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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.