Knives Out: Per Se Gets a Dressing Down

In 2004, Thomas Keller, the American chef best known for his landmark restaurant The French Laundry, opened Per Se in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. Per Se is the East Coast version of Keller’s famed Napa Valley restaurant. The New York Times named Per Se the best restaurant in New York in 2011. The three Michelin star property features a nine-course tasting menu and an award-winning wine list. Per Se is currently the third most expensive restaurant in the world, with the average guest spending $851.


According to the food critic Pete Wells, with each review, a restaurant needs to earn its stars again. In a recent New York Times review, Wells claimed Per Se struggled to live up to its lofty expectations. Mediocrity had crept into one of the country’s best restaurant like a New York City rat. Wells called Per Se “respectably dull.” Wells downgraded Per Se from a four star restaurant to a two star restaurant. For a dining establishment that once brought in a ballet dancer to teach servers how to slip around tables, losing two stars is unthinkable.


As a food critic, Pete Wells is known for his brutal honesty and colorful rhetoric. His reviews have flair and could never be described as “respectably dull.” But are they accurate? In a 2012 review of Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar, in Times Square, Wells took the knives out and delivered one of the most scathingly entertaining restaurant reviews of all time. While the review was entertaining, some people thought it was unfair. His critique of Thomas Keller’s fine dinning beacon has also come under fire. Nevertheless, New York has a rich history of dinning establishments getting a dressing down. Even French laundry gets dirty.


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