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Classic NYC 35TH Bday dinner: Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, La Grenouille, etc - best overall experience?

a
alwaysnina Feb 24, 2011 06:34 AM

I know those places have been beaten to death already on this board but need an honest opinion. We have lived in NYC for three years and do a pretty good job of keeping up with the newly opened places, popular chefs, etc. What we haven't done is a timeless NYC dinner because we always feel like those places will always be there and we'll always have time to check them out.

So for my husband's 35th bday I want to plan a classic NYC weekend with one fantastic dinner and one great lunch. Here are the places I had in mind. If you've been to them recently would love your honest opinion of food vs. ambiance and whether maybe some of these are just not as good anymore:

Le Bernardin - dying to try it and say we've been there but looks so boring. Is it worth doing the lunch here and saving dinner for somewhere more lively?

Jean Georges

La Grenouille

Le Cirque

Adour

EMP - I have been there for lunch and loved it so would prefer to try another place but if it's better than the others then maybe it's worth going again since my husband hasn't been there

Not so classic but also considering: Per Se, Daniel, Bouley and Milos

Thanks!
Nina

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Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

Le Cirque
151 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

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  1. r
    Riverman500 RE: alwaysnina Feb 24, 2011 10:12 AM

    I'm not sure what you're expecting from a fine dining restaurant, but none of these places are particularly lively.

    Per Se would probably be the most dazzling in terms of food and presentation. Le Bernardin is more restrained, but also more refined. EMP is friendly and accessible, but also the least "classic" among your choices. La Grenouille is proudly old fashioned and also attracts a more mature crowd. Daniel and Bouley are pretty straightforward French, whereas Jean Georges has a more global and modern point of view.

    I haven't been to Le Cirque (in its current location), Adour, or Milos.

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

    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. u
      uwsister RE: alwaysnina Feb 24, 2011 05:40 PM

      The word "timeless" makes me think of La Grenouille. I wouldn't say it's "lively" though (when we went recently, we were the youngest patrons there by FAR.) But it's definitely classic and we liked the food as well as the ambience. Really lovely.

      I wasn't terribly impressed with Le Cirque when we went a couple years ago. I mean, it was fine, but it wasn't really memorable. I think they've moved and re-vamped the restaurant since.

      I don't really care for Jean Georges (I know I'm in the minority) but if their lunch price has stayed the same, their lunch is one of the best deals in town. Le Bernadin costs a little more, but I think their lunch is also a good idea since it has a lot of same dishes from dinner menu. Le Bernadin isn't what I'd describe as "lively" either though.

      3 Replies
      1. re: uwsister
        ellenost RE: uwsister Feb 25, 2011 06:52 AM

        I had lunch recently at Le Cirque. Botton line: skip it.

        1. re: uwsister
          Splendid Wine Snob RE: uwsister Feb 25, 2011 09:16 AM

          Hilarious. I remember a sarcastic response by one of the Manhattan board members to my observation of a more mature clientele at La Grenouille. Food and service were lovely, and it certainly did not bother me in the slightest to be the youngest person in the room (and I'm far from young).

          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
            u
            uwsister RE: Splendid Wine Snob Feb 25, 2011 11:40 AM

            Oh, it didn't bother me in the slightest - I'm in my mid-20s so I'm used to being the youngest person in the room at fine dining restaurants. But even my husband (who's in mid-40s) felt a little young at La Grenouille, and that was a first! I liked it a lot. I hope it sticks around for another few decades.

        2. s
          scotty27 RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 06:58 AM

          The best meal can be found at Le Bernadin IF you love fish/shellfish; truly the best in that category in the country, in my opinion.

          The most fun? Daniel: Especially if you let them know it's an occasion.

          The most intricate and fascinating: Per Se.

          The best Asian/French experience: Jean Georges.

          I'd skip Adour.

          www.shrinkinthekitchen.com

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

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

          1. h
            H Manning RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 07:03 AM

            The Modern Dining Room is very lively. The food is also very good, though a notch below Le Bernardin and Per Se.

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

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

            1. g
              gutsofsteel RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 08:05 AM

              Wait on Le Bernardin until after the renovation.

