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Help me make her birthday dinner memorable

I Love My Wife.
And I would like to make her birthday dinner next Wed. a memorable one.

She has a fine palate and likes really clean food.

I was thinking of something along the lines of 11Madison but I'm not sure about the idea of a pre-fix menu.

Then I thought about Spice Market downtown but was there once and would like someplace a little more intimate.

Is Danny Meyers place at MOMA an excellent choice?

Any recommendations of your favorite, special place are greatly appreciated.

Oh, and some place in Manhattan...


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  1. Don't overlook the possibility of ordering a la carte at 11 Madison Park if you want to go there and are not sure about doing a prix fixe.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Pan

      i did not see a la carte on the online menu. do they do a la carte? thanks.

      1. re: meb903

        I haven't yet had the pleasure of trying the cuisine of Chef Humm (I went to 11 Madison Park three times under their previous chef), but according to posts on a thread on eGullet, they do indeed have a carte.

        1. re: meb903

          I called to inquire and in fact there is a sampling menu in the bar/lounge.

      2. The Modern is a fantastic choice. The Dining Room menu is quite elegant - their summer tasting menu in particular has very 'clean' flavors.

        Since it's a Union Square Group restaurant, you're guaranteed excellent service. Be sure to tell them it's her birthday for extra special attention.

        1 Reply
        1. re: foodiegrl

          i would not go to the modern for a romantic dinner. it is very formal, very stiff, and nothing about it is romantic. the food was okay. not great. and way too expensive for the quality.

          i would go to babbo.

        2. I really think that Il Buco on Bond St. is the most romantic, intimate restaurant in NYC. Order from the long list of amazing appetizers until satiated.

          1. Since your wife likes clean food, I recommend Blue Hill. The owners also have a farm upstate, which supplies most, if not all, of their fresh, seasonal ingredients.

            2 Replies
            1. re: nycexplorer

              Actually, taking her to Blue Hill at Stone Barns would be even more special. Very romantic.

              1. re: Pupster

                Agreed. Rent a car (go to Hertz and get one of their cars with Neverlost in it; it will direct you right to the restaurant) and take her to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. You will not be sorry.

            2. "Really clean food" - sounds like a trip to Craft to me.

              4 Replies
              1. re: livetotravel

                So many great suggestions. Looking at Craft, what about Craftbar down on 19th and B'way?

                1. re: cello55

                  well, get other opinions for sure, but to me Craftbar was all about the bar and not about the craft ;-)

                  1. re: cello55

                    Food at Craftbar is pretty good, but not good enough to make me want to return.

                    1. re: Lucia

                      The new Craftbar is not romantic. What about Blue Hill?

                2. K, it's getting down to the wire.

                  I remember she mentioned Union Sq. Cafe once as a place she's liked. I've never been.

                  The idea of a destination rest. like Blue Hill is stirring the imagination. Combined with a nice Sunday afternoon drive. Hmmm.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: cello55

                    I'm not a USC fan. Having had one truly disappointing meal there, we've never felt inclined to return.

                    I think you should definitely re-visit your initial consideration of Eleven Madison Park. I'm not sure why you would eliminate it just because the menus are prix-fixes. Definitely opt for the tasting menus. The portions are properly sized and with the addition of the many extra "gifts from the chef," you will leave pleasantly sated but not stuffed. Chef Humm's French-inspired cuisine is sensational, service is outstanding, and the space is gorgeous. To me, it's a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion.

                    I have not yet been to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Considering the raves it receive, if you can get a reservation there, of course, it's a great option. If not, EMP is hardly a poor substitution. (Mmmm... Looking back again at your original post, I see you were thinking of an intimate place. Granted, EMP's space is not that. But I've always felt that the way the space is partitioned helps to make for more intimate feel.)

                    Wherever you ultimately end up going, Happy Birthday to your wife and Bon Appetit!

                    1. re: RGR

                      Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, is close to BH@SB; together it's a fantastic day trip. Beautiful gardens on estate premises. You can't beat the time of year for lush Hudson Valley views or the prime time for harvests in the Blue Hill fields.
                      Let them know of your special occasion. Do the tasting menu. They will do a fabulous job for you.

                      1. re: RGR

                        I'm with u RGR as far as the prix-fixes but I think some folks want the adventure of exploring a menu, which I can understand. Personally, I like leaving it all up to the chef.

                    2. I have to second Il Buco. I just had a dinner there a week ago for the special lady's birthday and it worked out like a charm. Best to go early though as they can get packed and overwhelmed, althogh this didn't happen to me last time I was there. Ask to be seated in the wine cellar.

                      Union Square Cafe has always been reliable, but not terribly romantic. Still, not a bad choice if you're looking for a good meal.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: FranklinTeany

                        I'm also planning a bday dinner for my boyfriend and was thinking of Union Square Cafe...but is Blue Hill (in the city) more romantic? Last year I took him to Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar and we sat upstairs.

                        1. re: JennS

                          Everyone's idea of what constitutes "romantic" can differ radically.

                          I didn't find USC at all romantic. But, then, we were seated on the balcony which, I felt, was akin to being exiled to Siberia.

                          As for Blue Hill (NYC), it's a fairly small space with plain decor. In my view, nice enough but not particularly romantic. The seating along the banquettes is extremely close. What saved it for us is that we dined early and were given the table at the corner "L" of the banquette, which was more roomy. Plus, the table immediately next to ours remained vacant during our meal.

                      2. I am quite late here, but I love Annisa. Quiet, romantic tables, dim lighting. You can get dinner a la carte or do a 5 or 7 course tasting menu. The tasting menu changes daily, and they cater to your likes and dislikes. It was a fantastic, romantic meal. The food was fresh and fit together perfectly.

                        1. I've heard great things about Annisa and that was my first choice, but they seem to be closed the week of my boyfriend's bday. Thanks for the recommendation...maybe I'll tell him to take me there for my birthday instead. Any other ideas? We like American, seafood, French, Italian...downtown is preferable.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: JennS

                            Although you say you would prefer downtown, you might want to consider L'Impero (midtown east in Tudor City), which I think is a great place to celebrate a special occasion. The food is excellent, and I'm still dreaming about the polenta and mushrooms appetizer. Seriously delicious! The interior with its soft lighting has lovely ambiance and, if the weather is conducive, the small outdoor patio is very romantic.


                          2. No doubt about it, Chowhounds are the best when it comes to fine dining and romance!

                            11 Madison
                            Blue Hill at Stone Barns
                            Il Buco

                            This list will keep the fine dining and the romance going for a long time.

                            Thanks to everyone!

                            I'll leave you in suspence as to where we dined.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: cello55

                              Hey, cello55, Don't you think you're being a little unfair? After all, you came to pick our brains, we gave you our best ideas, and now you're not going to give us the courtesy of telling us where you decided to go and how it turned out?! If you don't want to provide a blow-by-blow of the meal -- though that would be nice -- at least, give us the name. :-)

                              1. re: RGR

                                ok,ok your right.
                                The truth is I didn't want to disappoint.

                                My beloved had been working like crazy (Grant Writer) and after making and canceling plans for 11 Mad, Il Buco, Union Sq. we just stayed local and went to La Lunchenette over on 10th ave.

                                I have a sentimental attachement to La L. but the food was just fair and not like the old days, service was fair with 80% of the tables occupied.

                                That said I hope this great thread will help bring other romantics more success!

                            2. Aquavit
                              Lever House
                              Harry Cipriani

                              These places aren't as loud and more refined.