Dish No. 19: Santa Barbara Sea Urchin at Per Se
Some dishes at Per Se--like the famed Oysters and Pearls--are classics that will appear on the bill of fare each time you visit. But other dishes on the elaborate multi-course tasting menus reflect the season and the chefs' whimsy. On a recent visit (a very rare occurrence, even for us food critics), we were taken with a lovely course of sea urchin and koshihaikari rice.
Artfully presented, the briny urchin nestles next to the toothsome rice, while a super intense swoosh of broccoli puree adds some greenery to the plate. But the most exciting element of the dish -- at least for us -- were the finger lime vesicles (the little sacs of liquid inside the fruit). They taste limey, but look and pop in the mouth like clear-colored caviar, adding a burst of citrus flavor to each bite. Having never sampled them before, this dish offered us that rare and fleeting pleasure of trying something new. And that makes it worth trying.