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Jan 2, 2000 12:21 AM

imaginative, memorable food for birthday dinner

  • m

Happy new year, everyone!

I previously posted a request for recommendations as part of a message under the heading "Jojo" which reported on my experiences at that restaurant. Without prejudice to the suggestions I've already gotten (for which I am grateful), it's probably more appropriate for me to post this request under a separate heading, and I should take the opportunity to clarify what I'm looking for:

A French, Continental, or nouvelle American restaurant (I would consider other European cuisines) in Manhattan, preferably priced at $60/person or less (including dessert but excluding wine if you like), which serves food using high-quality ingredients with unusual imagination and creativity, such that the meal would be memorable. No microscopic portions, and there must be dishes without added sugar (as my father is a diabetic. A lack of superciliousness from the staff is also a must.

Previous restaurants of this type which I have found memorable are Jojo the late, lamented Cena, and a nouvelle American restaurant on Market St. in the Castro in San Francisco (for those of you who might know it). I have not found "fusion" restaurants like Vong to be imaginative, just paler versions of Thai food (sorry to be a broken record!).

If I go a completely different way, I might go for a particularly outstanding Chinese restaurant. I've had some great meals at Grand Sichuan, but I haven't been to Sweet and Tart yet. Is it on the same level?

Thank you so much.


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  1. How about Savoy or Union Sq. Cafe? Both have very warm, helpful (not supercilious) service, take pride in using the freshest ingredients that often don't need added sugar, etc., and take pride in knowing what ingredients are in the dishes. Savoy is a bit cozier and possibly a smidge cheaper, USC maybe a smidge more reliable/consistent food-wise.
    Good luck and let us know what you do.
    P.S. Have only heard good things about Sweet 'n' Tart.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Jessica S.

      Thanks for your suggestions, Jessica.

      I had lunch at Union Square several years ago and loved it, but others have posted on this board to the effect that it has gone downhill. When did you eat there last? I'm not familiar with Savoy. Is their food similar in style to Union Square?

      1. re: Michael

        I had lunch at USC in July and it was delightful. I had a softshell crab sandwich and we split the FAB polenta with gorgonzola mascarpone and walnuts. We had some kind of special non-alcoholic beverage........can't remember much else.
        Savoy is a little more interesting, perhaps. Is their food similar? Sort of. If you have the time you may do well to stop by Savoy, check out the menu and have a drink in the lovely upstairs lounge. It's on the corner of Crosby and either Prince or Spring, I always forget. The only disappointment I had there was my fault really, I ordered a duck dish and didn't really understand what it was, it was slices of duck breast with out any skin and just wasn't what I was expecting. The atmosphere is better than USC, more intimate, off the beaten path, kind of looks like a beautiful New England (Berkshires) restaurant on the inside. Maybe do some searched for each on this site.
        Good luck.

        1. re: Jessica S.

          I'm glad to hear that USQ can still cook delightful food.

          The location of Savoy is not far from me. Come to think of it, I think I passed it by and found the menu intriguing. It's the place with the interesting modern decor on the northeast corner of Crosby and Prince, isn't it?

          I'll definitely post a report on whichever restaurant I end up going to.

          1. re: Michael

            Actually, Savoy is on the south-east corner of Prince and Crosby. It's in a fabulous little old brick building and the decor is not modern in the clean, stark sense. I'll also reiterate my recommendation somewhere below on this board to have a Manhattan there with some of their homemade sour "maraschino" cherries.


            1. re: shemmy

              Michael- Definitely try Savoy, especially when the fireplaces are working. Ask for Peter Hoffman, the chef and owner and be prepared to have a wonderful time in the Alice Waters tradition.

              1. re: Stefany B.

                If I continue seeing nothing but praise for Savoy, I'll definitely be tempted to try it. When I described its location incorrectly (northeast corner), my girlfriend said she had eaten there and it was very pleasant but the food wasn't memorable. She could have been thinking of another restaurant in the location I mentioned.

                She wants to go to Balthazar. Based on previous comments on this board, I would hesitate. It seems like the "scene" aspect of it might be bothersome. Any opinions?

                1. re: Michael

                  I've only been to Balthazar once, and did not really find the "scene" aspect to be a problem. Service was good, food excellent. That said, I don't think it is up there with Savoy -- not even in the same league.

                  1. re: Jeremy

                    Savoy is pretty good at what it does--agrestic chow--and Balthazar is very good at what it does: big-city brasserie. Both of them are swell. They couldn't be more different, though (except, of course, for their geographical proximity), and it makes little sense to compare them.

                    1. re: j gold

                      Hmm... Guess you're right, Jonathan. I just had a visceral reaction to the two being mentioned in the same post. I probably should have said something more like, "Savoy is one of my very favorite places to eat. Balthazar is not." and left it at that.

                      1. re: j gold

                        Thanks for your comments, Mr. Gold.

                        But what's "agrestic" chow?

                        1. re: Michael

                          "Agrestic" drove me to Webster's Third. It means "rustic".

                          1. re: efdee

                            They are both good, special-feeling places where the food certainly takes center-stage. I have enjoyed both. I took my sister to Balthazar for a bday lunch and it was perfect, in terms of a special meal. The food at each is different as stated in another post and the atmosphere is very different. Balthazar is more loud, bustling, etc., and a little bit tight at the tables, whereas Savoy is mellow and lots of room around the tables, the service very personal--that's why I thought of Savoy because of your diabetic twist. But I doubt you'd be unhappy at either.
                            When is the dinner?--I have never had a problem getting a res. at Savoy a couple of weeks before, but at Balthazar even a month isn't always enough. Maybe things have calmed down though. And the scene was not a problem, besides all those celebs are at Pastis now...

                            1. re: Jessica S.

                              My girlfriend and I walked past Savoy the night before last. She hadn't eaten there. The menu looked great. I called last night and was able to reserve a table for 4 downstairs for 7:15, Feb. 2 (I had wanted 7:30). It doesn't seem like it's as easy as all that to get reservations: They had a 6:45 and an 8:45 available, otherwise.

                              I want to thank all of you who posted advice to me. I think my folks will probably order the venison with chestnut sauce I saw on Savoy's menu.

                              I'll take my girlfriend to Balthazar some other time.


                              P.S. I'll let you all know how the meal turns out.