I went to Per Se with my parents after I signed my offer to join a hedge fund in SF at the end of July. It was a stressless dinner, reminiscent of the time I got Olive Garden with my parents after I graduated high school with plans to go to Penn in the subsequent fall. I don’t think I did anything when I graduated college, mostly because my graduation was cancelled due to COVID, and most of the surrounding restaurants were closed as well. There are so few truly “stressless” dinners I’ve had with my parents. There aren’t that many opportunities in which i am able know how the next couple years of my life will turn out at a given point. This was one of them, and I cherish that.
Part of the reason I chose Per Se was because I also wanted to go to a three-star Michelin restaurant before I left New York. After all, what else does New York represent more than excess and consumption? And since my parents have never been to a Michelin-star restaurant before, I thought what better time than now, since I’ve just received my signing bonus? I had a couple extra hundies in the bank, and if I don’t use the money now, I’ll probably just save it in ETFs instead. It’s one of those important moments of life because of what it symbolizes, as opposed to the experience of going to the restaurant itself.
I was curious what this allegedly elite dining experience would be like. I thought I would be underwhelmed, and what can I say? I’m underwhelmed. I’ve been to a couple of Michelin-star restaurants before (namely two, L’Appart and Jungsik), but I have to say Per Se leans more into the pretention of everything a lot more than the rest. There were a lot of people who seemed to be in business settings there, and its menu and presentation seems to have this concept in mind. It’s safe, high-end corporate food. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but I often heard 3-star Michelin restaurants being a life-changing experience, whereas my experience was just that of consuming good food.
My parents have never been to a Michelin-star restaurant because we grew up frgual and conscious of our expenses. They didn’t have an elaborate wedding, just a nice meal at a nice restaurant, which I don’t think was Michelin-ranked either. Excesses such as a $400 per head meal was never in their calculus under acceptable consumption, and I don’t think they ever really seriously thought about eating at restaurants like Per Se.
It highlights a generational difference between me and them. I try to be frugal whenever possible, but I have noticed that my preferences have become a lot more extravagant ever since I started to work in finance. The sad reality is, I am making money now, which makes me less guilty in spending money, whereas I used to feel extremely guilty purchasing a Sweetgreen salad on my parent’s time. Per Se has been traditionally hailed as one of the best restaurants in New York. I personally don’t really care about going to Per Se, but I do care to treat my parents to food they would never purchase themselves.