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Top High-End Spots for Visitor

Hi everyone,

I am doing some very preliminary planning for a trip to NYC from Toronto, and I know the first step is to decide/ book a few special meals at the hard-to-reserve spots.
Last time we visited EMP and WD50, so I want to maybe pick 2 other restaurants that are of similar calabre.
Price is no object, and we like all types of food (though I think it seems most of these tasting-menu Michelin star establishments serve continental type fare). We just want the best meals possible.
I will have many more follow up questions re: other meals throughout my stay, but for now I just want to nail down the biggies.

So what are the BEST of the best then (other than the above mentioned). Some ideas based on my research are:

Per se
Jean Georges
Brooklyn Fare

Any other big ones I've missed?
We now have a Momofuku in TO (which Ive been to and didn't LOVE), and while I have heard you're Ko is superior, I think we would like to try something else.

Thank you so much in advance, looking forward to getting back to the city!


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  1. I really like The Modern and Picholine. Neither is a very difficult reservation. Jungsik is also very good and a bit different from the standard French,. and is a very easy reservation.

    4 Replies
    1. re: rrems

      +1 for Picholine and Jungsik.

      Love both Per Se and Bouley.

      1. re: rrems

        We went to the moderne a few years ago. I will check out the other two. Would you choose those over some of the Michelin stars I've mentioned?

        1. re: hungryabbey

          I prefer them to Jean Georges. I haven't been to the others on your list (except Bouley, but it was many years ago). Daniel gets mixed reviews on this board.

          1. re: rrems

            Ok thanks! I don't think Daniel is high on my list anyway. We've been to many of his restaurants and our last experience here in TO was not great. Now I know they are in different tiers, but still.

      2. Three starred Michelin restaurants in NYC:
        Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare
        Jean Georges
        Le Bernardin
        Per Se

        17 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          Ok so working from this list then, how do these stack up?

          1. re: hungryabbey

            Is price truly not an object? Cost-wise, Masa is in its own tier. Per Se and BF are also very pricey. The tasting menus at JG and Le Bernardin are closer in cost to EMP.

            Masa is very, very expensive. The most expensive restaurant in the city. Dinner for two, after tax and tip, is about $1,160. It is $450pp. Wine and cocktails, of course, are extra. You could go to some of your other choices twice for that.

            When is your trip? Are you considering tasting menus only?

            For booking Per Se, don't rely just on OpenTable. Two separate sets of friends have gone recently and both were able to get their desired dates via phone (though they ended up with 5:30pm tables this ended up being a blessing as they were done eating by 9:30ish). Make sure you call right at 10am on the day that they open up the books for the date you need. It's $295pp including gratuity, so with tax, a total of $642 or so for two.

            Brooklyn Fare on the other hand is troublesome to book, though, because on every Monday morning they open up an entire week. Unlike the others, where you could try again the next morning for a new date. It's also very seafood heavy some have reported. $225pp plus a mandatory 20% gratuity, and you must prepay a week ahead. So that's $579 or so for two before any alcohol.

            Le Bernardin actually books on the 1st for the entire month after. So on April 1, they open the books for all of May. It's not terribly difficult to get a reservation there if you plan ahead and know when to call (don't rely on OpenTable). The food is excellent but the service is a very different model. Much more reserved than, say, EMP. The flavors are also much more reserved. Depends what you want. I preferred the food at my meals at Ko, JG, the Modern, EMP, etc more (haven't done Daniel or Per Se yet).

            1. re: kathryn

              I am thinking early May, though it may change to later.

              Gotcha. Well I dont think Masa would be worth it for me at this time. I'm not a sushi fiend (I prefer it for a quick casual meal) so I doubt I would know the difference between a $500 meal and a $250 one. So lets scratch that.
              I do think I want one night to be Per se. Brooklyn Fare is interesting to me but if they are seafood heavy, may not be my favourite. I prefer more balance and I eat a lot of fish at home so I like to go more with meat/game when I'm out.
              I am thinking 2 tasting menus, and maybe a more fun but really happening/buzz worthy dinner meal. Something a bit more unique, fun and interesting (ie. not basic continental), but still professional and somewhat high end. I just want to see something unique that I haven't seen in every other big city we've been to. Even our meal at The French Laundry I was a little underwelmed just b/c it felt like I had seen all the dishes before- Yes they were perfect, but a bit boring.
              If LB is reserved in flavour like that then its probably not the one either.
              In contrast, for example, we recently came back from Jerusalem and our meal at Machneyuda was incredible. It wasn't very expensive, but the experience was fun, interactive and unique. I would like my 3rd dinner choice to be like that.

