HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >

Discussion

Marea and Babbo and Le Bernardin and Jungsik?

Would it be crazy to try to do all of these in 5 days? I have reservations at all four at the moment, but it wouldn't be right to sit on a reservation we know we can't use.

I wasn't expecting to find an opening at Marea. Could we reasonably plan to eat appetizers and share an entree or two at Marea? In other words, could we get out of there for under $150 for 2 with tip?.I had been searching for a less expensive destination for this night.

Is it rude to skip wine or cocktails (and just drink water) in order to afford to dine in these restaurants?

Between Marea and Le Bernardin, which one would we be most sorry to miss? What about Jean-Georges instead of either of these (openings still available with $50 on a credit card to hold)?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. >> I wasn't expecting to find an opening at Marea. Could we reasonably plan to eat appetizers and share an entree or two at Marea? In other words, could we get out of there for under $150 for 2 with tip?.I had been searching for a less expensive destination for this night. <<

    For dinner I don't think you can stay within your budget since Marea is pricey and their portions are small. Lunch might be a better option. Or try Lincoln.

    >> Is it rude to skip wine or cocktails (and just drink water) in order to afford to dine in these restaurants? <<

    Not at all. By all means skip wine and cocktails if you wish.

    >> Between Marea and Le Bernardin, which one would we be most sorry to miss? What about Jean-Georges instead of either of these (openings still available with $50 on a credit card to hold)? <<

    Le Bernardin > Jean-Georges > Marea (in my opinion)

    7 Replies
    1. re: Scott_C

      I don't think anyone should ever feel obligated to drink alcohol. It's not rude. You could be pregnant, it could be for religious reasons, you could be a recovering alcoholic, be a designated driver, have diabetes or liver issues, etc. I think it's rude for restaurant to PUSH alcohol.

      1. re: Pookipichu

        I was dining at tocqueville with my husband. I was about 5 months pregnant at the time. We ordered a half bottle for my husband since I techinically shouldn't be drinking...but i still had a few ounce...after I emptied the wine glass, our sommelier came to our table and asked if i wanted another pour. I said, I'd LOVE to but I am pregnant so I really shouldn't...she asked me again, are you sure? I said, alright, so i had a few more sips of wine and my little one is perfectly normal! =)

        1. re: Monica

          That wasn't a condemnation of those who drink while pregnant, it's about someone not feeling pressured to drink if she is avoiding alcohol while pregnant. It's about respecting people's choice and not made to feel like I have to drink alcohol to be entitled to eat somewhere fancy.

          1. re: Pookipichu

            I know..just reminded me of my incident. that's all. =)

        2. re: Pookipichu

          You're right, of course, Pookipichu! But they will probably see the longing in my eyes, lol! It will help that my son doesn't care much about drinking.
          The wine pairings almost double the cost of these high-end meals.

        3. re: Scott_C

          Thanks, Scott_C! You confirmed what I was already thinking. I'd really like to try Marea but since I got that reservation unexpectedly, I felt I should at least go there wth the intention of staying within a budget.

          I'd rather not do lunch at any really high-end place. We have a huge list of casual-to-mid places all around town.on our lunch list. Plus, we won't be dressed for those venues in the daytime. Still pondering a sushi lunch-time omekase, though, if I can narrow down the options. Masa and Kurumazushi are out, I'm afraid. But, at the moment, our lunch plans are flexible, eyes on tthe weather and the wallet, etc..

          I've had the LB reservation since 30 days before the date we'll be there. I wish it were not for a 9:30 seating, but I was shocked I even got in! I had already resolved myself to spending $500+ there (oy, vey!)

          Maybe I should consider skipping Marea since it and LB are both seafood restaurants. I mean, we'll probably eat seafood at nearly every meal, anyway. Still, it might be better to just go with one of our original plans for the Sunday we arrive: 2nd Avenue Deli (save the pastrami for Katz's on a different day), food carts, or a few mini-meals along 9th Avenue..
          However, if I could find a way to get into Per Se that night (and pay for it later), I would.

          I'll be with my adult son who isn't much of a drinker. I guess I can play along... Someone wrote that the high end places may let you pre-pay for the wine pairing over the phone to sort of soften the sticker shock of the tab (and prevent having to drag out multiple credit crads in the dining room.) That might be asking for trouble on a travel day, though. ?

          1. re: jilkat25

            Per Se also does a la carte in their lounge.

        4. 4 restaurants in 5 days are definitely doable. I don't see why not.

          My honest suggestion is, don't go to a restaurant just so that you can say I went to the restaurant. If you can't really try the best of what the restaurant has to offer just because your budget is limited, I don't see the fun of going to that particular restaurant. I rather go somewhere more intimate that still serves great food...which is possible in NYC.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Monica

            I agree with Monica, it would be silly to have some marvelous dish and not have a glass of wine with it in the interests of economy. Just hit two or three and do it up, I personally would recommend Le Bernadin over Marea and you could go to Nougatine instead of Jean Georges which is less expensive.

