Fleur de Sel, Cafe Boulud, or L'Atelier Robuchon?
I'm in NYC for one night. I can't get reservations at EMP, which is where I really want to eat -- so -- Fleur de Sel? Boulud? Robuchon?
We've not been to Robuchon, but Fleur de Sel and Cafe Boulud are two of our favorites. You really can't go wrong with either since both serve superb cuisine. Fleur de Sel's menu is contemporary French, while C.B. has 4 different menus + a menu of daily specials, and the culinary options are geographically diverse. Both have excellent wine lists. Both provide excellent service though I'd say at C.B., it's a bit more polished.
With regard to ambiance, while EMP's space is grand and gorgeous, these two restaurants are the polar opposite, i.e., small spaces with attractive contemporary decor and an intimate feel.
If the type of crowd makes a difference to you, Fleur de Sel's is age-diverse while C.B.'s clientele does tilt more mature. Also, while neither has a dress code, because of C.B.'s U.E.S. location, you will find that most of the gentlemen wear jackets, and the ladies do dress up a bit (though not to the proverbial nines).
One more note: Cafe Boulud's executive chef, Gavin Kaysem, won this year's James Beard Rising Chef Award. Very much deserved!
Enjoy your one night in NYC and Bon Appetit!
I would do L'Atelier from your choices if your first choice was Eleven Madison. I haven't been to Cafe Boulud but have been to Daniel (not exactly sure what the difference is between Daniel and CB). Daniel, Fleur de Sel and L'Atelier all serve modern French food, but L'Atelier's food is more in the vein of EMP. And I prefer L'Atelier over EMP in terms of food. I think that the best way to experience it is sitting at the bar if possible. You watch the chefs meticulously prepare your dishes in front of you. It's quite an experience. The stools are pretty comfortable. They also have a marvelous bread basket they put in front of you with a huge choice of breads (no need to keep bugging your waiter for more breads).
re: Miss Needle
There are substantial differences between Daniel and Cafe Boulud.
Daniel is a formal restaurant while, as the name suggest, Cafe Boulud is much more casual. At Daniel, jackets are required; at C.B., there is no dress code. In fact, Daniel Boulud envisioned C.B. as a place where you could dress in jeans and a sweater. What he didn't count on was that the UES clientele does not tend to dress that way. Still, there is not the air of formality at C.B. that one finds at Daniel, which is really less because of how people are dressed than because of the overall ambiance. The formal dining room at Daniel is large and two-tiered with very glitzy neo-Venetian-style decor. (It will be interesting to see what the decor is like when Daniel re-opens after the major refurbishment.) There is also a large entrance foyer and reception area, a busy bar/lounge, and a private party space (the Bellecour Room). At C.B., the singular space -- which was the original Daniel space -- is quite small, the decor is contemporary, and the overall feel is low-key.
When it comes to cuisine, as you pointed out, Daniel's menu is contemporary French, and it is a prix-fixe. As I've mentioned, Cafe Boulud offers 4 different menus + a menu of daily specials. While the "Traditional" menu is French, the others have a variety of global influences. All the menus are a la carte, so you can mix and match according to your tastes.
As far as costs go, Daniel is much more upscale. True, C.B. is expensive, but because the menus are a la carte, you can share dishes or choose to have fewer courses, which will bring the cost down considerably.
Thank you, RGR, for your detailed explanation! I would love to try it some day. But it's awfully hard when there are so many restaurants in NYC, and so many great ones that I'd like to go back to.
btw, as I know your are an Eleven Madison Park lover, I really think you should try L'Atelier one day. I think you'll like it.
Obviously I don't know the details of the reservation you need (size of party, time, etc), but if you can't find a table at Eleven Madison which fits your requirements I'd urge you to try Robuchon or Cafe Boulud ASAP. They are much harder to get into than Eleven Madison - which always has plenty of options available on Open Table.