For those who think that MagoGuide was too negative concerning Imperial and Willamette Week’s review of that restaurant (see Imperial: The Emperor Has No Clothes), you should take a look at Pete Wells’ recent evisceration of Thomas Keller’s Per Se in the New York Times (see At Thomas Keller’s Per Se, Slips and Stumbles on Jan. 12). Now we have had our differences with the Grey Lady in the past and will surely continue to in the future, but Team Mago knows a good review when we read it. Unless Wells is lying in just about every sentence in his review, he has just gut punched the second best restaurant on the planet and seriously damaged Keller’s culinary halo.
The number two in the world ranking is courtesy of the French “algorithm that quantifies the epicurean pleasure experienced by critics and diners” to produce La Liste of the 1,000 best restaurants in the world. But we have taunted the socialist corporatist clique that produced that mammoth burst of flatulence masquerading as a restaurant guide in our Imperial review. I only bring up the source of Per Se’s Olympic status to reiterate that only anonymous reviews serve the dining public.
Wells’ visits to Per Se must have been anonymous in order to undergo such experiences. This fact actually is the most damning thing about the review; not that mediocre food and indifferent service were the norm at a famous and hugely expensive establishment, but that no one at Per Se figured out over multiple meals that they were being reviewed by the New York Times. Chef Keller must be phoning it in from an alternative universe to have delegated the running of his east coast flagship to such morons. All Per Se needs to make its denouement complete is a visit from Mr. Creosote.
Even more interesting than Wells’ diffident hit job, however, are the comments by diners and ex-staff, most of which are laudatory concerning the review and scathing with respect to the food and service at Per Se (as well as Keller’s other gourmet temple, The French Laundry). I can only conclude by endorsing a reader who declared: “At least Mr. Keller’s restaurants are egalitarian towards its customers in that a writer from the New York Times and two middle-class folks saving up for a once in a lifetime dining experience received the same poor value.” Wells can obviously take care of himself, but MagoGuide is and always will be dedicated to those who can least afford poor value for their dining ducats.
Editor’s note: the first two photo captions in this post are quoted in semi-amalgamated form from Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote sketch, a video review of expensive haute cuisine restaurants for the ages.