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May 25, 2009 09:52 AM

Le Bernardin or One if by Land?

Special occasion coming up and looking to try a new restaurant. Le Bernardin is always on my list but never makes the final cut for some reason - so I am strongly considering Le Bernardin - but have recently read that One if by Land Two if by Sea is a very romantic restaurant. Are they even in the same league? We enjoy food for sure - but readily admit - quiet ambience goes a very long way. Can I go wrong with either? should I leave it up to the reservation gods? To provide reference point for special occasion dining - Best Meal ever for us was Jean George (but really the tasting menu is too much food for me in one sitting). Loved Daniel and L'atelier Robuchon (what can I say - glad I experienced Per Se - but just wasn't Mount Olympus for us). any other suggestions?

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  1. Can you go wrong with either? Are you kidding? Nobody who really cares about stellar cuisine would ever choose OIBL (or even consider it for a NY minute), over Le Bernardin. The choice between 4-star cuisine at Le Bernardin vs. food that sucks at OIBL is a no-brainer -- at least, for me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RGR

      There is no reason to go to One If By Land. It's a lovely townhouse but the food isnt. If you're putting romantic atmosphere first, then River Cafe has better food and is hands down the best place for romantic atmosphere in NYC. For food, Le B. is a fine choice and I'd add Eleven Madison Park as the 2nd possibility.

      1. One if by Land is barely romantic and the food generally ranges from pretty bad to okay. It is also very overpriced. It relies on tourists and others looking for a cheesy romantic place, so there has been no reason to upgrade the kitchen.

        15 Replies
        1. re: ESNY

          Le Bernardin is hands down my favorite restaurant in New York. I feel the mark of a good restaurant is being able to remember dishes you had there and comparing all others to them. The Kanpachi appetizer their does it for me. My husband still talks frequently about the sea urchin risotto.The atmosphere is very quite. It scewes older (I am in my twenties), but to me if you are having a romantic meal with someone special then why does it matter who else is there. On every occasion I have been, the service has been impeccable and no snootiness to be found. They are happy to answer questions and steer you in a direction you will be happy. I feel it is improtant to address price. At $105 per person, the amount of food and quality is amazing. I had a $300pp meal at Per Se a night after dining at Le Bernardinthat was very good, but left me feeling dissapointed. I feel expectations often times cloud an otherwise good meal, but this never happens at Le Bernardin for me. Everytime I go I expect it to be as good as the last and it never lets me down. I would love to hear how you like it!!

          1. re: jsa7405

            I expected great and got better than expected at Le Bernardin - if they do close doors at the end of the lease it'll be a great loss. I'd recommend EVERYONE with the means get there while they can.

            1. re: uhockey

              If they do close and reopen elsewhere, I hope they select a location and a style of interior decor that more befit -- and enhance -- a restaurant of this superb caliber.

              1. re: RGR

                IMO, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the decor of the dining room at Le Bernardin. How does location "enhance " or "improve" any restaurant. Le bernardin is one of the best restaurants in the city if not the entire country. Where else does it belong but in midtown Manhattan.

                1. re: sethd

                  Nothing wrong with it being in midtown. And you are certainly entitled to find the decor to your liking. However, despite all their attempts at camouflage, I can never escape the feeling that I am dining in the lobby of an office building. Furthermore, tables are much too close to one another, the result of their having jammed in as many as they can fit in the space. Imo, not the kind of ambiance I expect from a four-star restaurant. Jean Georges immediately comes to mind as an example. And there are many restaurants that aren't four-stars which I think have far superior ambiance to Le Bernardin. Some even have, imo, cuisine and service at an equivalent level.

                  1. re: RGR

                    I have to agree with RGR in that it kind of strikes me as a very nice hotel lobby or waiting room. They could certainly do worse, but they could also certainly do better. My fiance thought some of the fixtures reminded him of fixtures we have in *our* apartment...which are from Crate and Barrel.

                    1. re: RGR

                      So when you dine at Per Se, do you feel you are eating in a mall. I would also love to know what restaurants in the city are in your opinion the equivalent to Le Bernardin in terms of cuisine and service.

                      1. re: sethd

                        Re: per se. Actually, no. In fact, the space has been designed in such a way that it managed to make me *forget* that the restaurant is in a mall.

                        I think you've been participating on this board long enough to know which restaurants I think are equivalent to Le Bernardin in terms of cuisine and service.

                        1. re: RGR

                          Gustibus non disputandum est, I guess. I think it is human nature to be blinded by "flaws" in those we love. I do agree with you that the tables at Le Bernardin are too close together. I would also say that bit of information has never once affected my enjoyment and , in fact, has even enhanced, my numerous superb meals at Le Bernardin. In addition, there is definitely (at least) two different dining paradigms in new york . there is the midtown style, a more formal, traditional, or european style of dining personified by Jean Georges, Per Se, Le Bernardin, the old ADNY and the more egalitarian style exemplified by downtown restaurants such as EMP. For multiple reasons, I prefer the former, RGR appears to enjoy the later.

                          1. re: sethd

                            I found both LeBe and EMP quite nicely decorated and situated, personally - J-G was much "closer packed" than either in my opinon and the decorations far less interesting.