            1. re: bronwen

              "it would be silly to have some marvelous dish and not have a glass of wine with it."

              this is exactly why I have wines when dining out despite the fact that there is a high markup on wines...and i am a value oriented person.

              1. re: bronwen

                I agree with shelling out for at least one glass with your dinner, just to round out the experience. Also agree with Monica that you shouldn't visit a restaurant just to say that you've been there.

                However, I'd avoid Nougatine at all costs and overlook JG as well. If you've got your sights set on Marea and Le Bernardin, why not do both? The lunch menu at Marea is under $50 for two courses, so you should have some room left in your budget for wine!

                1. re: zeeEats

                  I've actually been into cocktails with restaurant dinners lately. It will no doubt be easier to pace myself with a few bar drinks, anyway. My son (30) would stop at one or two glasses of wine, or one or two cocktails, max, I've heard that dinner at Le Bernardin can run up to three hours. I'd end up drinking most of the wine by myself :)
                  (I'm kidding. I'm all about self-control (most of the time.)

                  Maybe we'll do the wine pairing with one meal. I wonder which one of those restaurants has the best pairings? And, which has the best cocktails?

                  1. re: jilkat25

                    None of your choices are really known for outstanding cocktails though I've had some good ones at Babbo and Le Bern should be solid as well.

                  2. re: zeeEats

                    What is your favorite place, zeeEats?

                2. re: Monica

                  Thanks, Monica! I wouldn't go anywhere just to say I've been there. In fact, I feel a more than a little guilty indulging in such expensive food when so many people are hurting.
                  I won't even tell many people I've been to Le Bernardin (Chowhounders understand, so I make an exception.) But, I love to taste things that are masterfully prepred and then go home and try to replicate them! If I cannot recreate something, I know I have spent my money well. .

                3. Finding an opening at Marea isn't terribly hard - certainly easier than Babbo (which is one of the toughest rezzies in town) or Le Bernardin.

                  At Marea, if you were to order the two cheapest antipasti, the two cheapest pastas as you main courses, and split one dessert, it would come to $141 after tax and tip. Add a drink and you've broken your $150 budget. It's not really the kind of place to go on a budget.

                  Now, mind you, at Babbo for around the same price you could have two antipasti, split one pasta as a mid-course, get two secondi, and split a dessert. Depending what you order, you could even possibly go 2-2-2-1 or 2-1-2-2 on the courses for that price.

                  It's not rude to skip cocktails or wine anywhere. Just say you don't drink. Or, if you like beer, many places have good beer selections much cheaper than wine by the glass.

                  If I were to skip Marea or Le Bernardin, it's hard to say - if budget is your main concern, Le Bernardin, as they're by far the most expensive of the lot - without drinks, they'll be around $330 or so after tax & tip.

                  But since you've already got Italian in Babbo on your list, Marea might be the one to drop since it's another Italian, and IMHO a step down from Babbo - they're not bad, but Babbo is simply one of the great gems of NYC dining.

                  So were it up to me, if I were to only drop one, I'd cancel Marea. Do something cheaper that night, that way you don't have to skimp and wallet-watch the other nights. Nothing takes the wind of one's sails so much as constantly worrying about the budget. It's not like you can't find a fabulous meal among our city's cheap eats options, and it might be nice to not do "fine dining" every single night.

                  Where are you coming from? Maybe there are some cuisines here that you don't have back home, a chance to check out a little ethnic eatery of some kind? Or a place that serves fun, creative food but without the high-falutin' atmosphere (and accompanying prices) of some of the above. like a Momofuku Ssam or Marc Forgione or something (not that they're cheap, just cheaper than Marea.)

                  Which is the night in question? We can look on opentable to see what's available, would make it easier to figure out a good alternate option.

                  As to replacements for Le Bern - again, knowing which night it is would help - I'm admittedly not the biggest Haute French nut, but certainly have mad respect for Ripert and Jean-George alike. JG would be a little cheaper.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: sgordon

                    I think you're right, sgordon. Marea might be a bit redundant and maybe not "the one" considering the price. I totally agree about not blowing the budget on the first night. I only booked it (on Open Table) because I was surprised it had any openings at all. I would like to stick to Midtown, Hell's Kitchen, and Theater District (broadly) that first night, I think. We could take a cab to 2nd Avenue Deli (probably the one on 33rd St.)
                    That night is Sunday, by the way, which, unfortunately, eliminates any of the top-flight sushi restaurants (even if I could afford them.) Looks like they're all closed Sundays.

                    My original idea, which my son really liked, was to go to 2nd Avenue Deli that night and only get things we won't be eating at Katz's and Russ and Daughters later that week.