              1. re: hungryabbey

                Well, if French Laundry left you cold, not sure I'd recommend Per Se! In fact their current menu shares a dish or two at the moment.

                Off the top of my head, I'd say to look into the new Kappo tasting menu at Ma Peche.

                The Chef's Tasting at Torrisi may also be up your alley:

                1. re: hungryabbey

                  Take a look at Atera; definitely unique and interesting meal & dining experience.

                  1. re: Gonzo70

                    Sounds interesting! I will check that out! That might work as a good spot for a more unique meal after something a little more classic. Is it hard to get in?

                    Of per se, jean George, Le Bernadine and bouley, what do you think is the all around best meal?

                    1. re: hungryabbey

                      I love both Bouley and Per Se. Bouley will end up costing 1/2 the price of Per Se.

                      1. re: hungryabbey

                        +1 for Atera. I haven't been to Per Se, but between the other three you listed I would go with Le Bernardin, with Jean Georges second. Bouley a distant third. I would recommend Bouley for lunch though. They do a $55 lunch tasting menu. It's an excellent value and many dishes overlap with dinner.

                        1. re: hungryabbey

                          Per Se for the total package. We've been to the others several times and you wouldn't go wrong at any of them but Per Se is the best of the bunch if you are okay with the cost.

                          1. re: Spiritchaser

                            Okay so I've decided on Atara and per se, now for one more dinner. What else should I NOT miss that is great for dinner?

                            1. re: hungryabbey

                              Do you have a way to get out of the city? I'd suggest going to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. If not, and you don't mind going down scale a bit (actually a lot in terms of formality) how about something like The Spotted Pig?

                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                Are you looking for a 3rd tasting menu? Or something lower end?

                                1. re: hungryabbey

                                  There are so many possibilities, what price range do you have in mind for this dinner?

                                  1. re: rrems

                                    I'm open. It could be a tasting if its going to be incredible or something more casual that is not to be missed.
                                    I want to stay in the city for sure, especially at night.

                                    1. re: hungryabbey

                                      If you enjoyed WD-50 and EMP last time, and are planning Atera and Per Se this time, I'd mix it up a bit and do something Italian or Asian for the other meal.

                                      Have you been to Babbo?

                                      1. re: hungryabbey

                                        Some to consider:

                                        The Marrow

                                        1. re: rrems

                                          My favorite right now is The NoMad...and L'artusi for Italian.

                    2. Second for NoMad

                      Why would you go to Per Se if you thought French Laundry was boring?!

                      I thought Ko was delicious and unlike any of the other Momofuku restaurants, but reservations are generally hard unless you get lucky. Do they have the special dinners in TO (the duck is what I was thinking of)? Just booked Kappo so can't recommend it just yet...

                      Second the question on Babbo.

                      Also Lincoln is delicious and a unique setting.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: saregama

                        I decided on per se because my SO really wants to go. I can't have my way every day ;) but also, I figure one classic meal would be nice if we're doing atera which seems a little more unique and experimental.

                        I haven't been to Babbo, is it a really good special NyC experience ? I know it's very famous.
                        As for Momofuku - yes, they have special meals. Can someone tell me more about the duck and kappo options? Are these in their 2nd tier restaurant or part of Ko?
                        I was also considering the Breslin, spotted pig, grammercy tavern.
                        Are any of these superior dinner options vs maybe doing lunch?
                        Lincoln looks like nice italian, but is it a unique special experience?
                        I guess rather than just a good meal, I'm looking for something that says "new york city must go". An experience, I guess.

                        1. re: hungryabbey

                          Per Se and Atera are excellent choices!

                          The rotisserie duck at Momofuku Ssam Bar is excellent. If you go at lunch, Ssam Bar has individual portions available. At dinner, Ssam Bar has the large format duck available for 3-6 guests which requires a reservation. Side dishes are included.

                          The kappo at Ma Peche is a counter seating 8 guest multi-course (I think 10) dinner for $95 per person. Reservations are needed. Dinner is at 7:30. This is another excellent dinner.

                          1. re: ellenost

                            Well there's just 2 of us, so I guess the duck ssam won't work.
                            Hm, any hints as to what's served at kappo vs Ko? I am jut concerned by something I read about it kind of being a mini version of Ko. If thats the case, I would rather just go to Ko.

                            1. re: hungryabbey

                              They're 2 completely different menus, and I love them both equally! The kappo dinner does feel a bit more personalized and intimate since there are only 8 guests, and Chef Paul Carmichael is a sweetheart! Kappo is definitely not a mini version of Ko since they both have about 10 courses. Unfortunately both are difficult reservations to obtain.

                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                They serve the duck over rice at Ssam Bar as single person portions at lunch. You can't make reservations for this. They ALSO have a large format duck over rice meal just for big groups. You CAN make reservations for the large format version.

