-it-for-me good. If you leave this review with nothing else, leave determined to eat this.
I ordered the Grilled Spanish Octopus. I can't seem to stop ordering octopus whenever I see it on a menu. It was served with baby potatoes, pickled peppers, and a heaping of dill over a hibiscus romanesco sauce. Myna loved it more than I did. I enjoyed it, but I found myself missing the char. I feel like char adds this little tinge of depth, especially with octopus. Octopus is almost like chicken. If it's made correctly, but no one does anything with it, then you really aren't tasting much. There has to be some burn to bring out its soul. So if when I find myself back at Perry Street, I might be the douchey customer asking the chef to make his dish differently. I know. Phillipe wants to stab me in the face for that. Oh well.
Entree time. Myna ordered the Maine Shellfish a la Plancha, green curry, cauliflower, shrimp, scallops, and jasmine rice. It was a dish that was described by our waitress as a Thai curry meets a seafood paella. I love Thai curry. I also love paella. How could this not be great?! Well, it wasn't quite the same. So, you know how when you get a paella the seafood and the sauce and the vegetables and the rice all sort of blend together into one cohesive stew of flavor? This was not quite that. This was closer to a Thai curry with seafood. The rice was off to the side, which was perfect from a diet standpoint (and it went uneaten... mostly) and the fish and veggies were all together in the green curry sauce. By no means think it wasn't tasty. It was tasty. It just wasn't paella tasty. Are you following?
I had to try the Grilled Loin and Crispy Leg of Rabbit. I mean come on. How could I not? Served with some legumes, some artichoke, and a little rabbit reduction this was very good. And unless you think of a poor wabbit being killed for dinner, this was a guiltless meal. It was so light as to be almost impossible to really describe. The au jus gave everything a density that the rabbit meat didn't and the artichoke gave it a sharp tang that played well with it. Rabbit isn't known for being the meatiest of animals, so I was half expecting to be given a bone with a nibble on it along with a bill for $40. Not so. In the end, even though the size on the plate of our dishes is something that Denny's would laugh at, I went into dessert already on the full side.
Do you remember how I said that we were trying to be healthy? Well, in that regard, we skipped over the cakes and pies and sorbets and ordered the Market Berries dessert to have our coffees with. It is what its name implies: a plate of mixed berries with a dollip of elderflower whipped cream under a few leaves of baby sorrel, the green leaves look like clover and taste like citrus. When I was a kid at camp, we'd sit under a tree in New Jersey and snack on them during the day. It's a good thing that poison ivy doesn't taste good. The coffee was extremely sweet. Myna and I theorize that the milk they gave us was condensed milk. This is popular in Europe, but to my tongue, which hasn't seen sugar in coffee since I was in college, it was hard to take down.
The staff at Perry Street - from the hostess who somehow knew that we were going to be customers, despite being on the corner at the time and were only walking down the block, the busboys who cleared the tables - was very nice. Not cold and emotionless robots the way they are at some high end restaurants. They smiled. They said hello and goodbye and "you should try the blahblahblah because we got a sample of it and it's amazing." And my God were they good with the timing. The second we licked one plate clean, the next plate was arriving. It was almost unfortunate. We couldn't linger.
In the end, our meal: two appetizers, two entrees, three drinks, two coffees, and a shared dessert, plus tax and tip came to about $240. I'm sure that had we had more to drink we'd be looking at $300 or so. Perry Street was a great restaurant, well worth its price-point, and you should probably go there.