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Classic French in New York. Need Opinions.

Bouley, Jean-George, Daniel, Picholine, Adour......the list goes on and on and everyone has their favorite.

As part of my upcoming celebration trip to NYC, my sister and I have decided to do a day of "classic New York;" Breakfast at Norma's, visiting the Met, the older/classic hotels, grand central, etc. To top the day off we want to do French, ideally "best bang for the culinary buck" under $150pp (w/o alcohol, tax, tip)

Just wondering what everyone would recommend. Certainly don't mind the 'older' crowd, as it were, just looking for great food, a great bread basket, great desserts and the classy service that you don't find in small town Ohio.

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  1. are you wanting something bistro-esque(balthazar) or more fine dining like robuchon? or even maybe something like bar bouloud?

    1. For drinks, I'd definitely go to the Carlyle - Bemelman's Bar. For classic French, I'd go to La Grenouille - can't beat the beautiful room.

      1. In the title you say Classic French but then the words in your question say Classic New York. Also, from the few you listed at the top those are not all classic French.
        JG, the choice. The most consistently excellent of course it is not Classic French.
        At $150pp sans Alcohol, Tax, Tip, you can eat almost anywhere.


        1. Definitely second MMRuth's choices. You can't get more classic New York then Bemelman's or better classic French than La Grrenouille (the food has stayed wonderful and highly rated).

          1. The only two upscale French restaurants left in NYC serving "classic" haute cuisine are La Grenouille and Le Perigord. All the others are serving contemporary French, often with influences from other cuisines, such as Asian at Jean Georges.


            3 Replies
            1. re: RGR

              Chanterelle is pretty fabulous too. Le Perigord is stuffy and so old French that their boat has sailed. If you are under 65 you will the youngest one there.

              1. re: meinNYC

                yeah i agree on le perigord, its sooooo old and stuffy and even too much for me...the food is good, but i dont think its anything to write home about

                1. re: meinNYC

                  But I think that's the point as it is so classic and it will be so sad when these places close - I'd go to Le Perigord! I eat in all sorts of places but really enjoy the old warhorses the best.

              2. I guess what I meant is a "classic" New York restaurant serving french/contemporary french, similar to the places I named in my original post.

                11 Replies
                  1. re: uhockey

                    Wih that clarification, I highly recommend Eleven Madison Park. Chef Humm's cuisine is sensational! For the 3- or 4-course prix-fixe, your budget for food only is well more than sufficient. The even better news is that it can cover the 11-course+ Goumand menu. Sommelier John Ragan just won the coveted James Beard Award for the restaurant's wine program. Service is cordial and polished. And the space is gorgeous! I can't think of a better way to end a "classic" New York day than at EMP.


                    Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

                    1. re: RGR

                      I agree. Having just had the Gourmand menu for the first time, I would say it is a very special experience not to be missed. The wine pairings were sensational.

                    2. re: uhockey

                      I agree with others that JG and EMP are both wonderful choices in that case. I had a lovely lunch at Bouley in January, but have read a lot of mixed experiences by others of meals there, particularly with respect to service. I do think that Daniel has a more "classic" feeling, rather than the more modern vibe of JG and EMP. And it's close to the Carlyle! I've not been to Adour, or to Picholine since the renovation, though it's received quite a few good reviews. Hope you have a wonderful visit.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Picholine's menu intrigues me a great deal, but so does EMP.

                        Daniel seems to hedge towards incredibly small portions and a 'boring' menu compared to many of the more modern french restaurants in NYC, plus the price seems a bit excessive in comparison. I would love to see the restaurant, however, due to its long standing status in the NY dining scene.

                        1. re: uhockey

                          The choice between Picholine and EMP is a tough one. If you are going for a 3 or 4 course menu, I would give Picholine a slight edge, but for the tasting menu, EMP is the winner. You really can't go wrong with either. Jean-Georges and Cru are also worthy choices.

                          1. re: rrems

                            We recently had Picholine's 7-course Tasting Dinner Royale, and I was truly bowled over by how sensational it was. However, when it comes to bang for the buck, EMP's spectacular 11-Course Gourmand beats it by the proverbial country mile, i.e., Picholine @$140 vs. EMP @$145.

                            1. re: RGR

                              Is EMP cool with substitutions on the tasting? My sister will eat anything but cow and it appears the main on the current tasting menu is beef.