                                Kappo links:

                                From what I've read Kappo seems much more personalized/customized to your preferences, and you're at the chef's counter in a much more bustling, normal dining room. Whereas basically everybody (ex allergies) gets the same one menu at Ko.

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  Sounds really cool- I will look into that.
                                  If I can't get a reservation, how long a wait is it at lunch ?
                                  How hard is it to get a Rez at per se and atera ?

                            2. re: hungryabbey

                              One more option for a place that is getting some really good buzz, Manzanilla, Spanish cuisine but not tapas. We have not been yet but a friend who's opinion we value says it is wonderful.

                              And FWIW, you could never go wrong with The NoMad.

                              1. re: Spiritchaser

                                Are you referring to the nomad in the hotel?

                                1. re: hungryabbey

                                  Yes, not to be confused with restaurant of the same name. The difference is The NoMad (hotel restaurant) has "The" and uppercases the "M".

                                  1. re: Spiritchaser

                                    Lol thanks for clarifying. I looked at the other one and thought, hm, how boring looking lol

                          2. I love Bar Room at the Modern, and I loved my meal at Louro in Feb.
                            +1 for Le Bernardin.
                            La Grenouille is another top high-end spot that's been around for decades.

                            1. Okay I'm back after some reflection. So here's where I'm at (obviously these are pending reservations etc.)

                              1. per se
                              2. atera
                              3. kappo ma peche

                              1. grammercy tavern
                              2. babbo
                              3. spotted pig (maybe would like to do brunch on the weekend- any recommendations on the best day/time to go here to avoid a line?)
                              4. ????? (another great lunch/brunch option?)

                              Breakfasts/other snacks:
                              Probably need 2-3 possible breakfast/brunch/mid-day snack options.

                              I think for these other meals, we go for really fun, unique, casual. Possibly street food if there is something that's really reliable and amazing. Thoughts?

                              Thanks all!

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                GT: Did you mean the formal dining room or the more casual tavern room? The dining room only does Mon-Fri lunch. The tavern room doesn't take reservations. Also they will be closed May 27-28 for Memorial Day. Not sure when your trip is.

                                Babbo: they only serve lunch Tues-Sat so plan accordingly.

                                Brunch at Spotted Pig: I'd show up just before they open.

                                Or try the Breslin on a weekday. Though the wait wasn't too bad for 2 people a few Sundays ago (though I could blame the St Patrick's Day hangovers). It is certainly fun, unique, casual.

                                Your itinerary seems heavy on fine dining/gastropub/Western cuisines, though.

                                I'd also consider an interesting Asian lunch, such as Mission Chinese, dim sum at RedFarm (weekends only), Kin Shop (they have a daily prix fixe), Danji (M-F only), the duck over rice lunch at Momofuku Ssam Bar.

                                Don't forget to check out a bunch of "Only in NY" type foods if you haven't: bagels and smoked salmon, pastrami on rye, pizza, hot dogs & papaya juice, black and white cookies, cheesecake, egg creams, pickles, halal carts. Russ & Daughters (takeout, bagel sandwiches, eat them open faced, very busy on weekends), Katz's Deli (pastrami on rye, famous from When Harry Met Sally), Papaya King etc. (not gourmet but iconic), William Greenberg's black and white cookies, Junior's cheesecake, egg creams from Gem Spa or Ray's, Pickle Guys, the Halal Guys (53rd and 6th SW corner after sunset and SE before sunset), are all iconic sorts of places.)

                                Another option is to do some American type foods, like fried chicken (Redhead, the Dutch, Pies 'n' Thighs), lobster rolls (Luke's Lobster), BBQ (Mighty Quinn's is great).

                                Prix fixe lunch specials/deals:

                                For great weekend brunch, no reservations taken:
                                The Breslin
                                Joseph Leonard
                                Spotted Pig

                                Excellent weekend brunch & reservations:
                                Minetta Tavern
                                Locanda Verde
                                North End Grill
                                Union Sq Cafe

                                Best weekday breakfast:

                                Best weekend brunch overall:

                                Notable food trucks/carts:

                                Do note that a lot of the more modern trucks are on a schedule and are in Midtown on weekdays (to feed the office crowd) and elsewhere on weekends (or closed/in the garage), and they also switch up their schedules a lot, due to parking complications, etc

                                You may wish to consider a self-guided noshing tour.
                                I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour but sub in Pickle Guys for Guss' Pickles and note that Economy Candy's address is incorrect:

                                Maybe scoopG's self guided Chinatown tour:

                                Here's a similar food tour I put together for the West Village:

