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Corton or Brooklyn Fare for Birthday dinner

  • r

Deciding between these two for a birthday dinner. For those who have dined at both, is there a preference you have over the other?

239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

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  1. Roughly when is this birthday dinner planned for, and roughly how large a party would be involved?

    Pragmatically speaking, the decision may be out of your hands - it may not be possible to get seats at Brooklyn Fare anytime soon. In addition, I believe that the chef and staff have a scheduled ~1 week vacation/restaurant shutdown for sometime in the next month or so.

    Also bear in mind that reservations are only taken once a week, on Mondays. Phone only, though they do permit general qs to be submitted via email.

    1. I love Corton, though I'd probably choose Brooklyn Fare (even though I haven't been yet) given the difficulty of reservations, the 20 course menu, and the great reviews.

      Even if Brooklyn Fare is fully booked on your desired date, you can still ask to be waitlisted in case of cancellations. I was able to get a reservation this way for a Friday dinner in a few weeks.

      Note that Corton is relatively formal and offers an extensive wine list, whereas Brooklyn Fare only has counter seating and is BYOB.

      239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

      6 Replies
      1. re: fm1963

        fm1963 - out of curiousity, do you mind if I ask about the size of your party?

        1. re: cellardoor


          Brooklyn Fare now has 18 seats, and requires full prepayment a week before your reservation. ($165 for about 20 courses before tax and tip). The restaurant will be closed the second week of May.

          1. re: fm1963

            When I spoke w/them this past monday, they also confirmed that they are still very strictly BYOB. (Apparently if you want something other than tap water, you need to bring your own bottles of sparkling.)

            Also, gratuity is cash only.

            1. re: cellardoor

              That's what I was told too, though was given the option of leaving my tip on my credit card. I'll clarify that when I prepay.

              1. re: famdoc

                update: post Sifton's 3-star review, "starting in June, the price of the 20-course tasting menu will jump to $185" (again, pre tax numbers)

                Brooklyn Fare Raising Menu Price by $20 After Sifton Review

        2. Depends a lot on the atmosphere you seek. If this is an intimate dinner then the answer is Corton (and its not particularly close). If this is two old friends catching up over a meal, then perhaps Brooklyn Fare is the answer.

          Despite the rave reviews of BF, I have found the food at Corton to be more consistent and (often) better.

          239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

          1. It would definitely be useful (from a recommendation standpoint) if you could provide some more background detail wrt other preferences, eg ambiance, how much they care about wine, and so on.

            For instance, if someone in the party is going to be physically miserable in a somewhat-uncomfortable seat for a very lengthy meal, then that could eliminate Brooklyn Fare.

            As mentioned previously, they confirmed that they are still very strictly BYOB as of this week (and unlikely to change in the next :) ). (If you want something other than tap water, bring your own bottle(s) of sparkling.)

            This might be a huge negative for some ppl; others might be overjoyed at the opp to craft their own wine pairings (which Brooklyn Fare is happy to discuss with you – tho given the menu turnover speed/adjustment to availability, I’d assume that the suggestions can’t be too rigid).

            Corton is one of my favorite restaurants of all time, but everyone dining there will have to like unconventional flavor pairings and modernist food. If you have a hearty eater in your party, s/he may be less than satisfied with the portioning (this is not inherently problematic wrt the Corton experience if your wallet/other diners don’t have a problem w/your doubling up or more on the prix fixe, or stacking a prix fixe w/the tasting, for instance). Again, this may be a plus to some people (that one could order unconventionally and sample far more of the exceptional menu w/o suffering from fatigue) – but I just don’t know what your preferences/fellow diner constraints are.

            239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

            7 Replies
            1. re: cellardoor

              Thank you all for your responses. This is actually a dinner for 2 in April for my partner and I. He was able to make a reseravtion for both places and I was wondering which would be a better all around experience with the food being the most important factor. I do understand that both places are quite different in their settings, so I was just seeking opinions from hounds that have eaten at either place or both. Thanks again.

