65th birthday, can I do any better than EMP?
My spouse is turning 65 in September, and I'd like to treat him to a great meal. He has a VERY Midwestern (boring) palate, and does not like noise, but does like amazing service. I'm hoping to get an EMP reservation, but thought I would ask here if I should be looking elsewhere.
EMP would probably be the best restaurant for you and your spouse. But if you don't get the EMP reservation you should consider Per Se, Bouley and Picholine.
EMP is pretty great. I find it to be the best fine-dining experience in the city. I think the service at Per Se is comparable, but the food at EMP is better.
The only place I like slightly more than EMP is Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
EMP is the place in Manhattan for my money. But given your dining partner's palate, I'm wondering if a trip to Stone Barns might not be better. The food is great at both, no doubt, but it'll probably be a little less adventurous at BHSB. The playful aspect of EMP might appeal to him, though, you never know. It could be a palate-expanding experience.
Short answer, no, you couldn't do better than EMP : ), it's just that fantastic. But if it shouldn't work out then Picholine, as suggested by ellenost, would be an excellent alternative. If the travel wasn't a concern Blue Hill @ Stone Barn as suggested by sgordon would be a wonderful experience and unlike anything you would get in the city.
It really depends on what your spouse loves to eat and what kind of environment he likes. Food is so individual, My family has been to EMP several times and if you asked us where we would eat, if we could choose any place in NY, EMP wouldn't be any of our top choice. Not because it's not an awesome restaurant of its type, but I personally don't crave that kind of food. You know your spouse best, is he the type who likes his horizons broadened on special occasions or does he like tried and true type food? I've been with both types.
Not trying to dissuade you from EMP, just offering a some thoughts. I'd also look at Gramercy Tavern or Union Square for very "approachable" food and excellent, professional but non-stuffy service.