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Need advice on New York restaurant for 40th birthday

Need advice on New York restaurant for 40th birthday

Old Mar 25th, 2009, 01:21 PM
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Need advice on New York restaurant for 40th birthday

My husband and I will be visiting New York city in September when I will turn the big 40! We are staying at The Beacon on the Upper West side and would like to go somewhere special for a birthday dinner. We'd like to spend around 100 dollars or so per person, we love good red wine, sensational steak and seafood or Italian food (mostly me). I love French too, but my husband isn't so keen on excessively fussy food. Special could mean somewhere with a great view or lots of atmosphere or history - we've not been to New York before, hence the appeal for advice. We'd like to dress up but not too formal. I guess I just want it to be something to remember. We might also see a show earlier in the day but a great meal, perhaps with a few cocktails to start with, would be great. Hope you can help. Be gentle, I've tried not be to too vague.
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Old Mar 25th, 2009, 01:47 PM
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First, you were not too vague!!! There are so many choices and you will get many suggestions on this site. One that comes to mind to me is Gotham Bar and Grill - great food and an equally great vibe. I think it is a quintessential NY restaurant. Eleven Madison is another great choice. Babbo and Il Buco have great food, but I don't know if they are right for a very first visit and a big celebration. Are you looking for lively or sedate and romantic?
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Old Mar 25th, 2009, 02:00 PM
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Thanks for your response Centralparkgirl. We'd love somewhere lively. It's just the two of us so we'd like to be somewhere that has a great atmosphere.
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Old Mar 25th, 2009, 02:16 PM
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Convivio is one of the very best Italian spots in the city & is a steal at $59 for a four course dinner. Simply amazing stuff here, including their seafood pastas etc.

For special occasions, Gramercy Tavern is always at the top of my list. It has refined American (unpretentious) hospitality to an art. Food is amazing too... the overall experience including the light smell of wood burning & an abundance of produce by the kitchen makes you feel like you're in an upscale countryside restaurant rather than in the din of Manhattan. Maybe a little more than $100 pp with drinks.
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Old Mar 25th, 2009, 02:26 PM
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Thanks MDN. I've had a look on the Gramercy Tavern website and it looks great. I'll also do a search on Convivio. Thanks so much for all the help. It is much appreciated. We're so excited about our trip.
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Old Mar 25th, 2009, 06:22 PM
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I love Gramercy Tavern and was there last month for our anniversary, but it is not 'lively' imo. Gotham has a great spirit, lively bar and delicious food and presentation.

I haven't been to Convivio yet - mdn, what's the atmosphere like?
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Old Mar 25th, 2009, 07:37 PM
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Skip 11 Madison Park. It does not have a lively atmosphere and I was not impressed with our meal. I know people love it and rave about it, but i will never go back there and would never recommend it.

gotham bar and grill remains one of my favorite nyc restaurants, i'm not into italian, but i think there's a new place that the NYT reviewed in the last few months that is all the rage.
sorry, can't remember the name
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Old Mar 25th, 2009, 07:42 PM
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We also enjoyed Gotham better than Gramercy and Union Square.
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Old Mar 25th, 2009, 09:02 PM
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uklisa,

One thing to keep in mind about "special" NYC restaurants is that, even in tough economic times, they can book up and you could be shut out.

Most of the places mentioned here thus far open their reservation books about a month in advance, but each restaurant interprets that policy differently. Some mean one month to the day; others, four weeks; one means the first day of the month prior to dining, e.g., dining in September means booking on August 1. Believe it or not, it's also wise to call in advance just to find out what time of day to call on the day the book does open. Be prepared for busy signals at popular places, but be patient and persistent.

A very valuable resource I use regularly is an online reservation service called OpenTable, www.opentable.com. It is a real-time electronic connection directly to restaurants' reservation books.

Since you're staying on the Upper West Side, you might want to consider Picholine, Terrance Brennan's flagship. A very elegant pair of dining rooms in the Lincoln Center area. Here's a preview where you can have a look at the menu: www.picholinenyc.com/
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Old Mar 25th, 2009, 11:49 PM
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Thanks everyone for the invaluable information, especially the advice about booking bspielman. We're looking now so we can plan in advance and make a reservation. It's tough, everywhere looks fabulous, so your comments are a huge help.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 03:46 AM
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I've not found the atmosphere at Convivio to be staid or dull.. but it is an upscale restaurant so you're not going to have a whirl of activity around you. Tables are well spaced apart so if you want conversations to flow across tables, that will not happen... at some dinners that's good at others not.

All these restaurants will be lively, very full and very friendly... in other words, it'll be a refined but friendly atmosphere unlike some business dinner spots or high-end French-accented spots ;-)
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 06:04 AM
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I'm not exactly sure what is meant by "unlike some ... high-end French-accented spots." I don't think it's fair to lump all "French-accented spots" together.

