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A Tourist Does 9 Michelin* in Four Days (Absurdly Long)

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AugustusMedici Nov 3, 2012 04:51 PM

I'm back from my NYC trip and thankfully got out right before Sandy hit. As a rube from Dallas reading about all the damage, I hope you guys are safe and sound.

Thanks to everyone's help on my previous thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/870589), I managed to eat very well in your fine city. Here's my recap and thoughts:

PER SE
Sabayon Belgian Endive Veloute (Banana Ecrasee and Black Winter Truffle
)Tsar Imperial Caviar (Nantucket Bay Scallops, Hearts of Peach Palm, Navel Orange, and Mustard Cress)
Soy Bean Panna Cotta (Sour Apple, Sake, Bonito)
Hen Egg Custard (Ragout of Black Winter Truffles)
Slow Poached Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck Foie Gras (Glazed Huckleberries, Petite Turnips, Watercress and California Pistachio Butter)
Columbia River Sturgeon (Applewood Smoked Bacon, French Green Lentils, Butternut Squash and Frisee)
Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster (Charred Eggplant Royale, Thumbelina Carrots and Cilantro Shoots)
Herb Roasted Thomas Farm's Squab (Rutabaga Fondant, Young Leeks, Chustnut Mousse and Tellicherry Pepper Mignonette)
Marcho Farms Ris de Veau (Braised Beef Cheek, Canterelle Mushrooms, Piedmont Hazelnuts and Pettite Lettuces)
Woodcock Farm's Weston Wheel (Greenmarket Brocolli Veloute, Sweet Pepper Confit and Toasted Brioche)
Prickly Pear
Pomegranate Soda
Mignardises

Pre-tip bill (including three cocktails) - $522.60

I actually hate that I typed all that because my honest opinion of Per Se is that it's overpriced and overhyped. The service was stuffy and formal; the waitress dropped bread on the floor trying to pick it up from the basket; servers seemed nervous and uneasy; she also neglected to give me a MOP spoon for the caviar course. I waited for a minute, hoping they'd see the mistake and replace with the proper silverware. After that, I just gave up and used it - terrible shame considering it's a $75 supplement. The food was decent but unremarkable. I'm no cultured haute cuisine curator like some people are, but I just wasn't impressed. The lobster was also overcooked. I'm more disappointed in the service: general behavior cheapened the nice gestures like complimentary glass of champagne and "Happy Birthday" on the menu. I'm glad to have experienced it, but overall, I wouldn't go back.

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ELEVEN MADISON PARK
Black Truffle and Parmesan (Savory Black and White Cookie)
Sea Urchin (Custard with Baby Squid, Manilla Clam, and Apple)
Cranberry (Gelee with Smoked Curds and Agretti)
Cucumber (Snow with Lapsang Souchong and Grape)
Eel (Roasted with Foie Gras and Swiss Chard)
Sturgeon (Sabayon with Chives, Smoked with Everything Bagel Crumble, Pickles, and Caviar)
Foie Gras (Seared with Water Chestnuts, Dates, and Sunchokes)
Carrot (Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments)
Lobster (Poached with Escarole and Almond)
Pork (Confit with Red Cabbage, Black Bean, and Grey Peas)
Greensward (Pretzel, Mustard, and Beer)
Malt (Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer)
Plum (Marinated with Jasmine and Cashew)
Huckleberry (Goat Cheese Cheesecake and Lime)
Pretzel (Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt)
Sweet Black & White Cookie
Mignardise (Hazelnut Chocolate)

Pre-tip bill (including a half-bottle of Zilliken and a cocktail): $296.14

Wow, I loved this place. The food was unexpected, elegant, and immaculate. But most of all, it was fun. The only course I wasn't fond of was the cranberry gelee with cheese - the flavors didn't work for me. The service was down-to-earth and nearly telepathic. Best foie gras preparation I've ever had, hands down. The lobster tail was perfectly cooked. I could go on and on but won't. I just had FUN eating in this establishment. There was no gimmicky narrative about New York's history, just great food. My server was fantastic and the definition of good service - there when I needed something, otherwise vanished. My one nit is that I didn't get the kitchen tour while tables around me clearly got it. Perhaps the cost/benefit of taking a group of 4 into the kitchen is better than taking just one, but oh well. It's a small complaint that didn't really bother me. I would go back in a heartbeat (and plan to next month). After Per Se, the cost at EMP is much more bang-for-your-buck.

