Per Se is one of the most well-regarded restaurants in New York City.
It’s also one of the most expensive.
New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells points out in his most recent review of the restaurant that when it opened in 2004, nine courses cost $150 plus tax and tip. Today, a meal costs $325, including tip. According to Wells, that price tag might not be worth it. In fact, he writes that “Per Se is among the worst food deals in New York.”
Wells determined that Per Se in its current incarnation receives only two out of four available stars, halving the rating his predecessor Sam Sifton bestowed in 2011. Two stars indicate “very good” as compared to “extraordinary” expressed by four.
Wells was underwhelmed by both the service and some of the cuisine, and baffled by the optional gratuity line on the check, which makes it somewhat unclear whether service is included. Per Se made headlines in July when it paid $500,000 to members of its waitstaff after a 2013 investigation found it had withheld tips.
Even the dishes Wells liked most caused him to balk at the price. He writes:
More familiar, but just as transporting, was the risotto, supersaturated with brown butter and creamy Castelmagno cheese. A server appeared with a wooden box and a shaver, and the plate momentarily disappeared under a rain of white truffles. A few minutes later, even more truffles poured down.
Both dishes, though, came at an extra charge: $75 more for the caviar and $175 for the risotto. The supplements at Per Se can cause indignation, among other emotions. When my server asked, “Would you like the foie gras” — $40 more — “or the salad?,” the question had an air of menace. When the salad turned out to be a pale, uncrisp fried eggplant raviolo next to droopy strips of red pepper and carrot, it felt like extortion.
Some of those prices came down slightly when the baseline cost went up. With or without supplemental charges, though, Per Se is among the worst food deals in New York.