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Best lunch for $100?

Hi - I'm a college senior who lives upstate, and will be interviewing in Manhattan next month.

I would like some recommendations for a memorable solo lunch. I have had no exposure to fine dining, but thought I would give it a try after watching Eric Ripert, Mario Batali, and Jacques Pepin on TV.

I have no food aversions, like all available cuisines in my small town, but have not travelled much. I have saved $100 for my first high end meal in Manhattan (inclusive of service and tax, I will not be drinking any alcohol). I will be wearing a suit and tie. A friend of mine recommended Delmonico's but I thought I would solicit other opinions.

Thank you for any suggestions.

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  1. I highly recommend Bouley. They have a multi-course tasting menu (with choices for each course) at $45. Although I've not personally eaten the lunch (I've only gone to dinner at Bouley), I've heard many wonderful things about the lunch. Welcome to the world of fine dining! Good luck on your interviews.

    -----
    Bouley
    163 Duane St, New York, NY 10013

    6 Replies
    1. re: ellenost

      I'd second this recommendation and also offer up Eleven Madison Park (~$90ish with tax/tip,) Del Posto (~$50ish with tax/tip,) or Le Bernardin (~$80ish with tax/tip.) Bouley is probably the best "bang for the buck" lunch in town, imo.

      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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

      Del Posto
      85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

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

      Bouley
      163 Duane St, New York, NY 10013

      1. re: ellenost

        Bouley is fantastic. Definitely a solid option and should be high on your list. I'm going on Saturday and was there for a lunch in November.

        That said, I almost feel like EMP would be more enjoyable as a solo diner. The space has a more modern and relaxed feel, and the service is very involved with your meal. Meals at both EMP and Bouley will last at least two hours, possibly three, which could be a long time to be at a table alone. My personal feeling, for almost no real reason at all, is that EMP would be more exciting. There's a certain suspense to the meal, as you're not quite sure what will come out next.

        1. re: coasts

          i dined solo at Bouley last Saturday and couldn't have been more pleased.

          Picholine is also a stellar option.

          As would be The Modern.

          As a matter of fact, going in order of places I've eaten LUNCH solo:

          Bouley > The Modern > Gramercy Tavern > Aldea > Marea > Le Bernardin > Convivio > Del Posto > Jean Georges > Ko.

          I've only eaten at EMP with others and only had Picholine at Dinner - both were wonderful and I've no doubt lunch would compare favorably.

          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

          -----
          Gramercy Tavern
          42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

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

          Del Posto
          85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

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

          The Modern
          9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

          Picholine
          35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

          Momofuku Ko
          163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

          Convivio
          45 Tudor City Place, New York, NY 10017

          Marea
          240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

          Aldea
          31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

          Bouley
          163 Duane St, New York, NY 10013

          1. re: coasts

            I was very pleasantly shocked at how reasonable EMPs lunch menus are.

          2. re: ellenost

            Last time I looked, the price had fallen to $36. Great recommendation.

            1. re: Wilfrid

              Apparently, Bouley has recently raised the price of the lunch tasting menu to $45 (or at least they've recently updated their website--wish they'd do a better job of this). Looks like there are more choices for each course, including a Dover Sole. I'm heading back to Bouley next week for dinner.

          3. Hey Tommy. You can eat almost anywhere you want for that amount of money. Maybe you should do Le Bernardin prixe fixe for $70? I would also recommend Eleven Madison Park for this special lunch. Enjoy!
            JeremyEG
            HomeCookLocavore.com

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

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

            1. Picholine also has a seven course lunch tasting menu for $58.

              My first fine dining experience many years ago was at Lutece. I was paralyzed with wonder. I hope you have a similar experience.

              -----
              Picholine
              35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

              4 Replies
              1. re: H Manning

                How is Picholine in general these days? I've never been and was thinking of doing a dinner there.
                JeremyEG
                HomeCookLocavore.com

                -----
                Picholine
                35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

                1. re: JeremyEG

                  I last dined at Picholine in December and the food was superb. You should definitely try it.

                  -----
                  Picholine
                  35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

                  1. re: JeremyEG

                    Picholine is still wonderful. If they still have the game birds (they are still listed on the website) you should take the opportunity to try one. We had pheasant last month and it was just perfect.

                    -----
                    Picholine
                    35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

                    1. re: rrems

                      Thank you. I almost order game when it's offered and I love to hear about places that do it well.
                      JeremyEG
                      HomeCookLocavore.com

                2. I highly recommend Eleven Madison Park. At lunch especially, the room is beautiful, with the light coming in the huge windows across from the park. And it is a perfect way to introduce yourself to fine dining. The service is extremely professional yet completely without pretense or stuffiness. And the food, in my opinion, is the best in NYC. Enjoy.

