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EMP/Corton/Gramercy Tavern/ Mom's 75th Bday

I am a New Yorker. Don't know why I am being a little indecisive but I will admit I love the responses here on Chowhound. Yes, I have read all the reviews here for each restaurant. Just wanted some fresh input.

Group: Sophisticated but very low key, casual. Money not an issue. no spicy. No French like Per Se. No italian.

I'm putting EMP at the top but I am worried about getting online at 9am and getting that reservation. Should be 5 people which is hard. Maybe 6. My mom is only turning 75 once!!!!! I need to be prepared for backups.

Would love some suggestions, tips, other restaurant options. comments. Anything. :)

p.s. We've done gramercy tavern although it's been a few years. We like Mas. Bouley. Nobu.

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  1. If you can't get the EMP reservation, Corton is an excellent alternative. I had a great dinner at Corton about a month ago.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ellenost

      Thanks ellenost.

      Do you believe it's "special" enough for such an occasion. Decor, vibe, service Etc? I suppose though they don't hand out 2 Michelin stars for nothing right?
      I do know the ambiance at GT is quite nice for a group so if I must go for backup than I want it to be at least similar.

      1. re: lorivida

        If you are looking strictly for a backup plan (because I think the EMP choice would be excellent if you can get it) than I would suggest Jean George, I know some may say you noted no French but if you are okay with EMP I personally feel you would be fine with JG. Or possibly The Dining Room at The Modern, the sculpture garden makes an awfully nice backdrop.

        1. re: Spiritchaser

          thanks. I am strictly looking for backup. Boy I wish I had a way to guarantee that ressie at EMP. ugh. But I will think positively and do my best.

          I considered JG. Is it that much better than Corton or GT?

          I also considered the Modern which I meant to put on the list but forgot. I have been to the Bar room which the food and wine were divine.
          But isn't the dining room a bit "stuffy" despite the beautiful backdrop.

          1. re: lorivida

            I can't speak to questions about Corton, they are the only fine dining restaurant (and even some non fine dining) not willing to accommodate a vegeatarian, which would have been fine but they were so callous, abrupt, and dismissive about it when I asked that I would never even consider going even if they changed. I do think JG is better than GT, maybe not by leaps and bounds but better regardless. IMO, The Modern is not stuffy and we have always enjoyed our meals there with the exception of the last one (service issues, not food) and after I vented I decided they will deserve another chance.

            1. re: Spiritchaser

              I am definitely not liking that response from Corton to your vegetarian request. Hmm. IMO, I don't care how many stars or write-ups a restaurant get on the food, the customer experience and treatment is just as important. It's about the entire experience from beginning to end. Thank for sharing Spiritchaser.

              I will take another look at Modern and JG for backups.

              1. re: lorivida

                When I dined at Corton last month, I told the woman on their phone that my sister who was dining with me doesn't eat pork, and she said it would be no problem to adjust the menu. When we were seated, our captain confirmed my sister's no pork preference. One of the canapés and one of the appetizers were adjusted without any problem.

        2. re: lorivida

          While some might find the white walls of Corton a bit stark, it is a lovely restaurant with white tablecloths and very attentive and friendly service. The food is excellent too! I prefer Corton to Gramercy Tavern, Jean Georges, and The Modern Dining Room.

      2. EMP and Corton are both awesome. I prefer EMP for celebrations, but Corton is basically my favorite foodie restaurant. Regarding service and atmosphere, Corton has an amiable staff and a cozy or even romantic feel (but not flowery like Bouley), but in comparison EMP is a different level of customer interaction that feels more like a big production.

        Regarding food, I think you will enjoy Corton especially if you like a little adventure—unlike a more standard French or Italian restaurant, you will be given dishes you can't quite make heads or tails of. The mains are spectacular works of art. You can't go wrong with either menu: I just find the tasting menu a little more "advanced" than the (cheaper) seasonal menu, because it's harder to linger on the smaller portions. I think the only other two haute-cuisine restaurants pushing the envelope like this are Atera and WD~50.

        Oh yea… you could let them know, when reserving or confirming, that it's for your mom's 75th. Then you should be treated well, regardless of which restaurant.

        2 Replies
        1. re: calf

          Thank you calf. Very descriptive and helpful.

          1. re: lorivida

            Jean George's Nougatine is one to consider.
            Marea cannot be beat for an upscale seafood happening place.

            La Silhouette -- the new kid on the block and a winner in the food department.

        2. If you couldn't get a EMP reservation, I wouldn't hesitate to go to Corton. I do think the dining room is not very attractive but the food there is wonderful.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sygyzy

            I'm going to get a EMP reservation. :) I think if I just keep saying it it will happen. Thank you for another Corton opinion.
            Right now my back ups go Corton, Modern, Jean George. May change.

            1. re: lorivida

              You know you have to come back and let us know if you got the rez : ). Also, have you considered lunch? Sometimes easier to get the EMP lunch rez and now with the recent changes no difference between lunch and dinner, also, the room is really incredible with sunlight pouring in.

              1. re: Spiritchaser

                of course, I wouldn't leave everyone wondering.
                Great idea about lunch, but I don't think for my mom's birthday they will go for it. I hope everyone puts out good EMP reservation thoughts for me. I think I will go for Open Table and have someone else make the call. Strategy.

                It won't be the worst thing to eat at one the backups. #firstworldproblems :)

          2. Update Nov. 16th: Day of reckoning.
            I called EMP at exactly 9am, even a little earlier and waited on hold for almost 30 minutes. While waiting I tried open table to no avail. Finally a lovely man came on and told me there are only 2 tables that can accommodate 5 people, so Dec. 14th was booked. But we are first on the waiting list. He also told me if it was a smaller party, like 2 or 3, I would have gotten the reservation. Oh well. Let's hope for cancellations.
            I booked at Corton.
            Still thinking about other places.

            3 Replies
            1. re: lorivida

              Sorry to hear that you did not get the reservation yet at EMP (maybe you will since you are #1 on the waiting list). I looked at Corton's menu the other day, and both menus look wonderful--I definitely need to make another reservation at Corton. Two other restaurants that you may wish to consider are Jungsik and Tocqueville. I've had excellent meals at both (in addition to Corton), and both are well regarded on this CH board.

              1. re: ellenost

                Thank you ellenost I will check those other 2 out. This is a celebration so I do want it to be special for my mom.

                1. re: lorivida

                  All three (Corton, Jungsik and Tocqueville) are special. If the reservation for EMP doesn't come through (but I hope it does), you will have a wonderful celebration at any of the these restaurants.

            2. Corton was amazing. I hear what people are saying about the white walls and stark decor, but in honesty the food was the main event. So delicious. We all had the seasonal tasting and what stood out for me was the partridge and desserts. Who knew partridge could be so delicious. Everything was really really tasteful. They even substituted in a caviar dish for my mom which was on the longer tasting menu. So accomodating and overall great. I would recommend.

              2 Replies
              1. re: lorivida

                Corton is an amazing restaurant. One of my top 2 or 3 favorites for sure.

                1. re: lorivida

                  Glad you enjoyed Corton. I had another excellent dinner at Corton on Friday night (I went with the Tasting Menu--I did the seasonal Tasting Menu back in August). I find Chef Liebrandt's food to be both creative and delicious. Service was fine, although I did have some difficulty understanding my server. Glad they left the menu card on the table.