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Le Bernardin or Per Se

Sometime in August i am looking to go to one of the two - I will be doing the tasting menu. The question is which restaurant (i am trying to take into account that Le Bernardin's lease is due in 2011 (i know thats a bit off from now) and Benno is leaving Per Se soon) and should i go with the wine pairing or by the bottle? thanks so much koko85

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    1. i've been to both recently and i think per se wins hands down. the decor, view and the quality of service is far superior. in both cases, i had gone for one of the later seatings (9:15 / 9:30). le bernardin made us feel rushed at the end with staff loitering around looking impatient while there were a few tables still seated. the secondary wait staff and busing service paid no attention to whether they were interrupting us mid-conversation. the wine steward was a bit snooty rude. and we didn't have a consistent head server. (i realize the description makes it sound worse than it is... but for a michelin 3-star, you expect perfection thru-out).

      Per se on the otherhand was professional, but not snobby. They were actually quite funny to go along with the mood of the group I was with. And the entire room had a more comfortable vibe.

      Both places have outstanding tasting menu's. However, there wasn't a course at Per Se that was less than spectacular, while Le Bernardin had a few courses that failed to wow. Chocoalate tray and goodie bag at the end of Per Se sealed the deal.

      As far as wine pairing's are concerned, I'd opt against in the future (did it at Le Bernardin / did not at Per Se). For one, it gives you more flexibility in terms of price and drinking at however fast or slow a pace you choose.... and I'm just not in to having another interruption in conversation per course. Both restaurants stock carefully selected wines... and knowledgeable staff that'll give you suggestions once you narrow down your tastes. In the end, I paid a little less at Per Se with about the same quantity of wine despite the more expensive tasting menu. And the wine was excellent.

      1. I have to vote for Per Se, as well, if you aren't concerned about the price of the meal and don't think you'll have a chance to eat at French Laundry, which I think is better. I have come to like Le Bernardin and appreciate that it does fish consistently very well... but it's not always the kind of food you think about days later. Per Se is in some ways overrated for the price, but it is, in the final evaluation (esp. if you don't consider the price), very good. The servers at Per Se are also less formal, which I prefer.

        Re: pairing v. bottle, it would be very hard to pick a bottle that will match all, or even many, of the courses. So unless you have enough people in your group to justify getting a new bottle every few courses, I'd go with the wine pairing. Both places have excellent sommeliers who do a great job with the pairings.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cimui

          This analysis strikes me as spot on -- well said cimui!

        2. BMW or a Bentley?

          all kidding aside those 2 restaurants don't belong in the same league. per se is better than LB in every category including seafood. if $ is not a big concern i'd go to per se EVERY time over any other french/american restaurant in ny.

          1. Per Se. No question. Le Bernardin was very, very good. But per se was one of the best meals of my life. Every course at per se is a winner - a memorable dish. Not the case at Le Bernardin.