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

                  1. My recommendation is for Eleven Madison Park because they specifically shifted the design of their lunch menu so that it would be as close an experience as possible to their dinner experience. As a first venture into fine dining, I think this would give you the most complete exposure.
                    My complete review here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744039

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

                    1. My vote goes to Le Bernardin. They treat solo diners very well, in my experience. Once, I went there on my own to enjoy a leisurely lunch with me and myself, and a waiter comes by with an open bottle of Cristal Champers. He asks if I'd like a glass. I ask, "how much", and he says, "on the house, we like to make sure our single diners aren't alone". That single gesture won me over Le Bernardin for the rest of my life.

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

                      4 Replies
                        1. re: Uncle Yabai

                          I'm afraid I've got you beaten there: a comped glass of Ch√Ęteau d'Yquem.

                          To the OP, if your palate leans toward seafood, Le Bernardin is easily the best choice.

                          Otherwise, the Bouley lunch deal is a steal. The Del Posto lunch deal is as well, but the food can be wildly inconsistent. I don't think Picholine shows well at lunch, especially since there's no cheese cart.

                          I guess this makes me a dissenter, but I've generally found the food at Eleven Madison Park to be lacking, though high on visual panache.

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

                          Del Posto
                          85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

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

                          Picholine
                          35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

                          1. re: hcbk0702

                            That's pretty good. How did you swing that freebie?

                            1. re: Uncle Yabai

                              Celebratory birthday meal: ordered just one glass post-meal, but we ended up getting a second glass on the house. Perhaps our sommelier was feeling out of sorts, because I don't expect that kind of luck again!

                        2. While all choices thus far have been stellar, thought l would add a dark horse, Balthazar. Had lunch there about 3 months ago that was so much better than it needed to be, from the perfect bluepoints through the brandade du morue, to the skate in brown butter, and the calves liver. They even comped us their sticky buns for dessert. Well within price range even with wine.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            The OP is looking for a high end fine dining experience - Balthazar is not that at all.

                            1. re: gutsofsteel

                              As usual your comments about my posts are never helpful, l can read what he said, and that is where l could go. He said a solo lunch that is memorable, my last lunch at Balthazar was memorable, very memorable, way better than my last two at Le Bernadin, or at Del Posto or Marea. Comment on him not other posters.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                Do you consider Balthazar "fine dining" or "high end?" I do not, and that is what the OP is looking for, if you read his initial post. I like Balthazar too, but I don't think it's what the OP is looking for, for this meal.

                                1. re: gutsofsteel

                                  Difficult to say - I'd say French Brasserie fare in the United States could very well be "fine dining" or "high end" - Bouchon gets a Michelin Star yearly out in Yountville.

                                  While I can't say I was wowed by my breakfast at Balthazar, I think anyplace that allows one to order quality oysters, foie gras, and well prepared food could be "high end."

                                  As a matter of fact, given the fact that the OP has apparently never experienced "fine dining," perhaps a place like Balthazar could be a good starting point.

                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    I think it's terribly misleading to tell someone who is interested in a "fine dining" and "high end" experience, lunch for $100, to go to Balthazar. Balthazar is a casual, bustling restaurant and while it's enjoyable and the food is good, it is a far cry from "fine dining" or "high end."

                                    I completely disagree that the ability to order certain foods makes a place high end. It's also the setting and the service.

                                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                                      .....if the setting and service justifies "fine dining" then a number of country clubs could qualify - even if serving frozen chicken breasts from Wal-Mart.

                                      It is a combination of "all of the above," but as most American folks are completely unfamiliar with French food I imagine many would consider Balthazar "fine dining" and while I'd not put it on the same level as some of the places I mentioned I'd certainly consider it as "fine" as a place like Marea, Gramercy Tavern, or the Mario Batali spots that the OP mentioned.

                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                      -----
                                      Gramercy Tavern
                                      42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

                                      Marea
                                      240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                      1. re: uhockey

                                        The guy is wearing a suit ... and you'll send him to Balthazar?
                                        I mean, Balthazar is pretty good, but, the guy specifically said he's in a nice suit with good money to spend in a high-end dining environment. I'd say go wtih Le Bernardin or Bouley.

                                        1. re: uhockey

                                          We will have to agree to disagree about what constitutes "fine dining" or a "high end" restaurant experience.

                                          If Balthazar is "fine dining" and "high end" then what do you call Per Se, Daniel, Bouley, EMP, Le Bernardin....?

                                          I don't see how your statement that "most American folks are completely unfamiliar with French food" means that you should lead somebody to think that Balthazar is in a league with fine and high end restaurants.

                                          Also, the OP did not mention any specific restaurant other than Delmonico's.

                                          He mentioned "watching Eric Ripert, Mario Batali, and Jacques Pepin on TV."

