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Per Se for Wedding Anniversary dinner?

Hi Chowhounders;
We are visiting NYC from Toronto in a few weeks and we have a reservation at Per Se but I confess I'm having second thoughts about my choice purely from an aethestic perspective. We love tasting menus, past favourites include EMP, Jean Georges, Alinea and Del Posto. We've never been to Per Se but I'm worried this isn't the right place for this occasion. I'm looking for a cozy romantic place, preferably with booths where the food is fabulous but the ambience isn't "corporate" or "sterile".
We will back to NY in a few months, should we save Per Se for the next visit and go somewhere more "Anniversary-ish" this time? I keep looking at other options like Daniel, Gilt, Le Bernadin and Corton but they seem to fall short too.....
Thanks for your thoughts!

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  1. Per Se is almost always one of my first options... and I never like to talk anyone out of a reservation there - but there are no cozy booths, and it is a bit corporate in a way. EMP although with less "corporate" decor, a bit more art deco, is literally situated in an investment bank's main floor - and that vibe carries over during the week. I think Daniel would work well for your need of a romantic place, with banquettes and is in nowhere near corporate or sterile.

    7 Replies
    1. re: chloes

      Thanks Chloe, you answered my question perfectly. I think Per Se will be for our next visit and we will go with romance this time around!

      1. re: chloes

        I found the service at Daniel to be sterile (when not rude) and the food to be far inferior to either Per Se or EMP (or Alinea or Jean Georges, for that matter). OP might get a cozier table there, but he/she is unlikely to get a better meal.

        Where did you sit at Alinea? Unless you were in the front room on the first floor (which I find to be quite cozy and romantic), and assuming you didn't have a problem with the atmosphere, I don't think you will have a problem with the one at Per Se. Just let them know you would like to sit somewhere facing the windows and you'll be fine.

        I think you are right that Daniel, Gilt, and Corton (though I really enjoy it) fall short, but Per Se is pretty high in the tree. Le Bernadin has the potential to come close, and I had a fabulous meal there relatively recently, but others haven't quite enjoyed it as much.

        1. re: nmprisons

          Thanks so much for your insights. We were at Alinea with friends so it was all about the food and not the ambiance. That being said I loved the service at Alinea as they were having just as much fun as we were, same has been true everytime we've visited EMP.

          Could you please elaborate on Le Bernadin's ambiance/service? I've never had the chance to eat there.

          We really enjoyed the room at Del Posto although the food wasn't as stellar as other NY places we've enjoyed. Sometimes it's worth the compromise when you're looking for romance!

          1. re: cocoali

            They recently redid the interior and I have not been since the redesign, sorry. The service tends to be "correct" but not necessarily "warm," but I have no complaints (others do, but I think mostly with respect to those guarding the door.) Because of its location, it will always feel at least a little corporate, but I prefer that to the someone elitist atmosphere at a place like Daniel (which, again, reflects the neighborhood).

            I must say that I took my fiance to Per Se right after we proposed and found it the perfect compliment and think you will be more than fine there. I can't imagine getting a reservation at this late date anywhere close.

            1. re: nmprisons

              You have given me an idea, perhaps a cocktail or two somewhere romantic enroute to Per Se? I'm usually so decisive about where to eat but I am trying to get everything in one place... maybe I just to need to chill out and enjoy the Per Se experience, thanks!

              1. re: cocoali

                Not a bad idea at all. The other thing is that you are pampered at Per Se in a way few restaurants can mimic. When you don't have to think about service, it keeps you from being grumpy and let's you be more romantic.

                1. re: nmprisons

                  I think Per Se is extremely romantic, myself. Those smaller tables for 2 with side-by-side seating can lead to some serious footsie!

                  I didn't like the food at EMP and le Bernardin is too clubby, as is Daniel. Neither serves food of the level of Per Se and there is a certain hauteur to the service at both. Service at Per Se is only equalled in warmth and professionalism in my experieance at Taillevent under M. Vrinat.

      2. Eleven Madison Park would be my choice. My experience at Per Se was not very good. EMP is an outstanding place to celebrate an event. Enjoy your celebration.

        1. One of my favorite restaurants is Bouley: fantastic French food, attentive service, and beautiful/romantic ambiance. You'll feel like you're dining in a French chateau.

          1. I'm not the biggest fan of Per Se, but I'm even less of a fan of Daniel. The service is very stuffy and, frankly, unromantic. I find JG and Le Bern extremely "corporate" in vibe (which I don't like, but I'll take it over the elitist stuffiness of Daniel) so I'd rule them out.

            Honestly, of the tippity-top places (price-wise) I'll agree with Littleman and say EMP is my top choice for a romantic evening - they're certainly the least sterile of the four-starrers, by a pretty wide margin. And I think they've got the best food, personally. If you're not averse to going again, that is. Depending how long it's been since you've been, the menu could be radically different.

            Bouley was also a good call. And his food has always been more interesting than Boulud's, anyway.

