Cafe Boulud or Upstairs at Bouley or...?
I've got two dinners in Manhattan coming up. One night is almost spare-no-expense and I've chosen Le Bernardin. I'd like the other night also to be special but a little less formal. I'm leaning toward Cafe Boulud, Upstairs at Bouley, Babbo or Telepan. Any views on which has the best food and which is the best value?
i think that upstairs at bouley would be the only one i waould stay away from. the other three choices are great and depending on what type of food your in the mood for, they cover a wide range. I think boulud would be similar to le bern in terms of overall style, just taken down a notch and telepan would be an american interpretation of the two with a bit more casual playfullness. Babbo would be the furthest from the tree and my choice if you can get in. the wait at the bar is never too bad, but prepare to stand for 30min.
Upstairs at Bouley is great and probably the best value for the food, but it is very different from the other restaurants you've mentioned--i.e. no reservations, very cramped tables. The focus is on the food at very reasonable prices rather than service and atmosphere.