              1. re: raw

                Sorry for the delay-I can definitely opine (very +ly wrt food) on Corton, but am holding off for a couple of days, as I'll have first-hand expy w/Brooklyn Fare by mid-week. [Managed to get a single seat.] Or is your dinner for 2 in April, already nigh/early April?

                239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                  1. re: raw

                    ok - will get back to you inthread later this week. commentary on Brooklyn Fare will likely be fairly impressionistic given the chef's rules re: not taking notes. (I have a decent memory, but the mind quails at memorizing, and then, um, sketching 20+courses?)

                    1. re: cellardoor

                      I heard that Brooklyn Fare's chef does not permit photos. I don't have a problem with that. But he doesn't allow note-taking either?! If that is true, imo, it's a step way too far! Even had I been considering going there -- which I haven't been -- I would immediately strike it off my list.

                      Corton banned photos for a while but eventually saw the error of its ways. Now, they only ban flash photography, which is fine.

                      Going a bit O.T but for a reason...

                      We were positively over-the-moon thrilled with our tasting menu experience at Roberta's last week with uhockey. The food was sensational! Despite the fact that he is extremely talented, the chef, Carlo Mirarchi, is one of the nicest, most humble guys you'll ever meet. No rules about photos or note-taking.

                      You can see my Roberta's photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                      uhockey's review is here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776120


                      1. re: RGR

                        Roberta's tasting menu (which I had only vague inklings of previously) is currently on my personal short list* (largely due to uhockey/your comments on a thread from another forum). It seems likely irrelevant to the OP - who has already secured reservations at his/her 2 chosen restos, and is unlikely to be able to secure ST reservations/Roberta's. [It also seems as if one would need a party of 3-4, rather than just a duo – but this may again be my misread of your/uhockey’s posts?]

                        *-it actually is higher on my list than Brooklyn Fare, were I able to cat-herd enough of my friends into agreeing to go (unlikely) / tack myself onto a party of the requisite 2-3 strangers (very difficult, likely unpleasant for said strangers :P ) / and then actually get reservations (quite difficult), and so on…

                        Back to quasi-relevancy :)

                        While I do think that the note-taking rules at Brooklyn Fare are over-the-top, my decidedly degrees-removed impression (in other words, reading about what lots of regular/random people have stated online on forums and blogs, rather than just the Eater party line/etc) was that he at least seems to be doing so out of some sort of passionate-but-borderline-Asperger-ish/food geek sort of way, rather than pomposity/self-importance/etc. Sort of like taking the food too seriously, rather than taking himself too seriously, which admittedly is a fine distinction when he’s the creator of said food, but the former – taking food too seriously – is rarely something I find problematic (as long as it isn’t snobbish, overly precious, etc). I guess the displayed behavior in either case might appear ~the same, and the experience to the end-user would be equivalent.

                        Some of the comments I've read suggested that he'd be just as annoyed if one were frequently checking one's email (and not because it might be a subterfuge for note-taking on the sly :P); it was more directly suggested to me that the chef _might_ be also displeased if I were to bring a (non e-)book to read between courses (if dining alone), because the food would be presented so quickly and engagingly, I’d be distracted from the experience, etc.**

                        At any rate, I'm ill-equipped to comment (having not yet dined there, never met the chef, etc etc), and am beginning to feel as if I’m discussing, as if in a college philosophy class, whether a true misanthrope who makes equal opportunity racist comments, is somehow superior to someone who makes fewer and less hostile racist comments, but limits them to certain racial groups…all the while failing to realize that I’m actually sitting in on a disciplinary panel which has no interest in my blatherings, has strict rules-based penalties for racist comments, and has yet to determine whether either person has made any such comments. [This is entirely a commentary on the silliness of my own speculation, not that of others. Also, it’s an awfully tortured analogy.] So, full stop.

