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EMP or Le Bernardin?

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.