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Feb 9, 2012 10:18 PM

Per Se or Eleven Madison Park?

I am taking my husband to NYC for a surpise 40th and I am agonizing about this decision. Which is it?

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  1. I'd choose Per Se. But if you've been to French Laundry, then Eleven Madison Park.

    Per Se
    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

    1. The right answer to this question is probably "depends."

      I am a big fan of both restaurants, and decide based on what I want out of the experience.

      Will it be just the two of you? What other restaurants has he liked? What time of year?

        1. re: uhockey

          I wish i could take him to both. I thought of that but cannot get my head around that much cash. Also do not want the experience of one possibly undermining the other (too much of a good thing, you know?) Plus with only two nights in NYC would like one just to follow our whims. Yes it will be just the two of us, last weekend of March. No we have not been to French Laundry. I lean toward Per Se if only because we use Keller's "Ad Hoc" so much at home, but I am intrigued by EMP. We have only been in NYC together once and went to WD-50. Loved it. Other favourite restaurants are a bit obscure - Casa Cruz in Buenos Aires and Le Restaurant in Paris. I am sure there are better in Paris but we loved the sophisticated quirkiness of Le Restaurant (in a boutique hotel where Oscar Wilde last lived) and food was fantastic. Also really like the Black Hoof here in Toronto.

          1. re: vroyale

            I'm going the practical route and tell you see where you can get a reservation. EMP takes reservation starting at 9 28 days in advance. I think Per Se does 30 days in advance. I called last week for a reservation at EMP and by the time I got through at about 9:04 they were almost fully booked. So start calling Per Se first since they have a 30 day cutoff. If you get that, great and maybe try and see if you can get one at EMP. If so, pick one and quickly cancel the other one. Be prepared to be shut out of both and have a back up plan for just in case since you don't have an alternative date.

            1. re: vroyale

              Wow, tough call. You could of course do both for lunch (if time allows) or Salon at Per Se and dinner at EMP (or vice versa). But if none of these are options or don't interest you your decision would have to be based upon what you like most. Per Se is an experience, the food is PERFECTLY executed, portions are small but just the right size to convey their thought, the service is stellar and their approach is an echo of the diners, i.e. they can "read" how you want the evening to flow, the room is beautiful but in a very subdued way, views are incredible. EMP, food is spectacular, and the menu allows wiggle room for tweeking to your likes/dislikes, service is an almost impossible blend of friendly and professional and incredible genuine, I've never felt like they were "acting". The room is down right beautiful, you feel like you are dining in greatness.

              You will not be disappointed with either choice.

              1. re: vroyale

                The go for per se since you are already a Keller fan!

                1. re: vroyale

                  I'm doing both seperated by 4 days and have done both already - all I can say is that given the places you like both of them will be incredibly memorable and a step up. These are amongst the 50 or so best restaurants in the world and they will both leave you stunned.

                  The price difference is minimal if you do the tasting at each as Per Se includes the gratuity in the cost. There is no wrong answer here, but I will say that while I love the Ad Hoc cookbook you're not going to see anything that rustic or easily prepared during your visit to Per Se and one need only look at the plates with ~100ish ingredients in the EMP book to realize how complex their cooking is.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    Bkeats that is an excellent suggestion about hedging our bets and trying for reservations at both. Fingers crossed. Uhockey I am happy we won't see anything as rustic as the recipes from Ad Hoc but given that my husband is such a fan it might add a little something more to what i am sure will be a spectacular surprise. Thank you everyone for your advice.

                    1. re: vroyale

                      As someone who sometimes calls busy restaurants to get reservations well in advance, there are few things more irksome than people holding reservations they have no intention on keeping (even for a day or two). You have two full weeks to make up your mind, that should be plenty of time.

                      If your husband is a Keller fan, and this is his birthday, I would do Per Se. If it is a cold night in NYC, as it often is in March, a seat by the fireplace would be just about perfect.

                      1. re: nmprisons

                        That's where we sat the last time we were in on one of the rare cold nights we've had this "Winter" and it was pretty much perfect.

