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Thoughts about lunch vs. dinner at 'fancy' restaurants?

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My best friend's birthday is coming up - part of me wants to find a brand-new restaurant for us to go to for a special night out, as that's what we tend to do for each other's birthdays.

We're both big seafood fans, especially with a light touch. She absolutely loves Le Bernardin, and mentioned maybe doing lunch there. I almost never go out to lunch for a 'fancy' meal - dinner seems so much luxurious, time-wise and otherwise.

So, my ramblings lead to two questions:

One, any thoughts about seafood restaurants (or at least restaurants that do seafood well, and not as an afterthought), on the nicer side?

Two, what do you all think about lunch vs. dinner, when talking about a well-known restaurant?

(If this makes a difference, I think that perhaps one reason she suggested lunch at Le B is to save me some money...a good friend, indeed, though that is not the most important thought on my mind, given the length and depth of our friendship.)

Thanks for reading these rambling thoughts!

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Le Bernardin
155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

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  1. Lunch at Eleven Madison Park is a delightful experience. In fact, I like it better than dinner there.

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    Eleven Madison Park
    11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

    1 Reply
    1. re: gutsofsteel

      Thanks, gutsofsteel - I'm glad to hear that...I don't know where my bias of dinner vs. lunch came from, but I just can't even tell you the last time I went out for lunch.

    2. I think lunch at Le Bernardin is the single best lunch NYC has to offer. Other than one fewer course and fewer mignardises, the food experience is nearly identical to dinner; in fact, I prefer their lunch in certain ways. Jean Georges and Eleven Madison Park are considerably cheaper, but their lunches are lesser experiences, especially with respect to seafood precision (I've had slightly overcooked fish at both restaurants). They are excellent values overall though.

      For upscale seafood besides Le Bernardin, lunch at Marea deserves some consideration, especially if you stick to their best dishes (mostly pastas and certain antipasti).

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      Eleven Madison Park
      11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

      Jean Georges
      1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

      Le Bernardin
      155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

      Marea
      240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

      1 Reply
      1. re: hcbk0702

        Thanks hcbk - I'll check Marea out as well.

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        Marea
        240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

      2. As a long time "luncher", I think it really depends on the restaurant and how you order.

        Generally, it is a lovely way to experience a fine dining atmosphere without the astronomic price point. My understanding is that Le Bernardin's menu does not really change from lunch to dinner (the exception being the offering of the tasting menu(s) in the evenings?). The atmosphere is quite stuffy and quite honestly needs a rethink. The food on the other hand is sublime.

        I can see how one may enjoy lunch at EMP better than dinner strictly from an atmosphere point of view. Those windows and that natural light streaming in with the view of the park is a spectacular experience.

        SWS

        1 Reply
        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          I really loved EMP the night I was there - but I think that for my friend, between the two, it would be Le B over the former, at least for this birthday. I appreciate your thoughts, though, as well as what everyone else took the time out to comment on. Really, really helps in the decision-making.

        2. I'm assuming you realize that Le Bernardin only serves lunch Monday through Friday.

          I actually think a long leisurely lunch is more luxurious, but mostly because if I'm taking one, it means either it's the weekend or I've taken off work for the day.

          -----
          Le Bernardin
          155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

          29 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            Actually, Kathryn, we were thinking of a day off and mid-week lunch, which really allows us to be leisurely.

            1. re: drummergirl

              I'm jealous! You seem like a great friend.

              If you like seafood with a light touch, Le Bernardin definitely seems like a good pick.

              -----
              Le Bernardin
              155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

              1. re: kathryn

                Come join us! We've been friends for an insane amount of time, really 'for better or worse, in sickness and in health,' so when we do get an occasion to celebrate, we try to go all out, as budgets allow.

                1. re: drummergirl

                  You certainly can't go wrong with Le Bernardin though I don't love the room. That said...

                  You might want to consider doing your leisurely lunch at Tocqueville. It truly me how under the usual culinary radar it tends to be. While the a la carte menu is pricey, there are few better bargains than their 3-course prix fixe for $24 -- a steal for cuisine of such high caliber. (And, btw, Chef Moreiro's fish and seafood are always wonderful.) They also offer a wine pairing for $15. Service is excellent, and the understated elegant space is, imo, one of the most beautiful in the city.

