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Help with weekend itinerary in May

I'll be traveling to NYC for a weekend of eating in May. I'll have three dinners (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and two lunches (Saturday and Sunday) to fill. For my dinners I'm thinking of going to Le Bernardin on Friday, Daniel on Saturday, and Per Se on Sunday. For Saturday lunch should I go to Jean-Georges or EMP? My only constraint for Saturday lunch is I'm seeing the Lion King at 2pm and need to be finished lunch early enough for me to get to the theater in time. I'm still open for Sunday brunch/lunch, any thoughts?
Thanks for the help.

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Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

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  1. Eleven Madison Park eliminated weekend lunch some time ago. It only serves dinner on Saturdays; it is closed on Sundays. Your only opportunities for EMP would be Friday dinner or Saturday dinner.

    For very high end, Saturday lunch and Sunday overall will be harder slots to fill, particularly if Saturday is constrained by your Broadway show.

    The only 4 star New York Times restaurants open for weekend lunch are JG (Saturday), Per Se (Saturday and Sunday). It might be possible to dine on Sat at 12pm at JG and still make your show, but it'll be cutting it close.

    You could do:

    Fri dinner: Le Bernardin or EMP
    Sat lunch: Jean Georges
    Sat dinner: Daniel or EMP
    Sun lunch: Per Se

    For Sunday dinner, since most of the very high end usual suspects are closed, I'd suggest doing something else. Perhaps Italian, slightly more casual? Babbo, Scarpetta, Locanda Verde, and Maialino are all open Sundays and are excellent.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/763855
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/763909

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

    8 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks kathryn. I didn't realize EMP wasn't open for lunch on Saturday. I guess it'll be JG for Saturday lunch. Do you think it can be done in under 1.5 hours?

      I was hoping to eat dinner at Per Se on Sunday so Locanda Verde and Maialino for Sunday brunch look interesting.

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      Per Se
      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

      Locanda Verde
      377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

      Maialino
      2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

      1. re: PorkyBelly

        I've never dined at JG with a time limit in kind. It wouldn't hurt to call and ask. Maybe other 'hounds can help.

        For brunch, those are both excellent choices. I am assuming you are only considering places where you can reserve?

        1. re: kathryn

          I wasn't intentionally considering places that only take reservations. My plans are still open for Sunday so reservations for brunch or lunch isn't a requirement. However, I would like to make reservations for dinner.

          1. re: PorkyBelly

            Are you more into pancakes or French toast, especially?

            Maialino excels at pork (especially porchetta and bacon) and egg dishes as well as pasta. The bakery items are good. The menu is huge but there's not many sweet items that aren't pastries.

            Locanda Verde has great sheep's milk ricotta, porchetta (fatty but not crispy), and egg dishes, as well as good pastries. I like the room and vibe slightly more.

            However, I prefer the pancakes at Clinton St, Shopsin's, or Prune's Dutch apple baby.

            For French toast, I've really been into City Bakery lately. My previous favorites were Pastis and Jane.

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            City Bakery
            3 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011

            Locanda Verde
            377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

            Maialino
            2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

            1. re: kathryn

              kathryn, I'm more into waffles. Do any of those places offer good waffles?

              1. re: PorkyBelly

                I really like Wafels & Dinges but it's a food truck. I also like Amy Ruth's but they're known for fried chicken and waffles. I also like Balthazar's waffles but I haven't had them in a while. I think it's harder to find great waffles in NYC due to space constraints overall.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/707772

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                Amy Ruth's
                113 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

            2. re: PorkyBelly

              You should be able to do three courses at Jean Georges in an hour and a half, but let your server know about your time limit.

              For a high end Sunday brunch, try Ai Fiori or Lincoln. Both have distinctive menus and take reservations.

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

          2. re: PorkyBelly

            JG would work for Saturday lunch. If you let them know that you have to leave at certain time, I'm sure they will work with that. Plus it's pretty close to Theater District.

        2. I like the way you think....

          Personally, I'd go with something like this (assuming you want to do it all high-end):
          Friday Dinner - EMP (safer, incredible service) or Corton (more experimental, good service)
          Saturday Lunch - Bouley, Saturday Dinner - Daniel
          Sunday Brunch/Lunch Jean Georges Nougatine (you mostly get to experience what JG is all about in this way, though not exactly) and Sunday dinner at Per Se.