              I recommend La Grenouille and Bouley for your meals. Also consider Cafe Boulud.

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              Cafe Boulud
              20 East 76th St., New York, NY 10021

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

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

              1. e
                edwardspk RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 08:18 AM

                From a timeless classic standpoint, I would go for La Grenouille. But at 35, you will be about half the age of the other patrons, so just be prepared for that. But food, service and decor are all very proudly lovely and old-fashioned.

                The Per Se experience is exquisite, but it is not a "timeless classic", nor is EMP (as much as I like it). Beyond La Grenouille, I would probably consider Daniel as your second choice and Jean-Georges as your third. (Note: I love all of these restaurants, so my order of preference is based purely on the description of what you are looking for).

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

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

                10 Replies
                1. re: edwardspk
                  a
                  alwaysnina RE: edwardspk Feb 25, 2011 08:38 AM

                  Well it's just about unanimous that La Grenouille is a much older crowd. That's very helpful since my husband is all upset at how old he feel turning 35. Will definitely avoid that place.

                  Per se looks amazing but about double the price of everything else as far as a tasting menu. Between two tasting menus at $295 plus wine that's easily and $800 dinner at least and I was hoping to stay in the under $500 range.

                  It's now Between Le Bernardin and EMP or ditching the classic idea altogether and going with something edgier!

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

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

                  1. re: alwaysnina
                    ellenost RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 08:42 AM

                    If you're choosing between Le Bernardin and EMP, I highly recommend EMP. I've always found Le Bernardin's food somewhat boring, and the atmosphere very stuffy--more appropriate for a business dinner. Food at EMP (especially if you do the tasting menu) is wonderfully creative and delicious. Service at EMP is attentive and friendly.

                    If you want something edgier, take your husband to Momofuku Ko for either dinner or the weekend lunch.

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

                    1. re: alwaysnina
                      hcbk0702 RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 09:56 AM

                      If you're sticking with the "classic NYC" theme, EMP is out. It was a forgettable restaurant for several years, and has only become a good one recently during Daniel Humm's tenure. Hardly classic.

                      Per Se, as a relatively recent urban adaptation of The French Laundry, is out too. It has Thomas Keller's stamp on it, not NYC's, regardless of the view.

                      Le Bernardin fits your original request. 25 unbroken years with the New York Times four star rating is as "timeless" as it gets in this city, in addition to being considered the best seafood restaurant in the country. Daniel probably merits some thought too (it's in the old Le Cirque space, after all). Bouley doesn't belong in the company of the above restaurants any more, but their lunch deal is very generous.

                      If you're looking for something more casual and lively (as none of the above restaurants are lively in the slightest), Babbo is a good fit. If food is less important, the Pool Room at the Four Seasons epitomizes classic NYC.

                      If you drop the whole idea and want edgier, Brooklyn Fare or Momofuku Ko.

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

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

                      Le Cirque
                      151 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

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

                      Corton
                      239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                      1. re: alwaysnina
                        g
                        gutsofsteel RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 10:51 AM

                        That's a shame, because timeless classic restaurants like La Grenouille are becoming extinct, and it's an experience that you shouldn't miss. I'm not sure why the age of other diners would matter.

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

                        1. re: gutsofsteel
                          MMRuth RE: gutsofsteel Feb 26, 2011 02:54 PM

                          I agree.

                        2. re: alwaysnina
                          r
                          RGR RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 12:32 PM

                          Why would being in a restaurant with mostly older patrons make your husband feel old? I would think it would make him feel just the opposite, i.e., "Wow! Look how young I am compared to this room full of old folks!"

                          As others have said and as did I in my post below, I don't think you should let the age issue stop you. While Le Bernardin has been around for 25 years, La Grenouille goes back to the early 1960's (nearly half a century)! Le Bernardin will most probably be with us for some time to come (they've renewed their lease and will be refurbishing). La Grenouile is the last of a dying breed which should definitely be experienced before it, too, becomes a memory.

                          When I've been to Le Bernardin, despite their best attempts at camouflage, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was dining in the lobby of an office buiding, which is precisely where it's located. La Grenouille is in a townhouse, and the decor is beautiful. I also found the service at La Grenouille far more welcoming and cordial than at Le Bernardin.