                        OP, are you going to be bothered by a ban on photo-taking and note-taking, in either sense:
                        a)you want to do some of either
                        b)you find such bans (or the note-taking ban in particular) to be objectionable/obnoxious, and would prefer not to patronize an establishment that has such a policy

                        **-Disclaimers: the “official”-ish (i.e., online food news aka gossip) sites is not really in line w/my speculation, since they seemed to suggest that he restricted note-taking due to “fear of copying his recipes” or something to that effect.

                        Also, some anonymous commentators claimed that when they had the entirely place for a private event, they were told that photos and note-taking were ok because as a private group, doing so would not be disruptive. OTOH, other factors are at play - this might be similar to the “corporate a-holes take out a private room at Per Se, their bad behavior and reenactment of a cafeteria food fight is ignored, etc.”

                        Quoted from [click to reveal the anonymous comments] comments at eater:


                        “my friend was able to score the entire place for us one time and so we were really happy to be there. i actually don't remember seeing a sign about no picture, note taking, etc maybe that came later? i do remember my friend asking cesar if it was ok to take pictures and he actually said yeah usually its not cuz its disruptive but since u're a private group then thats fine. in fact i had my blackbery on my table the entire night and typed in every dish i had... and cesar gave me no problems at all. yes i do remember him commenting about how he only gets the best ingredients and makes it very simple to highlight that ingredient... but i really don't remember him with the "i don't care what u think" attitude.”

                        1. re: cellardoor

                          To clarify the situation at Roberta's, Carlo is only doing the tasting dinner on Wednesdays and Thursdays. He does only one table each night, and the maximum it accommodates is four people. But he will certainly do it for just two or, as in our case, three.

                          uhockey was the one who secured our reservation and worked out the dinner's detail since Carlo builds the menu around participants' preferences and avoids. Of course, this was before the word got out. Now, the problem is *getting* a reservation.


            2. I've been to each of them exactly once-- and at Corton we ordered the tasting menu, so I feel the comparison is fair. I really enjoyed Corton, but I'd have to say that, of the two, I'd go back to Brooklyn Fare first. Brooklyn Fare was just "cleaner" cooking. It was definitely Japanese influenced... a lot of raw seafood. In fact the menu was about 80% seafood based (I think).

              This is not to take anything away from Corton. It's also a fine restaurant and I genuinely enjoyed my meal there-- a little over a year ago.

              239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

              1. Corton is my birthday dinner place for the past two years.
                I have also eaten at Brooklyn Fare several times and don't feel as if it's a birthday dinner spot.
                There's very little opportunity for you and your date/spouse/partner to interact free of interactions with the chef, sommelier, staff and fellow diners. Certainly one of the most special dining experiences available in NYC, but I'd do Corton, Le Bernardin, Del Posto or SHO Shaun Hergatt for a birthday/anniversary or similar event.

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

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

                239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

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

                13 Replies
                1. re: famdoc

                  I agree with this. Of the concerns that others have voiced in this thread, the ability to have private interaction with your partner is the only one that hold water. The chef does not have a stated restriction on taking notes (one of my dining partners took diligent notes on her blackberry on one of my visits). I do think that he is sensitive (not overly so) to keeping his diners engaged as there is a "presentation" element to the experience. One that I think adds to it and makes it unique. For those who value the opportunity to interact with the chef and want to understand the ingredients and thought that went into the dish, BF is right up your alley. As someone described before, it's kind of like a food geek experience. If you aren't, for lack of a better phrase, "into food" then this may not be ideal for you.

                  As an aside, the chef does have a serious personality but not one that is at all offensive. He clearly puts a lot into his preparations and has a disposition that reflects his intent on letting you know what you're eating - not typical of most places. I think this may be misinterpreted at times as him creating somewhat of a food nazi atmosphere but, again, I just think that to fully enjoy the experience you have to be open to the social elements of BF. My wife and I have run into Cesar at the supermarket and spoken with him post-meal on our visits and he is nothing but pleasant and forthcoming about himself and his vision for BF. While I don't know if it's what the OP is looking for in terms of ambiance, it's certainly one of my favorite dining experiences in NYC.