                              Would EMP for lunch be a worthwhile experience?

                              Additionally, any truth to the rumor that the tasting menu is changing as of the 25th?

                              1. re: uhockey

                                Yes, they are very accommodating. We substituted lamb for the beef.

                                1. re: uhockey

                                  As rrems said, they are very accommodating about substitutions, as well as making adjustments for dietary restrictions. In fact, servers always ask about the latter.

                                  We have done many lunches at EMP. Always a wonderful experience! In addition to the a la carte menu (no prix-fixes at lunch) there is a 5-course Gourmand tasting. Always exquisite. And, imo, a bargain at $58pp. During the day, with the (sun)light streaming in through the huge windows which fact Madison Square Park, it's magical.

                                  It's not a rumor. The dinner Gourmand is scheduled to change on the 25th.

                            2. re: uhockey

                              Daniel is a wonderful restaurant with incredible food, not the least bit uncreative. Decor screams (in a good way) Old School classy. They have a very nice lounge area where you could stop in for a drink and see at the very least. In regards to EMP and Picholine, both wonderful choices and a tough call. Picholine - subdued and classy, EMP - bigger and more stately. Based ONLY on our last visits to each the nod for food would go to Picholine but that's not always the case.

                        2. As an aside to the French part of your day, if you want a "classic New York" breakfast, you might want to consider Barney Greengrass. I have nothing against Norma's, as many people do, but when I think classic New York, I think more along the lines of Barney Greengrass.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: valerie

                            Norma's is totally for the audacious pancakes. Have to see how they compare to Griddle Cafe out in Hollywood. Call me a glutton, but dessert-y breakfasts are where its at for vacation. :-)

                          2. hey uhockey, i lived in france for three years and would never recommend EMP as classic french. no offense to previous posters.

                            here are my suggestions: le bilboquet, gascogne, la goulue, balthazar, tartine, benoit, or orsay. you can't go wrong with any of these (balthazar being my hands down favorite).

                            and you are dead on with the norma's for brunch/breakfast. it is truly truly amazing. i would eat there every weekend if my wallet (and waistline) could afford it.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: monasapple

                              I'm a big fan of La Goulue and Balthazar as well, and we also go to Orsay pretty frequently. My husband commented last night on how good the food is at Bilbouquet, for such a "see and be seen" place. I just find it too tight for comfort in terms of the seating.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                as much of a tourist trap as balthazar can be, i do like that place...good brunch place

                                1. re: Lau

                                  And I would add - those places, to me, are all classic in the bustling bistro sense, not a classic haute cuisine sense.

                              2. re: monasapple

                                Did you notice that the OP clarified "classic French" in a reply above:

                                "I guess what I meant is a "classic" New York restaurant serving french/contemporary french, similar to the places I named in my original post."

                                I think EMP fits that description fairly well.

                              3. A classic New York breakfast can be had at Essa-Bagel, First and 22nd. Smoked salmon on warm baked bagels. They are a neighborhood place though there is a branch on Third and 53rd (which is not as atmospheric) If you're thinking of Balthazar make sure you have a reservation. Do not agree to sit at the bar, they have the world's most uncomfortable stools. And even if breakfast dress nice.( Their hostesses are the Soho fashion police)

                                1. For classic French I prefer the smaller, less upscale places. I like Brasseries Julien and Le Coisette. Also, I think Payard is underrated for regular food. Also, I love artisinal.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                    Sorry, I was in a hurry when typing that. I meant Cosette in Murray Hill, not Coisette.

                                  2. Eleven madison park IS NOT classic french, it's progressive french. Nor is it a 'classic new york' restaurant. It's only recently begin to hit the scene.

                                    Le Veau D'or is as classic French as you can get in NYC. It's also one recommended by Anthony Bourdain that reminds him the most of eating back in France.

                                    But based on what you've asked, I think Bouley might be your best bet for both 'classic french cuisine' and a 'classic new york restaurant'

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: attractivekid

                                      agree on EMP, pretty good restaurant, but definitely not classic french

                                      1. re: attractivekid

                                        Le Veau D'or is dreadful French. Everything is tired old hat made with subgrade ingredients. It is a mystery why it is still in business. Anthony Bourdain must have been smoking his usual drugs when he said it was good.

                                      2. How about Gascogne or La Luncheonette?