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Jan 3, 2012 10:47 AM

One day too late to score a table at EMP, where should I take my wife for her b-day?

So, I thought an early call today would get me a two-top at EMP for 1/30, but they're already "fully committed" Now, I'd like to turn to fellow hounds for a suggestion of a place on-par with EMP (ie, no Per Se) for a birthday dinner four weeks from now. Rules: no place we've been before (ie, no LeB, Del Posto, Jean-Georges). Price for prix-fixe should be about the same as EMP (or less, ie, between 100-125). Should be seafood-centric, not meat-centric. And, should be able to get an 8 PM on a weeknight four weeks from now.

Cut 'er loose....

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  1. How about Jungsik? I'm returning for my birthday soon myself.

    Jung Sik
    2 Harrison St, New York, NY 10013

    16 Replies
    1. re: Cheeryvisage

      Jungsik was an utter disappointment. What a farce. Emperor's new clothes!!!

      Their menu should have clued me in to the rest of my meal. It is an exact copy in design to EMP's. Who copies menu designs anyway???

      Other imitation dishes included the "scoopable salad" which is an exact copy of akelerre of spain. another was the truffle chicken which bouley did a few years back. the pea garnish is emp again in their newst cook book. on and on everything was just an imitation of better restaurants and chefs all over the world.

      my conclusion was this chef has absolutely zero creativity and just travels and copies dishes he likes. WHAT A FARCE!!! i was so irritated by the entree course that i asked if the chef was in to ask him where his inspirations came from and of course the server said he is currently traveling in europe. to copy more dishes, i thought to my self.

      anyway, i really wanted to like this place since i think korean cuisine deserves better than 32st has to offer and i hate waiting in line at danji but jungsik is nothing but an embarrassment to the whole industry. reminds me of chinese knockoff purses being sold on the streets. oh how i miss chanterelle...

      Jung Sik
      2 Harrison St, New York, NY 10013

      1. re: halo

        Sorry you had a disappointing meal, but with all due respect, I don't believe it's fair or realistic to expect Jungsik to use no ingredient combinations other restaurants have used before. Pea garnish? Is nobody else allowed to use peas in their dishes other than EMP? EMP did not invent garnishing dishes with peas I'm sure. It was not the first to use this ingredient nor would it be the last.

        And, chefs are always inspired by one another. Wasn't it Daniel that had a frog legs dish that was very similar to Jean George's (who had it on its menu before Daniel), down to the presentation? I don't think anyone accused Daniel Boulud as having zero creativity.

        I think it's a bit harsh to accuse Jungsik's chef as a copycat. "Embrassment to the whole industry?" Not at all. This is how the industry works. Chefs are absolutely allowed to be inspired by one another.

        1. re: Cheeryvisage

          you're right. inspiration and copying are 2 different things. my observation was that jungsik dishes were flat out copies. the plating looked so eerily similar that it was comical. for may who have never been to emp, akelerre, arzak, i can see why they think it's a very fine restaurant. for me, having been to the aforementioned places recently i know pretty much this jungsik chef doesn't have a single creative dish on his entire menu. my korean dining partner agreed that even the korean dishes are not original. it is ok for a young chef to be inspired by great chefs and to use that inspiration to come up with new dishes but it is NOT ok to rip off all of your dishes from other chefs and pretend they're your own. not when EVERY SINGLE dish is a copy... maybe this chef has no respect for intellectual property as do many in certain asian countries but it is still an embarrassment to the industry that he's able to get away with it and prosper... shame!

          1. re: halo

            This is interesting. Thanks for your input halo.

            1. re: halo

              >> maybe this chef has no respect for intellectual property as do many in certain asian countries

              ^ Is this really necessary?

              I've only been to EMP, of the three restaurants you mentioned. When did EMP institute the grid menu? October, November 2010? The original location of Jung Sik Dang in Korea was already around in 2009. It may have existed further back. Presumably it was already using a grid menu. Does this mean I'm going to accuse EMP of stealing Jung Sik's grid menu? What a bunch of thieves those EMP folks are, right?

              Regarding the "Spoonable" salad, I remember seeing an video interview somewhere that Jungsik's chef got his inspiration from the plate. The plate's eating surface was unique in that it was ribbon-like and the only utensil that could be used was a spoon. So, he created a salad for it in which you eat everything with a spoon. It's entirely possible that Akelerre might have gotten its inspiration from the same plate, or it conceptualized a salad first then used the same plate for it. Nevertheless, Jungsik's inspiration was the plate, not Akelerre's salad.

              You mentioned your Korean dining partner saying the Korean dishes weren't original. Okay... so a few of the dishes are classic Korean dishes or twists on classic Korean dishes. Benoit serves classic French food such as Onion Soup and Escargots. Are you going to accuse Alain Ducasse of ripping off Classic French cuisine and having no creativity too? Or maybe every single chef in the world serving foie gras terrine should be ashamed of themselves.

              Also, have you seen anyone else do a snapper dish like this ( I'm genuinely curious since when the server presented this to me, he made special (and proud) mention of the searing of the fish scales as something creative the chef thought of himself and that no one else was doing.