            That or - and here you're paying for the view most certainly - a window-side table at The River Cafe, booked to overlap sunset if you can. It's the very definition of romantic. (Just after sunset works too - you can have a drink on the terrace watching the sun go down while you wait for your table...)

            Word is the food has been quite good of late, though it's been some time since I've been. Maybe not $100+ prix fixe level, but hey - that kind of ambience carries a supplement. It's almost surreal how "Romanticized New York" it is - one almost feels as though they're dining in a Woody Allen film.

            Final option is - if you wanted to go Japanese - the kaiseki at Kyo Ya. Very different experience - both stylistically and culinarily - than any of the above, but positively transporting in its own way.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sgordon

              Yeah, but EMP is almost certainly a moot point, given the lack of reservation (that isn't to say I disagree with you: my fiance and I are heading to EMP in a couple of days).

            2. I thought the loveseat in the salon at Per Se was quite romantic, with a view overlooking Columbus Circle and the park. But I can see why you might want to sit at an actual table for this occasion.

              1. Per Se offers technically superlative food, but I do find the modern space rather cold. It is -not- cosy.

                For a romantic Michelin 3-star dinner, I'd certainly go for Eleven Madison Park. I love the Art Deco space [and I think of Art Deco as -the- NY architectural style], and the service is both professional and warm. But you've been to EMP, so perhaps it woudn't offer sufficient distinction for an anniversary?

                Upmarket diners seem to be very split on Daniel. I think it appeals to an older, more 'Uptown' set. Whereas a surprisingly high proportion of diners at Per Se and EMP are young and considerably outside the '1 per cent'.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Winterpool

                  Have you ever been seated a deux at one of those sort of circular or semi-circular tables at the side of the dining room at Per Se?

                  Especially tied with the friendly (but not oleagenous, as at EMP) and nearly telepathic service, I found that very romantic indeed.

                  1. re: Sneakeater

                    Oleagenous? Hahaha... I disagree completely, but I love that you said "oleagenous" regardless.

                    I find EMP - with one exception among the waitstaff - to be quite genuine. (And even that one exception was genuine - genuinely brusque & abrasive... but that night was a fluke...)

                    1. re: sgordon

                      I've said this before, but every time I go to a Danny Meyer restaurant (or a former one still run on his model), I always find myself waiting for the moment when the FOH staff will gather in the middle of the dining room and break out into a group rendition of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing."

                        1. re: Sneakeater

                          Awww... I don't think Meyer's service is that cloying. Well, I never visited Union Square Cafe, but I was pleasantly surprised by the -balance- at EMP between friendliess and professionalism. Generally I am not a fan of fawning or overly familiar service, and I think I've more tolerance for old-school service than the typical Yank (I was essentially insulted multiple times at L'Ambroisie in Paris and didn't run screaming for the American Embassy).

                          At Per Se, we were seated on the elevated tier in the back, but more or less in the middle? We were not at the extreme side. Our little sector seemed to comprise mostly young couples. The floor level seemed to hold the larger tables with business parties, etc.

                    1. re: H Manning

                      Thanks everyone for weighing in! I have a feeling there will never be consensus on this question, perhaps we all have different ideas of what "romance" is? As my dear mother said yesterday, it's an awfully nice dilemma to have.....I do get the impression that one's experience at Daniel can be either superlative or dreadful depending on the service (and this seems to relate to either being a "regular" or perhaps just looking the part) whereas it seems diners at Per Se are universally spoiled. As important as the room and the food is, I do feel that warm and attentive service is what really makes an unforgettable night. We've had a few experiences (mostly in EU) where everything was wonderful but the service was so staid that it was almost a relief when the night was over.

                      1. re: cocoali

                        I haven't been to Daniel but I've read enough hot and cold experiences to know that I wouldn't chance it for a special occasion unless I was a friend of the house.

                        EMP and Per Se are equally romantic in my book, and honestly, for two, Per Se is quite romantic, as they seat you side by side. We were in a corner overlooking the dining room and the park. Very pleasant. If you're seating along the banquettes at EMP (likely for two people), you'll be surrounded by other patrons.

                        1. re: cocoali

                          I think Per Se can be very romantic, we've been seated in most areas of the restaurant and I rather like the tables on the second "level". I also think EMP can be very romantic, even though the room is so grand, if you get one of the corner two tops you can have a lovely conversation, sitting almost side by side, without having to crane your neck,

                          Oh, and another option which I recently suggested is The Modern Dining Room. In the evening, a two top along the windows, looking out on to the sculpture garden, beautiful.

                          1. re: Spiritchaser

                            Yeah. I absolutely love the back left corner table in the front room at EMP. Soon-to-be Mrs. NMP and I have sat there our last few times, and it is cozy and private, while still offering a great view.

                              1. re: Spiritchaser

                                yeah, i love it. you aren't going thursday night are you? we might have to draw straws!

                                1. re: nmprisons

                                  Nope. it's all yours (this time). Enjoy.

                            1. re: Spiritchaser

                              Love that table at The Modern Dining Room too.