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Jan 18, 2000 01:26 PM

11 Madison Park v. Babbo v. Beacon v. Union Pacific for a birthday dinner

  • d

I'm planning a special birthday dinner and have reservations at these restaurants. Any opinions on how the food compares? Also, any other suggestions for really special dinners?

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  1. not to be too harsh, but why not ask before you reserve? You arent even committed, but have already foreclosed at least three groups of other people - who might really want to go to those places - from your spots.

    10 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      That is rather harsh. I hardly think that holding three reservations, all for different seatings, for several hours is going to forclose anyone from going anywhere. Oh, but thanks for your input . . .

      1. re: dana

        I think Jen means that as long as you're holding time that you won't use, then you're keeping others from trying to put the same time on hold that they will use. As long as you cancel the other two in time for the restaurants to fill the seats, you should be 'ethically' in the clear.
        I'd say, go to Babbo.

        1. re: Liza

          When I asked for advice regarding dinner, I certainly didn't expect a lecture on the moral and ethical implications of my reservations. Apparently, the anonymous nature of this and, I would imagine, other chat boards has a down side -- participants feel free to make rude and innapropriate comments -- the kind of comments that well-mannered people would not make in person. Regarding my reservations, let me be more clear than my initial posting -- I have ONE reservation for the restaurant that I ultimately selected -- 11 Mad Park. For several days prior to obtaining my 11 Mad reservations, I also had a reservation at Babbo (at an inappropriately early time) -- a reservation that I cancelled immediately upon reaching 11 Mad. However, the duplicate reservation was unavoidable due to the restaurants' respective reservation policies -- 11 Mad Park only takes reservations three weeks in advance, whereas Babbo does so 4 weeks in advance. Based on my discussions with chowhounds whose opinions and chow-ettiquette I respect, that is not considered a moral or ethical lapse of judgment in the food world. Next time I seek advice at this location, I will be sure to specify that the advice I seek is solely with regard to food.

          1. re: dana

            I am sorry to offend (and I am not anonymous on this board, they and now you know where to find me) but Dana, you clearly did yourself a disservice in your initial post.
            Here it is:

            "11 Madison Park v. Babbo v. Beacon v. Union Pacific for a birthday dinner
            From: (dana)
            Posted: January 18, 2000 at 14:26:25

            I'm planning a special birthday dinner and have reservations at these restaurants. Any opinions on how the food compares?"

            You will see that you said you had reservations at 4 restaurants. That was the statement I was responding too, since so many people had been recently discussing on these Boards the difficulty of obtaining a reservation - or even an answer on the phone at many top restaurants, as well as the seemingly outrageous overbooking and reconfirming practices of restaurants.

            This can be a difficult medium, with sloppy posts, snap responses and the occasional jab. But hopefully, the participants in this site are mostly a supportive community and can discuss things food related issues at a level a little deeper than mere restaurant recommendations, just as you would like if you were talking with a close friend or family member.

            I hope you come back and tell us about 11 Madison.

            1. re: jen kalb

              In all of these listings, i've noticed a collective slagging of Union Pacific. I ate there about a year ago, and had one of the best meals of my life (I still dream about those Taylor Bay scallops). Have things changed so drastically? Was the problem with the food, the service, or something else? I just made a reservation to go back, but now i have reser-- uh, concerns.

              1. re: matthew
                Martha Gehan

                I love UP but haven't been there in a couple of months. But I think that unless it has changed drastically you'll be as bowled over as before. And Wonki, who knows what he's talking about, is also a big fan. Been there recently, Wonki?

                1. re: Martha Gehan


                  how ya been? thanks for the compliment. actually have not been there for a few months either. i'm a bit taken aback at the serious digs at up, but i suspect it's a combination of high expectations and high prices, especially for the wine.

                  matthew, there's only one way to find out but for my money (or yours, in this case) i think it's a risk worth taking. let us know.


