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popping the question, just need a setting

Anyone not into the relationship bits, let me simply ask this: EMP vs Jean-Georges, which would you prefer for a romantic dinner? I have been to neither. EMP has an 11-course tasting menu, which sounds like the greatest thing in the world. I take it as a given that Jean-Georges would also be fantastic. This is for 2 weeks from now, but during the week.

Now, for the rest of you - i plan on dropping to one knee before my girlfriend of 2 years on her 27th birthday. I'll ignore the ring-in-champagne-glass stuff; it'll be simple and based on words rather than pranks. I'm looking for a great culinary experience, with just a little bit of help from the ambiance. And hopefully the staff can wrangle a corner table or something. I'll mention my plan when i book.

I DONT want a place where the tables are packed together, where there's a great hum of white noise from all the people stuffed together in the feeding room, or where I can't slip out of my chair without bumping into someone. Typically that's not the case as most high-end spots, but I've been fooled before (see Toqueville, where the only thing high-end is the bill) and am going in blind.

That said, I'm looking at EMP and Jean-Georges. I wanted Per Se but I don't believe they've got a table on our evening. The places we've been in the last 6 months are out because it doesn't feel right to be going "right back" - Bouley, Daniel (lounge would have been perfect), and Four Seasons.

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  1. Several posts on engagements today. I got engaged at Montrachet (now Corton - not romantic) and celebrated my 10th anniversary there. They closed right around our divorce :)

    I had lunch at EMP recently and don't find the space romantic. Have not been to JG yet.


    7 Replies
    1. re: financialdistrictresident

      I'm with FDR and others who say that EMP is not very romantic. It's bright, a bit astringent in feel and there are far too many wait persons scurrying about filling water, bringing bread, whisking away plates for it to really feel like an intimate experience. I don't remember JG being very romantic, either, but that may have been because I've only been for a business dinner.

      If you have the ability to go outside of the city, Blue Hill at Stone Barns is a lovely experience. It's intimate, slow paced and low-key. The preparation of food is not usually as involved as at Jean-Georges or Bouley or Daniel, but it's very good and simply prepared in ways that allow the top-quality ingredients to shine through. It might still be very difficult to get a reservation in the aftermath of the Obama visit -- but it's very much worth an ask, IMO.

      1. re: cimui

        cimui, have you been to EMP for dinner? Is the room different at night? It's such a lovely lunch setting with the park outside. Service was fabulous when I went recently. I enjoy formal French service (EMP, Bouley, etc.) and understand not everyone does (FazaMonster did not indicate a preference).

          1. re: cimui

            Thanks, cimui. Apologies, missed that in your post. It's like Chanterelle. When I went some time ago for a business dinner the food was amazing but the room is a bit formal to be considered romantic.

            1. re: financialdistrictresident

              Agreed, FDR! Fair question, since I didn't say, either way.

              RGR, it's interesting that you should say that Blue Hill at Stone Barns is too big to be intimate. That's actually one of my problems with EMP. The very high ceilings swallow all the warmth. At BH/SB, the ceiling is lower, tables are set further apart, and the lighting less harsh.

              I've only been to Blue Hill at Stone Barns three times in two years, but had good to very good meals, each time. I think I'd have to agree that sometimes (esp. in the wintertime) the food is not as fantastic as places I really love in the city (i.e. Modern Dining Room), but that's in part because of a style preference. All that said, in the summer, the tomatoes, alone, at BH/SB could make me cry. My taste buds are less attuned to differences in well-raised v. semi-well raised meat (i.e. really free range at BH/SB v. cage free, which I eat more frequently at home), but the difference in some of the vegetable-based dishes is astonishing. Now is a good season to go.

              1. re: cimui

                While I love EMP's soaring space and find it gorgeous, I actually agree with you that it is not romantic, and I've often said so on this board.