                    My next idea was to head down 9th Avenue, and hit Pure Thai, Empanada Mama, maybe some tapas place, or Indian snacks, and have a few mini-meals along the way. I figure we have from about 5:00 until we just can't go another step. Since it's a travel day, I don't think I'll last very far past midnight. Seven hours is long enough to grab a small bite or two at several different restaurants, right?
                    I haven't forgotten the Halal Guys, either.
                    I made a reservation for breakfast at Norma's Monday morning but might go Weds instead if at all.
                    Lunch Tuesday will be Chelsea Market. Really looking forward to that!
                    We're staying at the big Hilton near Rockefeller Center, coming from Texas. My son lives down the street from Uchi (29 Zagat points) in Austin (I've never been) and he goes there, and to its sister, Uchi-ko, for happy hour pretty often. I live in Richardson (home of Texas Instruments) where the cuisine of the entire Asian continent (Turkey to Japan) is represented. Even so, there is nothing on the upscale level of JUNGSIK here in the Dallas 'burbs. I mean, there are many Korean BBQ places, just no 5 star $300+/pp places. I'm glad I have the reservation there, but it is so expensive compared to the types of Asian food we're used to. JUNGSIK may be the meal I'm most nervous about. I can easily see my tab there ticking up uP UP, but I'm really drawn to it. I think my son and I would both really love it. Both Momofuku Saam and Marc Fogione's new place (not the eponymous one) are kinda in that same category, semi-Asian, but I think JUNGSIK is the one unless I go broke before we get there.
                    On the opposite end price-wise, I liked Prosperity Dumpling a lot. For like $15 my daughter and I got way more food than we could eat. This time I'd like to try a really good hand-pulled noodle place-Tasty Hand-Pulled, Xi'an Famous Foods?, especially if we can watch someone make them. Not sure we'd have room for dim sum, too, but we'll be in the neighborhood.

                    I mentioned Empanada Mama above. We do not need to eat Mexican food in NYC (sorry), but I'd drop by EM for those Caribbean empanadas with figs in them.

                    1. re: jilkat25

                      "My next idea was to head down 9th Avenue, and hit Pure Thai, Empanada Mama, maybe some tapas place, or Indian snacks, and have a few mini-meals along the way. I figure we have from about 5:00 until we just can't go another step. Since it's a travel day, I don't think I'll last very far past midnight. Seven hours is long enough to grab a small bite or two at several different restaurants, right?"

                      >> Pure Thai, Danji and Ippudo are all solid choices, though I know you said Asian food is heavily represented in TX. There's also Don Antonio if you're thinking of getting pizza. I personally don't find Empanada Mama to be special, although they do deliver 24/7 fwiw.

                      "I haven't forgotten the Halal Guys, either.
                      I made a reservation for breakfast at Norma's Monday morning but might go Weds instead if at all."

                      >> Halal guys isn't open til later into the evening from what I know... Why did you decide on Norma's? Only due to proximity? I'd suggest somewhere like Sullivan St Bakery for lighter breakfast and save room for lunch/dinner.

                      "Lunch Tuesday will be Chelsea Market. Really looking forward to that!"

                      >> Chelsea Market is great for snacking and grazing. The new taco stand Los Tacos No 1 is great (may rival any taqueria you'd find in TX; trust me I'm from LA). Lobster Place, Liddabit Sweets, L'Arte del Gelato.

                      "We're staying at the big Hilton near Rockefeller Center, coming from Texas. My son lives down the street from Uchi (29 Zagat points) in Austin (I've never been) and he goes there, and to its sister, Uchi-ko, for happy hour pretty often. I live in Richardson (home of Texas Instruments) where the cuisine of the entire Asian continent (Turkey to Japan) is represented. Even so, there is nothing on the upscale level of JUNGSIK here in the Dallas 'burbs. I mean, there are many Korean BBQ places, just no 5 star $300+/pp places. I'm glad I have the reservation there, but it is so expensive compared to the types of Asian food we're used to. JUNGSIK may be the meal I'm most nervous about. I can easily see my tab there ticking up uP UP, but I'm really drawn to it. I think my son and I would both really love it. Both Momofuku Saam and Marc Fogione's new place (not the eponymous one) are kinda in that same category, semi-Asian, but I think JUNGSIK is the one unless I go broke before we get there."

                      >> Have you considered adding a more "farm to table" restaurant or Spanish into your itinerary? Seems like it would be a nice change from the other places. Say, ABC Kitchen, Tertulia, Little Owl...

                      "On the opposite end price-wise, I liked Prosperity Dumpling a lot. For like $15 my daughter and I got way more food than we could eat. This time I'd like to try a really good hand-pulled noodle place-Tasty Hand-Pulled, Xi'an Famous Foods?, especially if we can watch someone make them. Not sure we'd have room for dim sum, too, but we'll be in the neighborhood."

                      >> Skip dim sum. There is a new Xi'an Famous Foods in midtown now, though I don't think you can watch them make the noodles.