                        1. re: Spiritchaser

                          I don't plan on holding multiple reservations. I will call Per Se first and if i get in, that will be my choice. If not i will try EMP when they open their reservations a few days later. If not I will be back on this board for a plan B.

                          1. re: vroyale

                            Go to Per Se , if you can get the reservation. That will inspire you to go to the amazing French Laundry, the best food, service, atmosphere, and view ( in daylight) in the country IMVHO

                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                              For Per Se, check Opentable exactly 30 days before at midnight (Eastern Time) to snag a reservation.

              2. Why would anyone lower themselves to Per Se's reservation process. You can call EMP and get a decent reservation if you call within 30 days. At Per Se you must call first listen to a recording that is if you can get a line and then stand on the phone until someone answers your call. By that time if you wanted to have dinner reservations they only have 6:30 or 10:30. Per Se is not the only great restaurant in NYC. I would not dine there if it was free. If you get a table you will get waited on by 3/4 folks waiting to serve you an expensive meal and expensive wine. They will hover over you like hawks. The tables are 10 fee apart and it's quiet and not impressive. Your bill for two with drinks will be $400.00 and you will want to call room service when you get back to your hotel room. Go to EMP.

                13 Replies
                1. re: Littleman

                  This is far from accurate.
                  #1) EMP Dinner Reservations are nearly as difficult as Per Se these days AND the price point is quite close. Both require calling early the day the tables open up.
                  #2) The service style at NEITHER is "hovering" and the service at BOTH is incredibly gracious.
                  #3) You cannot get out of either of them for $400 even without drinks and the portions at both are very similar.

                  I could go on, but clearly there is something else at play here.


                  1. re: Littleman

                    There are more things wrong with this post than right. Indeed, I think the only accurate statements are that the tables are "10 fee[t] apart," that "it[']s quiet," and that when you call, you first get a brief recording.

                    1. re: Littleman

                      > You can call EMP and get a decent reservation if you call within 30 days

                      It's 28 days out. This USED to be the case but not any longer. Not since they got a 3rd Michelin star.

                      EMP now books up within minutes of 9am, 28 days out.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Best bet is to try OpenTable at exactly 9:00 am. 28 days out.

                        1. re: ellenost

                          Do you think I have a better chance with Open Table or calling the restaurant directly?

                          1. re: vroyale

                            OpenTable is what they told me to do when I asked in November for a December reservation. They predicted I'd just get a busy signal at 9am if I were to call.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              I actually had no problems calling and getting through just recently for a Friday reservation 28 days out at 9:00am and also noticed availability on Open Table for the same day about 10 minutes later.

                            2. re: vroyale

                              I would suggest have opentable open and calling at 9 at the dot. I did that about two weeks ago and I only saw a 5:30 on OT. I took it and then called a minute later and got through. The person I got then changed that to an 8:30 which was a half hour later than the 8 I originally wanted. I think your plan to call Per Se at 30 days and seeing if you can get it and following up with EMP 2 days later if you dont get it is the right strategy since you don't have flexibility on your date. cancel immediately Per Se if it's your intention to go to EMP. Good luck.

                        2. re: Littleman

                          This was intended to be a reply to Littleman.

                          I have no idea what restaurant you are speaking of but it isn't Per Se.

                          The only way your bill could be $400 for 2 people would be to do the shorter menu for lunch and only drink complimentary beverages.

                          We just had lunch on Saturday and not ONE of the things you state is close to reality, i.e. no one hovered but was always quick to repsond if needed, even with the shorter menu we were full for hours, there was often nicely muted conversations at other tables that were perhaps 5 feet away.

                          1. re: Spiritchaser

                            Got a reservation at Per Se for the end of the month - Friday 10 pm. Not perfect, but we'll make a night of it. Yeah!

                            1. re: vroyale

                              Good for you - congrats!

                              Let them know the circumstances (surprise 40th, etc.)



                              1. re: vroyale

                                Oh, excellent. Please report back and as uhockey stated, make sure they know it's a special occassion.