                Our first visit to Stone Barns was during the height of the summer produce season, so that may very well have contributed to the meal being more delicious than the one we had in May. And you are right about the sensational tomatoes. However, there are plenty of wonderful crops during the spring season. We just didn't see enough of them. When you're paying top dollar for a meal, it's not too much to expect the kitchen to create dishes without excessive repetition of ingredients. And, finally, there was no excuse for food served cold when it should be hot.

        1. re: cimui

          While I the interior space at Stone Barns is very attractive, I think it's too large to be described as "intimate."

          With regard to the food, I'm sad to say that the dinner we had there last month (our second visit) was very disappointing, especially so because our first dinner two years ago was stellar. Since the menu provided to us listed upwards of 100 possible seasonal items we might be served during the Farmer's Feast, I was shocked that so few of them showed up on our plates and at how repetitive the ingredients were. Also, I don't eat caviar and requested it be left off any dish that might include it. One of the courses was supposed to be asparagus with caviar and almonds. When the plates arrived, instead of leaving the caviar off just my plate, it was missing from *everyone's* plate! What's more, what was on the plate was a boring little clump of greens with hardly an asparagus stalk or tip to be found, and instead of almonds, I discovered one or two pistachios, while one of my table mates found no nuts at all. (Note: Since the actual Farmer's Feast meal is not a set, printed menu, we didn't find out what this course was *supposed* to be until the end of the meal when we were presented with copies of our dinner.) Furthermore, the entire table had to send one course back because what should have been served hot was practically stone cold! Inexcusable for a restaurant of this high caliber.

          Even service was below par as many of the servers were clueless as to what they were setting before and often contradicted one another.

          After such an inadequate performance, I doubt we'll be rushing back.

      2. Been to both, I'd favor EMP but both are winners. If at EMP tell them your intentions and get a nice table

        1 Reply
        1. re: msny98

          EMP is quite spacious and the corner tables are nice. The space is a bit more grand though, with the big windows and high ceilings.

          If you end up at Jean Georges, ask for an alcove table for maximum "romance" -- they're little nooks that hold tables for two. It's not romantic, per se, but I find the sheer white curtains with the lights of Central Park behind them a nice touch that softens the space.

          Neither are really romantic, but I'd give the edge to JG, just barely. The food at both is excellent though, which is more than you can say about some romantic spots around.

          1. re: Trumpetguy

            Are people here aware of the "salon room" at Per Se?

            1. re: Trumpetguy

              There have been posts about the salon on another thread. There have also been posts about preferences not to eat hunched over a coffee table . . .

              1. re: financialdistrictresident

                "There have also been posts about preferences not to eat hunched over a coffee table . . .

                That would definitely be me! And add to that the considerably high cost.

                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                  Really? I didn't experience that. I sat on a couch overlooking Central Park South--I was very comfortable and until now, never even thought about complaining about hunching over :)

                  And the food and service were truly kind and amazing overall.

            2. I don't find JG romantic at all. It has a very white and modern feel to it. But the food is fantastic. I haven't been to EMP. However, if you're willing to go out of your 2 choices, One if By Land, Two if By Sea is considered one of the most romantic restaurants in Manhattan. It has a nightly piano player, velvet seating, and chandeliers. They regularly get marriage proposes there. So I'm sure they'll be able to accommodate any of your wishes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tastyeating

                OIBL may have what you consider romantic ambiance (it sounds overly schmaltzy to me), but one thing is certain -- it's not a good choice for anyone who cares about excellent cuisine.

              2. Great choices! Per Se is our favorite in NY with JG and EMP tied for second. I had my post-engagement dinner at EMP and we did the 11 course and it was fantastic. They gave us a wonderful corner table, overlooking Madison Park. It's a big restaurant so it naturally depends where you are sitting (as table distances from each other and views vary), but I am sure that if you tell them your plan they will make it a magical evening, as they did for us.

                That said, JG is also terrific and we've had only great meals there. I also might consider calling Per Se to see if they have any cancellations. If I was sure that one restaurant would deliver a one of a kind memory, it is Per Se. Let us know how it goes. Congrats!