                          ETA: We have sometime found ourselves being the oldest couple in the room. That has never stopped us from enjoying ourselves.

                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                          1. re: RGR
                            g
                            gutsofsteel RE: RGR Feb 25, 2011 12:33 PM

                            I couldn't agree more with everything RGR has said above.

                            1. re: RGR
                              Splendid Wine Snob RE: RGR Feb 25, 2011 01:32 PM

                              Totally agree with you too RGR-especially on your points about the service differences between Le Bernardin and La Grenouille. My family and I were absolutely turned off by the cold and indifferent attitude we received at Le Bernardin. It made it all the more tragic since the food was sublime.

                              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob
                                r
                                RGR RE: Splendid Wine Snob Feb 25, 2011 07:23 PM

                                SWS,

                                The span between our first time at Le Bernardin and the second times last year was about 10 years. Service actually warmed up a smidgeon from the extreme iciness the first time, which was one of several reasons it took me so long to consider going back. But still no warm welcome upon arrival. Then, we were made to wait around the rather cramped, uncomfortable bar area for our table -- the first time our table has not been ready at any of the NYC 4-stars we've been to -- and nobody asked if anyone in our party of four wanted a drink.

                                La Grenouille actually shocked me with regard to how we were treated the first time we went there two years ago. I had expected aloofness, but the staff's behavior was exactly the opposite. We received a warm welcome when we arrived, we were immediately escorted to our table, our server was very pleasant, and as we left, we were bid "Au revoir" by the managers, who actually remembered our name!

                                http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                1. re: RGR
                                  MMRuth RE: RGR Feb 26, 2011 02:56 PM

                                  Yes, I've had nothing but what I would consider to be appropriately warm service while maintaining the formality that I would expect at this sort of restaurant.

                        3. r
                          RGR RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 09:18 AM

                          " What we haven't done is a timeless NYC dinner because we always feel like those places will always be there and we'll always have time to check them out."

                          Based on our two visits to La Grenouille over the past two years, it appears to be doing quite well. However, it is pretty much the last of NYC's fabled Grandes Dames of Haute Cuisine, and who knows how long it will last? I recall people's surprise when a few years ago, the owners of La Caravelle suddenly announced they were closing to retire.

                          I have seen patrons in your age group at La Grenouille, albeit in the distinct minority. But I wouldn't let that stop you. The food is delicious (definitely get the Dover sole and a soufflé), service pleasant (not snooty), and the ambiance is lovely (though tables are extremely close).

                          La Grenouille photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                          Lunch at Jean Georges has now increased to 2 for $32, but it's still a bargain. Of course, as has been noted, the Asian-influenced French style of cuisine is totally different from La Grenouille's.

                          Jean Georges photos:
                          http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                          I've really enjoyed our meals at Adour. The food is excellent, service is polished, and the room is elegant. Btw, like Daniel, they do not serve lunch.

                          Adour photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                          1. k
                            kim e RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 10:22 AM

                            I've only been to Le Bernardin, JG, EMP, Daniel and Bouley. None of them were very lively dinners. I think I enjoyed LB's food the best, but the overall experience at JG was better. Daniel's food really blew me away (but it was my first fine dining experience, so that might have something to do with it). EMP and Bouley were good, but not as memorable in my opinion as the others. I'd say go with LB if you've been wanting to try it. The dining room is a little boring, but I'd say the food makes up for it.

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

                            1. p
                              pdquinn RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 11:07 AM

                              If you really enjoy seafood, I think Le Bernadin will blow you away. It's truly unique in that regard. If not, I think Daniel is the best overall dining experience in NYC. I'd give Jean George the bronze. You can't go wrong with any of these three in my view.

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

                              1. f
                                fm1963 RE: alwaysnina Feb 25, 2011 11:15 AM

                                "Le Bernardin - dying to try it and say we've been there but looks so boring"

                                As much as I love Le Bernardin, I'm not sure that it's the right restaurant for you.

                                Why not celebrate somewhere edgier (and not classic), then maybe try lunch at Le Bernardin on a normal weekday, when you can appreciate its quiet beauties without the pressures of a big celebration.

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

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