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

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

                                      2. re: uhockey

                                        Bouchon is a bistro and a noisy crowded one at that, at times. But fine dining? I think not. Bistro style all the way.

                                    2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                      I stopped going to Balthazar when the noise became deafening. There are so many other better choices in NYC for a fine dining experience.

                                2. The most rarefied introduction would be Le Bernardin, with its exceptionally refined food and formal atmosphere.

                                  You can also do very well at Jean Georges, especially his signature dishes as listed on his dinner tasting menu.

                                  If you are curious about strictly classical haute cuisine, I'd recommend La Grenouille ($57 prix fixe).

                                  Delmonico's might be suitable for business dinners, but unfortunately it's not considered fine dining.

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

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

                                  La Grenouille
                                  3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: fm1963

                                    La Grenouille is a wonderful suggestion.

                                    -----
                                    La Grenouille
                                    3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                                  2. OK...I'll throw in Gotham Bar and Grill into the mix...it is located in the Village, which as a college senior, I figure you'll be in this neighborhood at some point in your trip. They are excellent with single diners. And, no matter which restaurant you pick, I would definitely tell the host, this a "first time" experience for you...they'll jump through hoops to impress.

                                    And to the other folks out there, yes, I know that Gotham does the "stacked food" thing that is now as outdated as cordless phones with antennas...but they invented it and continue to do it well and the room is beautiful without being intimidating.

                                    -----
                                    Gotham Bar and Grill
                                    12 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003

                                    1. Thanks very much. I didn't expect so many replies!

                                      I've researched all of the restaurants on this thread, and in candor, the menus were a bit intimidating. I come from an immigrant family of limited means, and my fanciest meals to date have been at chain restaurants. I've read the glowing reviews of Eleven Madison Park, but to be honest I'm not sure whether I can ask the right questions so as to make an informed decision about what to order.

                                      My impulse came from an episode of Top Chef wherein the contestants had to recreate dishes that originated from Eric Ripert. I am very curious to experience food of this caliber, but I'm now wondering whether I'm being too presumptuous, and that perhaps I should take the intermediate step of trying a restaurant like Balthazar before making the leap to Le Bernardin or any of its peers.

                                      I did work extra hours to save up for my first high end meal. Since I am interviewing in the non-profit sector, I don't expect opportunities like this to come by too often. I do appreciate the extended discussion of what would constitute "fine dining" for someone with my background. Again, thanks very much for your responses.

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

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

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: Tommy D.

                                        When are you visiting? Perhaps meeting up with a local hound who is more familiar with the local fancy dining scene would help?

                                        I really think an excellent "introduction" to fine dining would be someplace like Gramercy Tavern - it is classic yet classy, managed by the best of the best (Danny Meyer,) but the food isn't "fussy," and the room is nice yet sort of loud and full of personality.

                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                        -----
                                        Gramercy Tavern
                                        42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

                                        1. re: Tommy D.

                                          Tommy, go to Le Bernardin. You deserve it. They will treat you like a king, and the experience will be something you'll never forget.

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

                                          1. re: Tommy D.

                                            don't sell your self short. you'll be going into the job interview oozing with self-confidence and just need to carry this attitude into the restaurant. the menu at EMP is only as challenging as you want. at its simplest, ordering involves just four words. Ms. Coasts and I were there for lunch. i asked that i didn't receive any fish, eggs or broccoli. Ms. Coasts asked that she didn't receive any organs. that's it.

                                            not to continue the Balthazar debate, but i don't think you'll be so impressed. you've worked hard for this money and you want the meal to be memorable. go all out.

                                            1. re: coasts

                                              Please don't hesitate to go to the restaurant that you really want to. The experience will be something you will always remember. You are spending your hard earned money and deserve the experience.

                                              1. re: DaisyM

                                                I totally agree. Go to EMP - they are so accomodating, the staff will explain things and help you and guide you - there is no condescension of any kind, you will feel comfortable and well taken care of. I took someone there who had also never been in a fine restaurant before (she's 23), and she had the time of her life - the staff could not have been more helpful or accomodating. I've also taken a 7 year old there - same thing. I think it's the perfect place for your first high end experience.

                                                1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                  I also nominate EMP for a transcendent experience. Be sure to make a reservation. These open 30 days in advance. When you do, explain your situation exactly as you've described it to us - no need to be self-conscious. Your server will be interested in knowing as well. EMP has impeccible service that is also warm, personal and kind. I commented on this when I dined there last year and my server explained that Danny Meyer looks for employees with a high "H" quotient. H = hospitality, i.e., highly motivated to provide an outstanding experience. You are a fine dining virgin and they will be delighted to gently guide you thru the experience. As for Balthazar, it is a casual, bustling bistro/cafe that you can try later. I love it for breakfast. La Grenouille is wonderful for classic French cuisine, but the service is very formal, correct and, some would say, a bit chilly for non-regulars. You might want to tackle it after you've built up a bit more experience and confidence.

