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

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. 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.

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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

    1. 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

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

        1. re: uwsister

          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

            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. 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

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          Per Se
          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

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

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            Per Se
            10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

            1. 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