From the moment I walked into Perilla, a quaint, West Village restaurant, I feel in love. The restaurant was darkly lit, but still had a wonderful welcoming feel, with a smiling wait staff, red colored booths, and decorative plants strategically placed throughout the room.
My sister and I were seated at a table for two, towards the front, with a candle in a mason jar on the wall as our source of light. Little candles sat on the wooden table, next to a small wooden bowl of sea salt, a favorite of mine. The restaurant had a romantic feel, without the utilization of white napkins to transform this restaurant into a place of fine dining. There was a perfect balance between upscale and comfortable. In a sweater and jeans, I hardly felt out of place or judged; exactly my type of restaurant.
Leigh had been waiting at the bar for about 10 minutes before I arrived already concocting a culinary game plan in her head.
We talked for a while, catching up on our days and the past few months since she’s been away at school. Our waiter was extremely kind and understanding of our conversations, not pressuring us into ordering quickly or making us feel uncomfortable. The bus boy even brought out the bread and delightful olive oil. I tried the olive oil with a bit of sea salt, exciting my palate and motivating the two of us to make some game time decisions.
The spicy duck meatballs are considered to be one of the “must try” dishes on the menu. I asked the waiter about them and he gave us a giant smile, saying they are incredible. Dish one, chosen. Then we had a conflict between a few other dishes, with the sides surprisingly standing out to us more so then most of the entrees and appetizers. Ultimately, we ordered the seared diver scallops, followed by two of the side dishes; the farro risotta and toasted brussel sprout leaves.
Spicy duck meatballs, in a deep bowl, were placed in front of each of us, as the waiter said, “I hope you don’t mind that I split the dish for you two.” We looked at each other and smiled, since of course we didn’t mind. But this was the type of service of the restaurant, such care and attention to detail that the waiter would check with us about such a simple, kind decision.
These meatballs are rich and delicious, melting in your mouth. Duck meatballs are new to me, with lightness to them, unlike a typical beef meatball. Duck is a fatter piece of protein, giving it a juicer flavor then if chicken had been used. The subtly of spices gave a wonderful kick of heat, cutting through any fattiness you might get with duck. The soft and rich quail yolk, sat in the broth, just waiting to give an added burst of flavor. The homemade mint cavatelli sat in the broth, soaking up flavor and adding freshness to the dish. I have never tried anything so wonderfully unique, light and fresh, especially pasta. I loved the contrast of the mint flavor with the spice of the meatballs. There is a reason this is a signature dish at Perilla and on the menu since 2007.
Next, we tried the seared diver scallops.
The scalliops sat on a huckleberry puree, giving the plate a unique color and deep, tart flavor. I couldn’t put my finger on the sauce at first, and when told to me, I realized I would have never guessed. The chestnuts and water chestnut relish added a wonderful layer of crunch to the perfectly cooked scallop. The sear on the outside added a delicious element of flavor and crunch, allowing to cut through the dreamy scallop.
This was actually the least favorite dish of the meal, which is saying a lot. It was a delicious, well-prepared scallop, but when compared to the meatball and sides, it didn’t stand a change.
The sides arrived in metal containers, showing them in the most simplistic presentation. The flavor spoke for itself.
I first tried the brussel sprouts, placed next to me, and I was in heaven.
My family loves brussel sprouts, and more often than not, we lie to my dad about their existence since we’ve devoured all of them before he gets home from work. Leigh and I have always said my mom makes the best kind, lightly seasoned and roasted.
The brussel sprouts are roasted and tossed with a variety of nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, pinenuts, etc), raisins and dried cranberries. The additions create a delightful salty, sweet, and crunchy combination, with each bite more unique and delicious then the last. It’s hard to even fully articulate the delicious nature of this dish. The brussel sprouts were transformed into something insanely flavorful, rich and divine. I could have eaten a bowl of this on its own, but then I might not have had room for the best dish of the night.
Farro Risotto might have earned its spot onto one of the best things I ever ate. Everything about this dish should not make sense in theory, but worked in unexplainable ways.
The creamy parmesan melted into the perfectly cooked farro, creating a dreamy, silky texture. The farro has a wonderful bite to it, adding a crunchy element to a complex textural dish. The wonderful pieces of artichoke comfit melt into the farro, giving a seemingly buttery taste to the dish. Then, you get a piece of chili grape, which seems so out of place in theory, but so right in taste. It makes you wonder why this combination has never been explored before. The grapes burst with a fresh sweetness in your mouth, mellowed by the spice of the chili and then rounded out by the parmesan you cannot miss with every bite. This dish is a must order.
As we looked at each other, in a food coma full of bliss, we requested the waiter to pack up our sides to go, excited to eat this later in bed while watching How I Met Your Mother.
The waiter brought around the dessert menu, and we were half tempted to order the Peanut Butter Mousse with Gooseberries out of sheer fascination. But our stomachs told our minds to be smarter, and save this decadent dessert for our next trip back to Perilla, which is sure to happen at some point before Leigh heads back to California.
The waiter brought over a little oatmeal, cranberry-raisin cookie to end the meal on a sweet note.
The meal ended on a sweet note, further solidifying our wonderful dining experience.
Leigh and I have dined at many New York City restaurants, and ones across the country and world for that matter. It often amazes the two of us how much wait staff can completely neglect 20-something year olds, and even teenagers at the time, who are equally well paying customers. However, from the mind of someone dining in many high end and dive restaurants, I am always pleasantly surprised by the quality of attention and care given to the two of us. I happily left a larger tip than usual, completely happy as the waiters had friendly conversation with us, talked about favorite dishes. I loved Harold Dieterle’s other restaurant, Kin Shop, and the service there as well. The Top Chef winner and restaurateur is opening his third restaurant, Marrow, in the next few weeks, and I now cannot wait to add that to my hopeful list of additional culinary successes.
Anyone serving this kind of food and hiring such a phenomenal, attentive, knowledgeable wait staff deserves excellent marks in my book. If you are thinking of a wonderful dinner with a friend, or date night, or need to tell your parents a place to eat with other couples, Perilla should top your list. I promise it will not disappoint. And don’t forget to order the farro risotto.
Perilla – 9 Jones Street – New York, NY
Location: West Village, NY
Type: New American
Perfect For: Date Night, Dinner with Parents, Special Occasions, Girls’ Night Out
Reservations: Recommended via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: Farro Risotto, Toasted Brussels Sprouts, Spicy Duck Meatballs