                1. I have to be honest. Her stomach will be so tight and she will want to be calling all her friends and family to tell them the good news the meal will be lost on her. If this plan is a must for you I would pop the question before you get to the dinner spot, let her make her calls and settle down and then enjoy a meal you will both remember for ever.

                  1. I'm one of those who believes that the popping-the-question/dropping-on-one knee thingy is a very personal moment and should take place in private. Then, a joyous dinner can follow.

                    EMP has the whole package: exquisite cuisine, an excellent wine list, stellar service, and a gorgeous space. If you decide to go there, when you reserve, be sure to inform the reservationist that this will be your engagement dinner. The staff likes to be aware of this information and will go out of their way to make sure it is a special and memorable evening for you. And, yes, your should absolutely do the 11-course Gourmand!

                    Best wishes to you and your intended fiancée.

                    1. Have not been to JG but have recently been to EMP. The food at EMP was very good and so was the service. While the space at EMP is beautiful, and grand, I did not find it to be very romantic. I would suggest that you stop by both restaurants to take a look at the spaces and then make your decision from there. EMP has a bar so you could easily say you're meeting someone at the bar, go in, and then walk out with no questions asked. I am not sure about JG but for something this important it would be worth looking in to.

                      If Per Se is your first choice, why not call and ask if there is a wait list for openings. I see openings on Open Table come up on occasion and you may get lucky!

                      Best wishes!

                      1. Having been to both JG and EMP, I will pick EMP over JG for your occasion. There are 3 main areas for dining at EMP, the front, the upper back, and the "corner" space at the back. I think at the corner space where there are about 6 or so tables will provide you with more privacy.

                        On the other hand, JG is pretty much all open, and you see everyone while everyone can see you. While there are "nooks", I found those to be very cramped and uncomfortable rather than romantic.

                        Another VERY IMPORTANT factor that I pick EMP over JG is the service. The staff there is so friendly and helpful and they genuinely love to help their customers to have a memorable experience. The service at JG is good and competent, but I don't find it to be as sincere as the staff at EMP. I really think that the staff can make this occasion special for you.

                        If you decide to choose EMP, make sure to plan it with the staff. If you want to be safe, you should really go visit the restaurant prior to the dinner, and work out the plan and the steps with the staff (like where you prefer to sit, the meal, when you want to pop the question, and how you want the dinner to be paced, whether you want them to bring out flowers at a certain time, etc.). I mean this is something you really really want to perfect, so extra preparations are highly recommended!

                        The staff at EMP have always been extremely helpful to assist me in planning my mom's birthday and mother's day, etc. That's why my mom loves EMP, as she thinks the staff there are the nicest among all the restaurants we visited!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: kobetobiko

                          ... But the staff is *everywhere*! Would you really want to propose or be proposed to in front of all those people, who are watching so closely that water is refilled every time it falls below the one-inch-from-the-top mark?

                          1. re: cimui

                            I never found the staff to be "everywhere" unnecessarily. Have you ever seated at the corner space? I think that's the best area to have the proposal than anywhere inside JG!

                          2. re: kobetobiko

                            I agree with the onsite visit beforehand - to both places. That way you can get a sense of how helpful each restaurant will be (or not)
                            I was just at EMP this past weekend and the food and service were top-notch. I had the feeling that everyone there was bringing their "A-game"
                            Main room is not very romantic, but there is that back, upper corner room that seems to be a much more intimate space

                          3. I proposed at The Frying Pan http://www.fryingpan.com/
                            A dock off the chelsea piers. Great setting on the water. No-frills, and original too...except, of course, for me doing the same thing 3 years ago.

