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A really "good food" restaurant-La Cote Basque, Asia de Cuba, Balthazar, or Obeca-li, or?

Claire Nov 16, 1998 06:38 PM

I want a really good food restaurant in NYC for a
pre-theater dinner. We tend to like flavorful foods,
often with french or asina influence. Kind of tired of
italian food. We've eaten at alot of "famous"
restaurants in the past year and have yet to be
impressed with any. We currently have reservations for
Thanksgiving weekend at La Cote Basque, Asia de Cuba,
and Balthazar. Someone just told me that Balthazar is
for atmosphere and not the food. Anyone have any
experience with the above 3 restaurants, or any other
good recommendations? I'm tired of getting so-so
food...(tried Aureole's, Gotham Bar and Grill, Union
Square Cafe, Il Mulino, Le Bernadin, Astro Bar & Grill,
Lespinasse, Chanterelle, Nobu, Vong, Montrachet, Mesa
Grill) Another restaurant I'd like to know about is
Obeca-li, in Tribeca. Anyone? Thanks.

  1. c
    Claire Nov 18, 1998 10:04 PM

    OK, some of you seem to think that "I" am too picky
    about the food. I usually go out to dinner with 1 or
    more of a group of 7 friends who all love to eat good
    food (some of us can even cook a little as well). When
    we go out to eat and spend money, we want to at least
    get food that tastes as good or better than what we can
    prepare at home. Yes, the above restaurants may have 1
    or 2 dishes that are good, but the overall dining
    experience is incomplete. Nobu has a great house
    specialty of the miso marinated bass, but the rest is
    very ordinary or overcooked. Deserts are terrible. Il
    Mulino piles on the quantity of food, but we all left
    feeling disatisfied with the food. If I'm going to
    spend the money on a fois gras appetizer or order a
    duck breast, I expect the sauce to taste like something
    other than a basic brown sauce. Aureole, which is
    famous for its desserts, had mediocre food with a
    horrendously sweet apple dessert that no one could eat.
    Other desserts looked great but the taste didn't match
    the looks. Gotham Bar & Grill served bread/rolls that
    were so stale they were literally as hard as a rock. It
    was impossible to break the rolls apart. They would
    have been great as missiles. Food was so-so. Never
    got to the desserts because our waiter ignored us for
    40 minutes after the main course was cleared away.
    (Very good water service though... ) In summary,
    we've tried the so called "top" restaurants and spent
    the money because we want to enjoy good food. (Maybe
    it is too much to expect quality in a "top" NYC
    restaurant because they are guaranteed a cutomer flow
    from all of the reviews....)


    1. c
      Charles Troob Nov 17, 1998 08:08 PM

      It's hard to know if this is serious...if all those
      restaurants are "so-so" then maybe you just don't like
      restaurants or NY restaurants...Have you had better
      experiences in this life?

      For what it's worth, I had a memorably dreadful meal
      at La Cote Basque. The food was mediocre, and to make
      matters worse, there was a waiter's station
      immediately behind my neck, so I kept worrying about
      getting grease on my soup as they carved up the fish
      or whatever.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Charles Troob
        Claire Nov 18, 1998 09:04 PM

        Nope, it's not a joke. I and my friends did eat at all
        of the above restaurants within the past year and have
        had mediocre experiences. And yes, I've had better food
        in other restaurants, but unfortunately, not recently
        in NY. Thanks for the La Cote Basque comment...another
        friend just told me that she didn't like it either.

        1. re: Claire
          Barbara S Nov 20, 1998 01:01 PM

          Never bothered with Aureole as I've herad nothing but
          poor reports. However, I have been to Gertrude's,
          right across the street, and have enjoyed several meals
          there. It's a two story restaurant in a townhouse.
          They have two menus - a cafe menu (for lack of a better
          description - it includes pasta, lighter meals) -
          at lunch - with a more formal dining service upstairs.
          I believe at dinner the cafe menu is available
          downstairs but you can order off the main menu as well,
          while the more formal menu only is presented upstairs.
          The food is French, very fresh, well prepared.

