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FOOD POLL - EMP, DANIEL, LE BERNARDIN, JEAN GEORGES & PER SE

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Having been to numerous 3-Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe (most recently The Fat Duck, Restaurant Gordon Ramsey and L'Astrance), we are now about to embark on a short trip to Manhattan in April.

I have seen many threads on the five restaurants mentioned on the subject heading of this thread.

While all of these discussions compared the atmosphere, quality of service, presentation and value for your money (which are all important), I am most interested in narrowing it down to the FOOD - mainly FLAVORS experienced in the tasting menus.

Please take a moment to rank these five restaurants (feel free to provide your rationale) - based on the flavors of food alone. While we enjoy all types of cuisine and service, we want to narrow it down to the one restaurant that is not "style without substance".

Be sure to account for desserts as well!

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

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  1. For clarity and harmony of flavors, consistency, cohesion of tasting menus, and overall deliciousness, my rankings would be:

    1. Le Bernardin (best desserts)
    2. Per Se (best mignardises)
    3. Jean Georges
    4. Daniel
    5. Eleven Madison Park

    If you are looking for inventiveness, which I think is an increasingly important factor in Michelin rankings, then you should also look into a couple of two star restaurants, Corton and Momofuku Ko.

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

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

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

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

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

    Corton
    239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

    1. 1. Per Se
      2. EMP
      3. Jean Georges
      4. Le Bernardin
      5. Daniel

      Top 3 are all fantastic, though Per Se is in its own league if price isn't an issue. Love EMP as well. LB food was delicious but atmospher and service were lacking. Daniel has disappointed me twice and I don't have much desire to go back.

      -----
      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

      1. Here's the thing - if you're only going to do one, you should go with the one that fits your personal flavor profile the best. If "money be damned" you're going to get a satisfying meal at any of the above. It shouldn't matter too much what people say here, since everyone is going to say something different. None of them are "style without substance" (actually, in the case of Le B, I'd say it borders on "subtance without style" - I find the room and service stifling and boring...)

        EMP: the most playful and experimental of the bunch - and while not as wackadoo at Heston (you won't have to wear headphones while eating a dish) Chef Humm might put a foot into Blumie's sandbox now and then.

        Daniel: probably the most traditional of the bunch. Rich, heavy - if that's your idea of luxurious, they're your place.

        Jean Georges: From what I hear of late they're on an up. But it's been awhile since I've been.

        Le Bernardin: They're all going to be rich meals, but Le B, given the seafood focus, would probably be the lightest of them. Ripert is more subtle with flavor than the others as well, and his "fusiony" moments are, for me, a little more intriguing - a bit of Japanese here, a bit of Mexican there.

        Per Se: I think they're overpriced for what they're serving. Obviously a number of people here will disagree, though.

        Curious: if money is no object (not to confuse things by adding another name to the mix) have you considered Masa as well?

        -----
        Masa
        10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

        5 Replies
        1. re: sgordon

          Thanks for all of the replies so far!

          sgordon - It's funny that you mentioned Masa, since I happen to be a sushi enthusiast (especially omakase); however, while my companion is a fan of seafood - I do not believe that he would go towards a menu that is soley sushi. Upon reviewing the tasting menu for Le Bernardin, he was open to trying it.

          Regarding my personal flavor profile, it honestly boils down to food that simply tastes great. Sure, it has to look good in order to eat it - but the edge will always have to go to the clarity and harmony of flavors (as well-worded by peter j).

          The biggest letdown for me would be having a great atmosphere, personalized service, and incredible presentations, however the flavors/harmonies yield bland/unsatisfyng results. Equally damaging would be to have only one or two items on a tasting menu that stood out, while the others yield forgettable reactions.

          Le Bernardin's primary focus on fish would not deter me if the majority (if not all) courses WOW me to the extreme.

          On the other hand, EMP's reviews seem to put emphasis on how great the food tastes as well. The only letdown for me is that they no longer have the Gourmond tasting menu, and I am still unclear how their new format works. For instance, if I choose to go with "fish", do I actually have to suggest how I want it prepared? Am I supposed to state some of the ingredients that I want, and (if so), would they at least provide me with suggestions? In many ways, it sounds exciting; however, in some ways - I would prefer to put the onis on the chef to prepare something that best represents him, so that I can leave the establishment with a true indication of how the he ticks.

          In all honesty, I can say that I have narrowed my choices down to Le Bernardin or EMP (Per Se is maybeeeee still in the running).

          I wish that I had time to visit both, but it is just not in the cards for this trip!

          So, in conclusion, any feedback from those of you who have recently been to both restaurants (especially with the new format for EMP) would be appreciated.

          Whichever one I go with, I would be doing the tasting menu (with the most courses), as well as wine pairing.

          Again, I realize that Le Bernardin is mainly seafood. But, this factor is not something that I need to consider. I love seafood and can certainly enjoy a multi-couse tasting menu that is mainly seafood-themed. But I also love variety, and would have equal satisfaction from a menu that serves various items. Dessert is also a component worth considering.

          I just want to hear everyone's thoughts as to which one (Le Bernardin or EMP) trumps the other for preparations that would "explode" the senses in terms of flavor/taste.

          Thanks again!

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

          Masa
          10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

          1. re: samysalib

            I can't offer too much in terms of comparison here. I haven't had a proper dinner at most of these places, but my extended tasting menu at Per Se was the best meal of my life. Worth every penny.

            I will say that if you choose Per Se, and money is no object, you should ask for the extended tasting. 3 or 4 of the best dishes of the night came from the extended tasting. I would actually have to say that purely on food, my meal there trumped the one I had at Alinea.

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

            1. re: samysalib

              I recently had the Tasting Menu at EMP, and it was wonderful! There is a great report by Fooder that details the menu when he was there. The menu changes often.

              1. re: samysalib

                EMP is as interactive or not-interactive as you want it to be. You can either have the "standard" version of a dish, simply picking your main ingredients from the grid and letting the kitchen do their thing, or ask more detailed questions and tweak things to your liking. For the tasting I guess you're not picking your proteins, although they're very accomodating - you can ask what's on that night's tasting, and if there's something you're finding more interesting on the regular menu, I'm sure they'd be more than happy to sub things. If there are two of you, you could say "hey, don't give us both the same dish every course - switch things up a bit" and they'll accomodate, so you can share on those courses and try more things.

                There was a good piece in the Post about it, to give you an example of the "customizing" they do: http://nyp.st/bIodtY

                Between EMP and Le B tasting menus, I'd go with EMP (though it's been a little while since I've been, personally) - I think it would be a more varied experience, cuisine-wise, at EMP, which would hold my interest better over an extended tasting. That's what works for me, at least - YMMV. I also find the service and room nicer at EMP, and Le B a bit stuffy - we'll see what happens after the big Le B makeover, though. But some people like stuffy, so that's neither here nor there I guess.

                1. re: samysalib

                  I think EMP does have the Gourmand tasting menu again. I've not had it, but I've seen some recent posts from others who have. Maybe I'm dreaming of it (had it 3 years ago).