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Looking for a splurge worthy of the price

My girlfriend and I will be in NYC next month for a wedding. We both have a few big milestones coming up ourselves and decided that instead of celebrating these events separately, we'd splurge while we're in town. We aren't well off people by any means but cooking and dining out are our most passionate hobby and I'm sure our tax refunds will help us out with this dinner.

We are just looking for a splurge worthy location that people have said, you know what, that was a lot of money but it was freakin worth it. We love all cuisines. Right now, we are most considering Brooklyn Fare. I have long dreamed of going to Le Bernadin, any of the Momofuku's, WD50, Eleven Madison Ave. If you want to add your opinion based on the restaurants listed - awesome! If you had another place in mind that wasn't listed, please do mention it and we'll do our research.

Seeing as how we love dining out you think it'd be easy to pick a place but it's always pretty overwhelming!

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  1. Pass on the Momofukus (all good but overrated, including Ko) and pass on WD~50. Le Bernardin is definitely splurge worthy. Haven't been to Brooklyn Fare, but I'm going to EMP tomorrow. I would add Corton to your list.

    3 Replies
    1. re: deprofundis

      I wouldn't pass on all the Momofukus—Ssam and Noodle Bar are reasonably priced and good. Ssam is my personal favorite and I think is quite interesting for the money.

      Eleven Madison Park is well worth it, as is Per Se. My "pass" would be Del Posto, personally.

      1. re: loratliff

        If I had to pick one Momofuku place it would be Ssam. As far as splurges go, I wouldn't pick Ko. My favorite places so far: LB, Corton, EMP, JG, and The Modern - in roughly that order. Haven't done Per Se yet, hoping to get there in the next month or two. Del Posto is a very good restaurant, but yeah probably a pass in this case.

        1. re: deprofundis

          Right, I agree that Ko isn't the destination for a splurge, but all of the other Momofukus are totally worth visiting for a regular meal for an out-of-towner.

    2. Following are splurge worthy IMHO,

      Per Se or EMP... a toss up

      EMP, more fun factor and gimmicky.

      Per Se, slightly more subdued but better tasting food.

      Le Bernadin - last time I ate there, I was disappointed because the amuse bouche and the appetizer courses were almost identical, the latter just bigger portion only!! Lobster was overcooked.

      Actually, personally, I prefer Daniel since I like more 'traditional' French execution. Taste profile more complex. But then that's me.

      Jean George, I wasn't impressed at all since I find the seasoning used sometimes 'go out of whack', with spicy heat components overwhelming some of the main ingredients?!

      Haven't been to Brooklyn Fare due to distances.

      Lastly, heard Atera is very very good but hard to get a table?!

      1. When are you in town for the wedding? Is your free evening a Friday or Sunday? Not all of the choices you listed are open on Sunday (EMP, Le Bernardin).

        Brooklyn Fare opens up reservations 6 weeks out every Monday morning. They book up very very quickly -- it's only 18 seats.

        Some of your other choices like Eleven Madison Park also book up fast (within an hour of opening up dates), especially for weekend nights. EMP opens its books 28 days in advance (including the current day) at exactly 9am. So four weeks in advance -- for example, for the Friday night you want, you book 4 Fridays in advance.

        Le Bernardin's books for March opened a few days ago -- Feb 1. Beginning on the first business day of each month, reservations can be booked for that month AND the following month. So on Feb 1, they started booking all of March.

        I've been to Le Bernardin, all the Momofukus, WD-50, and EMP, but not Brooklyn Fare. My favorite of those was EMP (but I haven't been back since the menu revamp) -- they served us a liquid nitrogen cocktail in the kitchen and we got to meet the chef. They do lots of nice little touches before, during, and after your meal.

        Le Bernardin was excellent but I'm not the biggest fan of their more restrained style of cooking. I also really enjoyed my last meal at WD-50 but it's not for everybody. Wylie is pretty experimental when it comes to flavor combinations -- sometimes it doesn't really work for some dishes IMO.

        Of the Momofukus, only Momofuku Ko would be considered a splurge. But it's not very luxurious or elegant or pampering, if that's what you want. It's a bit on the austere side. The chefs serve you and they're not really bubbly or over-friendly people. The seating is backless stools, the lights are bright, you sit at a long wooden counter, and the soundtrack is playing rock music. But the food is excellent (the shaved foie gras alone makes it worth it) and if you like that vibe, you can have lots of fun there.

        I'd definitely work Momofuku Ssam into your schedule as a "normal" meal if you can.

        1. I think you shouldn't merely consider C.T.B.F., you should just do it. IMO it blows away all the other options you've mentioned, and I haven't even been there. If Eric Ripert calls Chef Ramirez a genius, that's an easy way to prioritize your dining options.

          But you do want to keep your options open, just in case. I like Per Se a lot more than Le Bernardin, but it seems (especially with these several restaurants) that people who prefer one don't necessarily like the other, and so on.

          1. Atera is supposed to be amazing...ABC is great, a little less high end than some (but not all) of the others you mentioned. I prefer Daniel to Bernadin, although I think others might disagree. Marea is terrific also, but I haven't been there for a while.

            1. My favorite splurge restaurants are: EMP, Momofuku Ko, Bouley, Jungsik, Atera, and Corton. Per Se is spectacular but will cost at least $100 more per person. If $ is no problem, go for Per Se. I'm not a fan of either Daniel or Le Bernardin. I've never been to Brooklyn Fare. WD-50 is very good but wouldn't consider it a "splurge" restaurant.

