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Birthday Dinner Decision?

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eb385 Jul 7, 2010 01:55 PM

I am trying to decide where I want to go for my birthday this September and have narrowed it down to two places:

Le Bernardin
or
Eleven Madison Park

Two years ago I went to Le Bernardin and had the most amazing meal of my life! Unfortunately my husband missed out, so I'm thinking my birthday might be a great opportunity for him to try this delicious restaurant for the first time.

I went to Eleven Madison Park ages ago right when it opened and sadly haven't been back. It looks wonderful and I have been wanting to try out the new menus.

If you had to choose a tasting menu with either wine pairings or a bottle of wine with dinner which one would you recommend based on value, taste, and birthday celebration factor?

or would you go somewhere entirely different?

thoughts?

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

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

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    gutsofsteel RE: eb385 Jul 7, 2010 02:28 PM

    Definitely EMP. You probably never experienced the superb cuisine of Chef Daniel Humm yet. And the room is festive and perfect for a celebration.

    1. hcbk0702 RE: eb385 Jul 7, 2010 02:36 PM

      Both are top restaurants, so you can't really go wrong.

      Strictly considering food, Le Bernardin is superior. Eric Ripert leads an enviably consistent and deeply talented kitchen: the best overall in NYC and unmatched in seafood cooking precision. With Michael Laiskonis at the helm of the pastry section, their desserts and petit fours are easily a full tier better than Eleven Madison Park's. If you're considering the tasting menus, the wine pairings at Le B are better as well. Still, you have to like seafood and not mind that the room is rather sedate. The service is on the reserved and formal side.

      EMP can't be judged unless you've tried it during the current chef's tenure; a scant few years ago, it was a fairly middling restaurant. Times have changed: Daniel Humm is extremely talented and EMP has become one of the city's brightest under his leadership. He also has the benefit of one of the grandest dining rooms in NYC, in conjunction with a thoroughly Danny Meyer-ized service staff. Don't pass on the excellent wine list, which holds some incredible values.

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

      2 Replies
      1. re: hcbk0702
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        eb385 RE: hcbk0702 Jul 8, 2010 08:29 AM

        thanks for the tips!

        would you suggest doing the larger tasting menus at EMP or stick with the smaller 3 course?

        maybe I should just let my husband pick between the two considering I picked Blue Hill at Stone Barns last year and that was a disaster...so if he doesn't like it this time around it will be his fault - ha ha!

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        Blue Hill
        75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

        1. re: eb385
          hcbk0702 RE: eb385 Jul 9, 2010 08:31 PM

          I'm sorry to hear about BHSB as it's normally very good.

          In general, I think the tasting menus at EMP are stronger than the prix fixe option. At Le Bernardin, both the prix fixe and tasting menus are extremely strong throughout; obviously, if you're willing spend more, I'd recommend the tastings. Wine pairings are consistently exceptional and intelligently chosen.

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

      2. Bko RE: eb385 Jul 8, 2010 07:33 PM

        I have been to both restaurants recently, and I have been more impressed by Le Bernardin than I have with Eleven Madison Park. I have been to dinner once and to lunch several times at Le Bernardin, and have thoroughly enjoyed each meal there. Some of the dishes, such as the charred octopus and the layers of yellowfin tuna on toasted baguette with chives and olive oil are just a few of the many great dishes they have at Le Bernardin. Also, as mentioned in a previous post, Michael Laiskonis makes some exceptional desserts, such as a yuzu parfait with meringue, green tea biscuit and ice cream, which is one of my favorite desserts in my dining experience. When it comes to wine pairings, Le Bernardin does the best job in my opinion out of the restaurants in New York, having Aldo Sohm as the Chef Sommelier there. When it comes to top quality seafood with appropriate wine pairings, I believe that there isn't a better place than Le Bernardin.