                                            2. re: Tommy D.

                                              I would personally say to jump into the deep end, but I think it's a personality thing. Without any high end fine dining experience myself, my first fine dining experience was the original L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris, back when Robuchon would actually be at the restaurant. Even though I wasn't completely sure what I ordered (menus and waiters all in French), I loved everything that came out, including my first taste of sweetbreads, which took me another year or two to figure out what they were (this was pre-Google translate and wikipedia and all that).

                                              One of the reasons I suggested EMP was that it had the most accessible of cuisines. They pretty much do everything good there, and you don't need to ask any questions to enjoy the meal. The service is less stuffy than at other places and would probably be ideal if you just tell them exactly your situation that you want the chef to choose the right dishes for a first foray into fine dining.

                                              1. re: Tommy D.

                                                Also, places of this caliber are good at making everyone feel welcome. I remember during one of the NYC heat waves, my wife and I went to the farmers market wearing shorts and t's. We just couldn't bring ourselves to wear any more. While we were down there, we got very hungry and walked by Union Square Cafe. We looked at the menu and put it on our list for later as we were no where near properly dressed. The host asked if we'd like a table and I asked if there was a dress requirement. "The only requirement is that you're hungry. Follow me."

                                                I'm certain you'll look better in your suit but the point is that places with truly good service do not excel in taking care of only diners of a certain type and are adept at making sure all of their customers have fun. I think Danny Meyer's places are especially good this.

                                                Re: EMP, are you worried that you won't like the food or only that you're not sure what to ask? I haven't been since the menu format changed but my understanding is that you can sit down and ask no question and simply ask the kitchen to choose. Am I wrong about that hounds?

                                                You'll have a great night either way. You might also do Gramercy Tavern at the bar. Great service and someone would be there to talk to you about each and every dish as you have questions. That could be fun too but I don't think you can go wrong.

                                                Enjoy!
                                                JeremyEG
                                                HomeCookLocavore.com

                                                -----
                                                Gramercy Tavern
                                                42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

                                                1. re: JeremyEG

                                                  re: EMP, you are right. People make a huge deal about asking questions and tailoring your meal but that is much beyond the main point.

                                                  When I went there, I wasn't interested in doing any of that. I simply picked my four main components and then the waiter asked if I had any aversions. I said everything was fair game. My wife just said no overly creamy soups but rich sauces were ok.

                                                  The food and service there is amazing. We told our waiter that we were having a celebratory lunch and it was our first nice meal since our son was born 2 weeks earlier, and they gave us free champagne and offered their congratulations and also took us into the kitchen and prepared their haute version of a hemingway daiquiri.

                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                  Well said. All these restaurants will be equally unfamiliar, so I'd recommend spending your hard earned money on the one that piqued your curiosity in the first place (which appears to be Le Bernardin, perhaps the best choice).

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

                                                  1. re: Tommy D.

                                                    My first fancy meal ever was at the Four Seasons after my high school graduation.
                                                    It was some time ago but I'll never forget it.

                                                    So I have two sidetrack questions:
                                                    [1] Where was your first fancy special restaurant meal?

                                                    [2] Has anybody been to Four Seasons in recent years? Is it worth recommending?

                                                    1. re: Tommy D.

                                                      Tommy D.

                                                      I understand your concern about being presumptuous. My first fine dining experience was several years ago in NYC when I ate solo at the bars in Babbo and Gotham Bar and Grill. I thought it would be presumptuous to take a whole table for a person who had never eaten that kind of food at restaurants that had such an excellent reputation. In retrospect, I wish I had been bolder. The meals were fabulous, made more so by the graciousness of the service. I realize now that I could have sat at a table and I would have had an even better experience. Since then I have eaten solo at many fine restaurants across the US, Australia, and New Zealand. In NY I have been to EMP, Daniel, Jean Georges, The Modern, and Gramercy Tavern and the experiences have been wonderful. One of the keys to enjoying your experience is to ask as many questions as you like (I ask a lot). I have found that the restaurant personnel at these high quality places enjoy describing the food and respond to my enthusiasm for it. Of course, I think they would also respect someone who might want to be left alone a little more. There is something to be said, though, to being completely surprised by a dish (the current format at EMP can lend itself to that) and I have experienced that at several tasting menus. Since you want a special occasion and your initial impulse was Le Bernardin then you should go there. There are so many good choices at the top end in NYC and so many really excellent opinions on this board that you could go crazy trying to make a decision. Take advantage of this opportunity to go for one of the very best. I think you will find, as I did, that you'll have a great time and you will work to make similar opportunities. You can make a goal to do one fine dining experience every two months. Good luck with your job interview and please report back about where you went and what your experience was like. There are a lot of people in a similar (dining) situation to yours and they might benefit from reading about your journey.