                  1. re: chewbie

                    I loved Brooklyn Fare and didn't have any issues with Cesar, but I was there in February and the menu does say "We request no pictures or notes are taken and cell phones be used outside."

                    1. re: lexismore

                      Full agreement w/lex on all points (including Brooklyn Fare and Cesar), ~early April 2011. Don't have exact wording in front of me, but notes, pictures, and cell phones were all singled out on menu text as well.

                      1. re: cellardoor

                        Thanks for the update. I haven't been since late 2010 and obviously did not have the most current info. I stand corrected.

                        1. re: chewbie

                          no worries - there have obviously been a lot of changes over time, ranging from price, official policies re: note-taking, expansion of seating from 12 to 18 (I believe), and so on.

                          Most relevantly, I think the 12->18 seat expansion, combined w/reduction in degree of hands-on-ness of interaction w/the chef (at least during my April 2011 dinner, compared to people's comments re their 2010 expys), have made the dining partner interaction issue less intense.

                          That is, while the communal seating, etc still make the overall experience less conducive to partner-focused interaction than a traditional seating arrangement would, my guess is that as the experience stands currently*, the partner interaction penalty is much less than it would have been in, say, sometime-2010 cases.

                          *-again, this is off a single early april 2011 data pt, and the chef could decide tomorrow to switch back to a more actively engaged mode.

                          1. re: cellardoor

                            How did you like the food at Brooklyn Fare, cellardoor? Was it comparable to Corton or Momofuku Ko?

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

                            1. re: peter j

                              peter j, I'm going to focus less on Ko during my comparison for now as opposed to Corton/Brooklyn Fare (due to drift away from OP’s questions – and mostly, because it makes comparison even more difficult…). [I know that appeal to “Original (Poster) Intent” may seem a bit hypocritical, given that I’m posting only a few days before OP is actually dining/and probably has already made his/her decision by now…but better late than never/for the future reader…] I’m also focusing more on BF than Corton, since Corton and Ko have been done to death in comparison by plenty of far more articulate, nuanced reviewers.

                              I like all three places a great deal, albeit for different reasons, and w/far smaller sample size wrt BF.

                              Quoting lexismore (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765320) because her comparison of Ko vs BF seems pretty spot on (where spot on = similar to my own opinion, only hers is much better put/probably has more data points and is better supported):
                              “I found [Brooklyn Fare] to be pretty different from Ko (which I also like very much). For one, definitely more of a seafood and sashimi emphasis at Brooklyn Fare. While both restaurants draw from a lot of influences, Brooklyn Fare seemed more heavily weighted towards Japanese. (Cesar Ramirez even remarked at one point during the meal, "I LOVE Japanese food).
                              Ko also seems to also be more, to my taste, riskier - bolder, more experimental flavors. Brooklyn Fare seemed to be more about showcasing quality ingredients in a very subtle (but delicious) way.”
                              I’d add that I suspect that lexismore has dined at Ko a whole lot more than I have. Also, as much as I like Ko (which is a lot), there are several forms of “risk” to be considered – one, the bold/experimental one (which I’m on the whole, all in favor of, even when things go awry), and, for lack of a better phrase, unevenness in terms of balance/quality/etc (I’m not talking about actual bad cooking techniques.


                              I’d break this down into things like:
                              -uneven proportioning across the entire meal – eg, sometimes you’d get random, disproportionately large portioned pasta courses during the lunch service (which is already the greater-number-of-courses service for Ko) – not inherently a problem in that case, since one could simply _not eat_ all of it.
                              -the nature of the menu and restaurant is that you’ll often get courses that are effectively “new/ongoing works in progress” that are very bold and unusual, but necessarily unbalanced half the time when you’re an early adopter of said course.
                              -technical failures – the sheer number of services at Ko vs BF, vs relative staffing, occasionally requires improvisation – eg, I once or twice saw someone get served a course in a different order than everyone else (and I do realize that Ko seats people at many staggered intervals, so it wasn’t observer error) – this was admitted upfront and apologized for.