          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

          4 Replies
          1. re: uhockey

            Bouley is too far from the theater district. Nougatine doesn't really give you the Jean Georges experience. I'd make a reservation at JG on Saturday, and stick with Le Bernardin on Friday (although Corton is a great suggestion and one of my favorites, it's a bit of a wild card among those who are looking for conventional fine dining).

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

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

            Nougatine
            1 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023

            1. re: Riverman500

              Actually, the subway ride from Bouley to Times Square (via the #2 or 3 trains) is about 15 minutes; it's about 20 minutes via the #1 train).

              1. re: ellenost

                Actually, acc. to the mta's trip planner, on the 2 or 3, it's 10 minutes though one must factor in waiting for the train to arrive.

                I much prefer to do my pre-theater dining in fairly close proximity to theater I'm going to so that I can walk there when I'm done and not have to rely on public transportation or a taxi to get me there before curtain time.

                http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                1. re: RGR

                  Since I've done the trip from Times Square to Chambers St. numerous times to go to Bouley, I agree that the actual train time is only 10 minutes on the #2 and 3 trains, but I did factor in a wait time of about 5 minutes for planning purposes for the OP.

          2. Thanks for all the suggestions. uhockey when you said "safer" do you mean safer than Le Bernardin? I think I'll go to JG for lunch on Saturday because of its proximity to the theater district.

            I'm intrigued by EMP for dinner, now that I know I can't go there for lunch. Would you trade it for one of my three dinners I have planned? Why doesn't EMP get any love from Michelin? Based on its reviews it sounds like it deserves at least two stars?

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

            10 Replies
            1. re: PorkyBelly

              The chef at EMP certainly has the talent to get two Michelin stars. However, I've found the kitchen to be somewhat inconsistent: a couple obvious seasoning problems, sauces with insufficient body and clarity, middling composed desserts etc. However, with the drastic change in menu format and a reduction of the number of seats in the dining room, EMP may be in line for another star next year.

              If you replace one of your dinners with EMP, I'd drop Daniel. I wouldn't substitute EMP for either Le Bernardin or 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. re: hcbk0702

                Unless the OP really loves seafood, I would drop Le Bernardin and substitue EMP instead.

              2. re: PorkyBelly

                I think your decision to go to Jean Georges for lunch on Saturday is a good one. With a reservation at noon, you should be all right with regard to making your 2 p.m. curtain. Still, be sure to emphasize to your server at the start that you have theater tickets.

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

                If i were to drop any of the restaurants you are considering, it would be Le Bernardin. I think you'd be better off going to one of the other (NY Times) 4-stars where you can sample a wide range of foods, not just fish and seafood. Also, I have found service at Le Bernardin to be not particularly welcoming and cordial. And I've made it no secret on this board that the space turns me off. Despite the attempts at camouflage, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was dining in the lobby of an office building, which is exactly where Le Bernardin is located.

                As far as the NY Michelin goes, I wouldn't take it too seriously as I find many of their star ratings utterly absurd. For example, Gilt has two stars but, imo, the food we had there doesn't rate even one star.

                http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                1. re: RGR

                  Well, the food at my worst meal at EMP was clearly a zero-star experience as well (in NYT stars, maybe a high one, or a very low two). A consistent high-level of cooking over multiple visits is more important.

                2. re: PorkyBelly

                  I was bored by Le Bernardin - as such I'd slot EMP in its place.
                  I meant EMP was "Safer" than Corton - then again, perhaps every restaurant in New York is safer than Corton in some regard.

                  I forgot about the play issues - but if one can navigate the subway I have zero doubt that you can get from Bouley to the theater in plenty of time. JG was a miss for me, though I know I'm in the minority - I think my server must've stepped in some dog doo on the way to work or something.

                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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

                  Corton
                  239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                  1. re: uhockey

                    I haven't been to wd-50 (yet), but I've been to Corton twice and am betting it's the safer of the two.

                    We've had pleasant, faultless service the three times we've been to J.G. It's unfortunate that your server had a bad attitude. Presuming you liked the food, I can understand how that kind of service left you not thrilled with your dining experience there.

                    http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                  2. re: PorkyBelly

                    As implied above, EMP doesn't do well with Michelin because it is too "safe" and still lacks a defining style. The change in menu format, if anything, seems designed to discourage creativity and cater to the diner's habits.