                                                      -----
                                                      Gramercy Tavern
                                                      42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

                                                      Babbo
                                                      110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

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

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

                                                      Gotham Bar and Grill
                                                      12 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003

                                                    2. While I find the food at Le Bernardin perfect for what it is - incomparable, perhaps - I just find that "what it is" isn't terribly exciting. And while it's perfectly executed, you're not really getting much bang for your buck - especially not at lunch, when a number of other equal places offer great deals. Also, I find the room kind of boring / corporate. Supposedly they're revamping the whole place this year: new decor, new style, aiming for a younger, more modern fine dining zeitgeist. But until that happens it's a bit of a snoozer for me.

                                                      But on to the more important issue - price. Following are rounded prices (+/- $1) including tax & 20% tip for some of our various lunch prix fixes:

                                                      Del Posto: $37 (3 courses) / $50 (4 courses - antipasti, pasta, secondi, dolci)
                                                      Jean Georges: $41 (2 full courses, no dessert) / $51 (2 with dessert) / $61 (3 savory courses)
                                                      Jean Georges (Nougatine or Terrace): $36 (3 courses, less fancy than the food in the main room)
                                                      Bouley: $58 (3 courses + small pre-dessert)

                                                      And here are a few single meals that could bring you closer to your $100 limit:

                                                      Del Posto's Menu Tradizionale: $96 (6 courses)
                                                      Jean Georges: $72 (3 savories + dessert) / $92 (4 savory courses + dessert)
                                                      Eleven Madison Park: $72 (3 courses) / $95 (4 courses)
                                                      Le Bernardin: $90 (3 courses)
                                                      The Modern: $70 (3 courses) / $93 (4 courses)
                                                      Gramercy Tavern: $65 (3 courses a la carte, +/-) / $75 (Tasting Menu)

                                                      My recommendation? If you're going to be in town for more than one day, why have one high-end meal when you can have two? Go with a couple off the first list. For under your budget, Del Posto's 3-courser (my top pick in terms of bang for your buck) could be paired with either Jean Georges or Bouley, and that way you get a taste of High Italian and Haute French.

                                                      If you can stretch your budget by less than $10 you could really go all out, pairing Del Posto's three-courser with EMP's, or DP's four-courser with Bouley's. And all of these meals - especially DP & EMP - will prove to be more than the stated number of courses - lots of extras tend to get thrown your way.

                                                      If you're only going to be here one day and want to splurge it all on one meal, I'd go with EMP's four-course lunch - amazing food and the legendary casual-but-perfect Danny Meyer service, with DP's Menu Tradizionale in second place. But I'm sure lots of people will disgree - both of those restos (well, shoot, every high end resto) have their detractors on the board...

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

                                                      Gramercy Tavern
                                                      42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

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

                                                      Del Posto
                                                      85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

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

                                                      22 Replies
                                                      1. re: sgordon

                                                        I agree about Le Bernardin - I'm never wowed there, although competent it certainly is. I also find the service a bit stiff, and I do not like the hotel-lobby-corporate-feel dining room.

                                                        I did not find lunch at Del Posto impressive at all, not the food or the service, although the room is grand and beautiful.

                                                        -----
                                                        Del Posto
                                                        85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

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

                                                        1. re: sgordon

                                                          The current price at Bouley for lunch is 4 proper courses plus the pre-dessert, amuses, and mignardises for $45 before tax/tip.

                                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                                          1. re: uhockey

                                                            Yes, and it a total steal at that price, one of the best deals in the city.

                                                          2. re: sgordon

                                                            Unlike nearly all of the other restaurants you've listed, Le Bernardin's sprawling lunch menu is almost identical to their dinner menu, with over 20 first course choices, over a dozen main course choices, and 10 dessert choices (alongside tasting menus). It's a much more ambitious lunch menu than the others, showcasing better and more luxurious ingredients. Just looking at the number of courses is limited.

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

                                                            1. re: hcbk0702

                                                              EMP's lunch and dinner are identical, and the lunch is cheaper.
                                                              The food is better, imo, the setting more lovely, and the service far more graceful.

                                                              That is not to say Le Bernardin is not impressive - it is - but it feels very much like fine-dining-by-the-numbers.

                                                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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

                                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                                Le Bernardin is the real thing.

                                                                EMP, on the other hand, feels like fine-dining-for-picky-eaters.

                                                                But I'll agree to disagree.

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

                                                                1. re: peter j

                                                                  To each his/her own - I certainly love what Rippert is doing with the food, but the service is a yawn and and the room is stale. I just think that Le Bernardin is best saved for more experienced palates - the food is incredibly nuanced and the portions relatively small. It would not be the place I'd suggest to someone to initiate them to fine dining.