                                The possible stops are:
                                Washington Square Park
                                Mille-Feuille Bakery for croissants
                                Third Rail Coffee
                                Blue Ribbon Bakery Market for their housemade matzoh
                                Victory Garden for goat milk soft serve
                                Famous Joe's for a slice
                                Grom for gelato
                                Rocco's for freshly filled cannoli
                                Amy's Bread
                                Murray's Cheese
                                Faicco's Pork Store
                                Bosie Tea Parlor for cookies/macarons
                                Blind Tiger for beer
                                Joe the Art of Coffee
                                Jeffrey's Grocery for oysters and beer
                                Taim for falafel
                                Magnolia Bakery for ice box cake
                                dell'anima for a Negroni Sbagliato cocktail
                                Chelsea Market/Friedman's
                                The High Line

                                An East Village food crawl, too, perhaps? Just on East 7th Street, there is Porchetta, Butter Lane, Luke's Lobster, Caracas Arepa Bar, the Big Gay Ice Cream shop, the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream shop...

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  wow, thanks for the amazing recommendations. I have studied your options...and..
                                  Here is my first draft itinerary keeping in mind the 3 dinners (IF i can secure reservations) will be Perse, atera, and kappo at ma peche in some order, depending on availability.

                                  Hotel: Four Seasons: 7 East 57th Street

                                  1. Thursday lunch – Gramercy Tavern Restaurant not the tavern space (11-12 if possible) – 42 E 20th St (Flatiron)

                                  2. Thursday snack possibly – Big Gay Ice Cream (125 East 7th Street East Village or 61 Grove Street at Seventh Avenue South in West Village), OR Egg Cream at Ray’s Candy Store (113 Ave A, East Village)) or Gem Spa (131 2nd Ave, East Village) and/or Pickle Guys (49 Essex St, Lower East Side)

                                  3. Thursday dinner TBA

                                  4. Friday breakfast - Momofuku Milk Bar (which location?) OR Russ and Daughters (9-10 am) - 179 East Houston Street (Lower East Side between E Houston & 2nd)

                                  5. Friday lunch – Babbo – (1-2 pm) - 110 Waverly Pl (Greenwich Village)

                                  6. Friday late dinner TBA

                                  7. Saturday brunch – Spotted Pig – (11 am) - 314 W 11th St (West Village)

                                  8. Sat snack - Momofuku Milk Bar OR snack from list above

                                  9. Sat dinner TBA

                                  10. Sunday brunch - Pies and Thighs (11 am) - 166 S 4th St (Brooklyn Williamsburg)

                                  11. Sunday late lunch/early dinner – Katz (3-4 pm) 205 E Houston St (Lower East Side) OR Carcasa arepa bar (93 1/2 E 7th St, East Village OR 291 Grand St Brooklyn) OR possible food truck ??

                                  - How difficult is it to get lunch reservations for Gramercy and Babbo?
                                  - Is my order of meals completely wonky in terms of their location? Anything you could switch or swap so I'm not literally running from one end oft city to another to make the next reservation/meal? (note- i know katz and russ/daughters are close.. I specifically chose not to put them together b/c we did that a few years back and it wasn't a great idea. We ended up having nothing to do while waiting for katz to start serving/and waiting for us to get hungry again for lunch so it wasn't very enjoyable- that is, if i even decide to do katz or R&D again)
                                  - Thoughts on Sunday late lunch/early dinner before our flight? Do any food trucks serve on Sundays?
                                  - Which location would make most sense for my momofuku snack fix?
                                  - any recommendations on what to do/see on route to the next meals?

                                  1. re: hungryabbey

                                    Thurs lunch - GT's formal dining room does not open until 12pm.

                                    Friday breakfast - the Midtown Momofuku Milk Bar will be closest to where you're staying.

                                    Sun brunch - the line can be quite long for Sunday brunch at Pies 'n' Thighs, BTW. Consider doing this on a weekday.

                                    Lunch reservations for GT and Babbo should be fairly easy to get especially since you want to do a weekday -- when most people are at work.

                                    Hard to say if stuff is wonky in terms of location since you don't know when you're doing Per Se, Atera, Ma Peche. Per Se and Ma Peche are relatively close to your hotel, Atera is not. Also I'm not sure what else you'll be doing while you're here... this site is typically limited to food and drink discussion and not general sightseeing.

                                    1. re: hungryabbey

                                      One option for the Russ & Daughters, Katz dilemma is to book a tour at the Tenement Museum between breakfast and lunch. But if you want to do that, make sure you book ahead online, especially if it is a weekend.

