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EMP vs. Blanca: Cage Match

I'm curious what everyone has to say on this: 40th bday...Eleven Madison Park or Blanca...ONLY ONE WILL SURVIVE!!!

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  1. Haven't been to Blanca yet, but for a special birthday, EMP has my vote (3 - 4 hours of pure luxury).

    1. I can't think of a single way in which I don't think Blanca exceeds EMP. Blanca is just fantastic.

      1. I haven't been to Blanca yet but everyone who has been to both places, just seems to love Blanca.

        1. Have not been to EMP but ill just say this - my wife threatened to divorce me if i continued talking about my meal at blanca (admittedly this was several months later).

          I dont think you could possibly go wrong either way.

          2 Replies
          1. re: tex.s.toast

            Yeah, I may end up flipping a coin...

            1. re: porkido

              Trust me, Blanca's better. Possibly MUCH better.

              But, although I also think the food at Blanca is better, it partially depends on what kind of experience you like.

          2. I would go to blanca over EMP. But if you can get a reservation to Brooklyn Fare i would choose that over Blanca.

            1. I haven't been to Blanca (I had a reservation long ago and gave it to friends), so I can't give you a straight answer, but I think it's more about the kind of experience you want.

              To me, it's a choice between the traditional luxury restaurant style (tables, banquettes, loll and sip wine/brandy) vs. the newer chef's counter tasting style (25 or so courses of small bites, interaction with chef). At this level, I don't think there's enough of a separation between the restaurants to make the decision based on food.

              For me personally, I would almost never choose a chef's counter (except for sushi) for a birthday celebration. And I most certainly would not choose Brooklyn Fare and its lack of FOH.

              Recent experiences at
              EMP: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892924
              Brooklyn Fare: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/884450

              1 Reply
              1. re: fooder

                Not to be a booster, but I'll just note that Blanca is different from the usual "chef's counter" experience (an experience I don't like).

                You're seated well away from the cooking area, and there's very little interaction with the chef (thank God). Mostly, you interact with the excellent service staff (as at a normal restaurant).

                Also -- and this is important for the Birthday part, because usually I, like you, would counsel avoiding a chef's counter for a birthday -- the (extremely comfortable) seats (NOT stools) are pretty far apart. So you don't get the feeling that other parties are on top of you.

                I went to Blanca expecting not to like it, because I usually just don't like that kind of place. But they took out practically all the stuff I don't like.

                1. Since everyone loves Blanca, and I haven't been there yet, I just made a reservation for Blanca.

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: ellenost

                    haha, nice job!
                    i wish they had a lunch option...I no longer can dine at night..so sad.

                    1. re: Monica

                      I have a reservation for 4:45 (it's almost like having a late lunch. It'll still be light out when I'm done with "dinner").

                      1. re: ellenost

                        are they doing more than one seating a night now? i was under the impression that all meals started at 6?

                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                          Two seatings on Fridays and Saturdays.

                          1. re: tex.s.toast


                            We have six seatings every week:

                            Wednesdays at 6pm
                            Thursdays at 6pm
                            Fridays at 4:45pm and 8:30pm
                            Saturdays at 4:45pm and 8:30 pm

                            1. re: kathryn

                              And no photography any longer, according to SeatMe.com

                              1. re: kosmose7

                                Very very clearly no photography.

                                That's one of the best things about it.

                                1. re: Sneakeater

                                  Can one take notes? I've heard that note taking isn't permitted at Brooklyn Fare.

                                  1. re: ellenost

                                    Try to pretend you're just there for a meal, and not a Big Internet Experience.

                                    1. re: Sneakeater

                                      Yeah, no kidding, right?

                                      Just eat and enjoy yourself (and your company). It is what dining out should be.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        "Try to pretend you're just there for a meal, and not a Big Internet Experience."
                                        "Just eat and enjoy yourself (and your company). It is what dining out should be."

                                        I find these comments to be unnecessary and disrespectful. Different people enjoy things in different ways and there is no need to be told what "dining out should be".

                                        Besides, ellenost has written plenty about her love for Momofuku Ko, so there's no problem with not being able to take photos/notes. It seems to me it was just a simple question to get the facts correct. You don't want to show up at Brooklyn Fare to get thrown out over note taking.

                                        Ellenost, note taking is not allowed at Brooklyn Fare. No photography at Blanca seems to be fairly recent, as I can find blog posts online with photos dated early this year. I also found one blog post with no photos but the writer mentioned taking notes, so that should be ok.

                                        1. re: fooder

                                          Thanks fooder! Since I'll be dining solo, I find note taking helps pass the time in between courses and helps me remember what should be a wonderful meal! It is sad that another restaurant has banned photo taking as a result of some obnoxious and inexperienced photographers. BTW, I had another great dinner at Ko last night; note taking at Ko is definitely permitted

                                          1. re: ellenost

                                            Blanca's policy is basically the same as Ko's - no phones/pictures, written notes are fine.
                                            They (Blanca) do push the pace a bit to fit everything in about 3 hrs so you'll have ample but not loads of time to write/kill.

                                              1. re: mulden

                                                That must have been a recent change. When I was there, pictures were allowed but they requested that you didn't post them on the internet. I guess people ignored their request.

                                                1. re: PorkyBelly

                                                  Just for the record, that was not meant to be directed at Ellennost (who seems like the image of politeness), but at anybody who would be bothered by the no-notes rule.

                                            1. re: fooder

                                              Fooder - I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the comments directed at ellenost; completely uncalled for.

                                              1. re: Spiritchaser

                                                Thanks Spiritchaser! I didn't want to take notes if Blanca didn't permit it.

                          2. re: ellenost

                            Just returned from my Blanca dinner. Verdict: no contest EMP wins on every level (food, service, atmosphere, wine list, convenience, and value). While the dishes at Blanca ranged from mostly good/very good and a few outstanding, I left somewhat hungry whereas with EMP, I leave the restaurant almost too full. Service at Blanca was friendly, but nowhere near at the polished EMP level. Wine list at Blanca definitely needs to be expanded; no German Rieslings where EMP has one of the best collection of German Rieslings. Cost is about even: $180 at Blanca, and $195 at EMP. Getting to EMP is a lot easier than getting to Blanca.

                            I think Atera would give EMP more of a challenge.

                            Bottom line: enjoyed my dinner at Blanca, but now that I've dined there, I doubt I'd be making a return visit any time soon.

                            P.S. note taking was permitted only by pen and paper at Blanca. One is forbidden from taking photos, using a cell phone (naturally), and from even using a smartphone to take notes or even read between courses.

                          3. Never been to Blanca, but I will say that I think EMP has more appeal for tourists than it does for NYC residents.

                            In many ways, EMP has become an ├╝ber tourist attraction. The Disneyland of fine dining. And I don't say that in a derogatory way.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I travel to NYC from time to time for work now. I like to keep an eye on this board just to give me ideas for when I'm in town.

                              Don't you think most of the high-end restaurants in NYC fall into this category? I obviously don't live there, but I can't see myself being a regular at any of the high-end places like EMP, Per Se, Le Bernardin, etc. Obviously it is nice to have the option, but I can't see how any of them are more than destination dining.

                              1. re: Db Cooper

                                But the 3 you mention all have options to allow more frequent visits; Per Se has the Salon, EMP has a great bar area, Le Bernardin has their lounge.