                      "I mentioned Empanada Mama above. We do not need to eat Mexican food in NYC (sorry), but I'd drop by EM for those Caribbean empanadas with figs in them."

                      >> Again, Empanada Mama isn't all that great... what about Empellon Cocina? I'm sure it's unlike most Mexican restaurants in TX.

                      1. re: zeeEats

                        The Halal Guys have multiple carts. Some are open during the day.

                         
                        1. re: zeeEats

                          Wow, zeeEats, I just looked at the menus at Empellon! They both look really good! 8 different salsas!

                          Empanada Mama is a place I would try if it were down the street from me. I like "grab n go" snacks sometimes. Most of the time if I get a craving for arepas or empanadas, I just make them at home. I just thought it would be fun to try some different fillings and things.

                        2. re: jilkat25

                          Skip Norma's. It's pricey and not really good.

                          1. re: jilkat25

                            I just wanted to point out that while the chef of Jungsik is korean, the restaurant is not particularly asian. In fact, the first time we went, my wife was speaking with the Maitre'd about the cuisine. He characterized it as more spanish influenced than asian. You will see some definite korean influences, but I don't think you will come away saying that its particularly asian.

                            If you are thinking about Ssam Bar, I would suggest swapping out Marea for Ssam Bar especially if you are going to LeB. Ssam Bar is very reasonably priced in my view and the food has never disappointed me. Probably the number 1 spot for my wife and me when we want a casual but really good dinner.

                            1. re: jilkat25

                              Marea receives a lot of adulation on these boards, I do think it's a very good restaurant but I've had clunkers (my uni pasta barely had any uni or uni flavor) and the pricing can be a little wacky. I would put LB at a notch above.

                              If you are interested in dim sum, there's nothing like Hakkasan in TX.

                          2. Do Marea for brunch. Prices were reasonable and the best items are still on the menu.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: melpy

                              Marea brunch could be a perfect solution!

                              1. re: melpy

                                melpy, I wish we had more days up there! Son wants to explore Central Park one of our days. Maybe Marea would be an idea for that day. Do they take walk-ins?

                                1. re: jilkat25

                                  They do but we've always had a reservation.

                              2. I rank them this way:

                                1. LB
                                2. Marea
                                3. JG

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  ipsedixit. I'm getting the feeling JG is not a favorite for a lot of people.

                                  1. re: jilkat25

                                    JG has it's ups and downs, It's been around for so long. I had a lovely meal there recently but a mediocre ones 3+ years ago, great meals 8+ years ago.

                                2. Agree with Monica. Some of the best dishes Marea has to offer like the Astice and Fusilli arent cheap. It would be a shame to go there and miss them. Around $200 minimum I would say without any alcohol.

                                  Jungsik was $450 for the 2 of us since we had the $155 11 courser (more like 16)

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: Ziggy41

                                    Thinking about doing Jungsik for my birthday in December...just don't know whether I should order a bottle of wine separately(I heard Jungsik has great values on bottled wines) or do wine tasting together with the tasting menu.

                                    1. re: Monica

                                      We had some excellent New Zealand beer, no wine. If its your bday you get an extra dish

                                      1. re: Monica

                                        I went to Jungsik for one of my birthday meals this year and absolutely lovvvvvvvvvved it. I didn't do the regular 10 course tasting but ordered just about enough different things and shared with the bf that it basically constituted our own tasting menu.

                                        The kitchen did send out an extra "birthday course" and extra pours of wines we tried. Definitely go to Jungsik if you can! So glad they received another Michelin star.

                                        1. re: Monica

                                          The wines did look very fairly priced, but I went with their one sake with the tasting menu and thought it all was fantastic.

                                          1. re: Monica

                                            I would say the wine list is fairly priced. No bargains. But work with the sommelier. He's very good.

                                            While the food is good, it doesn't attract the following of other high end places. While I enjoyed it, I'm in no rush to go back. Seems like a lot of others have the same feeling. I've seldom seen the dining room full and I can't imagine the economics work well with the number of tables that are empty there.

                                            Sort of reminds of of Matsugen which we loved. Good food but the place was rarely full. Even though we were regulars there, it couldn't survive the empty tables.

                                          2. re: Ziggy41

                                            I just think as a general rule, when dining out at restaurants like Marea (or Le B, or JG) it's counterproductive to have a bright-line budget limit.

                                            If one has to worry about the final tab, better just not to go.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              I dunno, I'd rather experience at least one of their great dishes rather than none at all.

                                            2. re: Ziggy41

                                              Went to Marea for brunch. $45 for primo and secondo. Got the Astice which was $9 supplement and the Fusili. Husband got the Polipo and some kind of fish. Didn't feel like drinking. Very reasonable for some of the best they have to offer.

