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Per Se vs EMP, Russian Tea Room and other suggestions needed

Husband and I will be visiting NY October 6-9th, staying at the Marriott East Side.

We plan to see a show one night--not sure which show or night; that will depend on when/where we get restaurant reservations.

Had planned on trying to get reservations at Per Se, but have read so much about Eleven Madison Park recently that we're second-guessing ourselves. The price difference isn't that big of a deal--figure if you're going to spend $600 on a meal, why not $1,000?

My husband loves all food and will try anything; I'm a bit more picky, for example--haven't tried sweetbreads--and don't want to. I think I will be okay at either restaurant, though.

I know reservations at Per Se are difficult (60 days in advance to the day); what is the policy at EMP? I looked at the website, but didn't see anything.

The other thing we are thinking about doing is High Tea at the Russian Tea Room. Husband grew up in England and I thought that would be fun for him. Is it worth it? Is it as boring as it sounds? I'm not into tea, but am willing to sit through it if it will please the hubby.

I am also looking for restaurant suggestions for other nights. Not on the scale of Per Se or EMP....a great Steakhouse or Italian...or whatever really. If we do see a show, maybe a place we can go to before or after.

Thanks in advance!

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Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

Russian Tea Room
150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

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  1. If you haven't been to the French Laundry, then by all means go to Per Se; it delivers a pretty unique dining experience. If you have been, then it would depend on how much you liked your meal at FL. EMP is a fine alternative: the atmosphere is less formal, there are many more menu options that deliver good value, and reservations are much easier to secure. However, in my experience, EMP doesn't have as many memorable dishes as Per Se. If it matters, the bread, amuse-bouches (especially comparing the gougères), and mignardises at Per Se are superior.

    Skip the Russian Tea Room, as the food isn't any good. For high tea (and afternoon tea), you'll probably have the best luck at an upscale hotel, such as the Four Seasons, St. Regis, the Peninsula etc.

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    Per Se
    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

    Russian Tea Room
    150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

    The Four Seasons
    99 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

    1. If I was on vacation in NYC and had unlimited resources and could pick four restaurants, they would be:

      Per Se
      EMP
      SHO
      Locanda Verde

      For a fine and cheaper lunch, SHO and Nougatine would be my top choices, as they both have incredible lunch bargains right now. Check whether SHO will still be having anything similar to what they are doing now when you come in.

      There are also many, many great eats at cheap places and hole in the wall joints, street food, amazing pizza, old institutions, and new pioneers. So, if any of these options suit your fancy, do a search here for what you like.

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      Per Se
      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

      Locanda Verde
      377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

      Nougatine
      1 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023

      1 Reply
      1. re: seal

        I think lunch at Jean Georges is much better than SHO (and Nougatine, obviously).

        As for your "unlimited resources" picks, I'll have to disagree as I don't think either SHO or Locanda Verde would even crack my top 50 in NYC.

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

        Locanda Verde
        377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

        Nougatine
        1 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023

      2. I'd recommend Per Se for dinner and a lunch at EMP. That way you get to try both without breaking the bank. Definitely SKIP Russian Tea Room. I can't really recommend another place for tea, as that's not an experience I seek out in NYC, but I do know that Russian Tea Room is far past it's prime).

        For Italian, go to Babbo, Scarpetta or Alto. (There are tons of good Italian restaurants in NYC, including Locanda Verde, Lupa and Maialino plus others, so check out the menus and see what appeals most to you).

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        Per Se
        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

        Lupa
        170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

        Babbo
        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

        Russian Tea Room
        150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

        Scarpetta
        355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

        Locanda Verde
        377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

        Maialino
        2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

        1. Both Per Se and EMP are wonderful choices. I have many celebratory dinners at both restaurants.

          1. EMP opens its books 28 days in advance and is also on OpenTable.com. I'd confirm by calling and also ask what time the phone lines open. It was 9am last time I checked.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kathryn

              Be at your computer on Open Table ready to click EMP at 9:00 AM 28 days prior. Hit refresh madly till the tables appear... you'll get your rez. I took my gfriend there for her birthday last fall and was on the computer and the phone... Open table won the race

            2. Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

              Will DEFINITELY skip Russian Tea Room and tea altogether.

