ClassyFrench:Le Bernardin, Le Cirque or Jean Georges
Not having been to either LC or JG, but having been to LB very recently, I would certainly recommend it without hesitation. Notice I didn't say without reservation, since certain times on certain days, particularly Friday and Saturday nights, can be difficult, if not impossible, unless you reserve very far in advance. To me, at least, Le Bernardin personifies and exemplifies everything about fine dining, French or otherwise. We did the Chef's Tasting Menu with the paired wines, and it was simply unbelievably good. If I could afford to go back there tomorrow, I would do so without a second thought. I have yet to experience any place more elegant and fine. While there are those who complain about "icy" and "haughty" service, we experienced no such thing. I suppose, at least for some people, professionalism and reserve constitute those pejoratives, but for us, it is simply representative of the standard expected.
I do not wish to know my server's or sommelier's grandchildren's names, or to look at their photographs in feigned awe. I simply want everything to be performed properly, on time, and with passion and enthusiasm, which the Le Bernardin staff does admirably well, and perhaps more so than any other restaurant I have visited in the last five or so years. Icy? No, cool and professional. Haughty? No, respectful and accommodating. That is what I want, or should I say, demand.
I am by no means a corporate expense account diner, and everything is on my dime. Having spent many of my dimes at Le Bernardin and elsewhere, I can credibly make an unqualified recommendation to dine there at least once in your life, or you will miss an experience that you may regret having done so. I certainly intend to visit the other two places, in due time, but one cannot accomplish everything one wants to in a short time frame. Let us know how whatever your choice may be works out. I've been developing somewhat of an interest in JG lately, so it's good to have current input when making a decision.
I'm not one of the "we" since I am not a fan of Le Bernardin. I found the food quite disappointing, and service was so icy, they could have turned off the a.c. Then there is the matter of ambiance. Despite their best efforts at camouflage, I could not shake the feeling that I was dining in the lobby of an office building which is, of course, where the restaurant is located.
I've not been to Le Cirque, and to be honest, I have no desire to go there especially after reading Ruth Reichl's famous dual review.
That leaves Jean Georges. We had dinner there for the first time in October. We did the tasting menu of J-G's signature dishes, and while there were one or two dishes that didn't wow me, overall, the food was delicious. Service was faultless, and the ambiance was lovely.