Upper East Side suggestions
Need a rec between 72nd and 92nd for this coming Thursday. I have been to Sfoglia and found the food to be good, but the attitude incredibly snooty. Is this an Upper East Side affliction?
Cuisine nor money a major issue, except no Sushi, even by Gari!
I live near Union Square and the only reason I go to the Upper East Side is to eat at Etats-Unis (81st between 2nd & 3rd Avenues). Zagat gives it a 25 food rating and Michelin gives it one star. While hardly underated anymore, I still think to a large extent it's an undiscovered gem. The food is New American and market fresh (i.e., menu changes frequently). The wine list is reasonably priced and the restaurant charges only $10 to bring your own instead. The date pudding is my favorite dessert in Manhattan (trust me, it tastes better than it sounds).
The one time we ate at Etats-Unis, we were thorougly underwhelmed re: the food. I had read rave upon rave, so it was one of those cases of very high expectations not being met. However, that was a good number of years ago, and as I understand it, the place has changed hands since then, so maybe things are different now? The other thing I disliked about E-U was that the seating was *very* close and *very* uncomfortable.
Since you say budget is not an issue... My first choice in that UES neighborhood is Cafe Boulud. It's on 76th St., b/t 5th & Madison (closer to Madison). Andrew Carmellini may be gone, but the restaurant has not missed a beat with Bertrand Chemel in charge of the kitchen, and the cuisine remains as superb as ever. I have never encountered a problem with snootiness. Rather, all the personnel we have dealt with have been quite pleasant, and service is very polished. I really like the contemporary decor (quite different from the days when the space housed Daniel) and the overall ambiance.
I concur with RGR on Cafe Boulud and also suggest Kai, although it is a few blocks south of your designated territory. The dinners usually do include some sashimi but I am sure you could substitute if your ban on sushi extends to sashimi also. The food is really exquisite, and if they have it, the gomae tofu is transporting. Couple caveats: service can be very slow, and the drinks (including very pedestrian wines) are quite expensive, even for NY.
I was going to recommend Ian on 86th/2nd but realized it closed on June 27. How sad! We had an excellent experience there in the spring.
Cafe D'Alsace 88th/2nd is a solid choice, as is Spigolo on 81st/2nd.