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EMP or Le Bernardin?

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I know they are very different but I'm trying to decide between them. Thoughts?

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

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  1. I think they are both very different. I did not like the atmosphere at LB or their menu. I like fish but I like to have the opportunity to diversify. EMP is one of my favorite NYC restaurants. I like the building, the location, atmosphere, service, food, bar, drinks the whole deal. To me LB is the restaurant you would go once and be done. Or maybe once a year but I did not enjoy my experience there at all. I like Babbo, Daniel, Jean Georges, Aureole, Gotham Bar and Grill, Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern along with a lot of others much better than I like LB. I'm sure some NY's will disagree but that's my opinion. I put EMP in the top 5 in NYC easily for fine dining, celebrations, lunch, whatever. It's a fun place.

    1. i recently went to both for a birthday weekend. LB for dinner and EMP for lunch. i would also give EMP the edge. LB had great food, excellent wine program and service. however, EMP had just a little more inventiveness in the food, enthusiasm in the servers and the space is gorgeous -- the space at LB is above non-descript but doesn't compare to EMP.

      1. I've seen a lot of negative reviews of LB lately on yelp and other places, but that doesn't mean anything to me. What do you all think? Are they missing the subtlety of the food, or is the restaurant really going downhill/not keeping up? I know yelp reviews are a very mixed bag, so we need to hear from the CHers!

        Though I haven't been to LB yet, I've dined at EMP many times. Every meal I've had there has been outstanding, and I don't hesitate recommending it. The service, food, and atmosphere are all top-notch.

        1. I find Le Bernardin's food to be considerably better than EMP's. The kitchen has more culinary talent (especially comparing veteran sous chefs and sauciers), is more precise in the conception and execution of dishes, and is extremely consistent. Their very low turnover rate and policy of long stages probably encourage this. The difference is even more pronounced in the pastry section of the kitchen, which is a full tier better than EMP's. The wine staff is also a clear step above in terms of experience.

          However, EMP does have a beautiful room (Le Bernardin's room is rather subdued, though pleasant enough) and many people find EMP's breezier service more to their liking. If you're seafood-averse, I'd recommend it instead.

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

          5 Replies
          1. re: hcbk0702

            I've never been to LB so I can't talk about their wine service but I find it hard to believe it's a tier above EMP. I personally feel EMP has the best wine service in NYC

            1. re: stevel

              EMP's wine service is excellent and their by-the-glass list is among the best in the city. However, Le Bernardin's Aldo Sohm is easily the most knowledgeable and accomplished sommelier in NYC (and probably the country). He has trained the wine staff at Le Bernardin very well.

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

              1. re: hcbk0702

                I beg to differ with my experience with the wine service at Le Bernardin.

                Our sommelier consistently kept pouring wine (glasses paired with each course) without showing the label. We had to repeatedly ask what wine we were being served (what producer, vintage etc...). We were also a party of 3-one of whom was not drinking any alcohol. Yet we had several servers drop wine glasses in front of the non-drinker. Clearly poor communication between the captain and the sommelier. And it made the non-drinker feel uncomfortable.

                I have no doubts of Aldo Sohm's accomplishments or professionalism but I felt the wine service had gaffs that were unacceptable at this level and price point.

                EMP's wine service was flawless-from start to finish.

                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                  So you're basing all of this on n=1, one visit to each restaurant? That's hardly a firm foundation to make sweeping claims.

                  It's unfortunate that the wine service during your visit to Le Bernardin wasn't up to their normal standards, but I've been to both restaurants many times and I've found the wine staff at Le Bernardin to be considerably more knowledgeable, from top to bottom.

                  Incidentally, the only time I've ever been served a dirty wine glass in a fine dining restaurant was at EMP. All restaurants have their off-days.

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

                  1. re: hcbk0702

                    Really? Because the only time I've ever been served a dirty cup was actually at Le Bernardin. More specifically, they served me an empty cup and saucer that was covered in milk at the bottom. I immediately pointed it out to them and they swooped it away, no apology, and still charged me $5.00 for a cup of (lousy!) coffee.

                    And yeah, after spending $600 on lunch, I think I have every goddamn right to expect flawless service, even if I'm not a regular like you.

                    And no sweeping claims, just my experience.

                    SWS

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

          2. I much, much prefer EMP.

            1. acronyms....ggggrrr

              Eleven Madison Park

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

              1. EMP definetely.

                Dined at LB about 3 years ago during the Holidays and decided never again. The place was packed with tourists. Let me state for the record I have nothing against tourists, as I'm often one myself, but some were so loud and obnoxious <especially with the servers> we couldn't wait to get out of there. The food was good as always but really not worth it under the aforementioned circumstances.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Quimbombo

                  Funny that I was at LB about 3 weeks ago and the table next to us, a couple of NY locals, were very loud and I thought kind of rude to the staff. I have not been to EMP but did enjoy my meal at LB. It pains me to say this since I had REALLY been looking forward to my meal at LB but it didn't blow me away. I ate at Per Se the next day and enjoyed that experience more.

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                  Per Se
                  10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                  1. re: nextguy

                    You shoulda gone to EMP! :-)

                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                      Hehe. With all the rumors that LB was closing down I had to go at least once. EMP I will definitely try the next time I am in NYC.

                      BTW, don't get me wrong about LB. I still really enjoyed it. It just didn't blow me away as I was hoping.

                2. Depends on whether you're looking for a great overall dining experience or subscribing to the 'only what's on the plate' philosophy. If going for the latter, LB wins without a doubt, but only by a hair. With regards to non-food aspects, I found the service at LB and EMP equally as polished, with EMP far more engaging, and the dining space far more comfortable. EMP, of course, is also much more the "in" choice at present time.

                  Been to both recently, celebrating both times, and while I enjoyed (and would without hesitation recommend) both, my gut feeling would have me returning to EMP on a given night.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: ramenbound

                    We dined at Le Bernardin this past Nov. and had a flawless experience there. Food, ambiance, service all top notch. Is it closing? :)

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

                    1. re: syrahgirl

                      Their current lease is expiring soon, but there's pretty much no chance that it isn't going to be renewed. The dining room is going to be refreshed soon as well; perhaps the restaurant will be closed during that time, but I'm just guessing.

                      1. re: hcbk0702

                        I think were going to go to EMP. They have a no bottle limit on BYO. Wine is important for this occasion.

                        1. re: stevel

                          If you're going within the month, call soon. I was not lucky for a date 3 weeks away so had to change plans and reschedule for the next week.

                          1. re: stevel

                            EMP has a reasonable corkage policy, so it's a good choice for BYO.