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Verbena or ...

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As a birthday treat, I'm taking a good friend (who just also happens to be a food writer) to see "Fully Committed", the one-man show about madness in the City's top restaurants, which is playing at the Vineyard Theater on East 15th Street, just off Union Square. I want to include a pre- or post-theater dinner in the birthday package and had thought of Verbena, which is nearby, but don't know a lot about it. I want something special; am I on track? any other suggestions?

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  1. Bill - while Verbena is quite good, I'd recommend either Gramercy Tavern or Union Pacific instead. I found both of these to be outstanding.

    6 Replies
    1. re: adlai

      I agree that there are better options than verbena, but not at union pacific. stick to the front room at gramercy tavern -- one of the best spots in town.

      1. re: matt

        i've never been to verbena, so i can't say whether it's better than union pacific or not, but i think union pacific is terrific.

        i recently read in another post that someone had been there recently and that the place had gone downhill. was that you and if so, care to elaborate? even if it wasn't, i'd be interested to know what's going on there. the last time i went was two months ago and everything seemed fine though i think the menu could use some turnover.

        1. re: wonki

          UP is possibly one of the most expensive restaurants in NYC--I tend to spend more there than I do at much better places such as Le Bernardin--and can be maddeningly inconsistent. Some wonderful dishes occasionally issue from the kitchen, and foodworld figures I trust think the place is marvelous, but I think the chef may have another five or six years in the trenches before he figures it out--and learns to taste. The service is grand, but many of the dishes, including the cleverest, just don't work.

          1. re: Al Pastor

            union pacific is expensive, but it's a prix fixe, so as long as you stick to it and don't go nuts with the supps. (which i think is very do-able), i think the average diner won't have an outrageously expensive meal there. the wine list is overpriced, however, so i can see that adding to the pain. and for the money, i'd defnitely go with le bernardin. BUT, i don't think that's reason enough to skip this place, and if you're looking for value, the prix fixe lunch is more than worth the $29 or $33 price tag.

            as for inconsistency, i haven't really experienced this at up. i've been there more than a dozen times over the course of a year and things were pretty even.
            sure, not all the dishes work, the truffle-smothered hake, the fish stew, are a bore, but how many places are there where everything works? at least rocco has the cojones to take some risks, and i think it's a credit to him that more things work than don't, and to imply the guy's got no taste, well, i think that's a bit much.

            1. re: wonki

              I didn't say Rocco had no taste, I said he hadn't learned to taste, which is completely different. So many of the dishes there work on paper but not on the plate. And for a tab that is consistently more than $175 per person with wine, tax and tip (I like to drink wine; I have ordered the higher-end prix fixe), it is reasonable to expect an extraordinary experience. Which excepting an appetizer or three, I have not had.

            2. re: Al Pastor

              Yes Union Pacific WAY out of hand pricewise--a quick pre theater meal cost us 450 for 4! One bottle of wine!
              And it wa difficult to find something on the menu. Verbena is wonderful and cozy--try it also Patria is right there as well--I hear it's wonderful.

      2. Of course the basic question is...do you want to sleep with this friend? If so, Verbena is your place. If you just want to have dinner after, go to Les Halles and have a blood sausage.

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