                                      1. re: cobpdx

                                        Lol we did that last time exactly. Believe me, I did my research. But even that was only one hour and then we were like "well, now what?" I of course was fine to eat again, but my SO has a less gluttonous appetite and so Katz was a bit of a waste on him. lol
                                        Okay so then that's fine, GT will have to be at noon then no prob.

                                        Re: Pies and Thighs- ah unfortunately I dont think I can move it to thurs or fri unless I lose one of my other lunches since Gramercy and Babbo don't do sunday. How long are we talking for two ppl? Any other equally amazing sunday brunch places for Chicken & Waffles. I was just REALLY sold on their branding because it's pretty much exactly like mine (www.abbeyskitchen.com- note the site will be down tonight as we move over to my new hosting).

                                        As for orientation.. I just mean orientation in the day since we will always come back to the hotel before dinner.

                                        Another question re: Momofuku, ha, maybe this is silly but I have always wanted to go.. and in the event that I decide I want to try one of their ice cream/shake items at 9 am, will they be on offer? lol I know, not the healthiest morning option but it's a food holiday!

                                        And other input on the food truck question? What do ppl think about the arepas place? I LOVE me some good arepas.

                                        1. re: hungryabbey

                                          I am not a fan of the Pies and Thighs chicken and waffles because the fruit compote really shouldn't be there and last time I had it, they used a nonstandard buckwheat waffle. And cinnamon butter. It's an odd take on the dish.

                                          Try Amy Ruth's?

                                          1. re: kathryn

                                            Sold. Looks awesome. They don't take reservations, I'm assuming right?
                                            How long of a wait will that be on Sun?

                                            1. re: hungryabbey

                                              Per Eating in Translation's web site:

                                              "If you have your mind set on Sunday brunch at Amy Ruth's, arrive in the morning, before the nearby church services let out, or wear comfortable waiting-line shoes."

                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                Lol so what time do they get out? (I'm Jewish- I don't know these things!)

                                                1. re: hungryabbey

                                                  I would personally aim for 10:30-11 or so.

                                          2. re: hungryabbey

                                            You mean Caracas Arepas? I haven't been there in years even though it's quite close to where I live, because it got to be more expensive than I wanted to pay for the value. So unless it drastically improved, I would suggest that you skip it. However, if it's at the same level it was the last time I was there, it certainly won't be bad, and if you do go, the arepa I always thought was the only great one there was the jardinera.

                                            1. re: Pan

                                              Hm that doesn't sound too promising. Maybe we will stick with Katz unless there's another really great Latin type spot open Sunday

                                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                                You might want to consider going to some of the Latin neighborhoods in Queens for South American food, and for that, post to the Outer Boroughs board for specific advice. If you want to stick to Manhattan, you could consider Caribbean Hispanic food, such as Puerto Rican food at Casa Adela. I've only been once but was pretty impressed. It won't be like having high-end food, though; it's just very good home-style food. Manhattan also has Dominican and Cuban food. I don't know of any great Cuban restaurant, but I patronize Guantanamera now and then and it's perfectly good. You might not find it exciting, though (if you go and feel like spending about $17 a shot, try some Zacapa rum from Guatemala; it's my favorite). I also like the rotisserie chicken at the various branches of the Dominican restaurant, El Malecon, but almost everything else (with the possible exception of their chicken soup) is a big dropoff. The best Dominican food is probably in Washington Heights, but I can't attest to that from personal experience.

                                                1. re: Pan

                                                  Great suggestions. For this particular meal I do want it to be close to our hotel as depending on timing we may need to then go to the airport. I am actually leaning towards trying to find a food truck - I did some research on the best ones, now I just hope they're open on Sunday around 4-5.

                                      1. I agree with most of the suggestions so far, but I have to nix a few of them. As others have suggested, drop Per Se. I went once and found that the only thing that was exceptional was the service. The food was ho-hum. I also was not impressed with decidedly singular visits to Daniel and Jean Georges and Spotted Pig. Ma Peche didn't do anything for me. For reference, EMP is my favorite restaurant. I'd add a few other options to consider. I just had an incredibly good meal at Aquavit--super inventive with lots of molecular elements. I love Dovetail on the UWS. Tocqueville is really excellent. Barney Greengrass on the UWS is a great NYC tradition, including a very casual brunch, breakfast, or lunch. (The Sturgeon King) (though Russ and Daughters is in a class by itself and there's always Zabar's).

                                        20 Replies
                                        1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                          I will check out Barney.
                                          Aquavit looks great actually, I may consider that instead of ma peche.
                                          I know per se is not the best option for me in light of my preferences but I need to be sensitive to my SO requests as well ( he is paying), and he really has always wanted to try per se. I may not even get a reservation in which case I have options.
                                          How hard is a reservation at aquavit? I'm going to check out your other recommendations now too.

