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Dining at Perilla and Other Top Chefs' Restaurants: Finally, we get to try their food!


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#1

PMS Babe

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Posted May 10, 2007 @ 9:05 AM

Okay, so I thought with Harold's Perilla opening this week, plus Sam, Dave Martin, Steven, Josie, Tiffany, Betty etc either already working in or opening restaurants soon, that it would be fun to have a thread for people who've eaten in the Top Chef restaurants.

And maybe we could include posts by people who've eaten in the restaurants of Top Chef judges as well (We recently ate at Eric Ripert's Le Bernadin, which we tried because of Top Chef, and which was truly a perfect meal, and we love Craft).

Keckler I hope that adding a thread is okay. I've never done it before.

Anyway, I'm fired up to do it because my husband and I ate at Perilla last night! Here is my brief overview.

Perilla is near our apartment in New York City (Yay!), so we walked there. Jones Street, where it's located, is a quiet one block long mostly residential street, which is bookeneded by the much busier Bleecker and West Fourth streets. It was a nice night, and we held hands on our way there -- our excitement rising as we neared the restaurant.

When we arrived the place was pretty packed (especially considering that this was only the third day they'd "officially" been open). There were three or four empty tables, one of which went to a couple who had walked up behind us without a reservation. I think most people had reservations.

Because this was Perilla's opening week, there was a small card tacked to the menus which said that for their first week they were giving ten percent off the bills, since they were still getting things together. They said that they would appreciate feedback at the end of the meal about how they were doing. I thought that this was really cool. Humility and the willingness to improve buy a lot of grace with me. Although they honestly didn't need it. Things seemed to be running quite smoothly as far as we could tell.

The decor: The restaurant, as you've seen in photos linked to Harold's thread is long and thin. With a very long cool bar. The decor is modern: White walls, with dark brown trim. There are three round, kind of groovy looking banquettes with orange seat backs. The tables themselves are all made of striped brown and black wood. They do not use table clothes so you see the wood --which blends nicely with all the orange and brown. Over the round banquettes are hanging lamps with shades like the kind you'd find on endtable lamps. The overall effect is a clean modern look but at the same time hip and funky.

Dishes, silver and glasswear are all large and modern.

The staff: The staff were very nice. I was wondering if they'd be all downtown hipster-y, with attitude, but they weren't like that at all.The hostesses were really friendly as was our server. And they obviously tried very hard to make our experience a special one. Our water was refilled constantly. Seriously, we'd take two sips and there'd be someone at our table refilling it again.

Harold came out from the kitchen briefly a couple of times while we were there -- to check out what was going on and to say hello to people he knew. He was friendly and approachable, but couldn't stay out very long because he had a lot of cooking to do.

The customers: When we were there, there was an interesting mix of people, mostly dressed in nice casual clothing. There were a couple of tables of young attractive women, who'd all started nudging each other whenever Harold would enter the room. (amusingly, he seemed totally oblivious to it). There were some straight couples and some gay couples - ranging in age from their mid-twenties to their mid-fifties. There were a couple of bigger groups of people, a woman by herself who seemed to be writing a restaurant review. (Which made us think "hey maybe when we go to restaurants we should pretend we're writing a review!"). I think there was also a table or two of tourists. There were a lot of people at the bar as well.

The vibe was very fun and friendly, we ended up talking to the people at the two tables next to us and noticed that other tables were mingling as well. One of the men at the table next to us even offered to let us sample what he had ordered. We were very tempted, but I felt too guilty to take away some of his yummy food!

Which brings us to...the food!

Yum! I don't have a menu so I can't give you full descriptions, but this is what I remember:

The meal started with some tasty simple bread and a dish for dipping what may have been the best olive oil I have ever tasted. I actually want to find out the brand.

Then for appetizers I had the yam gnocchi with spicy duck meatballs and a small quail egg (which judging from the photos in Time Out yesterday, seems like it may be a signature dish for the restaurant). My husband had a salad with cheese and pear. Both dishes were really flavorful. (I think the gnocchi trumped the salad though). Our neighbors had a Peekytoe crab salad which I was lusting over, and the raw hamatchi tuna with avocado, which they raved about.