                1. Brooklyn Fare or Per Se

                  1. Per Se or EMP. It really isn't too much a splurge in comparison, but Luger's might be my favorite steakhouse in the nation.

                    1. Most people on this board know I am a rabid, hardcore fan of EMP. If you can separate me from the perceived biased I would have to say EMP would be the best of the splurge worthy restaurants (Per Se, Le B are also fantastic but not the total package like EMP). Going to a splurge worthy restaurant is usually a guarantee of excellent food and service but EMP goes beyond that and makes it's an event with their special touches of whimsy. Eventually, no matter how fine a meal is, the memories of the food will fade but the memory of the EVENING at EMP will not.

                      1. Certainly Le Bernardin and EMP fit the bill.

                        But one of the most romantic places for me (because it is more intimate maybe?) is La Silhouette. A true charmer with excellent food.

                        Marea and Lincoln are also upscale and both have chefs with sophisticated palates.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: arepo

                          I don't think La S is really a splurge restaurant. And, unfortunately, based upon our latest experience about 10 days ago, I couldn't recommend it. And this was a place we liked and use to recommend often.

                          1. re: Spiritchaser

                            What was wrong with your recent dinner at La Silhouette?

                            1. re: Riverman500

                              The gnudi part of my escargot was awful, it was pasty and had horrible mouth feel, very little flavor, the escargot (which I normally love no matter what the prep) themselves tasted a bit funky, almost "off". My main was the bass and lobster and the main ingredients were well cooked but the sauce was so over poweringly vanilla that it almost tasted artificial. My GF was not thrilled with her courses either but I won't speak for her regarding specifics.

                        2. Had a fabulous meal at Corton this weekend. It's a lovely place, and the menu builds in a wonderful, well thought out sequence. Le Bernardin is definately worth the tab, but Corton is really special too.
                          Another place that we love for a splurge is Annisa. It's very lovely and intimate, and the food is memorable.

                          1. Jean-Georges
                            Per Se
                            15 East
                            Kyo Ya
                            Brooklyn Fare
                            Le Bernadin

                            1. $600 pp for a chef's tasting menu. If you are looking for this kind of a 'splurge' then 'MASA''s for you!!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                Masa is 450pp. The extended tasting menu at per se is 600.

                              2. Skip Brooklyn Fare if you want the service to match the price. They make you pay ahead of time, the dress code is strict despite the very casual setting, the seats are uncomfortable, and the chef won't answer any of your questions about the cuisine.

                                Momofuku Ko serves amazingly delicious and inventive food in a super hip environment. Per Se serves amazingly delicious food in a super luxurious environment. Nothing else is remotely as good as those two in my experience.

                                1. Throwing my two cents in...years ago a foodie friend and I splurge on a WD-50 tasting menu, and while it was good, I was disappointed...probably partially b.c. of the ambiance and partially b.c. of the expense-accounters absolutely everywhere.

                                  I'd skip Brooklyn Fare and the Momofukus. Agree with EMP, you might also consider Gramercy Tavern and Craft. Another to consider is the tasting menu at Blue Hill, which has lots of bang for the buck compared to other restos like it.

                                  1. Where are you coming from and what do you like to eat?

                                    1. Everyone's views are different so if I were you, I'd take the list of places being thrown around here and see which menus appeal most to you personally. I've been to most of the listed places and for whatever it's worth, I'll throw in my two cents.

                                      EMP: Haven't been since the new gimmicks/changes but have always been disappointed (also in the NoMad) given the hype. Everything just seemed safe. Ambiance is splurge worthy, though. I'm going back next month and very curious.

                                      Per Se: You and your GF will feel very special here. The room and service are incredibly comfortable yet refined. This isn't a place one gets to go to very often so it definitely qualifies as splurge-worthy. My husband and I quite enjoyed but query whether it's worth the uber high price tag.

                                      Le Bernardin: A favorite of mine but you have to really like seafood. Atmosphere is pretty stuffy and bland.

                                      Brooklyn Fare: Very long meal, first 10-15 courses are bites of beautifully prepared raw fish dishes, so again, it's a better choice for fish lovers. It's intimate and neat to sit in such a small room and watch Chef Ramirez work but like another poster said, the seats are uber-uncomfortable and the room feels sterile.

                                      Ko: I LOVED Ko. My most memorable and interesting meal in NYC fine dining. I've only been once and am longing to go back. Uber relaxed and casual atmosphere - it's not white glove.

                                      Atera: I'm in the minority but this just wasn't for my husband and me. Dishes were strange for the sake of being strange and not tasty. Really disliked.

                                      Daniel: Classic French food. Romantic setting. Nothing too out of the box here.

                                      Blanca: Really interesting tasting room in Bushwick. I probably preferred it to Brooklyn Fare (and very much preferred the set up to BF), but both are excellent choices.

                                      WD-50: Only went once on NYE so it was a special menu but we really enjoyed it and need to go back. WD-50 is on the LES so you could hit a cocktail bar before dinner and make it a fun NY-centric rather than jacket-required kind of night.

                                      Jung Sik: high end Korean cuisine. Small room with subtle, delicate service.

                                      Jean Georges: Mix of Asian and French flavors. Good but missing the wow factor.

                                      Have not yet been to Corton, and I agree with the other posters that the city's higher end Italian spots, while good, aren't worthy of your one big splurge meal.

                                      Good luck and keep us posted!