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Top 3 Tasting Menus or A La Carte


ulterior epicure
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If it's a choice between Babbo and Del Posto, FWIW, I'd go with Babbo all the way. Unless you really, really can't stand rock music. Babbo's cuisine, IMX, is more thoroughly respectful of ingredients, consistent, wholeheartedly delicious, and much, much better value for money than Del Posto. I find the service perfectly in line with a fine dining experience. The room certainly is more packed and louder than Del Posto's (although, as with many American restaurants, this often is simply a matter of who's sitting near you!), but it's by no means uncomfortable IMX.

[EDIT: A la carte or maybe pasta tasting for Babbo: Pasta tasting for an untraditional blowout, a la carte to at least pay lip service to traditional Italian meal distribution and pacing. Again, you miss out on some of the best stuff if you do the regular tasting.]

Edited by Mayur (log)
Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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As for ordering style:

The Modern: I'd be split between a la carte and seasonal (though not chef's) tasting, having done both and had a fabulous meal each way... The chef's tasting I'd skip, since it features one or two of the less exciting dishes on the menu and is somewhat restrictive (usually bypassing the best desserts, especially).

Thanks, Mayur, very helpful. Which "chef's tasting courses," in particular, are "less exciting?"

u.e.

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I'll add, I think that at EMP the seasonal tasting menu is sort of obviously the way to go. It's beautifully constructed and usually has both some of the most attractive dishes from the main menu and some more interesting dishes that aren't otherwise available.

Picholine is a harder call. But there's currently something available called the "Picholine classics" tasting menu that has a great selection of dishes, at least one of which (and one of the best of which) isn't available on the main menu (the Sea Urchin Panna Cotta). (I'm sure you'll never go here, anyway, since this is a sort of special idiosyncratic favorite of my own rather than a consensus favorite. But I think it's better than, say, Country.) (The game tasting menu -- no longer available -- was certainly one of the best dining experiences I had last year.)

The tasting menu at Atelier Robuchon is obviously controversial. To me, it's almost sort of a bargain. Because -- at least when I ate there, during the soft opening -- it had one or two dishes that were outrageously expensive dishes from the a la carte menu, so that the total cost of the tasting menu was fairly significantly less than the total cost of all the items thereon would have been if ordered separately. I think that, after the initial burst of intense interest here, Atelier Robuchon has received less attention than it's due. I really think it's one of the very best dining experiences in the City right now.

PS -- Babbo over Del Posto for the exact reasons Mayur stated, as well as those Daisy stated.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Thanks, Mayur, very helpful.  Which "chef's tasting courses," in particular, are "less exciting?"

u.e.

All *strongly* IMO/IMX, of course, and with the clear assumption that we're talking opportunity cost rather than anything being substandard in the general sense: The foie gras terrine and the cod were IMX not up to some of their counterparts on the a la carte menu. Nor was the chocolate tart even *close* to the best of the desserts (my vote going to the lemon napoleon followed by the fig tart, although the dacquoise made a strong showing). (Part of my dissatisfaction with the chocolate tart may be that it paled by comparison with a similar offering at Atelier, Mr. Kreuther's last restaurant.)

[EDIT: &*(&&@# eGullet nested quotes!]

Edited by Mayur (log)
Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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Sneakeater:

of course, when you had the Atelier tasting menu it was "merely" $160. It is now $195. considering that the 25 course Tour at Alinea is $175 and that after tax and tip $195 is more than Per Se, I just can't see how a tasting menu at Atelier is justified.

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excluding those two, you should probably consider:

1.  Masa.  I have not been.  But it's rep certainly precedes it.

2.  hmmm....  WD-50.  tasting menu.

3.  maybe EMP?  maybe Esca?  maybe LB or Daniel?

Definitely would second Masa and WD-50, both of which I can personally attest to. Also concur with EMP, Le Bernardin and Daniel. Bouley is probably also worth including on the list, along with the newly revived menu at Grammercy Tavern. However, I've had enough truly mediocre meals at Esca to say it's definitely not in the same league. It's hit and miss. Babbo is safer if you want to take a shot at the Batali empire.

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I know that you have been to WD-50 and were less than excited as you are with Alinea. One possibility is to give WD-50 a second chance, however, I will add three restaurants that I haven't yet been to that intrigue me:

Degustation

Devi

Aquavit.

Of the ones mentioned, the one I most wish to try that I have yet to is L'Atelier, although I will likely try it in Vegas before I do it in NYC. Masa is very high on my to-do list, though the cost is a little daunting.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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Some random thoughts:

For me, the best tasting menu in town, hands down, is at Eleven Madison Park. On a night when they are firing on all cylinders, it can rival Per Se. Not as consistent as PS, not as 'technical' but more soulful and creative in a sense. My top pick.

