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please don't judge me because i'm from LA :(

i love food. all day, every day. but i'm only an LA foodie. so my boyfriend and i are making our way out to new york for the holidays [where he's originally from] and i'm giving him 12 gifts for the 12 days of christmas. since we're both mutual foodies, i wanted my 12th gift to him to be a really great christmas dinner at either LE BERNARDIN or MORIMOTO.

before you judge me, let me just say that i want the meal to be an experience from a standpoint that we can both refer to. eric ripert is always on "top chef" which is a show we love, morimoto is always on "iron chef" which we also love. so taking into account the idea of experience, christmas, romance, tasting/omakase menu, etc ...


also, for clarification, i've already checked and YES, both of these restaurants are open for christmas evening. thanks! please, chowhounders, don't fail me now.

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  1. well, by choosing your two top contending restaurants because their chefs were on tv shows, you are setting yourself up to fall right into the LA stereotype which you claim to want to avoid...*smiles*

    i've never been to Morimoto, but it's gotten very mixed reviews (at best) on here and elsewhere...

    Le Bernardin has extremely good seafood and elegant, formal service...but because of it's setting (in essentially a converted office building lobby) i don't think of it as being particularly romantic...but it would be an tasty and special Christmas dinner: so between those two, i'd say definitely go w/ LB...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Simon

      yeah i know. if food was the only factor, i don't think i'd really choose either of them, but my bf's not a foodie. he's more intrigued by the chefs because he's seen them cook things on tv. so it's not really about me choosing as much as i want him to have fun and feel special.

      1. re: duhitsvictoria

        Any of the restaurants in this discussion will be fun and you two will definitely be made to feel special. Especially if you end up at a place run by Danny Meyer like EMP, which is all about the service.

        If being on TV matters...Both Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Johnny Iuzzini (pastry chef) have been on Top Chef, as have a bunch of other NYC chefs. Wylie Dufresne, April Bloomfield, Dan Barber, Anthony Bourdain, Scott Conant, Daniel Bouloud. And of course there's Tom Colicchio, as a permanent member of the judging team.

    2. Le Bernardin... best high-end restaurant specializing in seafood in the country. Nice wine list too.

      1. agreed that most everyone is going to give a better all-round food review of le bernardin than of morimoto. le bern is quite flawless. that being said, i agree with the assessment of simon that it isn't particularly romantic, but that's really what you make of it. also i did have an eric ripert sighting when i was there. i was so excited, it might as well have been brad pitt.

        if you're expanding your search beyond tv chefs, you could consider yasuda for omakase, eleven madison park, jean-georges, bouley or daniel for a flawless and very romantic meal as well.

        2 Replies
        1. re: vatl619

          i've considered eleven madison park, jean-georges and daniel ... if it was between those three, which would you choose?

          1. In terms of reputation among NY Foodies and Critics, Eric Ripert hands down takes the cake. If it were down to those two for me, Le Bernardin is where I'd go. The food is sophisticated, subtle, and sublime. Definitely do not go to Morimoto for I've heard of many friends who have returned disappointed.

            If you're considering eating in the elite league of restuarants like Le Bernardin, allow me to suggest a few others to look into.

            Per Se is definitely, definitely worth trying to get a table it. It is in my mind, and in the minds of many, the best total restaurant experience you can have New York. 3 Michellin Stars, 4 Stars NY Times. It is also has a more romantic feel than Le Bernardin. It has a view of Central Park from the 4th floor of the Time Warner Building; you may be so lucky to have a white christmas overlooking central park. The service is flawless and down to earth. They serve two tasting menus that change everyday, one for vegetarians. $250 per person. I just checked and they're fully booked, but if you're interested there's a waitlist as a backup.

            Sushi Yasuda, for the omakase route, is my and many on this board's top sushi pick in new york. Sit at the counter for the real deal experience, and try and make a reservation to sit in front of Mr Yasuda himself! (He's a sweet, funny ol' man). They're always a top pick in Zagat for Japanese and is usually top 5 in rating for food. The sushi is, sigh, beautiful.

            some more to look into:
            Masa (Japanese cuisine, if you're willing to spend a fortune)

            1. You might want to consider making your reservations now as Le Bernardin will surely fill up fast.

              1. "Regular" Morimoto isn't worth it as far as I can tell BUT I've had spectacular meals seated at the Omakase Bar. Of course it's $200pp and up, but if you are willing to spend the money, you can have a fantastic meal.