              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                the snapper dish has been done at masa and as well as many japanese restaurants where they either sautee or deep fry the fish with the scales on so it pops up and creates a light flaky texture. this is my point. the chef claims his ideas are unique and his creations but i've seen that technique used in japan many many times far longer than this chef ever started cooking. 3 years ago at my one and only meal at masa this same technique was utilized.

                the emp grid menu was copied by jungsik only here in nyc. my korean dining companion had been to the jungsik in korea last year and said they did not have the same menu.

                if you look at akelerre's cook book they have and EXACT replica of this "spoonable" dish. the book was printed over 3 years ago. the chef at jungsik staged at akelerre it seems so i guess that's where he first saw the dish.

                i just feel that this jungsik chef visited all these restaurants all over the world and is trying to pass off many of the great chefs' dishes as his own. this is NOT what i expect from a reputable chef of any cuisine. EVERY single dish at jungsik is a ripoff from another chef's authentic creation. if they want to do this then they should admit that the inspiration was from another restaurant or another chef and not claim it was the chef's unique inspiration... i have never been to a restaurant that reminded me of one of those stands that sells cheap imitation knockoff handbags but jungsik gave me exactly that same feeling.

                1. re: halo

                  We've gotten way off topic here. As the original poster, I'd rather see this discussion set up as a new topic on the Manhattan board.

                  In the meanwhile, I'm taking my wife to Daniel for her birthday and will use some of the suggestions made by fellow hounds for future occasions. I believe I will make my own judgement on Jung Sik, as I've heard both very good and very negative things about the cuisine there.

                  1. re: famdoc

                    sorry for hijacking this thread. enjoy the meal at daniel and please let them know you're celebrating a birthday as they'll usually make the experience a little more "special."

                    their foie torchon and their duck/foie terrine were both incredible last time i went. also enjoyed their "new" version of the old daniel classic black bass with potato and leeks. the beef duo at daniel has inspired many other chefs and restaurants but they do it best there...

                  2. re: halo

                    To be fair, cooking the fish with the scales on is a technique used at many famous places, not only at Masa or few japanese restaurants. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon NY did it, Guy Savoy Paris as well as Guy Savoy Singapore did it. I do not think we can say these two establishments copied Masa though, simply based on their cooking methods. These two photos I attached, one is from Guy Savoy, the other is from L de JR. Do they look like the same dish? I guess not.

                    1. re: kosmose7

                      Heck, I remember seeing Marcel Vigneron doing that technique on his (awful) TV show last season. He did a tableside presentation, pouring hot oil over the fish so you could watch the scales crisp up. I think he used to work at JR in Vegas, suspect that's where he picked it up.

                      It's not that weird a technique - I mean, probably centuries ago someone figured out that the scales would crisp up nicely if fried just right. It's not like it involves liquid nitrogen or transglutaminase or some new-fangled technology.

                      1. re: kosmose7

                        great point kosmose. i do not believe it was a copy of any restaurant just because it is a technique used by many. however, the chef at jungsik claims this technique is unique only at his restaurant as if he invented the technique (his staff tells the patrons) and i believe this is very dishonest. maybe this kind of practice can fly in seoul where european style fine dining is still a relatively new concept, i do not believe it will work here. many diners in nyc are well traveled and have dined everywhere so they'll see the dishes at jungsik as what it really is. imitations.

                        1. re: halo

                          >the chef at jungsik claims this technique is unique only at his restaurant as if >he invented the technique (his staff tells the patrons) and i believe this is very >dishonest.

                          Oh, did he? If he tells others so, he is dishonest indeed, although I didn't hear anything like that when I dined at Jungsik.

                          >maybe this kind of practice can fly in seoul where european style fine dining is >still a relatively new concept

                          Well, there are many Koreans in Seoul nowadays who have global culinary experiences and thanks to the popularity of food blogs, any copycat attempts will be instantly pointed out by bloggers. I am one of those Korean food bloggers! :)

                          1. re: kosmose7

                            Well, it was the server who told me this about the fish scale. It's possible the server mischaracterized it. I did not meet the chef, so I didn't hear it directly from the chef's mouth.

                          2. re: halo

                            Frankly, halo, I couldn't care less if the food at Jung Sik is imitative or not. It tasted great to me. Afaic, that's what's most important. If you felt differently in that regard, you're certainly entitled to your opinion. As I always say, "Chacun à son goût."


                2. re: halo

                  halo, with all your travels, you must be aware that EMP's menu design is, well, not exactly original? In fact, directly "inspired" by a certain other Michelin three-starred restaurant?

                  I love EMP, don't get me wrong. But they don't exactly hold the copyright on their menu design.

                  1. re: uwsister

                    Fang in SF doesn't have a grid menu, but does the exact same thing where you just tell them any food allergies and pick basic ingredients and they make magic for you.

              2. First thought that come to mind is Picholine. Just ate there very recently and the food was some of the best we've ever had there. I also think it is a great celebratory restaurant.