        At Eleven Madison Park, I had the gourmand a while back, which was very good, such as a foie gras torchon with BLiS maple syrup, pain d’epices and greenmarket apples, as well as Santa Barbara sea urchin cappuccino with peekytoe crab. However, I recently had a quite disappointing lunch, where I had a scallop dish with strawberries, rhubarb, celery and yuzu. I thought this was a very poor choice for the scallop, since it led to a lot of textural and flavor clashes in my opinion. I thought it was a shame, because the scallop itself was seared very nicely. Another dish I had that I thought was going to be great due to all of the hype was a two part chicken dish, starting with a breast with brioche stuffing under the skin, and then a fricassee of the dark meat. The breast was well cooked, but other than that, I didn't understand why this was such a stellar dish. The fricassee was better, but it was slightly under seasoned, and definitely not something to write home about. Maybe it was an off day, but I honestly could not understand the hype behind this dish, personally preferring the parmesan crusted chicken served at Jean Georges if I wanted a poultry dish.

        When it comes to the little extras before and after courses, I feel both do a good job. From what I heard, Le Bernardin serves an amuse bouche, the one I had a while back was a lobster tail (unfortunately, I forgot the other ingredients that paired along with it), which was cooked extremely well. Eleven Madison Park gives out cheese gougeres and other “Hors d’Oeuvres.” When I had the Hors d’Oeuvres for lunch recently, I thought some were pretty good, but the carrot marshmallow in particular had some sort of vinaigrette which I felt made it taste too acidic for a balance with the marshmallow. I believe for the end, Le Bernardin serves separate petit fours for each diner, which I found to be an extreme pleasure. They are made almost like individual mini desserts, each one being their own small, yet complex petit four. Eleven Madison Park gives out a tray of macarons made in house, and judging the way they were in lunch, I’m sure they will be great in dinner as well.

        I personally would choose Le Bernardin, since I’ve had several meals where the food was always at a top notch level, whereas Eleven Madison Park has had some inconsistencies when I have been there, although I have had other meals there which were very good. Again, if wine pairings are a crucial part of this decision, I believe that is more of a reason to choose Le Bernardin, even though Eleven Madison Park has a great wine list as well.

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

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

        1. r
          rrems RE: eb385 Jul 8, 2010 07:54 PM

          Haven't been to LB in ages. Highly recommend EMP, particularly if you order the gourmand menu with wine pairings. Others I'd recommend just as highly are SHO and Veritas.

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            uwsister RE: eb385 Jul 12, 2010 02:01 PM

            EMP over Le B - I also went to both places recently (been to EMP many times, first time at Le B) and I prefer EMP so much more. The only reason I'd consider Le B over EMP is if you're a huge seafood person.

            3 Replies
            1. re: uwsister
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              gutsofsteel RE: uwsister Jul 13, 2010 09:38 AM

              I completely agree. I like EMP much more than Le B.

              1. re: gutsofsteel
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                eb385 RE: gutsofsteel Jul 13, 2010 02:45 PM

                hhhhmmm

                I'm now thinking if the wine pairing is a major factor in the decision then le bernardin is the way to go

                is the gourmand 11 course menu with wine pairing at EMP way too much food?

                1. re: eb385
                  hcbk0702 RE: eb385 Jul 13, 2010 03:07 PM

                  The Gourmand won't be too much food; each course will simply be smaller in portion size.

                  But yes, the wine pairings at Le Bernardin are better. A really diverse range of wines are showcased for both the tasting menus, and it's not every restaurant that's able to have Lopez de Heredia, Krug, and Boillot Meursault in the standard wine pairings. A very nice luxury, to be sure.

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

            2. e
              ellabella RE: eb385 Jul 13, 2010 09:00 PM

              to my mind these are both outstanding choices and really differ most in the 'tone' of the experience. i think the service at le bernardin is much more kind of old-school -- i am always very aware (not in a bad way) of the well-oiled machine at work there. i think it's restrained, elegant, and refined. EMP is just classic danny meyer when it comes to service -- i think of it as a 'younger' experience somehow, with well-trained, knowledgeable staff who seem more casual (again, not in a bad way) that at le b.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ellabella
                Bko RE: ellabella Jul 14, 2010 02:04 PM

                I also feel similar in terms of the type of experience a diner gets at the two restaurants. Le Bernardin's service is more reserved yet very polite, while EMP has a outgoing and sociable service. When it comes to the food at both restaurants, they also cater to different preferences. Le Bernardin does very traditional and refined french cooking, with an emphasis on the seafood being served with a sauce that would compliment the dish well. EMP I feel does a take on a more casual, yet also refined french cooking which involves a wider net of dishes that appeal to diners who are looking for a more varied dining experience outside of the realm of seafood.

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