                Otherwise, go with Le Bernardin. The food is exquisite (but subtle and not super bold or flash), the service is impeccable, and the feel is quite different from Morimoto's flashy modern design. Morimoto also feels a big cavernous. It's a giant restaurant with multiple levels and rooms and nooks.

                Agreed with the others that Le B isn't very "romantic" per se -- the atmosphere reminded me of a very nice airport lounge or hotel lobby. Jean-Georges, Eleven Madison Park, many others are much more romantic in terms of atmosphere.

                3 Replies
                1. re: kathryn

                  I don't think Eleven Madison Park is romantic either. It used to be the ground floor lobby of a big bank/insurance and it still looks like one.

                  1. re: RCC

                    That would have to have been one gorgeous bank. While I've never thought of EMP as romantic, I think the soaring Art Deco space is stunning!

                  2. Hi duhitsvictoria,

                    I don't see anything wrong about wanting to dine at a Top Chef/Iron Chef's restaurant. If that's what you and your bf want, go for it!

                    Others have already mentioned about the food at LeB and Morimoto. Actually I will suggest you calling Morimoto first and see if he will be in town and doing omakase on the night you dine. If so, reserve the seats NOW. While the regular menu isn't that appealing. the omakase (kathryn's post already mentioned) was excellent. If it is Morimoto cooking, it's quite a notch better than the next best chef doing the omakase (no disrespect to the chef, but that's my experiences after having omakase both by Morimoto himself and other chefs). Chef Morimoto is also a funny guy so the meal was not just delicious but very enteretaining as well.

                    If Chef Morimoto isn't going to be in town, then I will go with LeB. Not going to elaborate on the food as others have already said a lot.

                    If you really like Top Chef, you should also visit Harold's (first season winner) reataurant Perilla. Very cozy and small, and food is delicious. He is almost always cooking in the house so you may be able to spot him. (Do this before your grand finale or else it may seem pale)

                    Tom Colichicco's Craft is also one of my favorite restaurants in town. Just want to let you know.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: kobetobiko

                      Forgot that you have Craft in LA. So scratch that.

                      1. re: kobetobiko

                        yeah i took the bf to craft for his birthday and he loved it. he was really happy and thought the food was great. but every time we're in the city, he mentions le bernardin whenever we pass it, so i'm thinking it would resonate with him more. although i'd really love to go to per se or le cirque. but i guess le bernardin is where it's probably going to be.

                    2. for me, choosing between le bernardin and morimoto is choosing between good food vs. good atm. i like the food at le bernardin, but hate the atm. (it does feel stiff to me -- like kathryn described it, a bit like a very nice airport lounge.... a bit sterile.) the atm at morimoto is luxe and posh and potentially romantic (and they have the coolest toilets ever). but IMO, the food is boring and / or not well prepared, esp. since you have access to so many great chinese / japanese / fusion places in los angeles. the grain of salt is that i've never had omakase there with morimoto, himself. he is pretty entertaining on top chef.

                      1. okay. i've come to decide that i'd like to exclude morimoto from the decision. but what about jean georges?

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: duhitsvictoria

                          Jean Georges is excellent...fits the romantic aspect better than the others too. Personally, I'd go there...

                          1. re: duhitsvictoria

                            Jean Georges is fabulous, and would be an excellent choice. Request an alcove table for maximum "romance" -- and JGV is often sighted as he comes out of the kitchen to say hello to diners. Some think the room is too cold, and off putting because tons are all whites, but it has a softer feel at night.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              that's what i thought about it, kathryn. too cold (but i've only been for lunch).

                              1. re: rose water

                                I've been at J-G at night and have sat in the alcove and still thought it was a bit cold. But that's just my opinion. For romance, I prefer richer jewel tones.

                                OP, here's a pic of JG's dining room so you can make up your own mind.


                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  I thought the alcove space is very small! I felt like those diners were being trapped or something. I didn't like the alcove seats at all.

                                  As for the whole space, I think it depends on how full it is on the particular night. When it is full, it doesn't feel cold at all. But it may seem very deserted and cold if there are only a few tables occupied (which I had experienced). Same thing for EMP.

                                  1. re: kobetobiko

                                    I'd have to agree with you about the the fullness of the restaurant issue. J-G and EMP both have grand ceilings, and I find that there's some intimacy lost unless the restaurant is packed.

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      i agree about EMP - the space is so cavernous that i don't imagine you could ever really feel cozy there. i've also never been impressed by the food there, but that's an entirely different issue.