                                              1. re: Ziggy41

                                                Ziiggy41, I wouldn't eliminate some place for being $50 above some random budget I've set for myself. I think Marea would be the place we could most likely forego alcohol. I'm not going to cancel that Sunday night rez til after I have a chance to talk to my son about it. It's one of the places I was hoping we'd get to try
                                                Jungsik sounds phenomenal! I hope I don't max out all my cards before we get there! But, yikes $$$$$!

                                              2. I just did all four of those restaurants in about a one week span, with other comparable places packed in for lunch and dinner in between. Babbo is pretty casual, and of those, only Marea made me feel overstuffed (and that may be because my friends and I ordered over half the menu to share). Thus, I also can't promise you could spend under $150 for 2 w/tip, but I can say they were really good about us sharing dishes.

                                                I didn't drink alcohol at any of those places—for some reason I wasn't even asked about wine at Marea—and I really didn't get the sense anyone cared. One of the junior sommeliers at Le Bernadin may have been put off by the fact that I didn't like any of her recommendations or the kinds of wines she was suggesting, and thus I told her I'd settle for just sparkling water, but she didn't have to come around our table much again.

                                                I thought the food at Le Bernadin was much, much more special than Marea—which was good, but only one dish, the snail appetizer, is something I would really want to taste again out of all the things we tried.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: W42

                                                  W42, Yes, I can definitely relate to "ordering half the menu!" My son and I talked about how we have to be careful to only order as much as we can actually eat! My husband and I almost always get more food than we need, but we take it home to eat for lunch the next day. Unless I can score a mini-fridge at the hotel, my son and I won't able to keep any leftovers. That could help us save a little money, but I know we'll proably just try to eat beyond our capacity.

                                                  When you say Babbo was casual, do you mean we won't have to dress up, or that the vibe was casual? Or that the staff was easy-going? I'm really looking forward to Babbo. Unless we get to Juliana's, it looks like Babbo will be the only Italian we eat. I understand the wine list has some very reasonable options on it, and the food is affordable! It's where I'm most likely to order more food than I can eat.

                                                  If we do the wine tasting anywhere, it'll probably be at Le Bernardin. I thought they paired the wines for you for a set price and based on what course you were having. I'll have to study the wine list. If the choices are left up to us, I'll want to know ahead of time what is realistic. I'll try not to piss off the junior sommelier, lol!

                                                  1. re: jilkat25

                                                    There are a lot of accounts about Babbo, but I think most would agree that you can be pretty casually dressed there and the vibe is casual too (I noticed the same about most everyone at Jungsik, though the decor is very nice in a modernish way).

                                                    Le Bernadin does have the usual wine pairings for the tasting menus, though the sommeliers should work with you for anything that you choose to eat. As for my own recent interaction with the junior sommelier: I think she instantly knew she screwed up and thus lost a customer (for the wine, not the food).

                                                2. Le Bernadin will be the meal you still talk about six months from now

                                                  One solution could be LB dinner, Marea for brunch, babbo dinner and skip junsik and swap for a momofuku or koreatown meal so that you can ease your budget for the two expensive dinners and maximize the experience

                                                  32 Replies
                                                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                    FWIW, Jungsik was one of the best dinners I had in New York in the past couple of weeks, just as good as Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernadin, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, all over the same time period. I wouldn't skip any of these places, unless you were able to go to Brooklyn Fare instead.

                                                    Jungsik was slightly better than my lunch at Momofuku Ko too (which was great on the whole, but not every course was as consistently delicious as Jungsik, though I know Ko's dinner menu is entirely different save one course).

                                                    Based on what I had last week, I would make Babbo a lunch if you can get reservations, since many of their famous courses can be had then.

                                                    1. re: W42

                                                      I don't see the warm lamb's tongue vinaigrette, tripe, mint love letters, goose liver ravioli, or sweetbreads on the Babbo lunch menu, unless the one online hasn't been updated recently?

                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                        Thanks, kathryn, Those are exactly the things I plan to order! I'm going to keep my dinner reservation at Babbo. We're probably going to the Natural History Museum that day, so we will only have had a light snack between breakfast (Norma's?) and our 7:30 rez at Babbo..
                                                        Are the mint love letters good? I've heard that some people like them, but some don't.

                                                        Our reservation at Le Bernardin is for 9:30--a weeknight. Does the service drop off that late, or do they chase you out so they can close by ? midnight?

                                                        Do you like Marea for lunch? Or should I keep my dinner rez for Sunday since I already have it, skip the deli? I was really hoping to stay flexible for lunches, and not have to be anywhere in particular.

                                                        1. re: jilkat25

                                                          I just like the mint love letters, but my husband adores them.

                                                          1. re: kathryn

                                                            kathryn, I think I would like the mint love letters! I forgot about the octopus. I will definitely order it!

