On the corner of 5th Avenue and 36th Street in New York City, the Setai Fifth Avenue awaits. A luxury hotel/residence inside of which the decor oozes in sophistication and high style — as a Fifth Avenue residence should.

On the corner of 5th Avenue and 36th Street in New York City, the Setai Fifth Avenue awaits. A luxury hotel/residence inside of which the decor oozes in sophistication and high style — as a Fifth Avenue residence should.


Open since November 2010, the perks of a new hotel are found at every turn. First, a high-tech refrigerator full of yogurts, waters, soda and gelato, plus a bowl of mixed fresh fruits, chocolates and Taittinger Rose champagne will be waiting for you in your room, as part of the Suite Surrender package.


Next, blooming orchids on an end table in the living room add to the ambiance of a romantic welcome, and if you’re one of those big-lights, big-city people, the skyscraper view will fulfill all your aesthetic needs.


Last but not least, a beckoning bed in the bedroom closes off for comfort and soundproof sleep. But it is the bathroom that has drawn my full attention. The sunken tub’s invitation for a healing soak is a definite “yes” on that RSVP, with complimentary salts. And, for the shower bound, the rain-shower head is a splurge in itself.


However, the Shangri-la of this commode is the TV within the bathroom wall mirror. Imagine brushing your teeth, applying your makeup or enjoying a soak in the tub and watching the news shown on the streets of New York City, or watching Oprah and not feeling far removed from the lifestyles of the rich and famous.


I’ll bet Oprah doesn’t ride in a Maserati, either. Every guest at the Setai Fifth Avenue has access to a driver in a Maserati to whisk you off in high style anywhere you want to go. Central Park South, in the Time Warner building on the fourth floor, to be exact, is a preferred drive to grab a seat at the Per Se Salon, where you don’t need a reservation, but you get a five-star view of Columbus Circle while dining on culinary creations crafted by none other than the famous Top Chef judge, Thomas Keller, also of French Laundry fame in wine country, California.


You’ll partake in a culinary marathon, as Per Se offers over a dozen courses — a dining experience like no other, beginning with a flute of Blanc de Blanc Champagne. Yes, the servings are small, but you’ll be thankful to have tasted small spoonfuls of asparagus soup, with its light and creamy texture and nutty topping and the accompanying crème fraiche, followed by a tasting of Pacific sea urchin, and then a tease of Sterling White Sturgeon caviar, especially once you get to the macaroni and cheese, which is the richest offering on the menu.


Not your typical mac ‘n’ cheese, this butter poached Nova Scotia lobster on top of mascarpone-enriched orzo, and Parmesan tuile will leave you wanting to eat this and only this for an entire day. Talk about proving yourself over and over and over again. Keller didn’t create one signature dish but enough to create an exquisite cookbook and over a dozen unique plates at Per Se, proving his presentations are not a fluke with one or two signatures; each dish is crafted with talent extraordinaire.


The culinary extravaganza continues with beef tartare and hen egg yoke, and just when you feel you can’t go on, you push forward with the grapefruit mimosa sherbet, which eases your digestive tract to continue with dessert: coffee and doughnuts, a.k.a. cappuccino semi-freddo and cinnamon-sugared doughnut holes, as well as an assortment of chocolate truffles, or mignardises as they read on the menu.


Not a diehard culinary marathoner? You can enjoy a traditional five-star dinner at Ai Fiori, the restaurant in the Setai Fifth Avenue. White asparagus soup with mushrooms to start followed by lobster vellutate, a light and creamy concoction with chunks of Nova Scotia lobster, or tortelli with mascarpone and ricotta wine reduction sauce — it is all good with a 2004 glass of Bordeaux.


But it is dessert that has my taste buds tingling. The Torta di Olio ligurian olive oil cake with ricotta, pear confit, port and coffee gelato is well worth sharing, as is Per Se’s truffle ragout topped custard filled eggshells, yet another culinary star in a long list of Keller recipes.


To make it easy, make your own custard, but add the truffle ragout to make it stand out on the palates of your dinner guests.


Truffle Ragout




1/3 cup veal stock

1 1/2 teaspoon finely minced black truffle (from whole, pieces or peelings of truffle)

Few drops of white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

Prepared servings of custard

Combine the veal stock, truffles and a drop or so of vinegar in a small saucepan. You shouldn’t taste the vinegar, but rather use it as you would use salt to enhance the other flavors. Simmer the ragout for 3 to 4 minutes until it reduces to a sauce consistency and coats the back of a spoon. You will have 3 to 4 tablespoons of sauce. Swirl the butter and truffle oil into the truffle ragout and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon about a teaspoon of ragout over the top of each prepared custard.


- Courtesy of “French Laundry Cookbook”


Olive Oil Cake




1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter (one stick)

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup olive oil (monini)

1 cup milk

Oil a 10-inch cake pan and preheat oven to 285 degrees. Sift all dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar with whisk; add eggs, one at a time. Emulsify olive oil by whisking in batter. Alternatively add milk and dry ingredients and bake for 44 minutes, rotating the pan after 30 minutes.


- Courtesy of Ai Fiore, Setai Fifth Avenue in New York