Two weeks after the New York Times’ brutal takedown of French fine dining staple Per Se, chef-proprietor Thomas Keller has finally acknowledged it.
“We pride ourselves on maintaining the highest standards, but we make mistakes along the way,” Keller writes in an open letter on his website. Addressing critic Pete Wells’ review directly, he writes, “We are sorry we let you down.”
Seems a little lukewarm as a response to what was the most scathing restaurant review in recent memory. You didn’t have to be in New York City to smell the searing burn that NYTimes critic Pete Wells inflicted on one of the city’s dining staples. The review eviscerated both the service and food at Per Se bit — “the slow creep of mediocrity and missed cues” — by bit — “a lukewarm matsutake mushroom bouillon as murky and appealing as bong water” — by excruciating bit — “respectably dull at best to disappointingly flat-footed at worst.”
“We are not content resting on what we did yesterday,” Keller continues. “We believe we can do better for ourselves, our profession and most importantly our guests. We have the opportunity, the tools, the self-motivation and the dedication to do so."
Eater’s Greg Morabito suggests that Keller’s two-week wait could mean the review hasn’t hurt business much, since most of its patrons are regulars rather than tourists or special occasion diners. But is there such a thing as a sacred cow in a dining scene as fiercely competitive as New York’s?