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Monday, January 13, 2014


Not to brag, but I called Harold Dieterle's win on the first episode of the first season of Top Chef.  I had an intuition that he would become wildly successful and years later I was finally able to taste that success myself at his first [of three] restaurants opened since his Top Chef win.  You would think that I would celebrate my winning prediction by going as soon as possible, but Perilla opened nearly seven years ago and I only just made it.

I'm sure when the restaurant first opened many thought its success would be due only to the chef's reality tv fame; however, the Perilla has been successful for the same reason Dieterele thrived in the Top Chef competition.  The restaurant is understated.  Just as Dieterele flew under the radar, the Perilla kitchen does not try to sneak food into the dining room under the guise of fancy foams or crazy fusion techniques.  Here you'll see straightforward ingredients on the entree list.  You don't have to ask what hanger steak or roast chicken is; you know what those things are.  The treatment of these recognizable ingredients, however, is what makes them great.  I had a dorade filet that was perfectly grilled.  A nice light piece of fish is always great, but even better when served with collard greens, chestnuts, a horseradish dashi sauce, and three broiled oysters.  The ingredients were gracefully seasonal - nobody wants to be hit over the head with food.

As a table, we shared four appetizers.  We were told the spicy duck meatballs with quail egg are a customer favorite.  The spice only barely hits you at the end, just when you're noticing the pillowy fresh made mint cavatelli in the bowl.  Just because it's a favorite of the masses should not mean it's beneath you to eat this dish.  Just the opposite, in fact.  Next we tried the crispy calamari, which was just barely flash fried.  Have you ever had fried watercress?  I doubt it, but you should because the light crunch is just wonderful.  We also tried the diver scallop carpaccio, which I liked.  Cooked scallops go well with citrus so it makes sense that raw ones would too, and I particularly liked the blood orange pairing.  Finally, we ordered the farro risotto side dish as an appetizer.  It was not too thick.  Risotto can get gummy but this was more like farro with a light artichoke confit cream sauce.  I would never ever have picked grapes as the finishing touch, but I suppose that's why I don't have a hit West Village restaurant.

All four diners came from different backgrounds with different tastes, yet every plate was clean.  That's what happens when food is just plain good.

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