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Bouley/Cafe des artistes/Craft/EMP/L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

After an agonizing two weeks, I've cut down what seems to be the top of the top in New York to this list of five for a variety of reasons, and now, in the final stretch, I seem to have hit a rut. I'm taking my boyfriend out for his 21st birthday, and I really want to take him to great food. It seems like a lot of people say that Bouley would be the no brainer, but the issue is that he's been there before, and I'm slightly leaning towards taking him somewhere he hasn't been, just to mix things up a little, but I can't bear to cut it out because it sounds absolutely delicious and he loved it the last time he went. I'd really appreciate any input chowhounders could give.

Thank you so much in advance.

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  1. Why Cafe des Artistes? Imo, when it comes to the food, its way past its prime. "Top of the top"? Not even close!

    6 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      Really? I've heard good things about it, I've actually never had the pleasure of eating any of these places since I moved to the city not long ago.

      1. re: devangel145

        There certainly was a time when Cafe des Artistes was among the restaurant creme de la creme. However, at this point, the food is tired, and the restaurant is living on its past reputation and listings in tourist guides. If you would like to have a look at the interior, i.e., the famous nude murals, stop in for a drink. But go elsewhere to eat.

        1. re: RGR

          Agreed - and while we, in our forties, enjoy a drink there, I'm guessing a 21 year old may enjoy it less.

          To the OP - in terms of cost - have you thought about going for a weekend lunch somewhere? Usually the prices are lower. I agree with others - I'd choose between EMP and JG for this. I think they also have more of contemporary feel to them, which you might prefer (hope I'm not making any assumptions here).

          1. re: MMRuth

            As of July 19th, EMP will no longer be serving serving brunch/lunch on the weekend and will be closed for dinner on Sunday.

            1. re: RGR

              That's too bad - for good, or just the summer?

    2. of the 3 you mentioned Bouley is best, you can try his other restaurant Danube is very good. I'd go to Jean Georges if I were you

      4 Replies
      1. re: foodwhisperer

        Thanks for the suggestion. I seriously considered Jean Georges, but I decided not to because of the cost. Between Bouley and Danube, which would you say is better? I've never really had Austrian food, so I can't really judge by the menu.

        1. re: devangel145

          Bouley and Jean Georges are equivalent in terms of price. Jean Georges is the better overall dining experience and worth the extra money. It is a wonderful special occasion restaurant.

          1. re: sethd

            Agree both on the cost and overall assessment of food quality

        2. re: foodwhisperer

          Danube is a very romantic place for cocktails. We went there for cocktails, espresso and dessert after dinner recently. The aged port was better then the dessert. We had dinner there last year and I'd probably have apps or pre/after dinner drinks vs. dinner. L'Atelier and Falai (not on your list) are the best meals we've had. L'Atelier is expensive but worth it (food, service, atmosphere). Have not been to EMP or Jean Georges yet. Went to Bouley too long ago to be helpful.

        3. Go to Jean-Georges or EMP. Danube is nothing special in terms of food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rrems

            On my last trip to NYC I dined at EMP. I think it is a nice place to take a boyfriend. They have a great wine program and like every other Meyer restaurant I have been to, the service is excellent.

            However, I will also suggest taking a look at Gramercy Tavern if you are considering EMP. Of the two, I think Gramercy is a much better restaurant. It just won a James Beard award for outstanding restaurant. It is well deserving of that title.

          2. I agree w/the others that Cafe des Artistes is mediocre. I believe that Craft, EMP, and L'Atelier are all closed for lunch (at least the latter 2 are). Bouley is very good, but I'd prefer Jean Georges.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Lucia

              EMP has always served lunch Mon.-Fri. and will continue to do so. It is only Sat./Sun. brunch/lunch that is being permanently eliminated, along with Sunday dinner.

              Craft started serving lunch again a few months ago but then abruptly stopped it.

              1. re: RGR

                Oops--that's right about EMP.

                1. re: Lucia

                  Perhaps, you were thinking of Daniel? They stopped serving lunch permanently after 9/11.

                  1. re: RGR

                    I agree about Cafe des Artistes, despite suggesting on CH for someone's 38th anniversary -- an entirely different vibe for that occasion. I am interested in the comment, though, that it is listed in tourist guides. Aren't most of the restaurants on CH (well maybe not the brand new ones) listed in guides?

                    1. re: RGR

                      Nope--I extended the weekend stoppage at EMP to the full week. My mistake.

              2. Craft is a bit pricey but the food (at least from my experience) has been impeccable. The interior is funky/modern/chic. Lots of eye candy in terms of interior design. It would make for a wonderful birthday meal. Make sure to let the hostess/host know it's his birthday.

                1. I've been to all of the above in the past year except for Cafe de Artistes. I hae to say that Robuchon was my favorite. The food was amazing. It is relatively more casual experience than the others though. I would probably choose EMP next, then Craft, with Bouley at the bottom.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: BW212

                    Like BW212, I have also been to all except Cafe de Artistes. My favorite is, no surprise, Robuchon as well. It is a foie-gras lover heaven, and may I say their desserts are similar out of this world! Definitely the strongest dessert contestants among all the restaurants you have chosen (that's not to say their food isn't top-notch). After Robouchon I will rank Craft and EMP (tie, though they are so different that it's like apple to orange), and then Bouley.

                    1. re: kobetobiko

                      kobe, we went to Robouchon earlier this year and all the desserts were sorbets. Did we miss something or did the menu change since we went? Thanks. fdr PS Who knew eel and foie gras could be so good?

                      1. re: financialdistrictresident

                        Hi FDR,

                        In the winter they have more hearty desserts like chocolate. One of the desserts, called La Marron (pic attached). It has a tower of dates and chestnuts with a broth of concentrated milk that tasted like caramel with chestnut. It was so rich, and sooo delicious! My mother is a big chestnut fan and this dessert had haunted her for the whole winter! It was totally addictive! Their grapefruit mint dessert which seems to be always on the menu is very refreshing and I really like it in the summer. (and you probably remember that my favorite was the La Sucre, which was no longer available)

                        Although the desserts there were more expensive than usual, I found that their desserts are much more interesting and complicated - not just the usual pastry (cake/clafuti/tart, you name it) with a scoop of ice cream or sorbet. Rochuchon's desserts usually have a lot of components yet they complement so well all together.