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Jan 8, 2010 11:48 AM

Le Bernardin or EMP

OK, so I was planning on going to EMP next week for the Winter Tasting Menu. But now I see I can get in to Le Bernardin and try their Tasting Menu. It would be my first time at either restaurant.

Thoughts? Advice? Recommendations???


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  1. If you have the money and like seafood, do Le Bernardin. With rumors of its lease running out in the coming year and Chef Rippert possibly moving on our retiring it is an experience that EVERYONE who loves haute-cuisine should experience. This is not to say that what Humm is doing at EMP is not impressive, just that Le B is a landmark "experience" restaurant the likes of which are rarely found.

    1. For my 50th birthday I went to Le Bernardin and had the Chef's Tasting Menu with
      Wine Pairings. By far the best meal of my life. It is expensive but worth experiencing
      at least once in your life.

      1. Both are great, but I'd pick Le Bernardin. Don't miss the wine pairings.

        7 Replies
        1. re: hcbk0702

          To expound upon my reply a bit, Le Bernardin is the easy choice if you love seafood. Much of the food there is subtle and delicate and if you're not a seafood lover, it might come across as boring (which is completely wrong IMO). The sauces and preparations serve to elevate the fish, not to mask or compete with it. That is the fundamental mantra of the restaurant; as such, no seafood dish at EMP I've tried has come even close to the best dishes at Le Bernardin. If you're in the mood for something besides seafood, then obviously EMP would be your choice.

          Another consideration is the wine service (including wine pairings if you choose to get them). Le Bernardin eclipses even Per Se in this department and handedly beats EMP. Aldo Sohm won the "Best Sommelier in the World" award from the Worldwide Sommelier Association competition and frankly, I don't think there's another sommelier in the US who could legitimately compete with him.

          However, if you're looking for an airier room with breezier service and a more casual vibe, EMP fits the bill nicely. The service and atmosphere at Le Bernardin is a bit formal.

          1. re: hcbk0702

            Thanks! I'll think I'll stick with EMP this time, though there is a fear of missing Eric Ripert forever if the rumors of LB closing are true...

            1. re: Jeffo405

              I believe the lease will expire in 2011. It's very likely that they'll get a new one before then, but if not, perhaps Ripert will use the opportunity to move Le Bernardin to a new location in NYC. I'm almost positive that he does not intend to retire for a long time.

            2. re: hcbk0702

              I don't even drink - I still prefered the Le Bernardin experience - and the service at both restaurants (at lunch at each) was very similar - not quite Per Se quality, but every bit on par with the rest of New York's 4-star restaurants.

              1. re: uhockey

                I've been to French Laundry, but not Per Se. The service at French Laundry was very professional but not stuffy. A bit formal, but with a touch of California Casual. That sounds like EMP to me. Le Bernardin is sounding a tad too formal, though I don't mind formal if the food is stellar.

                1. re: Jeffo405

                  Per Se and TFL are rather similar, at least in regard to the captains - I found their service VASTLY superior to EMP. I consider EMP's service more akin to Manresa or Jean Georges, Le Bernardin more similar to Daniel, Charlie Trottter's, or The Dining Room at the Ritz.

              2. re: hcbk0702

                Actually I've known Aldo since he was at Wallse. I've even taken a Riesling wine class with him. He is brilliant and would be the only reason why I would ever return to Le Bernardin. Unfortunately even as wonderful as Aldo is at picking the perfect wine, I am still not rushing back to Le Bernardin (I've dined at Le Bernardin at least a half dozen times).

            3. Easy choice: EMP without any hesitation. While Le Bernardin is very good, it's kind of boring (and I happen to love seafood). It has a corporate/stuffy atmosphere that is fine if you are at a business dinner. Service is stiff.

              On the other hand at EMP, Chef Humm's cuisine is wonderfully creative. The service at EMP is (IMHO) the finest in NY. I had a brilliant New Year's Eve dinner at EMP, and have another reservation in two weeks. I would definitely keep the EMP reservation.

              4 Replies
              1. re: ellenost

                Thanks, ellenost! Your is a contrarian view, but it sounds like I would prefer the service at EMP. (Plus it's closer to my hotel!)

                1. re: Jeffo405

                  I hope you enjoy EMP and report back (especially since I'm going the week after you, and would love to know your thoughts about the new winter menu).

                  1. re: Jeffo405

                    ellenost is not the only contrarian with regard to Le Bernardin vs EMP.

                    The cuisine at Le Bernardin is excellent, and I didn't find the concept of all fish and seafood particularly boring though I do prefer a more eclectic menu. However, I have never liked the space because despite all the attempts at camouflage, I can never shake the feeling that I'm dining in the lobby of an office building, which is in fact the case. As far as service goes, when we were there in May, it had warmed up from the extreme iciness we had experienced at our one previous dinner there quite some time before. But I would still consider it reserved.

                    Regulars on this board know that EMP is our favorite NYC restaurant. Thus, I agree totally with ellenost. In addition to Chef Humm's exquisite cuisine and a stellar wine list overseen by Wine Director John Ragan (whose pairings are always superb), you will not find a more welcoming, gracious, and enthusiatic staff providing polished service than the one at EMP.

                    Enjoy and please report back.

                    1. re: RGR

                      Go for EMP. Le Bernardin is great, but it's not mind blowing in the way some restaurants are. It does feel a bit stodgy, and everything is perfect, but it's not too daring, it seems. I had the chef's tastings and wouldn't put it in my top 5 meals of last year. Top 10, for sure.

                2. I think both are fabulous. From solely a food perspective, I think you should pick based on how much you like seafood. Le Bernardin is a seafood restaurant. So if you're somebody who likes a meal that has seafood, poultry and meats, EMP is the easy choice. But if you're content eating courses of perfectly prepared seafood, Le Bernardin would win.

                  Personally, between the two, I would pick EMP because I like a more varied tasting menu.