                              Also, lunch at Ko is much more elaborate, and dinner suffers in comparison – but unlike, say, sometime in fall of last year, there currently seems to be very minimal overlap in menu items between the two.

                              Overall, BF is much higher on consistency, and also tightness of focus/overall theme. (The latter may not be a plus for some – many ppl go to ko because they want the diversity of flavors, styles, and cuisine A X style B type combinations that are unlikely to be found, let alone found in appealing form, elsewhere.)

                              My overly simplistic breakdown of _my single_ BF experience – throughout, keep in mind that I’m trying to implicitly compare each segment to the best of category X in NYC (that I’ve experienced, anyway).

                              If you want greater detail on the BF menu, albeit w/some outdatedness wrt changes in stuff other than just the menu in the earlier reviews, you can see threads like
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765320 (lexismore’s

                              Note that the first link is just nuttily detailed, as lexismore seems to have reconstructed the menu w/o the assistance of notes or photos…in contrast, my recollections are hazy at best (that is, even immediately after I ate there) :P

                              The amuses consisted, in part, of a minority of tasty non-seafood exceptions, including but not limited to a sweet pea soup/parmesan foam (contrasting in cold/heat as well), a yuba amuse “flown in from Kyoto” (excellently paired w/other flavorings; the yuba itself was lots better tasting that yuba that I’ve had a bunch of mid-tier but authentic Japanese restaurants, but I (non-facetiously) lack the experience w/yuba to tell if it came from Tokyo, Kyoto, or Bethesda.)

                              There was an extensive progression of very clean (as someone upthread put it) fish/seafood bites, each of which was well seasoned/sauced/accompanied – enough so that were much more value-additive, rather than almost excessively austere (as, in my entirely _personal, non-expert, opinion_, is sometimes the case at, say, various top-notch sushi restaurants). The rawer bites were almost without exception excellent, as were the cooked bites (eg, the octopus that others have raved about before).

                              My only caveat is that there were a few simple tempura seafood items mixed in as well, and I felt that they suffered in comparison to the other bites. For instance, I’ve had much tastier tempura of uni sandwiched w/portobello mushrooms and flavored w/green tea salt (admittedly, an umami bomb and not perhaps the most sophisticatedly flavored treat ever – though I’d like to think that when they first came up w/it many years ago, it was decently original) at Sushi Zen, which, while a great place, is probably not in the running for the highest-level/top-notch Japanese restaurants of NYC. Or, for novelty of taste + texture (again, not w/super-hi quality ingredients), the tempura’d corn kernels at Soba Totto (definitely a mid-tier Japanese restaurant).

                              There are whole hosts of threads on tempura, what (various people) think makes it great, how to make really light tempura, how to preserve delicate flavors while frying, etc, etc, that I’ve barely even read, let alone absorbed/ever tested for myself/ever asked chefs who deal w/tempura to confirm BS levels on. That being said, my naïve guess is that the actual quality of the seafood that went into the BF tempura was high, but the frying process was either insufficiently light, or just wasn’t going to preserve the level of quality for certain items anyway, or I was there on an off night.

                              I would say that the plated “courses” were a bit more uneven than the many, many amuses – by which I mean there was more potential for upside (due to greater complexity, # of perceptible ingredients, actual amt of food for the chef to play with, etc), but also a rare disappointment as well. On the + side of the ledger, there was a creative – or mildly gimmicky – or both (I certainly didn’t care) - presentation of monkfish melded with foie plate that really delighted me w/taste and texture.