                  Tocqueville photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                  P.S. The kind of friendship you describe is priceless!

                  1. re: RGR

                    RGR, thanks for those photos - I later went on the website and spent about 15 minutes trolling around (and made myself sad that I couldn't partake of the June 17 Burgundy wine and Tocqueville special menu event). Even more sad, given that I had a sorry ham sandwich for lunch :)

                    That lunch special is incredible - especially with the wine pairing. I'm glad to have that in my back pocket as a go-to place.

                    And yes, as sappy as I sound, our friendship is priceless - she will always have my back, and is happier for my successes than I am, and vice versa.

                    As much as we've had some remarkable meals together, given that we were also roommates in college, we also had some pretty low-end, unbelievably unhealthy experiences, too! Can't eat like that anymore, unfortunately, but the memories are grand - though I know what a gourmand you are, from your comments on this board, I have a feeling you'd appreciate those experiences as well. It's amazing what one will eat at 2:30 in the morning, when one has been imbibing all night, that's all I can say.

                    1. re: drummergirl

                      LOL! I haven't exactly been a "gourmand" all my life. One of the biggest regrets I have is that the first time I was in Paris (in 1963), I hadn't a clue about fine dining, so I didn't take the opportunity to go to any of the legendary temples of haute cuisine. At that time, with the exchange rate @ 10 francs to the $, the cost would have been relatively cheap.

                      1. re: RGR

                        Too bad I can't take her to Paris for lunch! I was only in Paris once, about 23 years ago, and didn't have the money to eat anything other than street food, or getting some cheese and bread and fruit from the grocery store. Still good, though, but it would have been nice to have gone to one of those remarkable restaurants.

                        1. re: drummergirl

                          EMP is a much better restaurant and experience than Le Bernardin.

                          -----
                          Le Bernardin
                          155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                            Thank you for your detailed and well-reasoned argument.

                            I happen to think the opposite. Opinions and all that, y'know?

                            1. re: hcbk0702

                              That's what makes a horse race!

                2. re: kathryn

                  All this talk about Le Bernardin's lunch menu has got me thinking about an upcoming special lunch! I checked out the website lunch menu. Is the prix-fixe a two-course meal? Basically, you choose one dish, either simply raw or barely touched, and then a main course?

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                  Le Bernardin
                  155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                  1. re: uwsgrazer

                    Three courses in total:

                    First course (either "simply raw" or "barely touched")
                    Main course ("lightly cooked")
                    Dessert

                    1. re: hcbk0702

                      Yes. At first I was annoyed that I couldn't choose 3 savoury type items (I lean towards the savoury over the sweet depending on my mood), but the desserts were so well executed I was happy in the end.

                      1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                        See, SWS, that would be me, too - give me the three savories and a piece of good chocolate for dessert and I'm set.

                        1. re: drummergirl

                          Yes, yes and yes! But man, a well executed dessert will give the same high as a savoury plate-sweet, salty, sour, bitter, in its perfection. A textural play is key. Just as in music, there must be balance in a dish and the desserts at Le Bernardin hit those notes. The service sadly did not. Hopefully they are reading this and take it to heart. I know I did.

                          SWS

                          1. re: drummergirl

                            I'm not much of a dessert person either, but Michael Laiskonis at Le Bernardin is far and away the best pastry chef in NYC to my taste. His non-chocolate, more creative desserts really, really shine. The chocolate ones are great too, but I find chocolate less interesting in general.

                            I haven't found anything comparable in the city, except the occasional brilliant dessert at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, though I think Alex Stupak at wd~50 is incredibly talented (ex-Alinea). I haven't been overly impressed by the desserts at Per Se, Daniel, EMP, Jean Georges etc., but Johnny Iuzzini, like Laiskonis, is a superstar pastry chef as well.

                            -----
                            Le Bernardin
                            155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                            1. re: hcbk0702

                              Thank you for putting a name to the phenomenal desserts we enjoyed!