                            Then walk to a cozy meal at Jarnac. http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

                            1. I would not do it at a restaurant, period.

                              Maybe get a couple of good seats at Yankee Stadium, preferably behind home base. Maybe get a food vendor to deliver the ring. or get them to put something on the big screen.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: duck833

                                Putting your ring in the food is not a good idea (not to mention handing something worth tens of thousands to a hot dog guy???)

                                And I would agree with recommendations to proposing before and then dinner an hour or so later (so there is time for the calls and all) proposing at a ball park is the antithesis of romantic.

                                But if you're going to EMP maybe try this... stand in line at the Shake Shack and after a bit complain that your knee hurts or back hurts or that something is in your shoe... get down and discover the stone that has been poking your spine/heel etc... Somehow you have to be dressed for the real dinner so you need an excuse for that... but think of the savings in years to come when you can go to the Shack for your anniversary meals (shocking that I am single I know)

                                1. re: msny98

                                  Unless the hound loves baseball :)

                                  I still remember my engagement dinner at Montrachet (now Corton). I was more excited about trying fiddleheads for the first time then my ring :) Once a hound, always a hound. I went to Corton recently and recollect liking the food and atmosphere at Montrachet better.

                                  IMO, Danube (now closed) and The River Cafe (see OB Board) are the most romantic restaurants I have been to. LaVagna can also be romantic when it's not crazy crowded and noisy. Agree with kobe's earlier post that tables in the back corner at EMP could work.

                                    1. re: FazaMonster

                                      Well? What did you do and how was it received. Are you engagged?

                                    2. re: msny98

                                      msny98, love that use of the shake shack line!

                                    1. re: svenbergman

                                      I enthusiastically support the Chanterelle recommendation. It's hands down the most serene restauratn i've ever been to. The food is amazing, the space is warm and romantic, and the tables are very well-spaced. This would definitely be my choice. My husband took me there for my birthday before we were engaged. We would love to go back, but haven't yet for fear of ruining our absolutely perfect memory.

                                    2. Welp! We're 1 week from the date. Here's an update:

                                      I phoned Per Se after getting a gut feeling that it was just the right spot to go for her birthday. They gave me a reservation for that night, and I can't be happier! I know this is just what she wants, she's mentioned it and I'm glad it's working out.

                                      Moved my EMP reservation to later on in the 'engagement weekend' - figuring the 11-course will be about 3 hours, maybe 4? Can't let a good booking go to waste.

                                      I had a talk with an uncle of mine who mentioned the same thing I've heard before - if you propose at the start of the meal, you might not get to eat ... so i'm thinking what i'll do is i'll just save the actual proposal for the next day. Will pack a picnic and go to the park, and tease her about how her birthday came and went and she doesn't have that ring ... and then throw it at her and say "you win!" and run away. NO! It'll be the same traditional, fairy-tale thing, but in the park. If it's raining, under a gazebo. Then we have dinner plans with her friends and family.

                                      Lots of little events planned for entertainment over the weekend. 3 Great dinners in a row, to boot. Really looking forward to Per Se.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: FazaMonster

                                        How thoughtful you are to make it so special. I'm sure she will appreciate it!

                                        1. re: FazaMonster

                                          Sounds like a great plan food wise.. and getting engaged at a picnic is good too... but tease her and she might not be in much of a mood to say yes.... and let the picnic come and go she might be angry too. I'd use the get hurt fall down propose when she helps you up on the way to the picnic or while spreading a blanket

                                          1. re: msny98

                                            Her mom pointed out to me that saving it for the next day might leave her gently disappointed - she might be expecting it. I've actually teased her for over a year that it's silly to 'expect' that she'll be a taken women for every day of her life after turning 27 (maybe 27 and single is too scary?), but she probably knew I was joking and I would have done it sooner except that we have this running gag.

                                            As of now, I'm planning on throwing a tiny picnic (wine, cheeses, maybe we'll split a sandwich - hot sopressata with oil and red pepper is our 'go-to' - and a cupcake) in the afternoon, and I'll propose then. We'd have maybe 4 hours to jump around, make calls, etc etc, and get dressed to head to our dinner reservation.