              2. re: jen kalb
                Robert Buxbaum

                I feel very strongly about much that was said, particualrly in the last two messages, about multiple reservations and miscommunication in this medium. First, I listed my full name out of respect for those who worry about the anonymous nature of the medium. For full disclosure I'll add my personal web site below and note I am the designer for Chef Daniel Boulud's web site. I have to add that when a friend tells me he holds multiple reservations and is trying to decide, I feel compelled to offer my thoughts on the inherent dishonesty and the antisocial nature of holding two reservations for the same night. It's possible I'm considered rude and I understand "dsade" thinks it's rude for others to say the same in this group. At the same time "dsade" might well consider that social ettiquette is not what he (or I) make it, but rather a social product. I don't believe things are correct just because the majority opinion holds it as such, but I also believe one must re-evaluate a position when one appears to be out of step.

                I think the original criticism was correct and defensible in light of the original post. I don't think it need have been taken so defensively and I, for one, am perfectly pleased by the full explanation offered about why multiple reservations were held and for how long they were held, but I am displeased by the counter attack. I am taken back by posters who ask questions freely, but are offended by anything else said in spite of the fact that they've just received good advice on their topic. If you can ask strangers for advice, you must pe prepared for all they have to say, even if it exceeds what you want to hear. This is not an advice service, but an open discussion group about dining in Manhattan, as I understand it. Of course you are all free to correct me. ;-) Sorry to be so pontifical in a group in which I've not regualrly participated.

                To the point of the discussion that is really most interesting, I would add that I've eaten once at both Babbo and 11 Madison and preferred 11 Madison.



          2. re: dana

            it wasn't harsh...and she's right.
            you've shut others out.

            1. re: dana

              Please excuse it, but that was not even slightly harsh. I guess I could see hedging your bet for the king kong, biggest, bad-assed dinner of 10 years, but do unto others... Have mercy on those of us who really would like to --and must-- book in advance (without concern for the restaurant filling its tablles, an ethical concern enough). For what it may be worth, I love both Babbo and 11 Madison Park (must disqualify myself from the others). I am mad for the sauteed foie gras at 11 Madison, and they have a creme brulee dessert that puts forward an interesing twist. But I have a strong and decided preference for Babbo, which has never failed to delight me after a dozen, more, visits.

          3. Hi dana,

            brief answers:

            11 Madison -- lovely and delicious
            Babbo -- hectic but transporting
            Beacon -- haven't been there
            Union Pacific -- you couldn't drag me back there if you paid me

            If you want a *really* special dinner and don't mind the enormous bill, I suggest the Four Seasons, Pool Room. Request a table near the pool.


            8 Replies
            1. re: Patrick A.

              I considered Beacon a while ago but got some mixed feedback from chowhounds so decided to pass (you might check previous threads on that); also disliked my one dinner at Union Pacifc and my one dinner at Four Seasons - I would go with Babbo or Madison Park (neither of which I have tried yet)

              1. re: Patrick A.

                11 madison is good but nothing stellar.
                babbo i found disappointing.
                never been to beacon but from what i read it's all about the wood burning grill, which frankly doesn't excite me.
                i'm a big fan of union pacific but i guess it's gone downhill.
                as for the four seasons, i was disappointed with the food but even more disappointed with the "pool" room. that's not a pool, it's a freaking hot tub.


                1. re: wonki

                  Hi wonki,

                  I don't know if you're a big fan of early '60s interiors or not -- I am. I find the Pool Room magical. I don't think the size of the pool is what makes the room, though. It's a balance of all the different effects -- the windows, the brass bead blinds, the furniture, the place settings, and volumes of interior space.

                  What did you order there? It's not ironclad great -- you need to stick with what they do right. And what they do right, they do right.


                  1. re: Patrick A.

                    hey patrick,

                    i remember the soup of the day being excellent actually. it was some sort of bisque, either pumpkin or butternut squash, with toasted pumpkin seeds. the toasted pumpkin seeds was what made the soup. i think i just got a hunk of meat for my entree which i wasn't impressed with. nor with any of my friend's dishes. i realize you can't judge a place from one visit, and my girlfriend said she had the best meal of last year there, so of course i'd be willing to try it out again. but frankly, with those prices, everything should be stellar or at least way above average, which they weren't, even dessert.

                    as for the decor, yeah, i realize the size of the pool doesn't matter, but i was expecting at least something more than that. if you're going to say "pool" at least have a 20' x 10' rectangle, not some 10' x 10' square. the room is certainly spacious, but i found it rather bland and minimal. i guess i'm not a fan of 60's architecture, maybe because i was born in 1970 and don't know much about it. but certainly i think more people are of your opinion than mine. it just doesn't do it for me.

                    good talking to you.


