The menu at Per Se simply calls it:
OYSTERS AND PEARLS
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters
and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar
Nothing to it, right? Tapioca with oysters and a hit of caviar. Right. Except when it’s part of a $275 tasting menu at one of the country’s finest restaurants. Clearly there’s more work behind it than words on a menu.
Chef Thomas Keller has been using our oysters since he opened Per Se in 2004. On an ever-changing menu, this dish is actually one of the very few that remains available daily. The oysters we send him are a specific cull, a compact shape and deep-cup (called the Per Se), which gives the kitchen exactly what they need to pull together the elements of the dish. After we cull them out, A2 counts and bags every one of them to ensure that Per Se gets the same bag of oysters every time.
While I’ve never eaten any of Chef Keller’s restaurants, I know that he and his kitchen staff put an incredible amount of research into the ingredients they use and hand selected our oysters after one of their chefs spent time on our farm. Tomorrow, I’ll be down in New York to spend a day in Per Se’s kitchen to get an up-close view of how exactly they prepare our oysters. My goal is to follow the dish from beginning (when our oysters hit their door) to very end (when they arrive bound in tapioca, cut down to the belly and laced with sturgeon caviar). With any luck and good note-taking, I’ll also be able to report on how a kitchen like this is run.
Naturally, having had very little professional kitchen experience but knowing the caliber of restaurant I’m about to gain access to, I’m jumping out of my skin right now. I have everything I might need (basic knife kit, empty notebook, couple pens, camera) along with a million questions… but I’ll refrain from asking them all at once. I think my only approach is to treat it like any other kitchen stage: stand back, watch, and learn. Hoping to put the first of two posts up this weekend with details on the day followed quickly with details on the dinner. And photos, of course. Wish me luck.