I'm a culinary school student living in NYC for the summer. I've been saving up for a big blowout at Per Se, however I am wondering if the people here would recommend instead using that money to have a couple less expensive meals at more than one restaurant--having the lunch menus at EMP, Le Bernardin and Per Se for example--instead of just going all out for the 9 course menu at Per Se.
I had two meals at Per Se and two meals at EMP in mid-June. Both are world-class establishments, though--for what it's worth--I enjoyed the overall dining experience at EMP more.
If for any reason you decide to go the "couple less expensive meals" route, I would replace Le Bernardin with Jean-Georges, that is, if your intention is to remain in 3-star Michelin altitude.
I'd recommend saving money and going for lunch at EMP (might as well splurge for the tasting) and/or Jean Georges (agree with degustingdiary's suggestion) for the cost of going to Per Se. And you can even get a glass or two of champagne and wine. Note that I think Per Se is by far the best restaurant in NYC.
Also, if you're dining solo, I generally feel more comfortable doing so during lunch where I can read a book/magazine with no issues due to the generous windows and sunlight. Hard to do so at Per Se.
Go to Per Se when you start working. Don't do the Per Se cheaper lunch menu available on Friday/weekends. Go for the full experience.
Also, I recommend going to Jean Georges over Le Bernardin for the broader choices of protein, the copious amounts of sunlight from their tall windows during the daytime. And it's less expensive (by about $30, estimating 2 savories and a dessert) than a comparable meal at Le Bernardin.