                                                                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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

                                                                  1. re: peter j

                                                                    Actually EMP is the opposite also - you can just tell them your ingredient choice and be surprised by the kitchen....the opposite of what a picky eater would do. That's the beauty of the menu - picky and non picky can be delighted.

                                                                  2. re: uhockey

                                                                    You're certainly entitled to your opinion. After many visits to both Le Bernardin and EMP, I don't agree.

                                                                    EMP's service is stereotypical Danny Meyer: overly friendly and scripted. Which is fine if you like that style, but it is highly noticeable and can easily careen into intrusive territory; I find that Per Se balances this type of service much more deftly. Le Bernardin hews closer to classic, professional French-style service, under Maguy Le Coze's direction.

                                                                    I've seen too many technical mistakes emerging from Humm's kitchen to consider EMP a first-tier restaurant. The food is often good, but I see very lightly-accented seasonal French cuisine incorporating some avant-garde techniques, completely succeeding at neither.

                                                                    I do agree that EMP is very impressive during the day. They have one of the unique dining spaces in NYC.

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                                                                    Per Se
                                                                    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

                                                                    1. re: hcbk0702

                                                                      Please report back in detail on your experience! And I wish you luck with your interview and that you have an incredible lunch. Life is so short....take advantage of every opportunity to have memorable experiences.

                                                                      1. re: hcbk0702

                                                                        Two things I've learned, over the years of posting on and reading the boards here, are:

                                                                        The first is that for some people, "Danny Meyer" style service is the standard by which all others should be judged - it's modern fine dining, freindlier, less stuffy, more attuned to each particular diner. But for others, it's too casual for it to be truly "fine dining" - they prefer the trappings of classic Haute French establishments - miniature ottomans for ladies to place their purses on, a 500-thread-count pillow for under your bum, etc.

                                                                        The latter is fancier than the former, to be sure. But is it better? That's up to an individual's preference. It's funny, because the very words & phrases that hcbk0702 used to describe Danny Meyer's service - "overly friendly," "scripted," "highly noticeable," "intrusive" - are EXACTLY the words & phrases I'd use to describe what I dislike about the service at Le Bernardin, etc. While I find the service at Danny Meyer's restaurants unscripted, earnest, and unpretentious, I find many Haute French places to be overly scripted almost to the point of pastiche.

                                                                        The second thing I've learned is that for some diners, only French cuisine makes the grade. Le B, Daniel, Jean Georges, etc will always be tops, and restos like Del Posto and EMP - while they can be very good for what they are, "what they are" is considered inherently inferior to their French counterparts.

                                                                        Now, certainly French cuisine is more decandent on paper - everything swimming in butter and heavy reduction sauces. It's often very "rich" food, both in terms of price and artery-cloggerrifficness. I personally find diminishing returns as one climbs the price ladder in French restos. But... I admit that maybe I'm just tired of it, it being the dominant high cuisine in town for so many years. For someone new to the scene, it may be very exciting.

                                                                        Also, I'll note - there's no need for an "entry point" meal, a la Balthazar. It's not like advanced physics, where you won't "get" something if you haven't taken basic physics first. It's food. It's good to you or it's not. Balthazar is great for what it is, but one doesn't go there for creativity. It's a warhorse, and a very good one at that, but there'll be no "wow" factor - or least not much compared to other places.

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

                                                                        Del Posto
                                                                        85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

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

                                                                        1. re: sgordon

                                                                          sgordon, I completely understand what you're saying and I agree with you. But unlike the other Danny Meyer places, I do NOT find EMP to be the type of "Danny Meyer typical service" you describe, although I 100% agree that it is what I experience at his other restaurants. I think EMP has made a concerted effort to NOT do this, and I think they are successful in this regard. I have eaten at all the restaurants mentioned here many times (Del Posto ony once and I don't plan to return) and have eaten extensively, for decades, in Europe. I really do think that EMP's service is quite good. I do not find it intrusive or overly friendly. I find it accessible, but in a highly professional way. Serious yet not overbearing or cold.

                                                                          And I am quite sensitive to service as you describe. I adore formal French service, and while EMP is not that, it is also not "Danny Meyer typical." EMP strikes a balance that I truly appreciate, one I have found in many restaurants in Europe as well.

                                                                          I find Le Bernardin quite scripted. One thing I appreciate about the highest level of formal service in Europe is that while it is quite formal, it is also genuine and without pretense. It does not pretend to be anything - it is comfortable being what it is. And that is how I feel about EMP's service as well.