We had dinner last week at Daniel, one of NYC's highest-end French spots. A friend had given us a holiday gift of a gift certificate at any of Daniel Boulud's places. We took advantage of a 15th anniversary $98 three-course prix-fixe menu, a price that included wine pairings. It was available from 5:30 to 6:30 Mondays through Thursdays, only through March.

Despite its stellar reputation (four stars in the New York Times, one of only five such places), I wouldn't characterize the reception, ambiance and, particularly, the service as "unfriendly." As is the case in most restaurants of this caliber, I believe the staff's reaction to the diner is shaped by the diner's reaction to the place. If one makes the effort to engage, even the haughtiest French waiter will warm to the occasion. (That's the case even in Paris, by the way.)

I recall, years ago, an article by Ruth Reichl, then food critic for the Times and now editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. In her three-star review of the late, lamented Les Celebrites in the Essex House hotel, she commented that she felt like a little girl there, intimidated by the staff. We used to dine there maybe every several months or so in a fairly large group post-Met Opera matinee, and the staff had grown to know us. I wrote to Ruth, reminding her that she was an adult, and that, as an adult, she could have and should have taken control of her dining experience instead of allowing the restaurant's staff to do so. When I showed my letter to our regular captain, he was all smiles, and he asked for a copy to show to Christian Delouvrier, the chef at the time (and who went on to preside over the four-star Lespinasse, also, alas, now gone).

My only point in mentioning this experience is that dining in a top-flight restaurant is, to a great extent, what you, yourself, make of it.

For example, in virtually every restaurant, high-end or low-, we dine in, even if we're concert-bound and need to leave by a specific time, we ask that the courses not be served hurriedly; that is, please don't serve the entree simultaneously as the appetizer plates are removed. Thus, we control the pace of dinner; the kitchen doesn't. No restaurant takes umbrage at this; often, the captain or waiter actually appreciates our desire for a not-so-rushed experience.

Just my opinion.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 07:20 AM
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That was a jab meant to play on the stereotype. I'll add Le Bernardin to that list also (haute French without attitude). But one can't deny the fact that there are several expensive French restaurants that fail to make the customer comfortable and there are others guilty of treating regulars well but newbies as outcasts. And making any customer comfortable, in a nutshell, is what places like Gramercy, Gotham, even Daniel have raised to an art form.
I do not agree that taking control of your meal will ensure a satisfactory experience. In fact, if I have to worry about such things (putting in an effort to have a haughty monsieur warm to the occasion), it's already going downhill. Perhaps that's what Ms. Reichl had meant.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 07:24 AM
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I meant Bernardin in addition to Daniel and some others that are indeed very good all around.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 08:47 AM
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DW thinks Cafe des Artistes is one of the most romantic restaurants in the city. I really like it too. IMO it is a great place for anniversaries and birthdays.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 08:55 AM
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I second on Le Bernardin. I am not sure what you mean by lively. It is one of the only 4 restaurants with three Michelin stars in New York City. It specializes in seafood. it is French, but the service is just top notch, the staff foes beyond to make the patrons feel comfortable. I am from California and I celebrated my 50th birthday last year. We had pre-theatre and then went to see Boeing-Boeing with Christina Baransky, it was just a perfect evening. We used opentable.com to make a reservation and they had the menu and a NY Zagat guide ready for each of us. I have not been to Daniel, but my sister who lives in NY, enjoys more Le Bernardin.

I also went to Momofuku Noodle Bar in East Village for lunch, and definitely a lively place, owned by David Chang, James Beard Foundation award chef. He has two others in the Village. Maybe you should check it and see if you would like to try.

Happy Birthday !!!!
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 10:24 AM
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There are many good suggestions here. To those I will add Nougatine, the casual restaurant attached to Jean Georges. The food is wonderful and the atmosphere is very lively.
It is on the West Side so would be convenient to your hotel. The food is not fussy.

http://www.jean-georges.com/
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 10:42 AM
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I consider Le Bernardin to be New York's number 1 restaurant on all counts. Sometimes I think the staff there has eyes on the backs of their collective heads--that's how responsive they are to even the slightest movement indicating that something is needed. When I make the reservation there and am thus perceived as the "host," some staffer always seems to be looking my way, so that a mere nod is all that's needed to elicit a response. They're amazing. And, I'm not even taking into account Eric Ripert's food.

I'd second the recommendation of Nougatine but for the fact that a friend, whose opinions I trust, had a recent negative experience there. Jean Georges itself has been terrific every time we've visited.

Cafe des Artistes is, indeed, a very romantic place, not least because of its famous murals. However, it's seen better days, and the service, while quite professional isn't anywhere near the level of some of the three- and four-star places mentioned here already.
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Old Mar 26th, 2009, 11:00 AM
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Thanks so much everyone. You've given us loads to think about. I'm tempted to have an extended birthday so we can try several of these great restaurants.
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