                                          1. re: hungryabbey

                                            Aquavit was easy to get for this week, mid-week. I booked Tuesday afternoon for Thursday night. I hadn't been in 20 years and was really amazed by how good it was--incredibly inventive. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/896165

                                            1. re: hungryabbey

                                              Definitely do not miss Per Se. Ensure that you order one regular tasting menu, and one vegetable (it's not vegetarian) tasting menu. While their regular tasting menu is good, the things they do with vegetables are absolutely incredible. And if you don't get a reservation, you can always do the walk in and sit in the bar/lounge. I don't think the tasting menu is available, but I wouldn't miss the opportunity to go.

                                              1. re: justxpete

                                                I second the recommendation to do Per Se in the lounge if dinner reservations are not obtained (especially if the OP's SO is really set on it). The tasting menus are not available, but there is plenty to choose from on the a la carte menu. If you get there right as they open (or a little earlier), you can get the prime seat, which is a lounge area looking right out the window overlooking Columbus Circle.

                                              2. re: hungryabbey

                                                I haven't been to Aquavit, but my friend, who is a fan of Marcus Samuelsson, was underwhelmed. She found the food subtle on the verge of bland. This may be because she isn't familiar with Scandinavian flavours. I like Scandinavian food, so I might try Aquavit at some point, but I'd think that Per Se's food might appeal to a broader fine dining audience than Aquavit's food.

                                                I'd go with Per Se over Aquavit, if I could only choose one.

                                                Along the lines of Aquavit, if you're looking for other restaurants serving contemporary continental fine dining with northern European influences, you could also consider Wallse and Seasonal. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/834069

                                                Since you mention chicken & waffles in the thread, maybe you should also consider Samuelsson's Red Rooster. My friend, who was underwhelmed by Aquavit, loves Red Rooster. http://redroosterharlem.com/menus/

                                                If you go to the Spotted Pig, I recommend the burger (which I'd recommend splitting with your SO, since it's generous, rich and comes with a pile of frites) and the ricotta gnudi. Here's are the recipes, if you don't get a chance to try them in NYC.
                                                the burger
                                                http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddri... )
                                                the ricotta gnudi (http://www.thepauperedchef.com/2010/0... ).
                                                Those 2 dishes are 2 of my favourite dishes I've eaten in New York over the last 5 years. I agree with StevenCinNYC, it is a noisy place. Even if I couldn't have table conversation with my friend without straining my voice, the burger and gnudi were delicious. Next time, I'll try to go midweek or off-hours.

                                                1. re: prima

                                                  I couldn't disagree more. First of all, your friend must have gone years ago, under Samuelsson. The new chef at Aguavit is totally different, and the food is incredibly flavorful. If you had been or your friend had been recently, you wouldn't say that. I think it would have been a fair assessment under Samuelsson.

                                                  I wonder what you ate at Per Se because I found the food bland and boring at Per Se. The only memorable element was the oyster amuse with the custard. What dishes stood out for you? It's reputation far exceeded my experience of the food. The service was exquisite, and the view is great as is the space between the tables and their arrangement relative to the window are excellent. The food, however, is just not exceptional and certainly not innovative or worth the price in my opinion. It's fine if you go with the right expectations and are really more interested in the decor, view, and service.

                                                  1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                                    My mistake. Yes, my friend went to Aquavit when Samuelsson was still there. I'm guessing she must have dined there shortly before Jernmark took over in 2010. Thanks for the clarification.

                                                    Here's a link to an interview with the current chef, for anyone who is as out of the loop as I was. http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2012/0...

                                                    It's good to hear the current chef is creating flavourful food. Perhaps I'll give Aquavit a try on my next visit to NYC.

                                                    1. re: prima

                                                      Yes, I just got another post on my Aquavit write-up from someone who had the same experience of a really big change under the new chef. He's been going a while and said that it keeps getting better with time.

                                                    2. re: StevenCinNYC

                                                      I think the fact that you love EMP but didn't think much of Per Se illustrates the fact that opinions about restaurants can be very subjective and depends heavily on what you like in a restaurant. My wife and I went to EMP and Per Se on back to back lunches (we had the full menu at Per Se and have been to both in the past). While we thought EMP was great and really enjoyed our time there, we liked Per Se just a little bit more. We just enjoyed some of the ingredients and preparations at Per Se more compared to EMP. EMP on its own would be our best meal of the year most likely but due of our tastes and preferences, Per Se is that meal.

                                                      I don't think there's anything wrong with someone who disagrees with me and respect that you like EMP better. I just think people reading other peoples' opinions have to always keep that thought in mind.

                                                      1. re: miltronix

                                                        If we didn't all have our own subjective opinions, there wouldn't be much point to having this forum.