                                                          2. re: jilkat25

                                                            I'm also not always the biggest fan of the mint love letters - but that said, last time I went (with a four-top) the other three people at the table loved them. It's a divisive dish. Sometimes I don't mind them, sometimes I find them a bit -too- minty. I'm partial to the goos liver ravioli (though it's VERY rich), the beef cheek ravioli, and the goat cheese tortellini. Of the long pastas, the black spaghetti and the pappardelle are probably my favorites, but it depends on my mood / what else we're ordering.

                                                            I'd add the octopus app to your list of must-haves. It's their best-selling dish, and with good reason.

                                                            The tripe I like, but it's kind of... well, it's basically a sauce containing tripe and a giant hunk of bread. It's delicious, yeah, but if you were to order it I'd just scoop the tripe out and eat it sans bread (in fact, pass on the bread service in general, wave it away so you're not even tempted) as it's the last place you want to make the "fill up on bread" mistake. I have similar reservations regarding the calamari - tasty, but there's more sauce than protein on the plate. It borders on being a tomato soup.

                                                            Also, as I think you've already figured, Babbo Dinner > Babbo Lunch.

                                                            ----

                                                            Norma's is an overpriced tourist trap. I would never personally recommend it. So many better options.

                                                            ----

                                                            Regarding Momofuku Ssam: While the name is Asian, and the restaurateur is of Asian ancestry, it's a New American / Eclectic restaurant if anything. It'd be quite easy to have a gut-busting meal at Momofuku Ssam and not eat one Asian ingredient.

                                                            ----

                                                            Xi'an Famous is great. If you want to watch them make the noodles, go to the one under the Manhattan Bridge. There's no place to sit in the restaurant, but you can take your noodles to go and sit under the bridge or something, or stand at the counter if there's space.

                                                            Not far from there is Lam Zhou Handpulled Noodles, at 144 East Broadway - a total no-frills hole-in-the-wall where the noodle maker stands at the back of the dining room thwack-thwack-thwacking the dough on a big metal table. It's great, and for a long time (until it was discovered by us gweilo) it was usually only populated by local FOB Chinese workers. Word's gotten out, though it's still far from a hipster hang. Great place to tuck into a bowl on a chilly day.

                                                            ----

                                                            In general, given your itinerary,. you've got some pretty heavy meals on your dinner list - I'd be wary of overdoing lunches / grazing. Try not to to eat anything for at least a few hours before your dinner rezzies. And I'd say try and avoid heavy carby things like knishes and giant sandwiches and whatnot - split a sandwich at Katz's or 2AD, split a bagel from R&D (or just get a little lox assortment on wax paper... who needs the bagel?)

                                                            1. re: sgordon

                                                              sgordon, I will try the mint love letters. I think we'll skip the tripe--too filling. Good advice about passing on the bread. We're not really into calamari; it's pretty common on menus down here and easy to find at the grocery store. I prefer it cajun style with remoulade or something, anyway.

                                                              I'm honestly not much of a breakfast eater.
                                                              Our hotel has a free breakfast. I heard there is a Japanese buffet breakfast in the building (or there's one nearby) but could never find a second reference to it so Idk. I love sushi for breakfast!

                                                              If we get out early enough, we'll just head to the Lower East Side. I haven't decided if we're doing LES and Chinatown in one day, or splitting them into two days. I can definitely not eat 'til we get down to that part of town, and R&D won't be far away then. In fact, if we break C'Town and LES into two days, that might give us a chance to go to Brooklyn (Juliana's) on the day we do Katz's and R&D (good idea about going easy on the bagels), and we'd be close to Lam Zhou on our Chinatown day. Even if we get to Brooklyn, we probably won't get to try the Xi'an there. I wish I had another day to just explore Brooklyn (and Queens), but Juliana's is just over the river near the ferry landing. It would also be fun to take the ferry there and back.
                                                              Jungsik is an outlier. It doesn't seem to fit into any particular category. Momofuku Ssam is hard to classify, too. They're not like the Korean BBQ's that are common down here (at least, none I'm familiar with.) There are some here (Wolfgang Puck 560, Shinsei, for example) that are somewhat Asian-fusion, but they are more Chinese focused, or sushi, and are good (and pricey) but not unique.
                                                              I know if I went to Momofuku, I'd be tempted to order everything on the menu. I definitely don't think we could do both places on the same day, and it would cost much more than grabbing a few dumplings and noodles in Chinatown. Plus, doesn't Momofuku Ssam stay crowded at all hours?
                                                              On the other hand, MS might be doable instead of Marea or 2nd Ave Deli (without sandwiches) or noshing down 9th Ave on Sunday... Too bad Jungsik is not open Sundays. That would solve all my scheduling dilemmas.
                                                              There's a Xi'an Famous Foods on 45th in Midtown which is within my Sunday night perimeter, but they're only open until 8.
                                                              I really appreciate your advice, sgordon and everyone!