                    The restaurant does interpretations of comfort food quite well. But it also borrows heavily from other restaurants, e.g. butter poached lobster, which came from Per Se, touches of molecular gastronomy from Alinea and the pioneering restaurants in Europe, a recent chocolate dessert with squash sorbet which was clearly inspired by the chocolate cake with sweet potato sorbet at Le Bernardin.

                    The service and dress code are also more suited to a casual setting. I think Daniel, Per Se, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin are the probably the best examples of fine dining in New York.

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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: peter j

                      To be fair, poaching in beurre monté has been around for a long time, but Keller does seem to get credit for using the technique for lobster at The French Laundry, circa 1994. Now it's widespread in fine dining restaurants across the US, with EMP and Ai Fiori being prominent adopters in NYC.

                      Bucking the trend, Le Bernardin seems to insist on baking their lobster without butter and even shuns searing scallops, which are usually served raw or barely warmed in the oven. The preparations are certainly more subtle.

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

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

                      1. re: hcbk0702

                        Indeed. Ripert doesn't stray from his vision. He might bore diners who want a flashier style, but still offers an experience that has integrity and is impossible to duplicate anywhere else.

                        Corton and Momofuku Ko earned two Michelin stars because Liebrandt and Chang do the same, even at the risk of alienating certain diners.

                        Humm wants to please everyone. But in trying to do so he has neglected to develop his own viewpoint. While his food is usually pleasing, it offers nothing new.

                        He's very nice and often stops by our table to say hello, but I often leave wondering what he's really like. What makes him tick as a food lover. The restaurant could be so much more.

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

                        Corton
                        239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                        1. re: peter j

                          I entirely disagree regarding EMP, but to each his/her own.

                          I think the new menu is a bit "gimmicky," but then again, at Alinea they list one main ingredient and 2 supports in many cases - I had a lobster dish there that had 20+ ingredients when actually descibed.

                          I think Humm is extremely talented and has a very visible voice at EMP - a voice no less profound than whoever is cooking at Per Se under the current regime, a voice no less profound than the current chef du cuisine at Jean Georges, Daniel, or elsewhere.

                          Chang probably hasn't even seen the kitchen at Ko in months, let alone cooked there - but Leibrandt is most certainly there at Corton - and he is turning out magical dishes.

                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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

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

                          Corton
                          239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                  3. Thanks again for all the suggestions. I do enjoy seafood so I think I'm going to pick Le Bernardin over EMP.

                    I do have a question about getting reservations to Per Se. I did a search and I'm getting conflicting results. If I wanted to make reservations for Sunday May 22nd I would call at 10am EST on April 22nd correct? What about opentable, do they release tables for May 22nd at 12:00am April 22nd or at 10:00am? I tried to do a trail run on opentable today at 10am and couldn't get any table to show up.

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                    Per Se
                    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: PorkyBelly

                      For Per Se, if you would like to make a reservation for Sunday May 22nd, you should reserve online through OpenTable on April 22nd at 12:01 am EST.

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                      Per Se
                      10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                      1. re: peter j

                        In my experience, they don't release tables to OpenTable at midnight, and I don't think they release their whole dining room to OpenTable so it can be harder to get a res that way. The OP would be better off calling them at 10 a.m. on April 22. I called at 3 p.m. for a Friday night reservation for two and still got in.

                          1. re: loratliff

                            I do plan on calling at 10am, but I wanted to increase my odds by using OpenTable as well. I just have to figure out what time they release their tables. I will try another test run at midnight.

                            1. re: PorkyBelly

                              Did a test run on OpenTable at midnight 3/1 for reservations on 4/1. No dice, I got "Your requested date exceeds the maximum advance reservation limit for Per Se."

                              I'll try again at 10am and report back.

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

                              1. re: PorkyBelly

                                You could call and ask Per Se what time tables are available online, via OpenTable, as well.

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

                      2. Le Bernadin might be the best meal I've ever had and I was amazed to have felt that way. Daniel is a must. Nougatine left us underwhelmed.

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                        Nougatine
                        1 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023