                                                        While I respect what you're saying about the experience of food being subjective, there are objective aspects to describing a restaurant.

                                                        Certainly there are many people who rank Per Se #1 in NYC. However, I doubt any of them or you would describe the food as cutting-edge or innovative. While EMP doesn't use any freeze-dried fishbone in their dishes, it's fair to say that they are very innovative and use techniques of molecular gastronomy in their preparations.

                                                        I'm surprised to say it, but the same can be said of Aquavit--very innovative and include molecular gastronomy in their preparations.

                                                        I don't think it's fair or accurate to characterize Aquavit today as bland or boring though I would have agreed with that characterization in the past. Today they are bold.

                                                        You or someone else may not like the flavors or the preparations--that's subjective. But that the executive chefs have changed, the menus have changed, and the preparations have changed--these are objective verifiable facts.

                                                        Some people have raved about the vegetarian menu at Per Se. I've never had it. I can tell you that my mother, who has all kinds of food sensitivities and requirements was very happy with her meal at EMP. One does not negate the other. I am careful to say that I've only been to EMP once, precisely because the food was not to my liking, but I think that for the price the food should be spectacular, innovative, and memorable. People who like Per Se rarely say which dish was so wonderful. It seems to be more about the overall experience, and I give them 100% credit for delivering exquisite service in a wonderful setting with a great view.

                                                        Again, I've only eaten there once and can only recall the oyster amuse with the custard--which was great and memorable. After that, I was not impressed. But I like innovation. I was stunned that Aquavit served one butter that was melted, browned, clarified, and then re-chilled. Who does that? To me that is very impressive, and it was yummy and unique. This is the sort of thing that I remember and that impresses me. Serving herring with a buttermilk cream and brown butter foam or toasted gravlax with grapefruit--not your father's Oldsmobile by any stretch of the imagination. While the squab I had last night was not super innovative, it was excellent--probably on a par with Paul Bocuse, the most memorably squab I've had.

                                                        Please--what are are the dishes that you love and remember from Per Se? And by all means, if you disagree with me about what I consider to be objective facts, please say so. I come here to learn, but when I feel I have something to impart, I want to be able to state it clearly and strongly and unapologetically--I invite you to do the same.

                                                        1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                                          I certainly don't take any offense to your responses. Discussion boards are purely here for everyone to share their opinions.

                                                          While innovation and use of new techniques is interesting, it does not necessarily mean the food is more tasty as a result. I agree that the techniques employed at Per Se did not seem innovative but at the same time I did not feel the food was bland and boring. A few courses really stood out for me. The course of butter poached lobster with parmesan pain perdu, morels, fava beans, green garlic and bernaise mousseline stood out as one of my favorite lobster preparations I've ever had. Sweetness of perfectly cooked lobster balanced by the herbaceous watercress and tarragon sauce. The bernaise mousseline added some welcome acidity while the morels added some earthiness as contrast. I also really enjoyed the pork belly that was cooked sous vide and then wrapped in feuille pastry and crisped. The balance between the crispy pastry and tender pork belly was great and the gribiche added a mustardy counterpoint that helped prevent the dish from becoming overly rich. I also really liked the cheese course which featured a Twig Farms butterwick cheese with granny smith apples, stinging nettle cream and a yukon gold mille feuille. What stood out to me other than enjoying the flavors of the dish was the execution of the potato mille feuille. I attached a few photos for you to see these dishes.

                                                          There's a place for new techniques and flavor combinations but how much importance a diner places on those factors is in my opinion, still very subjective when deciding whether a restaurant is "the best". The importance of innovative technique obviously differs between the two of us. For me, EMP is a great meal and the place I would like to have dinner with a couple friends because we could all enjoy "the show" together. Per Se is the place I go to when I want to enjoy great food with amazing service in the company of my favorite dining companion, my wife. Per Se given my own druthers is my favorite restaurant because I enjoy it more with my wife than I would at EMP. In my mind, while a restaurant may not be cutting edge, it does not mean that it's staid and boring. A restaurant not at the cutting edge can still be the #1 restaurant depending on the diner. Look at sushi restaurants. Most people say the best sushi restaurants are the ones in Tokyo. The top rated sushi places regardless of whether you're looking at Tabelog or Michelin are places that serve pristine fish using techniques that most of the better places utilize. The difference is in sourcing and execution. One could say the sushi places in the US are more innovative because they put mango on top of a roll that contains tempura and broiled eel. It's different yes but it's not necessarily better. This sushi roll example was not meant to mock your viewpoint which I respect. I'm just trying to better illustrate my points.

                                                          1. re: miltronix

                                                            Thanks for the thoughtful and thorough reply.