                                                              1. re: jilkat25

                                                                It is very easy to walk into Momofuku Ssam especially for lunch, on Sun-Thurs, early dinner, or late dinner. Even 2 at 8pm on a Saturday was only a one hour wait last weekend. They turn their tables fairly quickly.

                                                                1. re: jilkat25

                                                                  "Momofuku Ssam is hard to classify, too. They're not like the Korean BBQ's that are common down here "

                                                                  That's because they're not a Korean BBQ! Not even remotely. They're a "New American" restaurant, but with some Asian (and Italian... and Mexican... and French... and Spanish...) touches here and there. And of the "Asian" cuisines (which is a bit like saying "European food") Korean is arguably the least represented on the menu - even the rice cakes, an ostensibly Korean dish, he gives a Sichuan twist with the namesake peppercorns. The apple kimchi barely registers as Korean, paired with bacon and maple labne.

                                                                  Really very unique cuisine. I'd eat there over Marea any day, even at the same price. (Which I suppose it could be depending what you order...) - what's nice too is, if you like beer, the have a really good well-curated selection, and beer tends to pair with their cuisine as well as (if not better than) wine. So the drinks portion of the bill tends to be cheaper.

                                                                  I've actually never had a wait longer than half an hour for a two-top, even on a weekend. Though you never know - my experience might be different than others. But they take your cell number and call you when your table's ready, so you can just hit the bar next door (Booker & Dax, super-creative cocktails) or any number of other bars within a block.

                                                                  Their lunch is good as well, but it's a very different, streamlined menu focused on the rotisserie duck, and things they can do quickly. If you were going to be in the East Village for lunch, sure it's a good option. But if you're going to be further South, down Chinatown way, I'd do something down there.

                                                                  Katz's and R&D are actually close to the part of Chinatown (the half East of Bowery, which is the less touristy half) where both Xi'an and Lam Zhou are - easy walking distance (and you'd want a walk after Katz's... a long walk...)

                                                                  If I was to choose between Xi'an and Lam Zhou... I'd probably go with Xi'an, if only because it's a style of Chinese cuisine (Western) that's quite uncommon, and likely pretty different than any you've had before.

                                                                  1. re: sgordon

                                                                    The wait at Momofuku Ssam was an hour for two last Saturday night at 8pm. We hung out at Booker & Dax, and they now text you when your table is ready. Not too bad a wait for some really excellent food.

                                                                    1. re: sgordon

                                                                      Hi, sgordon, I didn't mean to classify Jungsik as Korean BBQ. I guess it was a way to set it apart in my mind from Marea and Le Bernardin. It sounds amazing to me! I can't wait to eat there!
                                                                      If we had another day or two, I would also do Momofuku Ssam!
                                                                      I remember rolling through Chinatown last year after eating at Katz's! Arghh! I'll suggest we share a sandwich this time! Besides, I want to leave room for Xi'an or Lam Zhou (or both!)

                                                            2. re: W42

                                                              I'd agree that Jungsik is a must-visit, perhaps even more so than Le Bernardin and some of the more well-known upscale restaurants in the city.

                                                              I have found that the lunch menu at Babbo is slightly more limited and service sort of uneven too. Personally speaking, I'd put Marea above Babbo for lunch.

                                                              1. re: zeeEats

                                                                zeeEats, My birthday is the day before we come up, but really our trip is my husband's birthday gift to me and Christmas for both our son and me. Will restaurants honor a b-day that isn't the exact day you're there?
                                                                I would feel really stupid telling them it's my birthday.
                                                                Maybe if my son remembers to tell them it's my birthday, I'll remember to tell them he's allergic to scallops. (Just kidding! I put it in our reservation notes and I'll tell LB when we order our dinner or if they call to confirm our rez.)
                                                                I'm getting excited about Jungsik! It sounds so wonderful! Do you think you got as much food (more? less?) than if you had ordered the tasting menu? Was it more food than you could eat? It sounds like a lot of food either way!

                                                                1. re: jilkat25

                                                                  Jungsik would honor any special occasion celebration even if it doesn't fall on the exact date. I'm sure if someone told them ahead of time (you or your son could call days before your visit and let them know it's your birthday), the staff and kitchen would prepared something special for you. They actually printed out customized menus with my name and the occasion, which I later asked the chef to sign. It was a nice touch.

                                                                  In terms of getting enough food, I think we ended up ordering around 12-13 dishes to share between the two of us. I generally don't like to go for tasting menus as my dining buddies never have problems with sharing, so we tend to get more variety and value out of ordering individual dishes than strictly the same tasting menus. In this case I walked away very satiated but not ridiculously full, though I'm not sure if the 10 course tasting would amount to too much food as the portions would certainly be smaller.