Second would be l'Atelier Robuchon. Absolutely wonderful.

Masa--I can take it or leave it. Enjoyed it as theater with Chef right there performing, but no one I know who has been there--myself included--has gone back. Not because it wasn't wonderful, it just wasn't so unique or whatever that we wanted to repeat it.

Del Posto--If you love Las Vegas, you'll love Del Posto. Not a 'serious' restaurant IMHO...more for the LV/tourist/B&T crowd. If you have a connection and they 'know' you, it's perhaps a different story.

Babbo--fun, and a real NY scene. A bit cramped; great pastas, the main courses don't rise to the level of the pasta course IMHO.

Daniel is good but certainly not cutting-edge. They have their regulars from the UES to please. Much more creative food at EMP. Unless Daniel is personally cooking for you; then its a whole different story.

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I know that you have been to WD-50 and were less than excited as you are with Alinea. One possibility is to give WD-50 a second chance...

Hey doc! Good to see you here! Yes, you are correct on my sentiments re: WD~50. However, don't think that I've excluded a possible re-trial.

As for Aquavit, it has been on my list for way too long, and I fear that I've let that (prime) window of opportinity slip by me... :sad:

Of the ones mentioned, the one I most wish to try that I have yet to is L'Atelier, although I will likely try it in Vegas before I do it in NYC. Masa is very high on my to-do list, though the cost is a little daunting.

I'm actually quite surprised how strong of a showing L'Atelier JR is making on this thread. Not to discount all the great input from other eGulleters, I'm still not sure (and nobody may be at this point) how much of the restaurant's "glow" is a due to the "new kid on the block" factor - the new darling and debutante of NY restaurant society, and how much is actually attributable to the restaurant's true value as a continued contributor to the NY dining scene. Only time will tell.

I have to say that I'm quite surprised, and a little more than disappointed that Gordon Ramsey didn't deliver the dazzling entre that I had expected. I had thought it would unseat L'A JR for at least a little while... it seems that it's only boosted L'A JR.

Actually, now that DutchMuse and others have brought up EMP, it was on my list, but I had all but ruled it out on this upcoming trip in light of the enthusiasm for L'A JR, Bouley, and The Modern.

[edited: for egregious grammatical errors and to add a few thoughts]

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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EMP should go back on your list.

To quote Sneakeater, "Great Leaping Gonzagas" ( :laugh: ) - if I could have the "Gourmande" Tasting Menu posted on the EMP website, it'd be back on my list... alas, I doubt that the menu will stay the same for that long...

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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1. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon -- My favorite restaurant in the city, hands down. Over the course of 10 or so visits, I've had the chance to sample it in different capacities: a 4 hour, 19-course tasting with a friend; a simple, 3-course dinner alone; stopping in for desserts and coffee with a group; the regular tasting menu; ordering a la carte; etc etc. Over the course of a few of their seasonal menu iterations, I've had basically every dish the restaurant has offered thus far. The reason I keep going back: consistency. From the food, to the service, to the atmosphere, I know exactly what to expect every single time. There is no pretense whatsoever. Great food. Great service. No BS. Oh, and a la carte all the way. Much more flexibility that way, and overall I find it's a better deal. And sitting at the counter is definitely the way to go. The regular seats are quite comfortable, but sitting at the counter you get the real L'Atelier experience. Wow, I'll move on now. I really tend to ramble about this place... :cool:

2. Masa -- While I think there is definitely some validity to DutchMuse's point that nobody he knows who has been there has gone back (I haven't either), Masa is most definitely an experience, and one I think is worth the outrageously high price tag. At least once. I know you've enjoyed Yasuda in the past. I think you'd enjoy Masa very much.

3. Eleven Madison Park -- I've not yet been, but given your criteria (and my knowledge of where you've been in NYC already), that would undoubtedly be my choice. I can hardly think of another restaurant about which I've read such glowing reviews over the past several months. Actually, I can't think of any. I am really looking forward to trying this place in the very near future.

Other thoughts...

Per Se: Would undoubtedly have been in my top 3, but I know you've been already. Can't say that I blame you, though. The thrill of trying a new place is a wonderful thing!

Alain Ducasse: Would have likely been in my top 3 as well, but is no longer open as you know. I still think about that foie gras and tapioca ravioli. And the souffle. Mmm.

Daniel: Might have suggested this as well, as I found the setting to be very comfortable, and the service very friendly. But I know you've been, and I seem to remember you feeling like you'd been "manhandled", so it sounds as if you and I may have had very different experiences! :laugh:

Gordon Ramsay: Granted, I've only been once. But we put ourselves completely at the disposal of the chefs in the kitchen, letting them create an off-the-menu tasting for us to show a wider range of their offerings. So we ended up with around 12 to 13 courses. While many of the high points of the meal were quite high (phenomenal souffle, for example), there were too many dishes that were merely good. A few dishes were far too one-dimensional, lacking contrast, and overall I felt they often struggled to acheive the right flavor balance (we thought many courses skewed too sweet or too salty). Can't really say I'd recommend this over the other places you seem to be considering.