For main dishes, I had the chicken with Japanese sausage with mushrooms and some kind of green vegetable., which was truly heavenly. I was literally scraping the sauce off my plate when I'd finished. My husband had the fiddlehead fern ravioli with shaved truffles. It was scrumptious. (hey you could put truffles on pretty much anything and I'd be happy). This course was a tie. Both dishes were really amazing.

We ordered two sides, although we really didn't need that much food, just because they sounded good. Husband had a risotto, I had spaghetti squash with nuts in it. (Risotto trumped squash).

The dessert menu, which had the name of the pastry chef on it (because hey, as we remember from the show, Harold is not a dessert guy), had a lot of very unusual dishes on it. I had a sticky coconut cake (sort of a pyramid shaped soft macaroon )which came with a small portion of watermelon salad and some Perilla flavored ice cream. I'm a coconut lover, so I was really into it. Mr. PMS Babe (ha, I've never said that before!) had donuts with sorbet. (sorry I can't remember the specific flavors involved. But the donuts didn't look donutty, they were small squares instead.) I thought the coconut dish won this round. But my husband doesn't like coconut so he wouldn't try it.

At the end of the meal, our server brought us two homemade marshmallows with bits of dried fruit in them. With the bill, was a little comment form to fill out, so they would know what their patrons felt was working and not working about the restaurant.

Overall, I'd say the decor and vibe was casual friendly hip, and the food was on a par with what you'd get in some of New York's top "foodie" restaurants. The prices were not cheap, but definitely a lot more reasonable than at most of the restaurants whose food I'd compare Harold's to.

Overall, it was a really great experience. And we're definitely excited to have Perilla in our neighborhood! (if we can get future reservations, my diet is so friggin' screwed...)

Edited to ask: Er,... how do I change the title of this thread? I put the apostrophe in the wrong place. (It should be "Chefs'" not "Chef's"). Thanks!

Edited by PMS Babe, May 10, 2007 @ 9:20 AM.

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#2

safranal moeity

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Posted May 10, 2007 @ 10:48 AM

Thanks for that lovely review PMS Babe!!! There was never any doubt in my mind that Harold would put out great food once he got started with the restaurant -- he and Stephen won me over completely last year at the Tribeca dinner. I think they're both headed towards success, and perhaps a great deal of it.

It's great to hear that the fiddlehead fern ravioli went over so well; during the past live chat with Harold back in early April (hosted by a TC blog site) he mentioned that he was still trying to decide which vegetarian dish to put on the menu. He went through the names of 3 different dishes and when the fiddlehead fern description came up I had to pop in and say that as a great fan (and consumer) of vegetarian meals I'd be really pleased to see that on any menu, and I think some others in the chat seemed equally impressed by that one in particular. So it amused me to see it on the menu, and fantastic to hear that you tried it and enjoyed it!

Edited by safranal moeity, May 10, 2007 @ 10:50 AM.

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#3

PMS Babe

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Posted May 10, 2007 @ 1:35 PM

Safranal,

Wasn't that Tribeca Grill dinner with LeeAnne, Harold and Steven a blast? I've eaten at some major restaurants in the past year (Per Se, etc) but I'd still say that was my favorite meal of the year. Amazing food, amazing wine and soooo much fun! That whole bit where we had to guess who cooked which courses was great. Too bad we didn't meet there!

I had originally been hoping Drew N. would do a dinner for the second season as well. But it was probably for the best that he didn't. If they had done one and then had served as much wine as we had last time (thank you Steven!) I might have started booing when a certain season two winner came out for his accolades. Hey, I'm just saying...

AnywayI had so much fun reviewing that dinner and reading every one else's reviews of it (on that old TC thread) that I thought it would be fun to get to hear about everyone's more recent Top Chef related dining experiences.

According to Zagat.com Dave's version of Lola opens the end of this month and Sam's Lower Eastside restaurant soon after. Sam's seems like it would be more to my tastes foodwise than Dave's (I'm not big on Cajun which I think is what he's doing). A friend of mine recently ate at the restaurant that hired Josie. I forget its name but she thought the food was very good.
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#4

LizDC

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Posted May 10, 2007 @ 10:11 PM

From New York Magazine about Harold's restaurant:

'Top Chef' Winner Finally Gets in the Game

Dinner and Dessert Menus

Edited by LizDC, May 10, 2007 @ 10:11 PM.

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#5

Rai

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Posted May 10, 2007 @ 10:53 PM

For some reason, I find it adorable that he has his sunchoke creamed spinach on the menu. I've been wondering how that tasted ever since the Napa Valley episode.

