Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The final birthday dinner: Burgers and cheese at Perry Street

For part of my birthday gift, the bro offered to take me out to dinner at a nice restaurant of my choosing. So last Sunday, we made our way to the West Village, venturing down quaint side streets to our ultimate destination by the West Side Highway: Perry Street.

In the evening light, the airy, minimalist dining room was splashed with sunshine, reminding me of the beautiful restaurant at the Hilton Auckland. We settled into the table and ordered drinks-- a glass of cava for me, a glass of sauvignon blanc for the bro. We're so sophisticated! As we pondered the menu, we munched on the bread, doled out by a stylish bread man. Although I didn't have high hopes for this bread, it turned out to taste better than it looked. Whereas it looked like a relatively flavorless thin-cut slice, it actually had a bit of sourdough tang and a serviceable crust. Still, I prefer my bread in a more interesting form-- a roll, focaccia, something of interest, you know what I mean?

Basic bread

Before our first courses arrived, we were given an amuse-bouche (this is a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, after all. We're in the big leagues now). It was a tiny white teacup filled with raspberry gazpacho, and it was surprisingly complex, with layers of raspberry and tomato flavors and a good kick of spice at the end.

Sweet 'n' tangy

On to our appetizers. I had attempted to order simply an appetizer for my entire meal, and when I did so, the server stared at me blankly for a few long seconds and then strongly advised me to order something else as well, so I caved to the pressure and ordered an appetizer. But my heart wasn't in it. The unfortunate appetizer for me was the "house-made mozzarella," with cherry tomatoes and lemon verbena. It was actually a good rendition of the classic caprese, with extra interest provided by the tasty crumbles in piles around the plate, but I didn't enjoy it as fully as I would have if my mind had been set on it. It's all about the mental outlook.

Tiny little bites

The bro's appetizer was the Japanese snapper sashimi, with "lemon, olive oil, crispy skin." He enjoyed this and gave an extra shout-out to his "tasty crumbles" (the crispy skin). Kudos to Perry Street for the textural enhancements-- they really added a lot to the dishes.

Pale pastels

Appetizers dispatched, we were ready for the big show. For the bro, the entree course was a cheeseburger. This was a monster burger with an absurdly well-sesame-seeded bun, complete with melted cheese, all the usual foliage, and even onion rings atop the burger. The accompanying fries were thin and crisp and very tasty. The bro named it "one of the better burgers I've had in a long time."

Check out all those sesame seeds!

My entree-- that is, what I actually wanted--was the frisee and Coach Farms goat cheese salad. This consisted of a tangle of frisee tossed in a goat-cheese dressing (the first time I've ever had flavorful frisee!) next to a tableau of sliced ripe peaches topped with pistachios, goat cheese crumbles, and candied wasabi. This dish was addictive and craveable, perfectly touching on all the key flavors-- sweet, savory, salty, spicy-- and all the key textures-- crunchy, creamy, tender. Delish.

Beautifully thought-out combination

Finally, we were on to dessert. The bro chose the twice-baked butter cookie with coconut cream, which ended up being a sort of upside-down open-faced cookie sandwich. I took a swipe of the coconut cream, which was interesting-- there were abundant shards of coconut right in the cream, which was a curious textural contrast to the smoothness of the cream.

With a ring of raspberries

My choice was the passion fruit sunflower, a gorgeous puddle of pastry cream topped with fresh passion fruit and dotted with tiny crisp meringue kisses around the perimeter. It was very sweet and very delicious. I'm beginning to really like this passion fruit-cream-meringue combo, Mr. Vongerichten, I really am...

Tasty and HAPPY!!

With that, we were out of there, ready to undertake the arduous task of attempting to hail a cab on the West Side Highway. As I'm begining to expect from JGV's restaurants, Perry Street was a solid four Offset Spatula destination, with very well exectued food and a smooth atmosphere (not to mention relatively reasonable prices, especially compared to his other restaurants). I'd definitely be back, even for a non-special occasion, although it was the perfect place to celebrate a birthday. Thanks bro!

Perry Street
176 Perry Street

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