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Special Occasion Dinner: Return to EMP, or try Craft, Craftsteak, Corton, Aureole, Chanterelle?

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I know that I can find (and have found) much written about these restaurants, but some have new chefs, and I'm also interested in comparisons between them. So bear with me.

I've got a special occasion coming up, and am trying to pick a great spot - excellent food and a space that feels special (but not necessarily uncomfortably so or overdone). I'm not so interested in overly formal French at the moment, so I'll eliminate Daniel (where I recently visited), as well as Jean Georges and Le Bernardin.

My first thought at the moment is Eleven Madison Park, where I've been fairly recently and which wowed me completely, in terms of food and the total experience. Otherwise, I'm thinking of Corton, Craft or Craftsteak, Aureole (been there but not with Chris Lee at the helm), or Chanterelle.

Any thoughts between these places, or any place I'm missing?

Many thanks.

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  1. Highly recommend Aureole with Chris Lee as the new chef. I had a great dinner at Aureole in February, and everything was delicious.. I have another Aureole dinner booked for early May (before they relocate to the Bryant Park area). EMP would be another excellent choice (but you've been there recently).

    1. Corton is very good, and the food is distinctive/unique. I'd recommend the prix fixe rather than the tasting.

      I think EMP is very well executed but I don't find the food all that memorably interesting.

      1. We've had equally impressive dinners at EMP, Aureole, Craft and Chaterelle. First off, I don't think you will be disappointed by any of these.

        Aureole is more intimate dining than any of the others on your list if that helps, but the food and service are both impeccable. Being a smaller restaurant, you don't get the whole "coreographed" service like EMP, but the staff are very helpful and discreet.

        Everything about craft is wonderful, like Meyer at EMP, Coliccio runs his restaurants like a finely tuned machine. Every experience there has been consistently great.

        Chanterelle is equally great, I've had three remarkable meals there- the food is excellent. Although a good friend of mine went recently and said the service wasn't "EMP" great. That led to the inevitable conversation about the service at EMP being pretty much the gold standard. Craft and Aureole come close.