I honestly have no idea how this compares to other *** restaurants in NYC or anywhere else. I can say I've had equally good food in more casual places, but the overall experience here is still on another level.
I'm not sure if my inner cheapskate could handle the full tasting-menu experience, but the lunch prix fixe was excellent. Top-notch ingredients, thoughtful combinations, perfect preparation, and some surprisingly rustic touches -- this is not trendy "molecular" cooking complete with pretentiously artistic trompe-l'oeil presentations. It's a bit more old-school than that, focusing on relatively simple recipes that highlight great ingredients and well-balanced, interesting combinations of flavours. Yet it is not old-fashioned either. All things considered, a very satisfying meal. (FWIW: Gulf shrimp w/ saffron sauce, sea bass with wild mushrooms & Banyls-based sauce [more of a scrumptious broth], snapper carpaccio w/ daikon, pork confit; plus amuses and petits fours, which do not involve a separate charge. Add drinks, coffee, tax and tip and the $38/person lunch special comes to around $80/person.)
Service is very attentive, friendly, well-informed and elegant, as one expects from this kind of establishment.
Some minor quibbles (not serious enough to downgrade the overall review):
- was surprised to see a piece of quite dirty-looking silverware make it as far as our table, but to their credit simply moving it to the middle of the table led to swift replacement.
- the alcove table seems cozy and romantic, but I found it a little strange to sit beside rather than facing my companion. I'm still unsure whether this is a "special" table in a good sense, or Siberia.
- the dress code, even the relaxed midday version, does not seem to be enforced. So why advertise it? Dunno.