The Modern: I've not yet been to the main dining room (it's on the never-ending "list"), but I was not as impressed with the Bar Room as many other eG'ers seem to have been. Perhaps I deserve to give the place a second shot.

Del Posto vs Babbo: Personally, I'd do Babbo. But, as I'm sure you know, they are two VERY different restaurants. Hardly even comparable, save for the fact that their pastas are often the most lauded dishes. Like slkinsey, I've not been disappointed by the secondi at Babbo. Yes, some of the pastas are stellar, but the secondi are no slouches. The osso buco in particular was outstanding, I thought. Also, I would not do the pasta tasting menu, personally. I generally find the choices that comprise that menu to be a bit boring and not necessarily representative of the flashes of brilliance that other choices on the pasta menu may contain. The pasta specials (I walked by and saw one with uni last week. mmm..) are often nice. Oh, and if you end up going to Del Posto, whatever you do, make sure you try the 6-year aged parmigiano-reggiano. Absolutely outstanding.

Others: Picholine, Cru, Aquavit, Country -- places I've not yet been, but have heard enough good things about to be quite excited for whenever I finally do go.

Sorry for the long post, U.E., but hopefully this is helps!

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tupac, I really need your bank and your friends.

Back onto topic, I've had a couple "gourmand" tasting menus at EMP and found each of them exceptional, so don't worry about changes between weeks or seasons.

If you're like me and are into mini-meals between your big ones, places like Degustation, Room 4 Dessert, pastry at Varietal, and perhaps Sam Mason's soon-to-open Tailor will be well suited toward early or late evening stops. All those locations will be evocative of what's interesting and new in New York. And, they're not terribly expensive.

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Chalk me up as a dissenter on EMP (although, when everyone else is so convinced, I must just have had bad experiences). It was good; very good. The mains were pretty darn close to perfect. But my overall experience, at least, has been a clear head below JG, Per Se, or Daniel. Some of the food, IMHO, is just kinda boring. (Actually, I feel this way about some of the dishes at Per Se too [and cooking from the FL cookbook for that matter]; Keller's techniques of refinement can result in bland food.) The Four Story Hill poularde is worth the trip alone. But has a meal there ever been the equivalent of what I've had at JG (or at any of my favorite "top-tier" restaurants in their prime)? Sadly, no.

(Also, the room sucks. Sorry, but I feel that it's far too cavernous and uncomfortable for the level of cuisine being flogged.)

Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"
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If it's a choice between Babbo and Del Posto, FWIW, I'd go with Babbo all the way. Unless you really, really can't stand rock music.  Babbo's cuisine, IMX, is more thoroughly respectful of ingredients, consistent, wholeheartedly delicious, and much, much better value for money than Del Posto. I find the service perfectly in line with a fine dining experience. The room certainly is more packed and louder than Del Posto's (although, as with many American restaurants, this often is simply a matter of who's sitting near you!), but it's by no means uncomfortable IMX.

[EDIT: A la carte or maybe pasta tasting for Babbo: Pasta tasting for an untraditional blowout, a la carte to at least pay lip service to traditional Italian meal distribution and pacing. Again, you miss out on some of the best stuff if you do the regular tasting.]

Amen.

When it comes to NYC "top picks", most of us are biased against Babbo due to the ridiculous lengths one must go to in securing a reservation. Trust me, you won't get one. But if you're willing to go early or late to try and snag a table in the bar area as a walk in, you'd be hard pressed to find a more satisfying meal in NYC (and the price point for that level of food and wine is a relative bargain). It's not ADNY, Masa, Jean-Georges, Bouley, Atelier or Daniel in terms of service or atmosphere, but IMHOP you haven't really experienced the best NYC has to offer if you haven't tried Babbo once.

Edited by Felonius (log)
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1. Robuchon

the small plates here are as good as any food i have had anywhere in the world

2. JG

3. Daniel, Bouley

I have not been to Daniel in years, the tasting menu i had here a few weeks a go

was excellent

Bouleys tasting menu is excellent, but if Bouley is in the house and you ask him to cook for you its outstanding

the other restaurants mentioned above(excluding Per Se) as good as they might be are not in the same league

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Thanks to all for your input! Especially, to Aaron and others who have given me a lot of detailed pros and cons. Again, as I stated up post, although I've had a blessed eating life, my top-echelon dining experiences have been capped by my geographic location. I'm hoping to fine-tune things this year a bit over a series of trips I have planned. (Fingers crossed that they all work out :cool:)

@ Felonius:

...most of  us are biased against Babbo due to the ridiculous lengths one must go to in securing a reservation.  Trust me, you won't get one.
re: Babbo.  I won't have a problem securing reservations....
IMHOP you haven't really experienced the best NYC has to offer if you haven't tried Babbo once.