                                            That's if it's not raining.

                                            If it is, the question will pop as desert concludes. I spoke with Anthony of Per Se and he advised that there's (my words ->) a 3-stage desert which generally ends the meal service and would be very accommodating of our private moment. He said they would be proud to offer us their best table for our engagement dinner, whether or not it starts out as an engagement (whether I propose earlier in the afternoon or there in their restaurant).

                                            I'm really thrilled!

                                            1. re: FazaMonster

                                              I'm sure it will be great. One more comment... I'm a huge fan of encased meats, the spicier the better (also a fiend for mortadella... though that is off point) BUT... do you really want to risk your sandwich repeating on you as you plant a kiss on your freshly afianced sweetie????

                                              Have a great moment, great luck and a great dinner

                                              1. re: msny98

                                                Going to skip the picnic meal with the ground guaranteed to be all wet ... it was raining in midtown a bit ago, and as I write, the sun's peaking through, but I'm going to count on a light stroll through the gardens instead.

                                                In answer to your question: YES! She'll share it with me and we'll both have spicy-meat breath. Not today, I'm speaking of past experiences. Hey look, I don't judge what quirks you and your sweetie have, you leave us this! ;P

                                                And thank you for your well-wishes, i'll post back next week with my reports!

                                          2. re: FazaMonster

                                            not food related...as someone who got proposed to recently, i'm so glad he decided to do it NOT on my birthday (which was only a few days apart), reasoning...you have 363 (i would say no on valentine's day too) days to do it, why does it has to be my birthday? but that's my opinion...

                                            ok now food related...as someone else mentioned, there's a little "back room" in EMP that's semi private with few tables, and definately quieter, but in there you don't get the impressive window view, oh and in there it's the "bench" seatingaround

                                            1. re: eatsleepandeatagain

                                              Congratulations Monster!

                                              LOLs, our wedding was 2 days after my birthday and now my husband insists that we celebrate the two together. I on the other hand insisted that we celebrate on two weekends :) We had our anniversary dinner at JG the second weekend, and I think JG is slightly more romantic than EMP. My husband finds EMP too formal and kinda sterile. Also JG has fewer tables.

                                              As someone whose engagement dinner was a flop (for non-proposal reasons since the proposal wasn't actually at dinner), and who actually starting furiously patting my husband down for the ring after the dinner, I'd reconsider how much teasing you want to do. Though I can see the desire to have it be a private moment. Can you do the picnic during the day and proposal at dinner?

                                              1. re: windycity

                                                Is it typical to celebrate the engagement AND the wedding anniversary? I thought only the latter.

                                                Maybe that shake shack idea's got something to it ... ;)

                                          3. Ok...first I am jealous you are going to Per Se....been trying to get there for years. You are planning an amazing weekend and there is no doubt she will say yes to you as you seem like a romantic and great guy. Enjoy all the amazing meals and make sure to put some champagne in your picnic basket.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: taboo

                                              You have gone through a ton of effort to make this a beautiful weekend and occasion. Just make sure you picked the right girl.

                                              1. re: princeofpork

                                                That's the only thing I won't need to second-guess.

                                            2. EMP's food is better period. Neither is romantic, however there are so many chefs in the kitchen at EMP so that if you did want to do something special they could facilitate and I must say, speaking for someone else right now, I believe the talent there could do something really nice.

                                                1. re: guttergourmet

                                                  I read your critique, and then the many counterpoints praising it. Per Se was the choice because, of all reasons, her now-ex-boyfriend mentioned it was the best place to go in NY. He'd always wanted to take her there but never could. She told me she wanted to go, but not in that "so let's go!" way, but in that "is it even possible?" kind of tone. Since hearing her desire to go there, i've taken her to lots of other places instead, purposely circumnavigating the fact that Per Se would be a double-edged sword.