                    1. re: wonki

                      Hi again wonki,

                      It is inexcusable that they have anything on the menu that isn't great at those prices, but I suppose many of their guests aren't going for the food. I think they had an original menu of Continental cuisine when they opened that has been bolstered by various additions over the years... and the it's the original items that they do best.

                      When I'm there, I order:

                      -- seared foie gras with figs (they pioneered using NY State foie gras, and it's still superior to any other I've had in New York; I believe it comes from their own farms)

                      -- roast peppered duck for two ... truly an amazing duck, unctuous without being oily... you get the whole duck and it's carved theatrically at the table... the skin is crisp and studded with pepper, and the strips of breast and leg are truly heavenly. For my money, again, the best duck in New York, and I even had Lupa's much-touted duck last night

                      -- chocolate velvet for dessert

                      Don't even get me started on the wine list. The selection is of course beyond compare. But the prices are waaaaay out of line.

                      Btw, were you in the Pool Room at night? That's when it's at its most magical. It *is* a bit like an airport lounge during the day (I actually like airport lounges too, but I can understand why some people wouldn't.)

                      Nice talking to you too wonki... always appreciate your posts.


                      1. re: Patrick A.

                        hey patrick,

                        good talking to you as well. thanks for the tips on dishes. if i get back there i'll be sure to try them, especially the foie gras with figs. i love that stuff.
                        i was there for lunch so maybe that explains it a bit. i wouldn't go so far as to compare it to an airport lounge, but i see what you mean.

                        talk about way out of line wine prices, get this, i got a bottle of chateau armauilhac (sp?) for like under $50 there, which actually wasn't bad - considering i saw it at my local wine store for like $55 bucks! now either four seasons isn't marking up the wine, which i HIGHLY doubt, or the wine store is royally ripping people off. i have determined it's the latter (by the way, yes i made sure it was the exact same bottle and year). i then spotted a bottle of merryvale cabernet "on sale" for $25 and realized this place is totally ripping people off. the bottle is retailing at other shops for 21.99 not on sale and i actually got it on sale at another shop for $17.99! i was totally outraged that a place could so blatantly claim things to be on sale when they're in fact way over retail prices at other places. what makes it worse is that this place has a good reputation and supposedly cheap prices and is highly rated in the zagat marketplace survey. anyway, patrick, i've realized i've strayed way far from the original post (perhaps another subject rename is in order), but this four seasons thing just brought this out in me. is the suspense killing you? the place is called mister wright on 3rd avenue between 89th and 90th. i urge all chowhounds not to go there unless they have a good idea of what prices are for particular bottles (in all fairness you can find some things at reasonable prices but most "mainstream bottles" are obscenely overpriced). i feel like happy gilmore when he says, "the price is WRONG, bob".

                        ANYWAY, now that i've recovered from that little tangent and diatribe, thanks for the response, patrick, i'm sure i'll be seeing you around here. :-)


                        1. re: wonki

                          Hey wonki,

                          No, I totally appreciate diatribes about wine prices. I don't know the store in question, but I'm not at all surprised.

                          I shop at a bunch of places downtown and I have to say that Warehouse (Broadway and Astor Pl.) has incredible deals. Not a full-service wine shop, mainly bargains, but the prices are really great. Chateau Simard '88 for $22.99... a friend got some Alsatian late-harvests from the late '80s for $27 instead of $59, etc. Grand Wines in Astoria also has good deals.

                          But what really suprises me is that consistently low prices are available at the city's luxury wine shop, Sherry-Lehmann on Madison in the 60s. True, they mainly display luxury Bordeaux, Burgundy etc., but they actually have a huge selection of just about everything in a warehouse... and the prices usually beat just about everyone else. Strange.

                          Hey, does anyone ever bring their own and brave the "corkage" fee? It robs you of the pleasure of browsing a wine list and choosing -- which is one of the great pleasures -- but at some of these places it would be well worth it.

                          See ya soon...

                          1. re: Patrick A.

                            Garnet - Lexington Avenue across from Hunter.

              2. Like a few others, I was underwhelmed by Union Pacific. Haven't been to Beacon, but I adore Babbo and have heard universally wonderful things about 11 Madison Park. But if you're feeling a little more adventurous, Babbo's the way to go.