And, this is why Babbo is on my shortlist.

@ EMP: I have heard the same, Mayur, about the dining room. However, unless the music is garishly loud or just downright horrible or the service is tremendously rude or otherwise deficient, the food is usually my main concern.

@ Daniel: For the purpose of this discussion, I will tell you that Daniel is nowhere near my shortlist... for now. I have been and have no interest in returning so soon. Other fish to fry.

@ Le Bernardin: Ditto to Daniel... and no pun intended on the fish fry comment. :smile:

@ Masa: How much is the menu at current market? And, yes, Aaron, I loved Yasuda so much on my two previous visits that I think I would very much enjoy Masa. In fact, I enjoyed Yasuda so much that I'd tempted for a third visit, but like Daniel and LB, I need to move on to unexperienced restaurants.

@ Picholine: While I didn't completely rule out Picholine in my first round of considerations, I don't think it's the type of experience I'm looking for. I have been once (not to eat) to the restaurant on business. I am most curious about the (IIRC) new lavendar colour scheme.

@ per se: Aaron, likewise. I concur.

@ Gilt: What has happened to the hype and excitement in the wake(?) of Lee's take-over?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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If I had to choose one tasting menu that says NYC (plus a terrfic block in an equally terrific neighborhood), therefore eliminating all the places that are copies, it would be Annisa. Babbo's pasta menu would be a close second with EMP right behind. WD50 gets an honorable mention as the most unique tasting of all the TMs, but it appeals to a certain taste and it was one of my top three meals of 2006.

Of course (IMO) the best tasting menu in the NYC metro area resides in Blue Hill at Stone Farms (Tarrytown).

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

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@ EMP: I have heard the same, Mayur, about the dining room.  However, unless the music is garishly loud or just downright horrible or the service is tremendously rude or otherwise deficient, the food is usually my main concern.

My wife and I just had her birthday dinner at EMP last week (leaps and bounds better than our previous visit a few years ago) and were really incredibly impressed. As for the room, there *is* a alcove with a half dozen or so tables and banquettes that looks out on the main room (and looks out those glorious windows to Madison Park). That's where we were seated, and I thought it made the evening that much more special. You might request being seated there if it makes your final list. And I'd recommend that it should.

Oh, and yeah, the gourmand menu is absolutely the way to go.

Christopher

Edited by plattetude (log)
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I'm afraid I've opened up my own Pandora's box with this thread. Options can be great, when you're looking for a new job, or applying to colleges... but with 3 open dinners in a town as great as NYC... :sad::laugh:

If I had to choose one tasting menu that says NYC (plus a terrfic block in an equally terrific neighborhood), therefore eliminating all the places that are copies, it would be Annisa.

Annisa is one that has been on my "long list" for quite some time. It has slowly inched up, however, in the past year. What, rich, is so particularly "NYC" about its tasting menu?

UE, next time you come to NY please put Cru on your list . . . it was one of the best meals I had last year, and it was a good year.

Ahhh, yes, I have a good chef-friend who just returned from NYC not too long ago and raved about Cru. Of course, he was VIP'ed so I took his glowing review with measure...

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Pandora's Box, indeed, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Anissa is a good restaurant, but nowhere near the level of NYC's higher-end locations. What makes EMP so good is that it's relatively moderately priced but truly competes among the very best in the city. You also get more courses than most other restaurants, making it an even better value.

No one cares about Gilt anymore.

I was at Cru a while ago, but I also feel that it's not operating at the level of the very best.

If you've only got three meals, it's clear that you want meals that are quintessentially NY or awesome, preferably both. Although Babbo perhaps lags slightly in the latter criteria, it is very NY. Although I haven't been, there's supposedly nothing like Masa in NY but the quality of food is totally awesome. The last time I checked (late Dec./early Jan.) the starting price was $400 plus wine, tax, tip, making it too expensive for me.

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EMP should go back on your list.

To quote Sneakeater, "Great Leaping Gonzagas" ( :laugh: ) - if I could have the "Gourmande" Tasting Menu posted on the EMP website, it'd be back on my list... alas, I doubt that the menu will stay the same for that long...

u.e.

I don't want to sound like too much of a partisan for this place (or to build expectations to a point where it frankly won't live up to them), but I'd like to echo Bryan in saying that I've never had a tasting menu here that wasn't extremely appealing and well-put-together. They've been pretty consistent in that respect.

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