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Apr 27, 2009 10:56 AM

Where to take foodie husband for his birthday?

Hello. We've tried many of the usual upscale suspects (Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, Babbo, etc.) in past years and I'm having a hard time coming up with a good "special occasion" place for this year's dinner. So far, the two strongest contenders are Degustation and Picholine, and perhaps Jean Georges. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on why I should choose one over the other. Thank you!!

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  1. i think Omen is truly unique and fantastic...

    also, One of by Land and Two if by Sea is also a an oldie but goodie...

    2 Replies
    1. re: sashab10

      OIBL may be an "oldie," but "goodie" when it comes to the food? Not!

      1. re: RGR

        Yes, I really have not read anything great about the food at One if by Land .... and when I went many years ago, well, I've not been back. My husband and I used to go to Omen in the early 90s, and always enjoyed it - beautiful space - but it's been too long ago for me to comment on the chow.

    2. How much are you willing to spend? Where have you been other than Daniel, GT, and Babbo? What have you liked/disliked?

      If you liked Gramercy Tavern, look up Michael Anthony's old restaurant, Blue Hill. A trip to Stone Barns in the spring sounds amazing to me.

      Degustation is very good for its price point, but if you are considering Jean Georges and have never been, definitely go to Jean Georges.

      Have you been to Eleven Madison Park?

      2 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        Thanks very much. I have been to the other places you mention (aside from Stone Barns, which will happen at some point over the summer) and, after much research, I think I've narrowed it down to the three places I mentioned above. Just wondering why you would pick one over the other.

        1. re: clembeauchamp

          I haven't been to Picholine but from what I've read of the atmosphere, it wouldn't appeal to me.

          Having been to both Degustation and JG in the last several months, JG is a must try (i.e., "what do you mean you've never been?!") because it is operating on a different level than most other NYC restaurants. Degustation is a "get there eventually" restaurant for me.

      2. Park Avenue Spring would be my first suggestion and David Burke Townhouse and Dovetail would be my second. Park Avenue is a bit nicer, closer to the realm of Daniel but is fantastic and also great for a special occasion.

        7 Replies
        1. re: YveyH

          Based on my experience I think Dovetail is a bit overrated.

          Degustation is very good, their desserts are nothing to write home about. Still need to get to EMP and Picholine (have a $50 certificates).

          1. re: financialdistrictresident

            Based on the fantastic dessert I had when I was at Degustation, I'd strongly disagree with your opinion. The dessert was one of the highlights of my 10-course dinner there!

            1. re: Pan

              I have to agree that the dessert at Degustation that was part of the 10-course dinner was beyond incredible.

              1. re: Slob

                Thanks Pan and Slob. Tell me more. What made your desserts fantastic and incredible?

                Maybe the dessert options have improved. Do they still have the cheese course? Still no coffee or espresso? I need to get back to Degustation to check it out.

                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                  "What made your desserts fantastic and incredible?"

                  I don't know if the dessert that was paired with the 10 course menu is on the regular menu, but if it is, I DEFINITELY highly recommend it. It was a piece of bread soaked in some sort of creamy concoction and cooked to perfection. It was like a gooey piece of french toast bursting with flavor.

                  1. re: financialdistrictresident

                    The taste, of course. I had the same dessert Slob had. Several other people have reported on it. To me, what made it was not just the cream-soaked brioche with blowtorch-caramelization, itself, but its combination with acidic citrus slices for sweet/sour balance.

                    No cheese course was part of the 10-course tasting menu, and I'm glad, because no cheese would have been likely to have been as interesting as the courses they served. I'm not a coffee drinker but was offered coffee. Are you telling me Degustation used to lack any coffee? That's a weird one. How could they have ever lacked coffee?

                    1. re: Pan

                      There is a cheese course on the a la carte menu, but not on the tasting menu. The dessert you are referring to is the Torrija (maybe spelled torija on the menu), I think it is on both tasting menus as well as the a la carte. It is basically a Spanish version of French toast, brioche soaked in milk and possible caramel, with caramelized sugar on top, served with grapefruit and orange slices. It is amazing!

                      I had the best meal of my life there over the summer, but skipped dessert to try the dessert truck. So naturally, even though we had both already eaten dinner and dessert, I had to bring my foodie/chef friend to Degustation for the Torija that I had heard so much about. They were perfectly accommodating and very friendly especially considering we were only having dessert. The chef remembered me from my one meal last summer which I thought was very cool. We talked for a while before the torija came; he said he really likes the dish, but admits its a bit simple. They are working on expanding their dessert program currently so who knows what is in store- I said that sounded great but urged them to keep the Torija on the menu after I had a taste.

          2. You would not be making a mistake with any of those three. I prefer Picholine over JG, though only slightly. Degustation is quite a different atmosphere, but it has a nice feel and the 10-course tasting is just amazing. In fact it's more like 12 courses, because the amuse is substantial and they usually give you an extra course.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rrems

              I would go to Jean Georges. It's extremely affordable considering the fact you'd be eating in one of only three of the 3 Michelin restaurants in Manhattan, the dining room is beautiful, and the pastry chef Johnny Iuzinni is simply put a superstar genius with desserts.

            2. Thanks again! Would you mind explaining why you prefer one over another? I've never set foot inside any of the three and am having a hard time choosing just one.

              5 Replies
              1. re: clembeauchamp

                The problem is it's a very close call, and a matter of personal taste. All 3 are among my favorites. All have great food. Picholine's food is modern French. JG is also modern French but with more use of exotic flavorings. Degustation is casual, though it does have formal service, Picholine is very formal and traditional in decor and service, while JG is formal but with contemporary decor. As far as Michelin stars are concerned, I don't put much stock in that (it is more reliable in France than here). JG has 3, Picholine 2, and Degustation none, yet there is no significant difference in food quality. Pricewise, JG is highest, Picholine next, Degustation lowest. By the way, you can order a gift card for Picholine at 20% off the face value. It takes about a week to receive it.

                1. re: rrems


                  I would add the following to your comparison between Jean Georges and Picholine:

                  PIcholine's cuisine does tilt Mediterranean, while Jean-Georges tends to favor incorporating Asian flavors in his compositions.

                  As far as the decor goes, while I think Picholine's mauve interior is more attractive in person than the photos I've seen make it appear, I find the overall ambiance at Jean Georges more attractive and appealing. By day, the room is flooded with light and has an airiness about it, while at night, the draperies and special lighting give the room a shimmering golden glow. Lovely!

                  1. re: RGR

                    I agree whole-heartedly with RGR. Jean Georges is one of the three best dining experiences in the city along with Per Se and Le Bernardin. Picholine is loud and crowded and I don't believe a great place for a celebratory dinner. The service in the main dining room of j.g is stellar as is the food. The desserts are delicious but very different in focus from the rest of the meal.
                    THe difference in price is not that much, considering the overall wonderful dining experience one receives at J.G.

                    1. re: sethd

                      Loud and crowded???? Picholine is one of the most hushed restaurants I've ever been in, and these days it is barely half filled. Of course, I don't dine before 8 pm, so maybe it is different earlier in the evening. As far as an "overall wonderful dining experience" is concerned, I feel I've gotten that every time I've been to Picholine.

                      1. re: sethd


                        I can't imagine how you could possibly describe the noise level at Picholine as loud. There are more tables in Picholine's two dining rooms than at J.G., but loud?!! We've had dinner there quite a few times, both before and after 8, and though I wouldn't call it hushed, the noise has never risen above a comfortable hum. In short, the ambiance at Picholine provides a very civilized and enjoyable dining experience.