              We have not been to The French Laundry (could not get in when we were in Napa for honeymoon) , which is why we wanted to try Per Se. After reading so many great reviews for EMP we started leaning that way...now we're not sure what to do.

              I like the idea of trying one for lunch, but after that long of a meal I might be done for the night!

              Thanks for the Italian recommendations Edward and the EMP reservation policy Kathryn!

              Still looking for a good steakhouse or possibly a bar with good food--rooftop? or fun atmosphere--or a good before/after theater place.

              This trip is at the end of 2 weeks in Maine and Vermont...I love that the most challenging (and fun) part to plan is deciding on NY restaurants!

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              Per Se
              10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

              Russian Tea Room
              150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

              2 Replies
              1. re: Im4Wine

                Why not Peter Luger for your steakhouse meal? It's the best.

                EMP is wonderful, in my opinion the best restaurant in NYC. A delight. I like it much better than Per Se. EMP is wonderful at lunchtime, so that is also an option for you.

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                Per Se
                10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                1. re: gutsofsteel

                  And lunch res at EMP is pretty easy to get - we booked a day before via OpenTable and had a few choices time-wise. We had a great lunch at EMP recently, BTW. I actually prefer their lunch desserts (tart cart) to dinner desserts.

              2. Out of the three you mentioned, I would definitely recommend Per Se first. The dining experience is something you really can't get at other restaurants in Manhattan, and the food is excellent. If you are looking for a more casual, yet pleasant atmosphere for your meal, EMP would work. I would say that the dishes at Per Se are better than EMP's, but EMP still does a good job. I would not recommend going to Russian Tea Room.

                For steak, I would recommend Minetta Tavern, even though it isn't a traditional steakhouse. They have some other dishes, like roasted bone marrow, and an oxtail and foie gras terrine that are great. The reservations however are extremely hard to book, even thirty days in advance. If you do not mind sitting at the bar and arriving around 5:30, you should be able to get two spots there for a walk-in dinner. Definitely worth a try if you want a good steak, great sides to go along with it, and a lively atmosphere.

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                Minetta Tavern
                113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

                1. If you can only do one, choose EMP over Per Se

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                  Per Se
                  10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                  1 Reply
                  1. Thanks for the advice; EMP is now our first choice. I will try to get reservations beginning 28 days out--has anyone had recent experience with reservations there (difficult/easy, etc)?

                    Husband thinks we should also try to book Per Se at 60 days out in case we don't get into EMP, as a fall-back. I'm not sure about this with the cancellation policy--is there a charge if we cancel BEFORE 72 hours of our reservation? Website doesn't say...

                    For Italian, we will probably check out Scarpetta or Maialino.

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                    Per Se
                    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                    Scarpetta
                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                    Maialino
                    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Im4Wine

                      If I recall you have to cancel before 48 or 72 hours or pay a 150$ charge. Per Se is really great BTW. Was there for lunch in May. The experience was really amazing and bested only by a dinner at Joel Robuchon in Vegas. Next time I am Manhattan I will try EMP though.

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                      Per Se
                      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                      1. re: Im4Wine

                        Im4Wine--I would flip your choices to Per Se 1st, EMP second. I've been to both several times, & while EMP is excellent, Per Se is other-worldly. Don't blow an opportunity to experience this for yourselves.

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                        Per Se
                        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                        1. re: drumwine

                          Seconded. Both are outstanding, but Per Se is just 'wow' from the welcome right down to the last micro boiled-sweet mignardise that you try to prize into your mouth without hurling from a food coma of awesomeness ! ;)

                          If you go to Per Se, try to get Phoebe Damrosch's (a former waitress there) book "Service Included" before you go for a glimpse of how thorough a place Keller runs. If you are anything like me, it will blow your mind what goes on behind the scenes.

                          -----
                          Per Se
                          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                      2. Just got reservations at Per Se for October 6th--got through on first try, on hold for 20 minutes.

                        Will try to get EMP for October 7th...might as well do a head to head comparison!

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                        Per Se
                        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019