Friday, March 4, 2011

Perry Street

On a snowy afternoon, I hopped in a cab and zoomed down the West Side highway to meet Chelsea for our weekly lunch, this week at Perry Street. One of Jean-George Vongerichten's many eateries, Perry Street is located in the West Village and serves primarily contemporary American cuisine.

After battling with the impossibly heavy front door, I walked into the light, airy dining room and was promptly seated. Although it was 12:30, there were only one or two other tables occupied, but the quiet was actually refreshing for me since I'd only gotten out of bed an hour before. Chelsea was running a little late, which was fine since it allowed me to enjoy the view and ambiance (and my champagne cocktail). Now, you'd think that because Perry Street is located directly on the West Side Highway that there wouldn't be much of a view, but with the wall of West-facing windows, it was all too easy to overlook the busy highway and gaze instead at the lovely water view right across it. The few inches of snow we'd gotten the night before actually added to the serene atmosphere since the whiteness outside enhanced the mostly-white dining room.

Since it was still technically morning for me, I was really in the mood for breakfast. I'm not really a coffee drinker so I ordered a berry blini instead and happily sipped away until Chelsea arrived. We were presented with a brunch menu which featured their Winter Promotion menu: 3 courses for $26. Now, if I were an egg-eater my perfect meal would have been an appetizer of their Buttermilk Pancakes with mixed berries and maple syrup and an entree of a Spinach and Goat Cheese Omelette with crunchy potatoes. Sadly, since I don't like eggs, I was left with only lunch entree choices. Although Chelsea's suggestion that I order breakfast and lunch (aka the pancake appetizer and a lunch entree) all in one sitting was tempting, I just didn't think I was up for so many carbs quite yet. Instead, I went with an Arugula and Boston lettuce salad to start, followed by a Char-Grilled Cheeseburger. Real light item, I know. But are you sensing the pattern here? If there's a cheeseburger on the menu, I usually can't help but order it. After all, a great cheeseburger can be hard to find. This weakness is why I could never be a vegetarian.

My view of the bar

Once Chelsea had arrived (and also ordered a blini) we made our menu selections. Chelsea started her meal with Squash Soup which smelled delicious as it made its way to our table. They settled a bowl in front of her filled with Mimolette cheese and other garnishes and proceeded to pour the soup tableside, which I think is a nice touch. My salad arrived in a giant, angled bowl just brimming with arugula. It was already dressed (a little heavily) with a spicy mustard vinaigrette, and I tossed it around a little before beginning. Although it was described as an arugula and Boston lettuce salad, it was very heavy on the arugula and very light on the lettuce, a disproportionate combination that became overwhelming. The combination of the arugula and spicy mustard was very strong, but the few bites of lettuce helped soften the flavors. The salad proportion was huge though, and given the very peppery flavors, I only finished about a third of it.

I tried a spoonful of Chelsea's soup which was utterly divine. It was rich and creamy and very flavorful. There was a little hint of spice and some great crunchy texture thanks to a garnish of toasted seeds. After our appetizers, our entrees arrived and I was so very thankful I hadn't filled up on my salad. My cheeseburger was topped with lettuce, pickles (which tasted housemade), a bright red slice of tomato (which I removed) and the crowning glory: a lightly fried onion ring. I slathered on some ketchup and dug right in.

Although I had ordered it well-done (standard for all my burgers) it was still flavorful and tender, not dry. The bun was beautifully soft and all the garnishes came together to form the perfectly balanced bite. I sort of lost the flavor of the meat due to all the other competing elements, but all in all it was definitely a great way to start my day. And a great burger. The accompanying french fries were also delicious: hot, thin, and crispy.

Chelsea ordered the Ginger Rice Bowl which was accompanied by a crispy poached egg, pickled chilies, and scallions. The poached egg was genius: it looked like after poaching, it had been breaded lightly and quickly fried. I was a little too focused on stuffing my face to sample her entree or ask her how it was, but like mine, her plate was practically licked clean, so I think it's safe to say that she enjoyed it.

For dessert we were given just two options: Carrot Cake or Molten Chocolate Cake. We each ordered one knowing we would share (especially because Chelsea follows a Gluten-free diet so we knew there were elements to both she wouldn't be able to eat).

The molten chocolate cake

I wish I had a shot of the delicious chocolate batter that oozed out once I broke this open with my fork but alas, I was too busy eating. The outer layer of chocolate cake was light and a little crispy and the interior was warm, intensely chocolatey, and the perfect molten texture. This was served with vanilla ice cream which Chelsea enjoyed heartily. Now, about the Carrot Cake...

Yes, I forgot and started eating it before snapping this picture

I'm not sure you can tell by this picture, but that cake over there was pink, not orange. That's because although this was touted as "Carrot Cake" it was something much more unique. The main element consisted of a thin layer of what tasted like traditional carrot cake, topped with a much thicker layer of Cassis mousse. The ice cream was ginger-flavored and the little yellow heart is actually made up of slices of poached pears. As I'm not a big fan of ginger, the ice cream wasn't my favorite, but on their own, each other element was quite successful. The Cassis mousse had a great flavor and texture, and the carrot cake layer was also good on its own. But together, they just didn't do it for me. Transforming carrot cake into an asian-inspired dessert isn't a total stretch, but the combination of cassis and carrot just wasn't quite right; The cassis was too overwhelming and seemed at odds with the nuttier, more substantial cake layer beneath it.  

And since you know I'm a stickler for service, aside from the awkward entrance in which I struggled to open the door and the host and hostess simply looked at me pityingly, the service was great. It was prompt but well timed, attentive but not smothering. Overall, it was a lovely little lunch with the trifecta: Great ambiance, good food, and good service. Oh, and of course, my great date!
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