                              Only outright disappointing item (plated or otherwise) was the lamb dish, which, while accompanied excellently, struck me as just plain odd (wrt the principal component). The lamb piece itself was fairly rare (I usually consider this a good thing in my lamb), yet it was also very lean to almost the point of dryness/insufficient juiciness, and as one might expect from the average lean piece of lamb, the lamb-iness of flavor definitely did not come through. (I’m not saying lamb has to be gamey, nor am I saying gaminess is necessarily even as present in the best lamb, or that only fatty cuts of lamb, sufficiently rendered, can be considered excellent – though I still obsess over certain versions of Ko’s lamb ribs. This is a very random comparison, but Adour used to have a different version of roasted rack of lamb with north African spices that was hardly fatty, certainly not rare, and subtly flavored – yet despite all this, still somehow tasted like one of the best lamb dishes I’ve ever had.) The weird thing was that I don’t think there was a failure of technical execution, per se, wrt the lamb. I’ve seen other people say similar things about, say, BF’s beef dish (under a different menu rotation), where they speculated that the meat course was almost obligatory in nature/afterthought-like.

                              Composed cheese plate was delicious, albeit not necessarily breaking new ground (again, this may sound like damning w/faint praise, but I actually thought it was excellent/am generally trying to compare X at BF to really high quality X at some other place in NYC that may either specialize in X, or have a dedicated menu for X)– a trio of bite-sized cheese creations, where for instance, the first of the cheese trios was a combo of some Andante farms cheese, honey comb, and some sort of crispy toasted bread/pastry piece.

                              Dessert amuse and dessert were both solid but not breaking any new ground (again, their competition can be found at top-notch, full-service restaurants in NYC w/full-on pastry facilities, dedicated pastry chefs, and innovative pastry menus, which is kind of unfair).

                              Main weak points:
                              -tempura seafood (very small minority of bites) not as outstanding as other amuses
                              -a few of the “courses” were a bit uneven, but not by any stretch of the imagination anything less than “pretty darn good” (w/the exception of the only seriously meaty course, the lamb
                              )-the relatively small % of dinner dedicated to dessert was fine, but not really that special. It definitely wasn’t just an afterthought, but given physical and staffing limitations, it doesn’t seem like it would make sense for BF to try to go all-out here anyway.

                              Corton overview:
                              -Much more complex, very unusual but “it makes sense!” flavor combinations, and the very opposite of austere; almost no missteps these days, but much greater chance that you may dislike something for idiosyncratic reasons. (Depending on how much you enjoy adventurous flavor combos, the gels, foams, etc armaterium of modernist cuisine – though that being said, the actual basis for the vast majority of the food at Corton is founded solidly in French cuisine and technique). Consensus among many diners is that the Corton that was reviewed by Bruni years ago has become far more avant-garde since then (much as he was at many of his previous restaurants).
                              -You won’t get the same sort of thematically seafood-focused experience that you would at BF
                              -You (depending on how you order) won’t get as many distinct items as at BF (but see below)
                              -While much has been made of the departure of Bobby Truitt, modernist pastry chef extraordinaire (along with much of his pastry team), but several of the desserts remain remarkably solid (keep in mind, in several cases, they’re still serving his signature dessert(s)).

                              I feel as if you’re likely to be more amazed (but also possibly disturbed-but w/fairly low probability) by the fewer things that you’ll taste at Corton (which, in addition to being very unusually flavored, also tend to be delicious and perfectly prepared from a texture/doneness/juiciness/etc standpoint). OTOH, if you go to BF, you’ll get a menu that, while lacking the same highs of adventurousness / complex forays into modernist cuisine, is a much more lengthy and detailed exploration of Chef Ramirez’s love affair w/ and mastery of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) seafood preparations. [And, with the exception of lamb (in my one dinner), excellence with non-seafood as well.]


