A 60-seat restaurant amidst the three gleaming Richard Meier glass towers along rapidly-developing West Street, celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten pares it down with his latest offering. Rather than the over-the-top attributes that characterized 66, Spice Market and V Steakhouse, his intent at Perry St. is to present a reworked and simplified menu, similar to that at Jean-Georges. Interestingly, one of Meier's tribe, Thomas Juul-Hansen, designed the clever u-shaped dining room, which can only be described as minimalist, yet seems highly appropriate for this location across from the Hudson River Park. Fortunately the windows feature mesh screens, because the late afternoon and summertime evening sunsets can feature exceedingly harsh but beautiful light.
Vongerichten made a wise decision to open here, because with the profusion of restaurants in the nearby Meatpacking District as well as newcomers to the High Line Park vicinity, he has a large crowd to draw on—and to please. Apparently Vongerichten has returned to his senses and his original magic mix, because Frank Bruni of the New York Times awarded Perry St. three stars in September 2005, just weeks after the restaurant opened. But barely a year later, the service issues that plagued his aging restaurants seem to have appeared at Perry St. Service at times seems lackluster, when not indifferent. Some staff seem to not have a good enough command of English to do their jobs, frustrating diners who strain to understand them. Timing can be off, with appetizers appearing minutes after they are ordered, yet no server to be found when one is needed (a frequent New York complaint, we do note). The servers are quite aggressive in pushing certain entrees as well as bottled water. During a recent dining experience, we were asked by no fewer than three servers in a span of five minutes (yes, we checked the wristwatch) whether we would require another bottle of San Pellegrino, although our existing bottle was not yet empty. Considering our four entrees alone were $150, this seems rather churlish.
Service issues aside, the dishes are superb. Asian-themed fish appetizers are attractive and delightful, and the meat entrees are delicious. When possible, opt for the excellent lamb or rabbit entrees, and the tenderloin is also fantastic. Although Vongerichten intends to change the menu from time to time, nothing here seems outrageous, too bold or brash. Fish dishes are particularly enjoyable, especially when you are gazing westward towards the Hudson River, dreaming of being in a faraway place by the sea.
Final note: we know of no other high-end restaurant with so much obvious video surveillance this side of Las Vegas.
Perry St. is located in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan. The western slice of Greenwich Village—although some will tell you it's a separate neighborhood altogether; don't listen to them—the West Village is a somewhat sleepier version of its larger neighborhood, with many tree-lined streets populated by residential buildings and punctuated ever-so-lightly with restaurants and bars. The locals have fought notoriously hard throughout the years to keep raucous bars and clubs from staying open—or even opening at all—to preserve the relative quiet of their neighborhood. The West Village stretches east from the Hudson River to 6th Avenue, and north from Houston Street to West 14th. It's northwestern corner is chewed off by the Meatpacking District, where the very sorts of restaurants and bars West Village residents try to keep out of their 'hood flourish. The majority of Bleecker Street's dining, shopping, and drinking options exist on the West Village's end of the street, with a small shopping mecca surrounding the intersection of 7th Avenue, where many high-end retailers have stores, like Brooks Brothers' Black Fleece, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, and a whole lot more. There's plenty of history here, and the bars are no exception—Dylan Thomas famously stumbled out of the White Horse Tavern heavy with whiskey on the night he expired at the Hotel Chelsea. For those aiming to avoid the thumping, throbbing nightclubs of the Meatpacking District, jazz can be had at Fat Cat, the legendary Village Vanguard, and smaller, quieter establishments like 55 Bar. If you'd like a more structured day of drinking, the folks at the Literary Pub Crawl put on a fantastic and informative tour. The sophisticated residents of the West Village have led a number of excellent restaurants to open in the neighborhood, from Italian favorite Sant Ambroeus, April Bloomfield's game-changing gastropub The Spotted Pig, Yerba Buena, and Perry St.. Of course, if you're not in the mood for high-end cuisine in mood-inducing settings, there's pizza on offer at John's of Bleecker Street, but you'd be better served by walking a little further east and feasting one our favorite New York slice at Joe's. And if it's a burger you're looking for, the city's first Umami Burger is lurking over on 6th Avenue, while perennial favorite Corner Bistro is on 7th. While the West Village is low on museums, it has two of the best independent cinemas in the city between Film Forum and neighborhood landmark IFC Center.
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