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Le Bernardin & My NYC Restaurant choices. Help?

Am coming to the city this weekend. Chef husband, sous chef wife.
What do you think of my choices? Fri. lunch- Blue Smoke, Fri Dinner -
Maialino, Sat Lunch Craftbar, Sat dinner - Le Bernardin. We love the
lively NY restaurants. Is Le Bernardin too quiet? Worth the reservation?
Any other suggestions? Breakfast? Thanks ahead!

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  1. ive only been to le bernadin once but form my experience it isnt too quiet since its a very popular place and when i went there weren't many empty tables if any. but it is a really classy place so its not exactly lively. its too late now but maybe next time try momofuku, from my one experience its a pretty lively place. i think my favorite lively place where u might still get a reservation this weekend is striphouse, if u like steak i think its an awesome place. le bernadin is more about the food than atmosphere. though it is beautiful, i walked to the bathroom about 4 times cause the path to it is just really beautiful. but i dont think le bernadin is a place to go for a lively atmosphere. but if u love food, especially seafood i would definiately keep the rec for sure.

    6 Replies
    1. re: daffyduck

      Ssam Bar has gone downhill lately, with the departure of the former chef. I'd wait to hear reports that things have settled in and gotten better.

      Le Bernardin is a superb restaurant, upscale French seafood. Another to consider is Eleven Madison Park (if you can get a reservation at this point). But neither Le Bernardin or EMP is "lively."

      1. re: gutsofsteel

        Not sure if daffyduck was referring to Ssam Bar since you don't need a reservation. If dd was referring to Ko, Ko is still brilliant (I've another reservation for lunch this weekend). Sometimes last minute availability does pop up--I've gotten a few of those myself.

        1. re: ellenost

          "maybe next time try momofuku, from my one experience its a pretty lively place"

          I wouldn't really call Ko lively. More like...sedate but with an iPod playing music running in the background. I think daffyduck is referring to Ssam Bar or Noodle.

          The "reservation" aspect is referring to Strip House in daffy's reply.

          1. re: kathryn

            guts of steal is right i was refering to ssam bar

      2. re: daffyduck

        Strip House was written up in NY Times today. Might not be easy to get in, eh?

        1. re: ChefJune

          i guess, when i went it was a bit packed but i got in with no reservations. thing is i went on a weekday around 9pm. if the OP calls now maybe she has a chance?

      3. The cuisine at Le Bernardin is superb. But if you're looking for lively, you won't find it there. Not that it's funereal, but it is on the subdued side. And, in case you aren't aware of it, jackets are required.

        EMP, imo, has a livelier vibe though there is certainly no assault on the eardrums.

        For fish and seafood with a lively vibe, but where you can still converse in normal tones, I highly recommend Oceana. The style of the cuisine is Contemporary American, as opposed to Le Bernardin's French. Although the level is a step down from Le Bernardin's, we found the food to be very well-prepared and delicious. Service is cordial and attentive (at Le Bernardin, it's stiffer and more reserved). Oceana's large dining room has very attractive decor. Prices are much more moderate than at Le Bernardin, and you can dress casually.

        Photos of our dinner at Oceana can be viewed here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        You've chosen well for Friday's dinner. We have been to Maialino several time. The food is wonderful, service is welcoming and efficient (as befits a Danny Meyer restaurant), the rustic decor is very pleasing, and the upbeat vibe is exactly what you are looking for.

        Photos of one of our meals at Maialino can be viewed here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        3 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          Oceana and Le B are not even in the same league, they are not comparable...Oceana is now a giant corporate expense account place (and a crappy one at that) completely devoid of a soul. A good comp to Le B in midtown is Marea...if you want french go to Le B, Italian go to Marea....and forget you ever heard the word Oceana....

          skip Bluesmoke and go to Dinosaur or Hill Country or even better go to Char no.4 in brooklyn (this place is very Cheffy).... and skip craftbar and go to Momo Ssam , I have been there several times in the last couple of months and have seen nothing even close to a downhill trend, going again tmrw will report back is something is up...I consider Ssam to be the most important restaurant in NYC right now,has ben for awhile, every visiting chef should go...