                              Playing the equivalent of fantasy football/devil’s advocate for a second about whether you get to try as many different things at Corton as at BF, and also taking a very eat-by-the-numbers/reductionist standpoint:

                              -Many, many of Corton’s appetizers and entrees come in multipartite compositions where you have distinct mini-sides that come on separate plates. Two of the appetizers are actually explicitly built out as 3-part and 4-part tastes, and “even” the salad is amazingly complex (and actually good, despite feeling as if it shouldn’t be given the almost kitchen-sink-like appearance that it gives off on first examination). Many of the entrees come with sides that could serve as a small tasting-sized composition on their own (in terms of complexity and quality)

                              -sure, one could argue “are you trying to say that when you go to a steakhouse that serves steak on one plate and a bowl full of potato puree, it is serving 2 mini courses, whereas the other steakhouse w/the potato puree on the same plate as the ribeye is not?” … but I’d argue that Corton is at the other end of the spectrum

                              -In fact, I’d sometimes say that the main plate for a given entrée at Corton is strong evidence for the reverse argument – that some of the mini-items on the main plate itself are sufficiently complex, different, and also plays on the key entrée ingredient that could easily stand on their own as an independent amuse.

                              -Add to this the fact that Corton serves very small portions of complex and multipartite food for the most part (more below on what I mean by that), enough so that a well-appetited person could order the tasting menu + the prix fixe (app/entrée/dessert) and not be stuffed. A fairly hungry/voracious individual could order 3x the prix fixe for himself (or herself) and be very full, but comfortably so.

                              -More realistically, and continuing this super-artificial argument (where one is price-insensitive, trying to count how many things you’ve gotten w/at least a certain degree of complexity, and ignoring any thematic or overarching symmetries / whether you are having dinner, or playing w/Connex), OP and partner could both order the tasting menu, share one of the prix fixe menus (where the appetizer chosen is “the Sea,” which explicitly comes in at least 4 parts, and one of the entrées that comes with several sides that are separately plated, and whose principal plate itself is broken up into lobster three ways). Add on the 4 distinct mini-amuses, the amuse proper, dessert amuse, dessert itself, and the mignardises - 2 types of pate-de-fruits, honey bourbon truffle, 4 other kinds of truffle, 2 macarons...and you’re getting _a lot_ of courses.

                              Sushi Zen
                              108 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

                              Soba Totto
                              211 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

                              239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                              1. re: cellardoor

                                Forgot to append something to this effect to the top of my previous post (and it appears too late[?] to edit )
                                1.This is patently not a review
                                2.This is, and was, never intended as a review by the author

                                ....ramble-y info-dump w/several scoops of speculation would be more accurate.

                                [not checking the box "This is a review of a specific restaurant" in the REPLY might also be a cue...]

                                1. re: cellardoor

                                  Should add some quick updates from a recent return visit (focusing on previously relatively weak points, not going in depth into new dishes, etc)

                                  1.As I mentioned above, the main misfire at BF (in my opinion) was the lamb dish. When I returned to BF more recently, the lamb cut served was different (and more to my taste), had a nice fatty component, still quite rare, and was definitely not a "problem" dish anymore. (Chef also commented that he did not use any sous vide techniques to cook it.)

                                  2.This time, the tempura was overall stronger - in particular,
                                  a)there was a tempura preparation of monkfish liver that was amazing (granted, this is in part because the balance of deep-frying w/delicate fish is sidestepped when you're doing tempura of, well, monkfish liver)
                                  b)a king (I believe) crab tempura was accompanied by a bolder saucing, and also felt somewhat less fried (lump of crab to tempura shell ratio was larger), which made it work better overall.

                                  3.Dessert felt somewhat stronger, despite being more chocolate-focused and also more traditional in technique (both of which I can appreciate, but often associate - correlation, not causation, I tells you - w/a certain degree of laziness when dining at top restaurants in NYC)

                              2. re: cellardoor

                                I think you are over-analyzing. The BF experience is certainly enhanced by sharing the experience with fellow diners. The easiest way to do this is by sharing wine.
                                Chef is certainly busier with 18 than 12, but he makes an effort to describe each dish, answer questions and, later in the meal, makes the rounds of each guest.
                                By the end of each of our visits, we were interacting with fellow guests, talking and laughing with chef.