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

                                                                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                                            True that, EMP is a step up from the normal DM service, I agree - I guess my point was it's still rooted in his basic service philosophy, though maybe it's "DM on steroids" to use an overused cliche. I feel like his staff(s) have an innate ability to sense what each diner or group wants. If you want to feel like you're just in for a meal at a local neighborhood haunt, it'll "feel" that way. If you want something a bit more formal, they'll pick up on that and take the right tone. I've noticed stark differences dining at Gramercy Tavern with different groups - say, when it's just me and my girlfriend, versus dining there with my parents. And it's always "right" for the particular group.

                                                                            I should also note that - while it's been some time since I've been there - I always though the service at Bouley was very nice. Maybe that's on account of his being downtown as opposed to his Frenchier midtown counterparts. Or maybe it's because he's a transplant from Connecticut like myself, and we just think along similar New-Englandy lines.

                                                                            Of the "Big 3" French (Le B, JG, Daniel) I probably find Le B the nicest, though I truly find all of them a bit cold at best. Daniel, the last time I went - though it's been some time - I actually found snooty. That's not the reason I haven't been back - I just don't find the food excites me enough for the price they charge - but it didn't hurt.

                                                                            ---

                                                                            I can't remember who pointed out that there were 20-some-odd savory options on the Le B lunch menu... my only response is: yeah, and there are 800 items on Kenny Shopsin's lunch menu.

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                                                                            Gramercy Tavern
                                                                            42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

                                                                            1. re: sgordon

                                                                              Ha - that Shopsin's line made me chuckle.

                                                                              How I miss La Caravelle and the old Cote Basque. Not to mention Lutece. I do like La Grenouille but it's not the same.

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                                                                              La Grenouille
                                                                              3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                                                                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                                                the Shopsin's line made me chuckle too (and I need a good laugh today).

                                                                          2. re: sgordon

                                                                            "Le B, Daniel, Jean Georges, etc will always be tops, and restos like Del Posto and EMP - while they can be very good for what they are, "what they are" is considered inherently inferior to their French counterparts."
                                                                            The lack of enthusiasm for Del Posto has nothing to do with some conspiracy against Italian cuisine. It's just that the food isn't particularly good. There are literally scores of restaurants in Italy that would curbstomp Del Posto into the substrata. That said, the $29 lunch deal can be worthwhile if ordering the stronger dishes. EMP, on the other hand, is very well-liked.

                                                                            "Now, certainly French cuisine is more [decadent] on paper - everything swimming in butter and heavy reduction sauces. It's often very "rich" food, both in terms of price and artery-cloggerrifficness."
                                                                            I haven't a clue what restaurant you're talking about. La Grenouille? Even Daniel doesn't really fit into this mold, and both Jean Georges and Le Bernardin often lean towards lightness and balance. In fact, both of their menus are far more global and Asian-inflected than EMP's, which relies on more conventional flavor profiles.

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

                                                                            Del Posto
                                                                            85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

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

                                                                            La Grenouille
                                                                            3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                                                                            1. re: hcbk0702

                                                                              La Grenouille has a varied menu.

                                                                              What are the stronger dishes at Del Posto? I was not impressed by the food when I ate there. And I have no bias against Italian cuisine whatsoever.

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                                                                              Del Posto
                                                                              85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

                                                                              La Grenouille
                                                                              3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                                                                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                                                                Brooks Headley's desserts are very strong, especially the sfera di Caprino. Oddly enough, the humble sounding "roasted winter vegetables" dish is probably the best antipasto. Between the primi and secondi, I'd probably choose a pasta, as they seem more consistent. I did have rather limp garganelli once though, so perhaps the grilled pork?

                                                                            2. re: sgordon

                                                                              "Now, certainly French cuisine is more decandent on paper - everything swimming in butter and heavy reduction sauces."

                                                                              As noted above, this is not the case at all with any of the four star French restaurants. Jean Georges and Le Bernardin are much lighter than Babbo, Scarpetta, or Marea.

                                                                              Oddly, the restaurant that most closely fits your description is Ai Fiori, which bills itself as an Italian restaurant.

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                                                                              Babbo
                                                                              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

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

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

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

                                                                              Marea
                                                                              240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                                                                              Ai Fiori
                                                                              400 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                                                                        2. re: hcbk0702

                                                                          Okay that does it.
                                                                          I've never been to Le Bernardin and now I'm putting it on my list for next time I'm in NYC.

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

                                                                          1. re: pauliface

                                                                            If I were you I'd wait until after the planned renovation. Or plan to go again to compare before and after.

                                                                            1. re: pauliface

                                                                              Le Bernardin supplements its three course prix fixe with a substantial amuse bouche (salmon rillettes), pre-dessert (milk chocolate "Egg" if you request it), and petit fours (almond and pistachio financiers). Enjoy.