                                                                  1. re: zeeEats

                                                                    Thanks, zeeEats! I'll try to get up the nerve to call them! That is so cool the chef signed your menu!! I read they send a special seaweed dish that is supposed to bring luck to the birthday person. I'll need it when my husband finds out how much we spent!
                                                                    Do you think we'll get out of there for under $500? With drinks? I know it's certainly a place where we'd want to try everything on the menu. Did you take home leftovers? I'm so used to having food to bring home when we go out, I'm almost unsure how to narrow it down. We'll probably do the big tasting menu.
                                                                    I won't have any place to keep leftovers at our hotel. We try to stay in condos when we travel, so even then I have somewhere to keep food.

                                                                    1. re: jilkat25

                                                                      I actually got out of there for under $400 for two people from what I recall. We were comfortably full and drank plenty (no set wine pairings) but did not take any leftovers home. I personally never take any leftovers home, and the food from Jungsik would not keep well for sure.

                                                                      The 10 course tasting menu is probably not a bad option if you'd rather experience what the kitchen puts together best. $155 isn't too bad of a deal considering their dishes rang from $20-54 or so.

                                                                      1. re: jilkat25

                                                                        $500 for two would be plenty for Jungsik as long as you stay away from the $200 wines. There is practically no chance you will have leftovers. Courses are not large. Last time we went, I think we did 6 courses. It was a decent amount of food and there were no left overs. If you're not doing the tasting and you are what I think is a normal eater, 5-6 courses should be fine. There were 4 of us and we had two bottles of wine. Bill was a bit over a grand.

                                                                        As I posted before, I think Jungsik is fine but its not in the same league as the top tier of NY dining even though they charge as much. For my money, I would go to Ssam Bar at least 3 times for each trip to Jungsik. For me, nothing I have had at Jungsik approaches the perfection of the pork bun or the bo ssam dinner.

                                                                2. re: W42

                                                                  Glad to see the high praise for Jungsik since I have an upcoming reservation.

                                                                  1. re: W42

                                                                    W42, I got the 2014 Zagat NYC guide a couple of nights ago. I just looked in it and Brooklyn Fare is listed only as Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare. For a second, I thought they had left it out! All the previous editions have it listed under B for Brooklyn.
                                                                    I don't think I can change my reservation for Babbo, but we want to leave lunches flexible so we don't have to be anywhere at any specific time.
                                                                    I wouldn't trade out Jungsik for Momofuku Ko. I'll try to make it there next time I'm up there.
                                                                    I only learned of Blue Hill a few days ago. The only thing I know is that PBO and FLOTUS ate there recently, (which is reason enough for me to go.)

                                                                  2. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                    Ttrockwood, I can't believe I got a reservation at LB! My son and I talked about how maybe we could each put it on our own credit card and "don't tell Daddy." He'll think we spent (omg!) $500 on dinner for two.
                                                                    I think if I drop one it'll be Marea, and instead have a bunch of knishes and some soup at 2nd Avenue Deli on our first night. Or grab some noodles and apps at Pure Thai and a few Empanadas for the walk back to the hotel.
                                                                    I don't think I can miss Jungsik. I don't know of any Korean like it anywhere.
                                                                    The only thing that could supercede LB, Babbo, and Jungsik is if I were to get into Masa.

                                                                    1. re: jilkat25

                                                                      I don't think getting a reservation to Le Bernardin is some huge feat. Everytime I've been there I managed to get one on the day, or a few days before. Never had an issue.

                                                                      1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                        not too difficult if you dont mind eating at 515 or 1045, maybe.

                                                                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                                          Uncle Yaboi and tex.s.toast. I got my Le Bernardin reservation one month to the date before our visit. All they had was 5pm and 9.30. I took the 930. I'm not worried about eating that late, I just hope I'll be able to get out of bed the next morning!

                                                                          1. re: jilkat25

                                                                            Weekend prime time tables still go fairly quickly. They take reservations on the first business day of the month for the entire following month. Only via phone. So it's not exactly 28/30/31 days in advance.

                                                                            Overall, though, Le Bernardin isn't like Per Se, EMP, Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, though. There are often very early or late tables available days in advance at Le Bernardin.

                                                                            1. re: kathryn

                                                                              Yes, kathryn, You're right. I called Babbo and Le Bernardin the same morning. I was surprised I even got through.

                                                                      2. re: jilkat25

                                                                        Both 15 East and Yasuda have reasonably price prix fixe lunches on weekdays.

                                                                        1. re: kathryn

                                                                          Why didn't I know about the lunch prix fixe at Yasuda? I am so there soon..at least once a week. Thanks for the tip!

                                                                          1. re: Monica

                                                                            The 2014 Zagat book says the Sushi Yasuda prix fixe is $28 and they've instituted a no-tipping policy (??!!)

                                                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                                                Much has already been said, but I'll add that I had a lovely lunch at Nougatine several weeks ago - a less formal and less expensive alternative to Jean Georges. The prix fixe lunch is a great deal at about $32.

                                                                                1. re: kathryn

                                                                                  Thanks, kathryn! Seeing that receipt iis so cool!