          1. re: Barbara S
            Claire Nov 21, 1998 07:54 PM

            Thanks for the recommendation! I'll give it a try. :)

      2. s
        scott Nov 17, 1998 01:57 PM

        La Cote Basque is great but french, no other
        influences. Balthazar is much better than most scene
        place. Many items are quite good, steak frites. The
        bread is great. Asia de Cuba is horrible. The
        service is friendly, but the food is disastrous. The
        room looks nice, a la California, but the crowd is
        mostly bridge and tunnel and people trying to find the

        But, based on your initial letter, I don't think you
        will find any food that you like if you don't like

        2 Replies
        1. re: scott
          Helen Nov 18, 1998 05:36 PM

          Asia de Cuba is a scene and not a good one. Food is
          okay, but the people have too much attitude.
          Balthazar is fun. The atmosphere is really authentic,
          Food is very good, and not overpriced, and the staff
          is friendly and professional.

          1. re: scott
            Claire Nov 18, 1998 09:10 PM

            Sorry, but I find Le Bernadin unimpressive. Sure, they
            give lots of dessert extras and the setting is nice,
            but the fish wasn't anything that special (the skate
            was even overcooked), and the desserts were definitely
            not a strong point (the caramel dessert was a sorry
            shadow of what it once was...). But thanks for the
            comments on the other restaurants. :)

          2. s
            Steven Shaw Nov 16, 1998 08:07 PM

            Well, if you're saying that you were not impressed by
            Il Mulino, Le Bernadin, Lespinasse or Nobu, you're in
            trouble. Those are four of the best restaurants New
            York--and therefore America--has to offer. They are
            certainly far superior to La Cote Basque, Asia de
            Cuba, and Balthazar, so don't expect to find the
            solution to your problem at any of those three. La
            Cote Basque is classic French--no Asian influences or
            anything like that. I agree with the person who told
            you that the food at Balthazar is nothing special. I
            haven't been to Asia de Cuba, but it strikes me as a
            scene place (someone else, who has been there, will
            likely comment).

            I might suggest Gramercy Tavern (because it is one of
            my favorite restaurants) or Union Pacific (for its
            interesting multi-ethnic fusion cuisine) but I get the
            feeling you will not be happy anywhere. Perhaps part
            of the problem is that you're trying to cram these
            meals into a pre-theater time slot. Serious fine
            dining is difficult to accomplish in 90 minutes.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Steven Shaw
              joelt Nov 17, 1998 10:41 AM

              you're right about asia de cuba -- it is a scene. but
              the food is surprisingly good. they have the best
              mashed potatoes i've ever eaten(and i've eaten a lot) -
              - creamy, buttery and loaded with scallions and

              1. re: joelt
                Steven Shaw Nov 17, 1998 11:50 AM

                Damn, that sounds good.

                1. re: Steven Shaw
                  jonathan gold Nov 17, 1998 01:47 PM

                  ...and while we're at it, Balthazar is a really
                  good place to go after the show. The ``scene''
                  tends to be a little less obnoxious after 11,
                  the room is truly beautiful and the wine list--
                  particularly the Alsatians and the ``country''
                  French wines--is great. Plus, it has the
                  best moules frites in New York, which is
                  no small thing.

              2. re: Steven Shaw
                Claire Nov 18, 1998 09:19 PM

                I've eaten at the above restaurants pre-theater,
                post-theater, or just for a "night out". I think that
                when restaurants become "famous", they often slack off
                on the quality and focus on quantity. They seem to
                expect that you will like the food just because you
                should. I had one of the worst meals I have ever had at
                the Dallas restaurant The Mansion at Turtle Creek-some
                of the food was obviously pre-cooked, and the rest
                severly overcooked, with a staff that was only
                interested in fast service, but not with the quality of

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