Unlike Per Se, my first thought upon exiting was to turn around and go back in. I just had to see what else EMP was capable of! I think next time, I'll do the tasting menu, then post up at the bar and order a la carte to run the full gamut. Does anybody know what their bar menu is?
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JUNGSIK
Foie Gras
Wagyu Tartare
Sea Scallop
Truffle Risotto
Octopus
Happy Birthday Bowl of Some Kind of Rice and Kimchi That was Awesome
Spicy Ramyun
Crispy Red Snapper
Jungsik Steak
Omija Granite
Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pre-tip Bill (including 2 glasses of wine, coffee, and bottled water): $240.71

In my opinion, the best restaurant of the three. I REALLY loved this place. I'm sure part of it is the novelty - I had never had Asian cuisine in this kind of presentation, and every bit of it was a delicious revelation. I normally hate octopus, yet I loved the Octopus course. I dislike kimchi, yet the kimchi Jungsik incorporated was superb. The Wagyu Tartare had a distinct, visceral flavor that I can't articulate. Every course here was flawless, and even the bread selection (raisin, sour dough, olive) was distinctly wonderful. My server was a great gentleman that handled everything with aplomb and ease. Ironic that it's the cheapest out of three dinners I had, yet I liked this one the most. It wasn't as fancy, and there were no goodie bags like Per Se and EMP, but what of it? Sadly, it was dead when I went in (Wednesday night) with only a couple more tables occupied. I know that Eater had them on the "Deathwatch" list, and it's easy to see why. Is it the location that's keeping people away? Did it survive Hurricane Sandy being located so far south? I really hope this place can continue.

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MAREA
Tasting of Three Crudo (Clam, Mackerel, Tuna)
Spaghetti (Crab, Sear Urchin, Basil)
Olive Oil Cake (Roasted Pineapple, Green Apple, Olive Oil Gelato)

Pre-tip Bill (including a glass of Aleatico and a cocktail): $101.70

I liked this place, but I'm not sure how it warrants two Micheline *, yet Jungsik gets one. Marea was good but not especially impressive. The freshness of the seafood was apparent, and I especially enjoyed the crudo. However, the spaghetti had some noodles clumped together in a thick strand - unacceptable for an Italian restaurant of caliber. I thought the sauce overpowered any kind of flavor from the sea urchin. I'd still like to go back to try their other dishes - the branzino sounds fantastic.

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TL;DR: Jungsik >= EMP > Per Se, and Marea was decent. Big shoutout to foodwhisperer and CheeryVisage for telling me about Jungsik!! This is the reason why Chowhound trumps Yelp. I am very grateful.

If you've somehow made it this far to the end of the thread, congratulations! I'd love to see your comments and reactions!

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    plafield Nov 4, 2012 09:35 AM

    Great review. Thanks for confirming my continued choice to not spring for Per Se. It's hard to imagine anything being so great as to warrant those prices. We loved EMP and hope to make it to Jungsik next trip in. I'm also zeroing in on a high end Italian place for our next NYC foray and your review helps me to cross off Marea. Thanks for reporting.

    2 Replies
    1. re: plafield
      a
      AugustusMedici Nov 4, 2012 01:02 PM

      Thanks plafield!

      Keep in mind that I'm only speaking of my one time at Per Se, which is in no way representative of overall quality. Perhaps I just went on an off night, it can happen to the best of places. There are plenty of people here (CheeryVisage and uhockey) that absolutely adore the place. Let me put it this way: I'd be willing to give them a second shot if the price tag were closer to EMP levels. I just can't justify spending that much $$ for a second chance.

      As for Italian, maybe consider Ai Fiori (same people as Marea) or Lincoln. I believe CharlesYu recommended Lincoln, which is helmed by the former exec chef of Per Se.

      1. re: AugustusMedici
        p
        plafield Nov 5, 2012 08:17 AM

        At the Per Se price point there shouldn't be an "off night." I think there are simply too many other restaurants serving fantastic food to pay that kind of money. If I were independently wealthy then I'd try it but sadly, that's not the case.

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