          1. re: Cpalms

            You are certainly entitled to your opinion about Oceana. I can only go by the experience we had, and it was an excellent one in every respect, including with regard to the cuisine.

            And, imo, nothing corporate feeling about it. This was in large part due to the fact that service was warm and gracious. At Le Bernardin, while service is proper, it's much more remote. You're lucky if you can coax a smile from the staff, and the folks at reception are not very welcoming.

            I've never cared for the room at Le Bernardin. Despite all the efforts at camouflage, I can't shake the feeling that I'm dining in the lobby of an office building, which is, in fact where the restaurant is located. At Oceana, the designers have done a terrific job with the very attractive decor so that there's no inkling that this restaurant is also located on the street level of an office building.

            1. re: RGR

              the way I order wine, I get plenty of smiles at Le B :)...the room at Le B is a little austere, who cares? it is about the quality, creativity, attention to detail of the food, L B has that in spades..i'm all about flower arrangements or chit chat with the staff if they make my meal better, 99 times out of 100 they don't matter...

        2. Skip Blue Smoke and hit up Dinosaur in Harlem. Blue Smoke is not even in the top 5 BBQ joints. Also, Craftbar is OK but nothing special. Everything comes slathered in a heavy sauce. You could do better. I would suggest Commerce.

          1. I don't know where you're from, suechef, but New York is really not a comparable barbecue city with any of the "name" places. Unless you're just dying for it, I would skip barbecue altogether and head down to Katz's for a Pastrami sandwich. MUCH more "New York," and something you likely can't get at home.

            1. One of our favorite breakfast places is Penelope on 30th and Lex.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Motosport

                If you want amazing food, go to Le Bernardin. It was an awesome experience! I also agree about going to Katz's Deli, it is a classic NYC diner experience. If you want something, upbeat and buzzy, consider Cafe Boulud, I loved our time there, also. :)

                1. re: syrahgirl

                  I would try Gotham Grill for lunch instead of Craftbar. Nice prix-fixe menu and surprisingly inexpensive...great wine pairings, too.

                  1. re: liza.calderon

                    I agree with liza about GBG. One of my top restaurants for a special occasion.

                    Have not been to Le Bernardin yet so I cannot comment.

                    For Italian, I seriously recommend Convivio.

                    Strip House is a fine steakhouse and I will comment since a few people recommended it. Right on par with Keens for best steakhouse in MANHATTAN but not the city. That title still belongs to the almighty Peter Luger in Brooklyn IMO.

              2. I would try Gotham Grill for lunch instead of Craftbar. Nice prix-fixe menu and surprisingly inexpensive...great wine pairings, too.

                1. yeah, as everyone said le bernadin is all about the food (and service to me) and isnt really lively. but its not like a funeral. when i went, i was the loudest one there. le bernadin may have been my first michelin starred dining experiences so i was moaning with every course. but most people there are pretty quiet and act as though they eat there all the time even though they're probably hopping around in circles in their minds.
                  but who knows maybe u'll have the misfortune of sitting next to some jackass who had to give his friend 5 bucks for a suit that was way too big for him. (basically what i did) :-P I remember i sat near a nice couple and interacted with them a bit, i think i made their dinner experience "lively", hope they weren't just being nice lol...it would be horrible to really ruin someone's $300+ le bernadin dinner. if such a thing happens that person should be sentenced to a culinary exile of magnolia cupcakes and old sashimi for the rest of their life. that would such an asshole thing to do.
                  since u and your husband are chefs, i think u guys will appreciate the well executed food at le bernadin even though it may not be a hopping atmosphere. btw for a lively experience u should check out how fast the bus boys and waiters work when u go to the bathroom. i think they set a new world record for replacing my napkin, utensils and pushing my chair in. the service is the best ive ever experienced, i think i had a seperate waiter for each aspect of the dinner: bread, fork, spoon, napkin, smiling menu question guy, etc. it's a really pampering experience i felt like they had a waiter ready to scratch my back with a high quality back scratcher and a motherly waitress to feed me and hold me while telling me bedtime stories.
                  I didn't see u wanted suggestions for breakfast. I think you clinton st baking company would be good, it's definitely lively since its very popular and a bit small. no reservations though i believe.

