Prix Fixe Lunch Jean Georges / EMP / Le Bernardin
I have 2 lunches open for our upcoming trip to NYC and am trying to decide which 2 out of the 3 restaurants above we should visit for the prix fixe lunch offerings.
I've looked at all of the sample menus and read people's reports here and we would be happy at any of the three. I'm just looking to get some feedback from anyone who has recently had the prix fixe lunch at one or more of these restaurants.
Btw, I feel pretty locked in on trying Le Bernardin unless I see a rash of negative reports in response to my post. I'm more torn between JG and EMP. Any thoughts / help would be greatly appreciated!
Jean Georges and EMP both offer outstanding value in their prix fixe lunch deals (JG is $29 for two courses, EMP is $28 for two courses, you'll likely need a third course and/or dessert at both). The dinner menus at both are more comprehensive, so you may come across unfortunate omissions in the lunch menu. JG is better in this regard as many of the best dishes offered at dinner make it on the lunch menu as well, whereas there's more discrepancy in the EMP lunch prix fixe. Both have strong wine by the glass lists, but JG has a value advantage by offering half-pours for half the cost of a full pour, while EMP's list has more variety. I would pick JG as I find JGV's style more interesting and unique, but don't discount the pricer Gourmand lunch at EMP. I've heard reports it is excellent and it may be a good option if you're willing to spend more.
Le Bernardin's lunch prix fixe is $68 for 2 courses and dessert (which would be ~$40 at the other two), but the lunch menu is nearly identical to the dinner prix fixe, delivering a meal that matches the dinner experience albeit with one fewer course. In fact, there are many that prefer lunch over dinner, and Frank Bruni (ex-restaurant critic of the NY Times) called lunch at Le Bernardin his best meal of 2008. The money saved from the lunch menu's lower cost can be used to get a nice half-bottle of red Burgundy (I remember seeing both the 2006 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes and 2005 Domaine Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny for reasonable prices). Since Le Bernardin is a seafood specialist, the wine list is incredibly strong in Burgundies, which is a wonderful asset. I think Le Bernardin is the best lunch of the three, as it should be at the higher cost. Some of the dishes on the current menu are among the best the restaurant has ever done, including the tuna, foie gras, toasted baguette app and the black bass, braised celery, iberico ham-green peppercorn sauce main. Truly remarkable stuff.
With regard to your second lunch, though I certainly wouldn't dismiss Jean Georges, since EMP is our #1 favorite restaurant in NYC, of course, it would be my choice. hcbk mentioned the 5-course Lunch Gourmand. We have had many of those, and they are always superb! Imo, well worth the $68 tariff.
Photos of the Lunch Gourmand we had in May can be viewed here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...
You don't say when you will be coming to NYC, but keep in mind that the change to the fall menu at EMP will take place at the end of this month. Thus, much of what is on the current menu will be replaced. Also, since the restaurant became a four-star, getting lunch reservations is not as easy as it previously was. Therefore, if you do decide to go, I suggest you book very soon.
Between lunch at EMP and JG, my vote would be for JG, but you can't go wrong with either one. I thought the food was more a little more innovative at JG, and I love their foie gras brulee. The food at EMP is also impeccable, and their room is warmer and lovelier than JG's. (I found JG's dining room to be kind of sterile and corporate.) JG also throws you some nice little sweets at the end (chocolates, marshmallows) and EMP doesn't. I couldn't possibly have ordered a third course at either restaurant, and only got dessert at JG because I couldn't resist. If cost is a factor, JG's dessert is $8, EMP's is $12 (eek!)
I don't see this as close at all. As good as dinner can be at EMP (very very good) lunch is a different animal entirely. The food is much simpler, much plainer. Still well prepared, but not fine dining.
By way of contrast, JG's lunch dishes are just smaller portions of the dinner dishes - the ingredients and preparation are the same.
Having said that, if you are limiting yourself to just spending $28 or $29, then perhaps EMP is your only choice, cause at JG you'll likely want to order at least 1 extra dish. EMP's 2 dishes should be plenty for lunch.
Based on these responses, I made a reservation for JG for lunch. I was more interested in the quality of the food b/c if we're still hungry, there are plenty of places we can stop at for a small bite and ordering dessert or another course is not out of the question either. I'm looking for a nice culinary experience and it sounds like JG is where I will find it (for the lunch prix fixe at least).
Our current itinerary includes lunches at Le Bernardin and JG and dinners at Babbo and Peter Lugar's. There will be plenty of cheap eats sprinkled in between (stomach willing).