Best overall: EMP, One If By Land, or Café Boulud?
If you had to chose one restaurant between Eleven Madison Park, One If ByLand, or Café Boulud (off its recent NYT rave review), which would you dine in?
Please consider the entire picture: food, price, atmosphere, enjoyment of overall dining experience.
I am trying to decide between the three which one would be worth it.
Been to all 3. I don't think OIBL can be put into comparison with the other 2. The food there is just not the same league as EMP and Cafe Boulud, (at least a level or two below). While the restaurant is nice-looking with a somewhat nostalgic, tranquil feel (and somewhat romantic as others addressed it), the average food and the ok service was not enough to make up for the atmosphere. So I will immediately scratch that out of consideration.
As for EMP and Cafe Boulud, the food is quite comparable, both great and flavorful and you can tell the restaurants put a lot of thoughts in preparation and presentation. I haven't had the tasting menu at Cafe Boulud so I can't attest to that, but the lunch that I had there was delicious. I couldn't rave enough about the desserts! I know Daniel had great desserts, but I was surprised to find that Cafe Boulud also served up some scrumptious desserts. I would have good back just for the desserts!
Being a regular to EMP, I think their tasting menu is amazing, and Chef Humm is able to create the menu with seafood and meat dishes both well prepared. A la carte is also excellent, with the options of choosing my favorite dish - the duck for two which is my favorite at EMP. Desserts to me were a bit weak compared to other restaurants at this caliber, they were fine and the savory dishes were more than enough to make up for that.
In terms of atmosphere, I have to say Cafe Boulud is not of my personal preference. That's mainly because the time I visited it was filled with older clienteles and a few tables of families. It gave me a feel of the "club house" dining, not to the point of stiffy, but I certainly was one of the very few 20ish diners at Cafe Boulud that day. Service was overall very attentive.
The atmosphere at EMP was definitely younger, and you can find diners of all ages. The tables are well spaced (Cafe Boulud was definitely more crowded), and the servers were mostly younger than those in CB. While service was attentive for the most part, I have had recent experience with spotty service and servers not being knowledgeable enough to answer my inquiry about the menu. Nevertheless, the overall atmosphere at EMP is IMO more lively and younger than CB per se.
Overall, you will not be disappointed by the food at both EMP and CB. Which restaurant will be better for you will depend on the atmosphere you are looking for and who you are dining with. They are both well worth the money
Hope you have a wonderful meal!
While the quality & preparation of the food may not be quite as upscale at OIBL, you can 't beat the gorgeous, romantic setting. I found the food to be very good every time I've had dinner there. It is well worth a try.
Unfortunately, I've been extremely disappointed with EMP. All of the courses seem to be tiny squares of food and even all the extra amuse bouches and tiny candies with dessert do not make up for microscopic portions-- two green beans do not make a side dish!
Gotham Bar & Grill is a lovely place that not only offers fairly-sized portions, but entrees include 2 or 3 (or more) interesting accompaniments. It is not prix fixe like the others restaurants you mentioned so you're not oblilgated to have 3 courses. The food is outstanding.
I've eaten at all 3. OIBL, as other posters have suggested, does not serve food anywhere near the quality of the other 2. I would recommend having a drink at OIBL so you can enjoy the room and live piano, but then head to one of the other 2 for a really memorable meal. Of the other 2 I prefer EMP but people love both.
Enjoy your evening!