                            1. re: sethd

                              RGR does not, in fact, find one of your so-called dining paradigms more enjoyable than the other. That's presuming she even agrees with your supposition that there are these two dining categories. Or, if they do exist, which restaurants fall into one or the other.

                              As for how Le Bernardin's less than appealing (to me) ambiance affected how I felt about the *cuisine* -- it didn't. Stellar cuisine is stellar cuisine regardless of the surroundings. Same goes for service, which was superb this last time (unlike the previous time when I found it cold and aloof). What more appealing ambiance would then do is raise the *overall* experience for me to a more perfect level.

                              1. re: RGR

                                I disagree, somewhat, i think that the surroundings (the atmosphere, fellow guests, service, and decor) can play a very important role in one's enjoyment of a fine dining experience. Would dining at Louis XV be the same if the atmosphere was different? In addition, to me, there is definitely a differently "feel" when dining in certain restaurants compared to others and I do think that there are different service paradigms in fine dining establishments in the city.

                                1. re: sethd

                                  If you read my previous post more carefully, you will see I agree with you that surroundings definitely play an important role in how much one enjoys the dining experience. Ergo, if Le Bernardin's ambiance were more agreeable to me, it would enhance my experience there.

                                2. re: RGR

                                  I, for one, happen to really like le Bernardin's interior, though I would tend to agree with RGR that it does have somewhat of a ground-floor office building feel. There are three really poorly designed aspects to me about le Bernardin, and they have nothing to do with the color or decor, rather with situation:

                                  1. The lounge is small, stingy, and feels like the landing to the entrance. It really is not a waiting room becoming to such an esteemed restaurant, in my opinion.

                                  2. Too much Salon foot traffic through the dining room.

                                  3. The tables near to the kitchen really shouldn't exist. I vote they move the various stations to the space nearest to the kitchen and offer more tables in the main area. Perhaps this means giving up the silver tray carriage. But so be it.

                            2. re: sethd

                              Yes, I do feel like I'm eating in a mall when at per se. Granted, it's a very, very nice mall...

                2. My personal favorites for combination of romantic with great food are La Grenouille and Gascogne. Certainly very different price points, but both very celebratory places.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Go to the new Bouley downtown. Romantic and world-class food.

                  2. Thank everyone for taking the time to write - I really appreciate it. In the end I went with Le Bernardin - I was very excited, yes "was". Live and learn - I called 30 days in advance (foolishly assuming that was standard - apparently it's 60 days at Le Bernardin - or something like that) and despite this economy - all they had was a 5:30 on the Saturday I choose. I like early but that's a wee too early even for me.

                    So despite some of the service issues discussed on this board (I know, I read they got the Beard award for service - but some Hounders felt differently) I made a reservation for Daniel. Been their once before and it has special meaning and it was an incredible meal - so fingers crossed. I'll let you know in a month!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: calconscious

                      Even in this economy, Saturday is still the most difficult day to get a reservation at major/upscale restaurants for what is considered "prime" time.

                      I do hope you did not take an early reservation at Daniel. The majority of service problems we had the last time we were there occurred as a direct result of us having a 6 p.m. reservation and their intent on turning our table as quickly as possible. (It was, btw, a Saturday.) Since the cuisine is delicious, and we've had excellent service on previous visits, we will go back at some point. However, we will reserve at a much later hour -- around 9 p.m. -- when turning the table will be moot.

                      I look forward to your report.

                      Happy Special Occasion and Bon Appetit!

                      1. re: calconscious

                        As a participant in some of the threads about the service issues at Daniel (and having been on the receiving end of a couple of the occurrences), let me say that I think you will most likely have a wonderful experience--while I don't think they get it right all of the time, I do think it's a case of particular servers or captains (or in my case, one of the sub-sommeliers) handling particular situations and diners less well than they could, rather than a lack of commitment by the restaurant in general to providing a stellar dining experience. I think the latter still goes a very long way, as reflected in the Beard award. Daniel has provided me with several of my foundational dining experiences over the years, and for a special occasion I'd take Daniel, with high expectations and very occasional disappointments, over a mediocre restaurant, with low expectations and only the possibility of a pleasant surprise, any time.

                        1. re: planetjess

                          Nobody who really cares about superb cuisine would choose OIBL over Daniel. However, there is an argument to be made that a restaurant of Daniel's caliber should do far more than just be "committed" to offering stellar service. There was absolutely no excuse for the *several* service problems we encountered. One, perhaps, might be excused. But not several. And I would find none of them acceptable in a lesser restaurant, let alone in a 4-star. That Beard Award gave me a good laugh. I can assure you that if the judges had been treated the way we were, the award would have gone to another, more deserving restaurant.

                          1. re: RGR

                            I don't disagree with you, RGR. I have made (in the same threads in which you have described your experience) and make no excuses for Daniel's failures in this regard. I don't even make the claim that their lapses have been isolated and forgivable. However, I stand by my position that their overall track record is such that the OP has very good reason to go in expecting that her dining experience will be an excellent one, and to accordingly hold them to that standard.

                            1. re: planetjess

                              Expecting excellence in all areas, including service, when dining in an upscale restaurant is a no-brainer. However, considering that there are a good many complaints about service at Daniel, I don't agree with you about how to view their "overall track record." In any case, I certainly hope that calconscious's experience at Daniel turns out to be stellar in every respect.