                                                  If it's awful, I win. Because she loved Daniel (and I did too) the most of all the places she's ever been (we went there on valentine's day of this year) and it's like saying my taste is better than his. EXTREMELY PETTY, i know, but what else could be the underbelly of a twenty-something in these 20-somethings?

                                                  And if it's great, I still win, because she's been happier with me in these last two years than she ever thought she could be (and vice versa) - it's like saying I was the only one who could follow through with her happiness. EXTREMELY SAPPY, i know, but what else could you expect from the children of divorced baby-boomers?

                                                  I'm trying to pick out a place for lunch for sunday, preferably something exquisite *and* outdoors, if such a thing is possible - or at least in a bright, sunny space. EMP i ended up pushing to Monday night (long story), so that's out.

                                                  C'mon, GG, tell me what works! =)

                                                  1. re: FazaMonster

                                                    OK-I understand and you really can't go wrong with per se. How about the garden of Gascogne for Sunday lunch? Get the foie gras tasting. Good luck and enjoy.

                                                2. After all these posts I'm dying to know... How did it go?

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: heinlein42

                                                    it's TONIGHT!

                                                    more like ... meeting in 5 hrs, going to stroll the park in the rain ...

                                                    dinner is at 9

                                                    at this point i have *NO* idea how it will all go down, what with the fact that it's going to be thunder-storming this whole afternoon/evening

                                                    just gonna go with my gut!

                                                    1. re: FazaMonster

                                                      The rain and all can be romantic. If she is the right girl a swarm of locusts wouldn't matter a bit.

                                                      We expect to see a posting by maybe 10AM tomorrow with the story (and we're only giving you that long since you might want to sleep in on your first day engaged

                                                      1. re: FazaMonster

                                                        Beautiful. Don't make her wait too long, though! More time to celebrate. :)

                                                        Best wishes for a wonderful afternoon and evening.

                                                      2. Hands down, La Grenouille. I am not sure they are opened. It is in my opinion, the most romantic and beautiful restaurant in NYC. When you walk in the door it is a, "wow". The flowers are breath taking.
                                                        Whatever you choose, I am sure it will be a memorable occasion..GOOD LUCK

                                                        1. WELL!

                                                          It sure rained a hell of a lot on thursday. After the last shower (6:40-7:10 ish), we hopped a cab up to the gardens in the park (around 105th & 5th) and walked around. Had the place to ourselves. Found a fun little spot (my secret) and told her that since it was her birthday, she deserved a cupcake and a wish. Made her close her eyes (and turn around..she peeks) while i fiddled with the ... candle ... and I let her make her wish. When she opened her eyes, I was down in the mud with a ring, and she stood there dumbfounded and shaking and smiling and crying and that was our moment, in a nutshell.

                                                          Had a little cooling off time, made some calls, and popped in a cab for the ride down to columbus circle. We went in and up, the whole time without her knowing quite where we were going. Through the sliding glass doors and she froze! What a moment...

                                                          We were greeted with champagne and taken to our table up on top of the steps, overlooking the park. I feel this thread became more about the above than the food, but I *am* compelled to share my experience, so i'll make another thread with that review. In short, the night was just what we'd hoped.

                                                          Thanks for all the tips and pointers and well-wishes, folks!

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: FazaMonster

                                                            Oh Faza, how beautiful. You sound wonderful for each other and I hope you'll be very happy. Congratulations!

                                                            1. re: FazaMonster

                                                              I hope you changed out of the muddy pants before your fancy dinner :-)

                                                              Congrats, glad we were able to help. Sounds like it all went well

                                                              1. re: FazaMonster

                                                                Even more magical than a Cary Grant scene, Faza! Sounds lovely and memorable.

                                                                So glad you reported back, looking forward to the review!

                                                                1. re: FazaMonster

                                                                  Awww. It sounds like a spectacular evening. Much happiness to you both.

                                                                2. I have loved following this story....and congrats...you did a great job. Now, I look forward to the Per Se report.