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Where to take foodie husband for his birthday?

clembeauchamp Apr 27, 2009 10:56 AM

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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    sashab10 RE: clembeauchamp Apr 27, 2009 11:31 AM

    i think Omen is truly unique and fantastic... http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

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

    2 Replies
    1. re: sashab10
      RGR RE: sashab10 Apr 27, 2009 11:46 AM

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

      1. re: RGR
        MMRuth RE: RGR Apr 29, 2009 07:15 PM

        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. k
      kathryn RE: clembeauchamp Apr 27, 2009 11:33 AM

      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
        clembeauchamp RE: kathryn Apr 27, 2009 11:44 AM

        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
          kathryn RE: clembeauchamp Apr 27, 2009 11:48 AM

          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. y
        YveyH RE: clembeauchamp Apr 27, 2009 02:41 PM

        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
          financialdistrictresident RE: YveyH Apr 27, 2009 06:41 PM

          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
            Pan RE: financialdistrictresident Apr 27, 2009 10:03 PM

            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
              Slob RE: Pan Apr 27, 2009 10:09 PM

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

              1. re: Slob
                financialdistrictresident RE: Slob Apr 28, 2009 09:42 AM

                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
                  Slob RE: financialdistrictresident Apr 28, 2009 10:59 AM

                  "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
                    Pan RE: financialdistrictresident Apr 28, 2009 11:07 AM

                    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
                      ian9139 RE: Pan Apr 28, 2009 06:59 PM

                      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. r
            rrems RE: clembeauchamp Apr 27, 2009 04:32 PM

            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
              newhaveneater RE: rrems Apr 27, 2009 05:15 PM

              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. c
              clembeauchamp RE: clembeauchamp Apr 27, 2009 05:17 PM

              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
                rrems RE: clembeauchamp Apr 27, 2009 07:22 PM

                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
                  RGR RE: rrems Apr 28, 2009 02:42 PM


                  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
                    sethd RE: RGR Apr 28, 2009 02:50 PM

                    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
                      rrems RE: sethd Apr 28, 2009 03:12 PM

                      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
                        RGR RE: sethd Apr 28, 2009 05:15 PM


                        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.

                2. steve h. RE: clembeauchamp Apr 28, 2009 03:25 PM

                  nice choices. you might want to add per se to the mix. this "foodie husband" is a big fan.

                  1. a
                    apples RE: clembeauchamp Apr 29, 2009 08:18 AM

                    I think Jean George is a much better choice than Picholine.. What about Le Bernadin , Chanterelle or Per Se? Yuo could go old school with the Four Seasons Restaurant. www.fourseasonsrestaurant.com
                    ALthough not in line with these what about the new David Burke restaurant Fishtail...very good and lively atmoshphere.

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                      smartpalate77 RE: clembeauchamp Apr 29, 2009 09:07 AM

                      Of the three you are considering, I have been only to Jean Georges. As others have said, it is a must-try for a special occasion. The tasting menu is extraordinary - literally every bite is an amazement to the tastebuds!

                      The only dish that fell short of my (sky-high) expectations were the marshmallows they give you at the end of the meal; they were a little dry (maybe they're supposed to be, but I much preferred the coconut marshmallows at Blue Hill!). The dining room is beautiful, everyone is professional and accommodating. Just a wonderful dining experience all around. And compared with other tasting menus in NYC, the price isn't terrible.

                      1. u
                        UWSEater RE: clembeauchamp Apr 29, 2009 09:54 AM

                        I would go with EMP or Degustation. I thought service at EMP was infinitely better than at Jen Georges, but I've only been to JG once. Degustation has a great atmosphere, you can watch everything prepared in front of you, and converse with the chef(s). I thought flavors were good there, and we went in for some extra courses once done the 10 course tasting. It was a great B-Day experience, and we will be going back.

                        EMP is also a great place for celebration. If you notify them ahead of time it is a special occasion, you will not be disappointed. Service and food were at a very high level at EMP, and I think it is one of the best dining experiences in the city.

                        Jean Georges had some unbelievable courses (egg toast, egg caviar, Lobster with ramps, scallops) but the service was hit or miss. I get consistently better service at Dovetail or Eighty one, was a bit of a disappointment on a $500 dinner. I would go back, but maybe for lunch, don't think I'd want to test the waters again given ample other restaurants to choose from.

                        So, if you want something along the Daniel, GT ilk, go for EMP, IMHO is comparable food, better service, better wine, better setting, and overall better experience. If you want something different and fun, go to Degustation, and get the 10 course with wine pairings. It's not a gut busting amount of food, but very fun and tasty.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: UWSEater
                          clembeauchamp RE: UWSEater Apr 29, 2009 07:11 PM

                          Thanks again, everyone. I am grateful for the guidance. To be as clear as possible: I am trying to choose between the three places I listed above, and am not looking for more restaurants to add to the list. Sounds like JG is the winner!

                          1. re: clembeauchamp
                            MMRuth RE: clembeauchamp Apr 29, 2009 07:16 PM

                            I've not been to Babbo or Degustation, but based on several dinners at JG, I would expect that you would have a wonderful meal.

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