                                                            The dishes look and sound wonderful! I think if I'd had those in my one visit, I would have had a better impression of the food, even though it is not especially innovative.

                                                            Elsewhere in this thread, I criticized Ma Peche based on my experience there soon after it opened. I wasn't aware that Chef Paul had taken over and transformed the place, including offering the special Kappo kitchen counter experience. Based on what Kathryn wrote about it here, I went back and had the Kappo meal--it was great. I realized that my initial posts on Ma Peche were no longer valid. Similarly, someone else posted what I thought was outdated info on Aquavit which I wanted to address.

                                                            While I don't think my perspective from my one experience at Per Se is outdated, it is limited to one meal which didn't have dishes that appealed to me as much as other meals I'd had, nor, based on your description and photos, did it include the dishes you included which I probably would have enjoyed more, too.

                                                            I might have to try those two in the lounge! I doubt I'll be heading back for the full Per Se meal any time soon--maybe if cost were no object--but these dishes sound great.

                                                            Thank you.

                                                            1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                                              I appreciate you reading through my faux food critic writeup!

                                                              The first time we dined at Per Se I actually sent a dish back because it incredibly salty. It was a pan seared white fish (three years ago so memory is foggy) with a Mediterranean inspired sauce featuring olives but I think the fish might've been overseasoned given the saltiness of the olives in the sauce. My wife's dish was fine so it was just mine. The staff handled it really well and I received a different preparation perhaps because the kitchen was worried I wasn't a fan of that style of cuisine. I'm just mentioning it because while I love Per Se, I do understand it may not knock it out of the park every single time. I felt like this past meal was better than my first time there even though I thoroughly enjoyed both meals.

                                                2. re: StevenCinNYC

                                                  Did you have brunch, lunch, or dinner at Spotted Pig?

                                                  Have you been to Ma Peche since the chef change and introduction of the chef's counter tasting menu?

                                                  1. re: kathryn

                                                    I had dinner at Spotted Pig, and I really didn't get it. It was noisy and the food wasn't interesting or exceptional (to me). I think I liked the deviled egg dish.

                                                    No, I went to Ma Peche a while (>1 year?) ago.

                                                    1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                                      The Ma Peche menu has changed quite a bit with the new chef, and the OP is considering the personalized chef's counter tasting, so I'm not sure it's a fair comparison.

                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                        Thanks. I didn't know. Is it still super casual with shared condiments across tables and paper napkins?

                                                        1. re: StevenCinNYC

                                                          Do you mean in the bar area or the dining room downstairs? I think it's still paper napkins, but they're the really thick and sturdy kind. I don't recall seeing shared condiments the last time I was there. If I recall correctly, if you order any of their famous steamed buns, they bring you a squeeze bottle, and then remove it after you're done.

                                                          1. re: kathryn

                                                            I had been in that space when it was Town which I really liked. I was surprised by how much more casual Ma Peche was. I ate downstairs, and I remember that they had condiments and napkins on every other table so you had share between tables. It was just much casual and less special than I'd expected. I like the upstairs Milk Bar food and expect it to be casual, but I hadn't expected it downstairs. I only went once, and it was maybe over a year ago, but I wasn't really impressed with the food and was surprised by the decor and feel of the place. From what you say, it sounds as if it's very different now in terms of the food, and I didn't know about the chef's counter at all--that sounds much better.

                                                        2. re: kathryn

                                                          I finally made it to Ma Peche last week and had the Kappu experience. It was great. Thanks for letting me know about it! Rushing to a plane now, but I wanted to post a quick note of appreciation. Chef Paul has totally transformed the place. Having said all that, I still think that I would personally rather go to Aquavit for a high-end meal, but the Ma Peche experience is more unique.

                                                  2. Thanks again all for your incredible feedback and conversation. I am pretty set on per se and atera and was considering switching ma peche with aquavit, but I think for now I will keep my top three as is, and use aquavit as a back up where necessary. Wish me luck!!

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: hungryabbey

                                                      Look forward to your reports since Per Se, Atera and Ma Peche are among my favorite restaurants! I had a stellar 20 course extended tasting lunch at Per Se last month. I've dined at Per Se 7 times, and all of my meals have been exquisite for both food and service. I've dined at Atera twice in the past 6 months, and loved both dinners. I am very interested to hear what is on their current menu. I'm returning next week to Ma Peche for the kappo dinner. Have a wonderful time!

                                                      1. re: ellenost

                                                        Oh ellemost please please do let me know when you've reported on ma peche. I am dying to read more about it! The information is still a bit sparse. How hard was it for you to get a table?

                                                    2. They might have been mentioned before but I'd suggest Four Seasons and Marea