Also, on the dessert menu, there is a dish with a foam. TAKE THAT, SEASON TWO!
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#6

sleepingruby

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Posted May 11, 2007 @ 2:59 AM

Excellant review PMS Babe, as someone who'll probably never get to go to any of the Top Chef's restaurants I really appreciate being able to read about other people's experience and opinions of them. Of course I'm not at all surprised to read such postive things about Perilla, I never doubted that Harold's restaurant would be fabulous.
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#7

Fukui San

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Posted May 11, 2007 @ 10:06 AM

So I went to Alan Wong's (Season 2 finale judge) in Honolulu during my recent vacation. First of all, it was in a pretty nondescript area, which I was not expecting. I was surprised when Chez Panisse was in a pretty run down area because of it's reputation, and Alan Wong's was the same. Also, the elevator was broken, so we had to hike up five flights to the restaurant! But once we did, the meal was fantastic. It had a nice view of Honolulu, which was only OK because Honolulu is a surprisingly drab looking city.

There are 5 and 7 course tasting menus which looked great, but we decided that that would be too pricey, so we ordered two appetizers and two entrees. The first appetizer was "Chinatown Roast Duck Nachos" which was as good as it sounds, with duck, avacado, and taro chips. A highlight was "Da Bag", which was Kalua Pig, clams, spinach, and shiitake mushrooms in broth enclosed in a foil bag which inflates when baked. The server brought an enormous jiffy-pop type bag to the table and breaks it open on the table to assault you with the aroma. Mild but very tasty.

For entrees I had the Ginger Crusted Long-Tail Red Snapper, which had some zing due to the ginger and miso vinaigrette. My wife had Mochi Crusted Opakapaka, which was odd because the crust was very chewy. Interesting, though. It came with a nice mushroom risotto.

Finally, we ordered for dessert five spoonfuls of creme brulée, each served in Stephen's favorite: the Chinese soup spoon. The flavors were chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, passion fruit, and orange zest. My favorite was orange zest, my wife liked the passion fruit, but they were all good. Another highlight for certain.

Also, Alan Wong's has a huge selection of drinks. Not just alcohol, but a seriously thorough selection of teas and especially coffees that could occupy a sommelier. We ended up buying some bags of his private reserve coffee for gifts. Anyway, this is highly recommended for anyone who visits Hawaii.

By the way, speaking of foam, after Hawaii my vacation took me to Shanghai where I visited my sister and we had the most Top Chef/Iron Chef style dinner in my life. Foams, gelees, fussy little trios and quartets. The place was Mimosa Supper Club, where if you order tuna you get three variations of tuna in tasting menu portions. The place was wonderful, luxurious, creative, thoughtful, in a stunning setting... and almost entirely empty. Apparently great food wasn't enough to get Shanghai's foodies to the outskirts of town on a regular basis no matter how nice the food was. It's the type of place I picture Stephen opening, thinking that the people will come to him if the food is good enough. As far as I can tell, it's being done in entirely because of location and maybe price. Very sad, because the food was great.
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#8

roorooby

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Posted May 11, 2007 @ 2:39 PM

I love this. PMSBabe, thank you so much for the review. I'm going to see if I can get reservations for Lola for my mom's birthday at the end of the month and reservations at Perilla for some friends that are leaving town. Do you think it would be very hard? I didn't see a wine list; do you think they'd permit BYOB (I gave a friend a special bottle recently)? Should I hurry before those reviews from the critics at the restaurant with you hit the street?

There's also a mention of Sam (S2), for anyone hanging out on the LES.

And how do you find out about these things so fast? I had no clue whatsoever that LeeAnn and Harold and Steven were doing something special at Tribeca Grill.

Edited by roorooby, May 11, 2007 @ 2:51 PM.

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#9

betha

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Posted May 11, 2007 @ 3:47 PM

I was just in Las Vegas, and noticed that Elia is working at THECafe in THEHotel (those names are so silly). They had a posterboard of her outside the cafe, but we had already eaten so didn't try it. Has anyone eaten there since she has worked there?
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#10

PMS Babe

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Posted May 11, 2007 @ 10:33 PM

I love this. PMSBabe, thank you so much for the review. I'm going to see if I can get reservations for Lola for my mom's birthday at the end of the month and reservations at Perilla for some friends that are leaving town. Do you think it would be very hard? I didn't see a wine list; do you think they'd permit BYOB (I gave a friend a special bottle recently)? Should I hurry before those reviews from the critics at the restaurant with you hit the street?

