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Le Bernardin or Dovetail?

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My husband and I will be celebrating our 15th anniversary in NYC this weekend. We have reservations for EMP on Saturday and are trying to decide between Le Bernardin or Dovetail on Friday night.

I hear consistently good things about Le Bernardin and mixed things on Dovetail. We originally thought we would ditch the pricey meal at Le Bernardin once we got EMP reservations, but when I do the math, we are likely to spend near the same amount at Dovetail. If we take the money out of it, are we just crazy to pass on Le Bernardin? Maybe we shouldn't be doing two stuff tasting menus in a row anyway (and will just bum around on Sunday night for that reason) and eating a la carte at Dovetail would be more satisfying.

This comes down to subjective personal preference I guess so maybe I just need to flip a coin :-)

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  1. I haven't been to Dovetail so I can't give you advice between one vs the other. What I would suggest is that you go to Le Bernardin and NOT have the tasting menu. Just go with the prix fixe and the problem is solved in the same way.

    I continue to believe that for restaurants like Le Bernardin and Daniel, which are more traditional in nature, the tasting menu is more of an afterthought and the true highlights are found in making the right choices off the prix fixe.

    My most recent meals at Le Bernardin: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/861084

    5 Replies
    1. re: fooder

      Thanks, yes, we may just do the prix fixe. What I am worried about is that Le Bernardin is sort of stuffy and overrated, but that is not what I am seeing on boards. We have been burned in the past going to "the best" only to have it be sort of stuffy, bland, overcooked.

      We do already have Le Bernardin reservations. That is why I want to figure this out today, so I can be nice and cancel if necessary.

      1. re: sarah_nc

        Maybe the new room and other renovations they have done alleviate the "stuffy" feeling a bit?
        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/07/din...

        Overall I found the flavors at Le Bernardin to be subtly delicious. Not bold and in your face, though. However nothing seemed underseasoned or overcooked. Their technique is not something I'd worry about.

        1. re: sarah_nc

          The food is subtle, but not bland. A lot of work goes into the sauces. Definitely not overcooked. And at this level, almost anything that comes out subpar in any minor way can and should be sent back without a worry. The service can be a bit stuffy and the room is not what I would call charming, but the food is legit.

          I don't know what your experience has been regarding going to "the best" places, but Le Bernardin is not just "the best" of NYC or some city but often on "the best in the world" lists. I do think that makes a difference.

          1. re: fooder

            Thanks! Yes, I think it is safe to say the Le Bernardin is in its own league. My dining experience is mostly the relative backwaters of Boston and DC save for a few vacations. My dud experience was in Boston when we lived there.

          2. re: sarah_nc

            Stuffy and overrated? Quelle horreur!! Quelle damage!!!

            In short, worry not!

        2. Do you already have a reservation at Le Bernardin? A quick OpenTable search reveals many tables left at Dovetail and none left for Le Bernardin ( at least on OpenTable).

          Le Bernardin books its tables on the 1st of the month for the entire following month, so tables for May 31 were available via phone starting on April 1st.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kathryn

            We called April 1st at 9am and kept trying for 45 minutes. Finally got through!

          2. Keep the Le B rez and as others have suggested do a la carte. Dovetail is actually very very good but the experience is not on the same level as Le B.

            1. I think there's no comparison.

              LeB is an order of magnitude better.

              (There is absolutely no need to do their tasting menu.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sneakeater

                You have a type. There should be an "s" at the end of the word "order"!!

              2. Thanks to all. We kept the Le Bernardin reservation and are looking forward to our weekend of eating in NYC!

                1. Not to hijack the thread, but can someone (or several someones) who have expressed an anti-tasting menu sentiment on Le Bernardin explain this? we were gifted a fairly substantial (even considering its very pricey) credit here and were most definitely thinking of going the tasting menu route. im not sure i understand why folks seem to suggest that its not a good idea.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: tex.s.toast

                    I guess maybe I was confused by the OP's question when I answered. Persoanlly I love the tasting menus at Le B, I suggested ala carte because I thought they were trying to stay in the range of what they would spend at Dovetail and it also seemed as if they didn't want to go the route of tasting because of what they would be doing at EMP.

                    1. re: tex.s.toast

                      I actually just wrote a blog post about tasting menus. My full thoughts here: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

                      Essentially, the tasting menus at Le Bernardin consists of dishes pulled straight from the regular menu. Often in these cases in restaurants, the dishes aren't chosen because they are the best, but because they are the easiest to split into smaller portions. The choices usually tend to be "safer" too.

                      For a place like Le Bernardin, where the dishes are so well composed, it's possible that you end up missing something by having a miniature version of it. I would rather order the prix fixe and add dishes a la carte (kind of make your own tasting menu), at a comparable cost.

                      Also, because LeB is seafood-centric, the selection of a core ingredient is important. If you like squid/octopus, order squid/octopus! If you're curious about squid/octopus, order squid/octopus! Unlike other tasting menu centric places, I don't think the tasting menu is a list of "you should order these" dishes.

                      And finally, because of the "participation by entire table" nature of tasting menus, you might end up tasting less things overall!

                      1. re: fooder

                        I agree with fooder 100%.

                        1. re: Sneakeater

                          +2

                          At restaurants where the tasting menu is composed of different dishes or chef'c classics, the tasting menu might make sense. at le bernardin, neither is true. so, just do the prix fix, pick what looks good, and if you want add a few dishes (certainly not necessary food-wise)

                          1. re: cubicles

                            is there a standard per-item charge for adding courses to the usual menu or does it vary based on whats in the added course/which category it comes from?

                    2. As many have pointed out, Le Bernadin is a league or two above Dovetail (I have found Dovetail only "worth it" when I have a Groupon or Restaurants.com deal)

                      If you choose not to go to Le Bernadin, I would choose something quite different and unique perhaps... maybe sushi at 15 East or high end Italian or even a very NY steak at Keens or whatever... I would not do Le B and EMP back to back or EMP and Per Se....

                      1. If you like seafood, go to Le B. What's wrong with the dining room? Its a huge soaring space. I like the big mural on the end. The service is what you would expect in a place like this. I avoid tasting menus completely these days and go a la carte. That way, I can order what I like.

                        I have a different view on tasting menus that have items that are not on the regular menu. If its so good, why isn't it on the regular menu? Why can't I have it without having the 6 other courses?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Bkeats

                          I don't mind the room at all. And the service is as friendly or as stuffy as you make it. I have had great conversations with the wait staff at LeB. They don't presume that you want to be their best friend, and won't bother you with a single word not necessary to to their job unless you prompt them. But if you are in the mood to talk or ask questions, they are extremely knowledgeable, friendly and jovial. And the wine staff is among the best in the U.S.