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40th birthday dinner in October

My husband is turning 40 in Oct & we'll be in NYC for 2 days to celebrate. Please suggest dinner spots with combo of great food & great ambience (at least OK service) anywhere in Manhattan or Brooklyn. Looking for truly unique "destination" spots. Prior NCY faves have been Gramercy Tavern & The Modern; we liked Lupa, Artisanal and Fleur de Sel; we found Cafe Boulud a bit of a yawn (food was excellent, just not interesting). He is a major wine fancier so a place with a great wine list and/or pairings would be a bonus (but not at the expense of a less than superb kitchen). We probably won't splurge for J-G or Per Se but otherwise price is not an issue. Ethnic is great, but only if the room/experience lives up to an important celebration. Really appreciate your thoughts as I am not "up to date" with the current dining scene

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  1. Here are my suggestions in order of preference:

    Cru (amazing wine list with chef to match)
    Bouley (fabulous food with a decent wine list)
    Eleven Madison Park (new chef creating massive buzz; same owner as Gramercy Tavern)
    Gotham Bar & Grill (Chef/owner Portale is a consistent winner)
    Blue Hill (May use freshest ingredients in town; own a farm upstate)
    Babbo (upscale version of Lupa)

    1. Le Cirque a real WOW, beautiful space, good food and very good service.

      1. I think Cru is a great recommendation, especially if the wine list is important.I believe they may have the largest selection of wines of any restaurant in NYC. They also have a nice tasting menu with wine pairings.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bobby06877

          I have to agree. Cru's tasting menu w/ wine pairings is a wonderful and memorable experience

        2. I would recommend Aureole (the best sommelier and great food), Bouley and Danube.

          1. I was in this exact situation last year and had my 40th at Keens Steak House and it fit the bill perfectly. The food is great and it's the unique destination spot/ambience you are looking for. They are renowned for their whiskey/bourbon collection, so I haven't paid much attention to their wine list.

            1. Veritas generally gets good reviews on this board for food and and excellent wine list, although I haven't been there personally.

              1. Thanks for all the suggestions. Thus far we're thinking of Cru. However have heard good things about the new Italian place "A Voce" - can anyone tell how it would compare to Cru?

                Also has anyone been to Veritas who can compare it to Cru?

                Thanks for the Keens suggestion... we're not really steak or bourbon folks though, more creative food/wine pairing types

                Would also like to hear more about Danube as I saw photos and it does look lovely. Is the food typically Austrian (ie heavy and fried)?

                1 Reply
                1. re: JToronto

                  Haven't yet been to Cru, but we have dined many times at Veritas for both special occasions and just when we're in the mood for an excellent meal. Never, ever have we been disappointed.

                  Chef Scott Bryan's cuisine is superb. When it comes to wine, I don't drink, but my husband does. He generally does pairings and is always pleased with the suggestions from the sommelier. Service overall is cordial and professional. The ambiance with its soothing contemporary decor, proper lighting, and conversation-friendly noise level makes for an extremely enjoyable experience.


                  Btw, we had dinner at A Voce just after it opened. While I really liked the modern Italian cuisine, the decor is too hard-edged (though I did love the super comfortable swivel chairs), which led directly to the situation with the noise level. It got progressively higher as the room filled, so that by the latter part of our meal, the level was deafening. From subsequent reports on this and other food forums, it appears that the management has done nothing to alleviate what I consider a major problem.

                2. Re: A Voce--I went once soon after it opened and wasn't too impressed.

                  Re: Danube--take a look at the menu. They do have typical heavy dishes like schnitzel, but also a lot of lighter selections.

                  1. We went to A Voce a few weeks ago and also were less than impressed. While the food was enjoyable - the simplest food was the best, particularly a special fresh ricotta on grilled bread and local strawberries for dessert - the service was totally off, and far too casual for a true special night out.

                    We ordered two appetizers, 1 "del mercato" dish (the bread & cheese), 1 pasta and 1 fish. Instead of offering a suggestion for coursing, or politely asking us how we wanted it coursed(though, frankly, it didn't seem too confusing to me), she asked, "so, should I bring that all at once?" Um, no. After we told them how we wanted it coursed, they did it a different way and the pacing was almost comically bad. They pushed a second bottle of water on us ("'cuz you guys are almost done with yours") but were nowhere to be found when we wanted a second glass of wine. Topped off by a mother and daughter who stood in front of our table and fought in their "outside voices" for 15 minutes during our long wait for dessert (not their fault, but unpleasant nonetheless)...we won't be returning.

                    On the other hand, Cru was fantastic. Food was inventive, wine was fantastic, room is pretty, location is great, and we felt really well taken care of. (Both dinners were late-ish Saturday night reservations, so the comparisons are fair.)