There's also a mention of Sam (S2), for anyone hanging out on the LES.

And how do you find out about these things so fast? I had no clue whatsoever that LeeAnn and Harold and Steven were doing something special at Tribeca Grill.


It was my pleasure to share it. Dinner was really fun and I enjoyed reliving it while I wrote it. I'm hoping we'll go back soon!


I think reservations will be difficult but hopefully not impossible. Perilla has had a ton of press this week about the opening, so they are probably pretty packed. Some friends of ours are going Saturday so I'll ask them. Usually if you're willing to eat early or late at a restaurant your chances improve.

And as for the Tribeca Grill dinner, I actually read/learned about it on here! One of the many things I love about the tv without pity boards (well actually the main thing) is that the people on here are really sharp. Both smart and well informed, so you learn a lot/get a lot of dirt!

Edited by PMS Babe, May 11, 2007 @ 10:42 PM.

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#11

carmelized

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Posted May 12, 2007 @ 9:11 AM

PMS Babe. I'd like to add my thanks for the great review of Perilla. Ever since the first season, I felt that Harold had it in him to have a wonderful restaurant. I'm glad he has lived up to the promise he showed. I'm saving for a vacation right now, but I'd like to go to Perilla in autumn for my wedding anniversary. It sounds like I should call at least a month in advance for reservations!
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#12

LizDC

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Posted May 16, 2007 @ 9:49 AM

Bravo's Andy ate at Perilla

ETA: Oops! No editorial statement intended.

Edited by LizDC, May 16, 2007 @ 11:14 PM.

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#13

LogCabinPat

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Posted May 16, 2007 @ 1:02 PM

[color="#990000"]Barvo's Andy ate at Perilla[/color]

OMG, I read that as Barfo's Andy, and I thought you were making an editorial statement.
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#14

porkchop1

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Posted May 16, 2007 @ 11:09 PM

Andy now has a "filter" on his blog that prevents any posts that are deemed "malicious". I wonder if Bravo will be doing the same for TWoP?

Edited by porkchop1, May 20, 2007 @ 11:41 AM.

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#15

SilverPoet

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Posted May 19, 2007 @ 11:31 PM

I would hope not, the exodus would be fairly immediate I would guess.

Thanks for starting this thread! I love reading what people actually thought of the real cooking. That's the one missing element of the show, because you can't reach through the television and eat the cooking! Harold sounds just like he was on the show; a class act.
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#16

lizzlecc

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Posted May 20, 2007 @ 4:00 PM

Has anyone had Harold's mortadella sandwich at Wichcraft SF? I just looked at their menu and didn't see it listed. I might have misunderstood the challenge and it was only meant to be included for a short time, but I felt it was implied it would be a permanent addition... or maybe the online menu is just incomplete? At any rate, I love mortadella and would love to hear how it tasted.

I know Betty's sandwich is still on the TGIFriday's menu. However, about that, I do not care.
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#17

Matt Schantz

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Posted May 20, 2007 @ 10:24 PM

I was @ 'wichcraft SF fairly recently, and I scanned the menu looking for a sandwich featuring sunchokes (as Harold's did); I didn't see one, nor did I see any menu items shouting "AS SEEN ON TOP CHEF" or anything like that. I had the slow-roasted pork on ciabatta and it was the bomb.
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#18

porkchop1

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Posted May 21, 2007 @ 12:21 AM

What is happening? Top Chefs losing their jobs/future positions? Tiffani gone from Riche. Sam breaking off from his partners at Spitzers. And now Dave no longer with Lola. It's been a strange month.
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#19

PMS Babe

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Posted May 21, 2007 @ 1:43 PM

Porkchop1-

Where did you hear/rea that about Dave parting ways from Lola?
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#20

Flamm

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Posted May 21, 2007 @ 1:52 PM

I saw it here, PMS Babe. No details, though. Maybe porkchop1 has more info.

Edited by Flamm, May 21, 2007 @ 1:52 PM.