                                Others have asked for BF vs. MK comparisons. Haven't ever been to MK, so recommend you search prior threads for the impressions of others.

                                1. re: famdoc

                                  Yes, guilty as charged - I have a tendency to overanalyze :) and I'm getting away from OP's main q (much delayed)

                                  I would agree with your characterization of Corton vs BF wrt interaction levels regardless - even if the distraction level is now mildly lower, there is a strong communal atmosphere (physically, and ambiance-wise) at BF that does probably distract from one's ability to focus on one's date/partner/etc.

                                  Though I am in agreement that this would be a compelling reason to prefer restaurants other than BF for _my own_ intimate birthday dinner:

                                  a)OP has stated explicitly that s/he is aware of the ambiance, etc factors, and wants a food-based comparison
                                  b)different people have different social preferences – while not the most likely scenario in the world, perhaps the OP and partner would actually love a large, convivial gathering, but their friends would not be able to afford/enjoy/physically fit into the BF or Corton setting, and BF thus would serve as a best alternative. Perhaps the OP is Paris Hilton with a hidden food fetish – who knows?

                                  But of course, back to the hard part - OP's food comparisons...right.

                                  239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                  1. re: famdoc

                                    Apologies famdoc - just realized that the reply-to-posts system that chowhound uses, makes it appear that your overanalysis comment (while clearly broadly applicable as a valid critique to my commentary style :P), was addressed to my post about the food rather than my shorter, but more persnickety/etc "just how much does the interaction level at BF get kicked up or down by various random changes/how many angels per pin" post ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7749... ).

                                2. re: chewbie

                                  Purely as an fyi, while the no notes policy is still prominently displayed on the printed menu, on a more recent visit, I noticed a lot of people (surreptitiously, but not _that_ surreptitiously) taking notes on their smartphones w/o being asked to stop, as far as I can tell - and I'm pretty sure they were seen doing so by staff. [The first time I went, I noticed no such activity at all.] I'm not endorsing any sort of flaunting of the rules simply because one might not get caught/asked to stop, any more than I'd tell someone that "restaurant X regularly seats people who violate their explicitly requested dress code minimums - so you should feel free to disrespect those standards as well" - I personally consider it disrespectful, given the explicit instructions from the establishment. Just pointing out that the tide may be turning / they may be loosening up.

                        2. raw, can I ask where you ended up going/how it went?

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: cellardoor

                            cellardoor: this had to be your shortest post, ever. ;-)

                            1. re: famdoc

                              "cellardoor: this had to be your shortest post, ever. ;-)" -famdoc
                              Quoted for truthiness :P Oh wait...

                            2. re: cellardoor

                              First of all I want to thank you all who contributed to this thread. Dinner was at Corton. We went with the 3 course instead of the chefs tasting which I would definitely like to go back and try. I Started out with "From the Garden" as my appetizer. I knew this was a signature dish so I had to try it. It was a beautiful plate of food to look at. Probably one of the nicest ever presented to me. I never take pictures of my food, but I would of definitely liked to of captured this one on film. Fortunately the taste equaled the visuals. Such intense flavors are extracted from the different vegetables and herbs. For my entree I had the Black Bass. Fish was cooked perfectly and again such intense flavors in the accommpaning sauces. Portions might not be considered large but because the flavors are strong you end up being satiated. In addition you are presented with alot of little extras before and after. Dessert was the smoked caramel and popcorn. Again like everything else that proceeded it was wonderfully executed and full of great flavor. Service was professional and friendly. A very nice evening that is on par with dinners I have had at Jean Georges, Eleven Madison, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Highly recommend Corton.

                              As a side note there were a few people that commented on that fact that we were holding two reservations. Unbeknownst to me only a reseravation was being held at Corton. I had given my partner the two choices, but he had decided that Corton would be the better fit for my Birthday.

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

                              239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                              1. re: raw

                                Glad to hear that your bday dinner went so well - hope your partner enjoyed it too.