                  1. Blue Smoke is not worth your time (dated, average food)..Try DBGB in the Bowery for a much better and current experience. And for my money, the best new Italian spot in NYC is Marea (Maialino is trendy, but not terrific)....

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Will4Food

                      I second DBGB over Craftbar for both food and vibe.

                      1. re: Will4Food

                        I strongly disagree about Maialino. Have been there several times and the food has been very good each time. Marea (have been once) was uneven. What makes Maialino "trendy" other than it's new-ish and has been well received?

                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                          I agree with you, gos, that Danny Meyer doesn't do trendy. I also agree that the food is delicious.

                      2. I had the weekend brunch at Craftbar and was impressed. The portions are on the dainty side, but if you're going to be doing a lot of walking around you maybe don't something THAT heavy.

                        I'd skip Blue Smoke. There are better BBQ joints (Dinosaur, Rub, Hill Country) and it's frankly just not that exciting.

                        I'd suggest the lunch at Del Posto if you can still get a rezzie. Unbelievable deal. They shower you with amuses and post-desserts, so you really get much more than the advertised three courses. And the food... stellar.

                        Momofuku is worth checking out, but I'd go to Noodle Bar if you've never been to any of them before. Just split an order of Pork Buns and a bowl of Ramen, see what the all the fuss is about, maybe get one or two seasonal items to go along with them. No rez, but at lunch it's not terribly busy.

                        Le Bern is great, but I find the atmosphere a bit stuffy. If I were only in town for the weekend, I'd shoot for something that'd be a little more unique... WD-50, maybe? Also on the LES, their near-neighbor, Falai, can be a lot of fun - certainly more of a lively atmosphere than Le B.

                        If you're really hankering for seafood, seats at the sushi bar at Morimoto are always fun - you can do the omakase or put together your own little multi-course feast (oysters with foie gras and uni... mmm....)

                        Other, I think interesting choices: Tabla, 11MP, Aldea... Depends on your taste, really, and what you feel like eating.

                        Jeez, it's NYC. You're just gonna have to come visit us again to take it all in.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: sgordon

                          I don't know about that, I think Le Bernardin is incredibly unique to NYC. It's singular in its relentless approach to seafood, and while there are other incredible seafood restaurants inspired by it in other cities (L2O in Chicago, Providence in LA), Le Bernardin stands alone in NYC and is IMO (and most food critics' and chefs' opinions) unequivocally the best (Western) seafood restaurant in the country. If that isn't unique, I don't know what is. For seafood quality, Morimoto stinks in comparison IMO; it doesn't compare to the top tier of sushi-ya in NYC either. Le Bernardin is certainly on the formal side, but really, Falai as a substitute?

                          1. re: hcbk0702

                            Well, if I was just going out for sushi, I wouldn't go to Morimoto. But Morimoto isn't just a sushi restaurant. There are spectacular composed dishes as well. And it's more "lively NY" than LB, which was one of the criteria.

                            As to Falai - it's not so much in lieu of LB - it's just another place that has some liveliness, and certainly has a great deal of appeal to other chefs. Actually, I'd put it more as a substitute to Maialino.

                            Frankly, I don't find LB terribly unique. Excellent, sure. In fact, it makes up the short list of "jacket required" restaurant I'll go to. (As a general rule I won't set foot in an establishment that tells me how I should dress - I'm the paying customer, thank you, I'll dress how I damn well please.)

                          2. re: sgordon

                            Falai is an overpriced disaster...stay away...