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

                                                                        3. So when is the planned le Bernardin renovation? Will it close? continue during?

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: yebo

                                                                            I believe that the rumors of a renovation came from this video, wherein Ripert talks about updating the decor. As far as I know, the date of the renovation has not yet been scheduled.

                                                                            http://ny.eater.com/archives/2010/03/...

                                                                            Tommy: You mentioned that you will not be ordering any wine. Just be aware that Ripert uses wine in a few of his sauces, albeit in a subtle way, befitting his philosophy handling seafood with lightness and precision. As long as you are not averse to the taste of wine, I think Le Bernardin would be a great choice for your first high end meal.

                                                                            Regarding the debate whether the restaurant is an outdated relic or the finest example of French cuisine, perhaps Frank Bruni summed it up best in his four star review:

                                                                            "Le Bernardin may be the most confident restaurant in the city. Consider another of its best appetizers: thin layers of yellowfin tuna, foie gras and toasted baguette, which compose a symphony of crunch and ooze, hard and soft. Another restaurant would be tempted to go heavier on the foie gras, to go for broke. But Le Bernardin holds the ingredient and the effect in check, doing justice to the adjective 'tantalizing.'

                                                                            This restaurant's confidence also comes through in its portions, which are judiciously restrained, and in its service, which is expert but unintrusive. Epitomizing a certain kind of class, Le Bernardin amounts to the restaurant equivalent of old money, so secure in its station that it need not strut, so practiced in its posture that it never slouches. And yet it somehow avoids stodginess and complacency, a minor miracle that, for us diners, is a major blessing."

                                                                            http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/16/din...

                                                                            We were all fine dining newbies iike you at one point. I am sure you'll have a great time wherever you decide to go. I hope you'll report on your experience.

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

                                                                          2. Thanks everyone. I decided to bite the bullet and go to Le Bernardin after my job interview last week. The room was really lovely - quietly luxurious, almost in a zen way. I've read that Eric Ripert is a practicing Buddhist so I guess that sensibility has somehow filtered into the restaurant.

                                                                            Upon arrival I received a warm welcome from the host who led me to a table by the windows. Before long, while checking emails I noticed my server standing nearby, menus in hand, and it was only after I set my phone down did he begin to address me in the most cordial manner.

                                                                            He explained the three options: a $45 three course prix fixe with limited selections ($5 of which is donated to City Harvest), the regular $70 three course prix fixe, and the $185 tasting menu. From hcbk0702's recommendations in another thread, I asked about the milk chocolate "Egg" and possibly supplementing the $70 three course prix fixe with a second appetizer, which my server said he would be happy to arrange.

                                                                            The meal began with delicious and complimentary salmon rillettes. My appetizers were the tuna with foie gras followed by the charred octopus with fermented black bean and pear sauce vierge, both of which were completely amazing. The tuna was every bit as good as Frank Bruni said in his review, and the charred octopus was so tender with sweet and salty flavors held in fine balance.

                                                                            My main course was the skate with langoustine and brown butter flavored dashi. I've never had skate or langoustine before and very much enjoyed the rich textures and flavors which were complemented by the delicate broth.

                                                                            For the "Egg" my server suggested scooping from the bottom of the shell in order to get milk chocolate pot de creme and all the layers with each mouthful. Just incredible. I could have had three of those eggs but I guess its purpose was a transitory one.

                                                                            The citrus dessert consisted of lime mousse covered with white chocolate and paired with a grapefruit sorbet with a hint of tequila. It was a wonderful contrast to the milk chocolate egg and a great way to end a series of seafood courses. I also received warm tiny cakes (madeleines?) of two varieties: pistachio and almond.

                                                                            Even though the bill was slightly over my budget, I would return in a heartbeat. The food was so novel and exquisite that I lost all track of time, and the kind, thoughtful service greatly exceeded my expectations.

                                                                            I'm so glad I went to Le Bernardin for my introduction to fine dining. I'll never forget the experience. Someday I hope to try a few of the other restaurants mentioned in this thread.

                                                                            Thanks again for all your replies.

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

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Tommy D.

                                                                              That's a great report and it's wonderful that the restaurant "hit the spot", so to speak. If you're inclined to try somewhere else at a similar price point I would recommend The Modern, everything we've had there has been exquisite and the service exemplary. You can also have very good food and service for considerably less with good service at Tocqueville and Sho.

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                                                                              Tocqueville
                                                                              1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

                                                                              The Modern
                                                                              9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

                                                                              SHO Shaun Hergatt
                                                                              40 Broad St, New York, NY 10004

                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                So glad that you experienced this. Thanks for reporting back.

                                                                              2. re: Tommy D.

                                                                                Wonderful report. I never would have thought of supplementing the prix fixe with a second appetizer, but that sounds like a great idea!

                                                                              3. Tommy: I really enjoyed your report! Sounds like a great meal and well described...hope your interview also went well!