                35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

                1. Corton? The Modern?

                  The Modern
                  9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

                  239 West Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: nmprisons

                    I second Corton. The Modern is good too, though a tier below Le Bernardin and Jean Georges in my opinion.

                  2. I agree with Cherryvisage's Jung Sik suggestion. But I would also highly recommend Tocqueville. Their 5-course tasting is $110, and the 7-course is $125. We did the 5-course at lunch in October.

                    Tocqueville 5-course tasting photos:

                    They also offer an a la carte menu. When we were there for dinner two weeks ago, we ordered from that menu.

                    Tocqueville dinner photos:


                    1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: RGR

                      RGR: I am having dinner there on Saturday. Any suggestions on must-haves?

                      1. re: nmprisons

                        Presuming you mean Tocqueville.... The scallops and foie gras has been on the menu since Day 1 (in the original location where 15 East now operates). The other signature is the carbonara with sea urchin. I've never had it, but those who have say it's superb. The sashimi and tartar of tuna, which we both started with last time, was fantastic. And you can never go wrong with the foie gras terrines -- always fabulous. We had the smoked duck breast with bok choy, etc., during our lunch in October, and it was wonderful.

                        Enjoy! :)


                      2. re: RGR

                        I've been to Tocqueville only for lunch, but it was a really good meal and very pleasant.

                        1. re: RGR

                          I just made a reservation at Tocqueville for tomorrow and I am thinking about doing the tasting menu. For extra $15, 7 course sounds like a better deal. I do want to taste their signature dishes, sea urchin carbonara and scallops and foie gras so I am wondering if it's better to do a la carte.

                          1. re: Monica

                            From our experience, they're very receptive to customer requests. So, I would suggest you ask if those two dishes could be included in the 7-course tasting. They might charge a supplement for do so, though.



                            1. re: RGR

                              Is it not getting all the love it deserves? their reservation is totally open for tomorrow which is Friday night.

                              1. re: Monica

                                Tocqueville does tend to travel under the usual culinary radar. We had no difficulty making a last-minute Saturday night reservation a few weeks ago, but when we arrived, just about all the tables were occupied, there were people dining upstairs in what is usually the private dining room, and others eating in the bar area. So, you may find it busier than the reservations situation seems to indicate, or it could be not very busy since the week after New Year's is, as I understand it, one of the slowest restaurant weeks of the year. Indeed, the entire month of January tends to be slow for restaurants in general. Ergo, Restaurant Weeks, which are coming up beginning on the 17th.


                                1. re: RGR

                                  Thanks for recommending the place. Both my husband and I loved the restaurant. We both did the 7 course tasting menu and every dish was delicious. We especially loved the sea urchin pasta and venison dish. I think they could improve a bit on dessert but overall, we had a great time. We also loved the wine we had.

                                  1. re: Monica

                                    Thanks for reporting back, Monica. Very pleased to hear that you had such a good experience at Tocqueville. While we have had many excellent desserts there, I do think the current line-up is a bit weak, and the soufflé I had was somewhat disappointing. But one can always count on their ice creams and sorbets to be delicious.


                                    1. re: RGR

                                      Their raspberry sorbet was really refreshing after a heavy dinner.
                                      One thing I really liked about the restaurant is their markup on wine was relatively lower than other restaurants which is always a plus for me.

                                      1. re: Monica

                                        Did you asked them to include the sea urchin and scallop and foie as replacements for the 7 courser? And did they charge extra for it?

                                        I think Tocqueville is a great restaurant too.

                                        1. re: villainx

                                          I just asked our waiter if we can have those two signature dishes as a part of the tasting menu. He said yes! =)
                                          Nope, no extra charge.

                        2. If you're open to Japanese, Kyo Ya (kaiseki menu) or Sushi Yasuda (tell them how much you want to spend, they'll take care of the rest) could be serious seafood-centric contenders, particularly the former for more composed dishes. Also Soto - though you'd have to put together your own meal a la carte, which shouldn't be hard for that price. The portions are fairly small so you could do a nice multi-course meal.

                          Oceana and Aquavit could also be worth a look - I'm not terribly high on the former (and Platt just dropped them from his "100 places to eat" list, FWTW) but they're certainly seafood-centric. At the latter, the tasting menu is around the price you quoted, and there's usually quite a bit of seafood on it - and I suspect if you were to ask them to do an all-fish tasting in advance, they'd set it up for you.

                          For Italian, maybe Marea if you haven't been before? They're not quite as fancy as the other places you mention above, but you could certainly have a pretty solid meal for that price, and double up on crudos or antipasti, making your own tasting menu. Same could be said for Esca.

                          Also looking at Opentable for 1/30, I'm seeing tables at Bouley, Cafe Boulud, 15 East, and.... EMP, surprisingly, though only a couple late ones (which will probably be gone by the time I hit "post" - but hey, worth a try...)

                          50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

                          65 E 55th St, New York, NY 10022

                          357 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10014

                          Sushi Yasuda
                          204 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

                          402 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

                          Kyo Ya
                          94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                          120 W 49th St, New York, NY 10020

                          240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019