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#21

grillboy

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Posted May 21, 2007 @ 5:51 PM

I was the one who broke the story. I spoke with Gayle (Lola) by e-mail over the weekend asking her if she had a fixed opening date as I was looking forward to Dave's cooking. She responded that they are on track for the end of the month (I was inside of the restaurant about a week ago, would be surprised if they are open by June 1st). Gayle wrote me back that unfortunately I won't be tasting Dave's food as they made a change in the kitchen but she was looking forward to opening.

I met Gayle a few months ago when I first stopped in Lola and it was bare plywood. I missed seeing Dave that day as he was out to lunch (do what you want with that line...)

That's the scoop.

Grillboy
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#22

PMS Babe

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Posted May 21, 2007 @ 7:08 PM

Wow, straight from the horse's mouth, thanks Grillboy (not to imply that you have anything in common with a horse, of course!)

I wonder why he dropped out. Do you think it was because it was their vision and not his? Boy him and Sam in one week -- and ironically the week after Perilla opened. Strange...
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#23

grillboy

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Posted May 21, 2007 @ 8:30 PM

When I ate at Perilla for a pre-opening meal, Harold told me that Dave was having trouble getting his liquor license.........
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#24

porkchop1

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Posted May 22, 2007 @ 2:43 AM

PMS,
My source is the same as Flamm's. No additional info.
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#25

dolcepienza

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Posted May 22, 2007 @ 6:49 AM

I know Betty's sandwich is still on the TGIFriday's menu.


Another great reason not to go to TGIF ...

Too bad about Dave's restaurant. His mac and cheese with truffle on the bottom was the single most yummy sounding food on either season to me -- I love truffles.
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#26

PMS Babe

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Posted May 22, 2007 @ 7:26 AM

Grillboy-

That is so sad for Dave (and us). I've heard it's really hard to get a liqueur license in NYC. Although didn't Lola have one from before, or was this a new locaton for them?

When you have time, could you tell us about your Perilla meal? Did you like it? How did you end up getting to go before it opened?

My husband and I went and I can't wait to go back.

Edited by PMS Babe, May 22, 2007 @ 7:28 AM.

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#27

Lbow

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Posted May 22, 2007 @ 11:24 AM

I had the pleasure of eating at Perilla last Thursday night.

I went in, as most T.C. loyalists would, with really high expectations. The ample staff was really sweet and together — like previous posters have mentioned, they were extremely hop-to. My boyfriend and I shared freshly seasoned scallops to start. They were small, but the slight citrus infusion really filled out the flavor. The wine list was well-tailored and whatever brand beer my boyfriend had was good too. For entrees, my boyfriend got the rack of lamb, which he said was great, and I got the special that day: soft-shell crabs with a corn mash. It was prepared perfectly.

The big thing I was excited about was, of course, the sunchoke creamed spinach. I'm not a big steak-lover, so I asked the server if there was any way we could get the spinach as a side. He said that was somewhat unprecedented, so went to the back to check with Harold. (I'm not going to lie, I was really excited about this conversation-with-Harold-via-proxy). He returned to say that the chef would be fine with preparing it as a side. Thanks, Harold! The French chef who complained at Harold's decision to eschew dairy just had a chip on his shoulder... it tasted amazing.

The meal was really one of the most flavorful I've had in a while and though it was slightly expensive, the freshness and quality of the ingredients more than justified the cost. I really thought my hopes were too high, but Perilla definitely delivered.

Edited by Lbow, May 22, 2007 @ 11:26 AM.

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#28

Puds38

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Posted May 22, 2007 @ 1:04 PM

Thanks for that. I'm trying to talk friends into going to NYC for a meal at Perilla & 2 of them are vegetarians. Hearing that at least at this stage the restaurant is willing to make reasonable accommodations make me want to go even more.
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#29

PMS Babe

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Posted May 22, 2007 @ 5:10 PM

Puds-

Your vegetarian friends will be fine (as long as they aren't vegan). Perilla actually has some vegetarian choices on the menu: a nice salad appetizer, an AMAZING mushroom and shaved truffles ravioli main dish, and two or three different sides (including a yummy risotto).

Unfortunately, all the desserts are made with meat. (Just kidding!)

My husband is a vegetarian and he was VERY happy with his courses.

Edited by PMS Babe, May 22, 2007 @ 5:12 PM.

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#30

grillboy

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Posted May 22, 2007 @ 11:32 PM

Let's just say I was also the one who broke the story on the exclusive first look inside Perilla as well.
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