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Thomas Keller’s Per Se is an iconic New York culinary institution. As one of the “elite six” (the restaurants in the five boroughs that have received coveted Michelin three-star status), status), Per Se usually hovers near the top of any critic’s “best of” list (it was number nine on The Daily Meal’s 2015 ranking of the 101 Best Restaurants in America.
But even the best can fall. Per Se has suffered a surprising blow from New York Times critic Pete Wells, who just docked the restaurant two stars in a follow-up to Sam Sifton’s 2011 glowing, three-star review. His overall experience suffered from “the slow creep of mediocrity and missed cues during a four-hour dinner.”
Much of the review was full of stark criticism and disappointed descriptions that contrasted with the Per Se experience of yesteryear. With phrases like, “A lukewarm matsutake mushroom bouillon as murky and appealing as bong water,” and “Per Se is among the worst food deals in New York,” it’s a wonder that Wells even awarded Thomas Keller’s landmark restaurant as much as two stars.
However, it was not just the dishes that disappointed Wells. He also seemed puzzled by the lack of flawless service usually associated with a $3,000 dinner for four. “When one of my guests didn’t like a sample of a red being offered by the glass, the sommelier decided to argue, defending his choice instead of pouring something new,” he observes.
All in all, Wells concludes, “it’s possible to pass an entire meal in this no-fun house without a single unpleasant incident apart from the presentation of the check,” but, he said, it does not seem worth it anymore.