                              1. re: hcbk0702

                                Any particular dessert that you or SWS liked particularly?

                                And thanks to everybody for all your comments, which have truly made me excited for this event (by the way, SWS, your comments about what makes a dessert particularly memorable were lovely and very vivid, though they made the orange-peel infused dark chocolate I was munching on seem rather insipid :)

                                1. re: drummergirl

                                  I had the Pear and my two dining companions had the Hazelnut. The individual elements are always changing however. My Pear had a wine grape component that was breathtakingly sublime.

                                  1. re: drummergirl

                                    Recently, the "Yuzu" dessert (yuzu parfait, meringue, green tea biscuit and ice cream) was among the best I've ever had in a restaurant. The parfait had an effortlessly smooth texture and carefully balanced tartness and acidity from the yuzu, complemented by the rich intensity of the green tea ice cream. That put a big smile on my face.

                                    The current version of "Pear" (cinnamon caramel parfait, liquid pear, smoked sea salt, fromage blanc sorbet) is exceptional as well. The El Bulli-style liquid spherification technique works to great effect with pear, especially in conjunction with smoked sea salt.

                        2. re: kathryn

                          Does Le Bernardin make males wear jackets during lunch?

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                          Le Bernardin
                          155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                          1. re: steakrules85

                            Jackets required.

                            1. re: steakrules85

                              Just for the record, Le Bernardin and Per Se are the only 4-stars serving lunch that require a jacket.

                              1. re: RGR

                                What a pain lol.

                                1. re: steakrules85

                                  Mr. R. and I have discussed the idea of going to lunch at Le Bernardin, but the idea of putting on a jacket to have lunch, especially during the summer, does not hold much appeal to him.

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    Agreed I think that is old fashioned and in this day in age dressing appropriately in a dress shirt should be suffice.

                                    1. re: steakrules85

                                      I couldn't disagree more. I am grateful that there are still a couple of restaurants left in New York that adhere to appropriate, upscale restaurant, formal dining, dress codes.

                                      It's not "old fashioned" - it's simply nice, festive, and grownup.

                                      No wonder the world thinks of the US as it does. Slobs. We can't even manage to put on a jacket to go out to a fine restaurant. Ugh.

                                      1. re: gutsofsteel

                                        Why are you a slob if you are not wearing a jacket? Are you saying it is impossible to look nice in a dress shirt and slacks?

                                        1. re: steakrules85

                                          "Nice" is relative. I do not think it is "nice" to be in an elegant formal restaurant without a jaket. Two restaurants remain in NYC where jackets are required and even that is reason for people to complain. Every other restaurant in NYC does not require a jacket. Can't we have two restaurants where proper attire is still the standard? Must *everything* be casual? Must everything conform to Americans' absurd incessant need for casual and informal? Since when did dressing up become "uncomfortable?" There are plenty of formal clothes that are as comfortable as any casual clothes.

                      2. I think the NYT critic said lunch at Le Bernadin was the best meal he had that year. We would agree but have only eaten there twice. Can't wait to get back to try it again.

                        1. Probably not adding anything new here (other than my two cents), but I've been to both lunches and dinners at Le B, absolutely loved both and not sure I can say I've perferred one over the other but it really was nice to have a long, leisurely lunch knowing that there was time to wander around afterward not having to be anywhere. If you do go for lunch make sure you get something earlier in the lunch time frame. It's never happened at Le B but I had a late lunch one time at a very well respected restaurant, still well within the restaurants lunch window, but felt like service fell off dramatically when the focus shifted to dinner prep and I would hate to see thathappen on your special occassion.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Spiritchaser

                            Thanks for the recommendation. I had a similar thought but was inclined to tempt fate, as a later lunch would work better scheduling-wise. But now I'll play it safe. I would be very disappointed to see service and focus slack off, just because we opted for a late lunch

                          2. I took my Mom to LB for a birthday lunch (also took the afternoon off from work), it was a fabulous lunch, the service was great and it was very leisurely. I've been to EMP for dinner, but if it were my b'day, I'd pick LB first, and, I'm a great fan of EMP.