New Yorkers in town for Birthday Dinner (been to many "major" Boston restaurants)
My husband and I find it likely that we will be in Boston for his birthday. As he is from the Boston area and we're often there for special occassions, we've been to many of the major Boston "special occassion"/fancy restaurants (e.g., Oak Room, Grill 23, Aujourd'hui, Federalist). I'm often pretty disappointed by these experiences -- a lot of show but not always great service or food.
We're looking for something a little more casual/smaller but with fantastic food nonetheless. My mother-in-law now lives in Amesbury and will be joining us, so we'd even be up for a suburban place if there are birthday-worthy options. Price is not really a concern as long as the food's good; a mediocre place with expensive prices always makes all of us mad!
It is not smaller/casual but Sorellina is a wonderful new restaurant in Copley Square. The restaurant is beautiful- all white and black- very striking and the food is wonderful, with excellent service.
I think EVOO is a great option. Alway very high quality food and great service. I would also recommend Stellina in Watertown.
G2 in Beverly Farms is a great steakhouse. They have another restaurant in Middleton, I believe, called Gavins. Their food is extraordidnary and the ambiance is perfect for a special occasion. It's nice if you can get a great meal without having to go into the city.
I think you might like Grotto, on Bowdoin St. (Beacon Hill). Nice basement/candlelit atmosphere, and excellent Italian food, definitely a few notches above the usual red sauce places. The prices won't shock you either.
In the North End, I'd also recommend Sage, on Prince St. The food is really delicious and it's a great special occasion place. It's tiny though, so reservations are a must.
If Cambridge works for you, I'd also suggest Rendezvous near Central Square, or Chez Henri, near Harvard Sq. Both have excellent food, nice atmosphere, and for Rendezvous anyway, the prices are not bad at all for the quality.
Also in Cambridge is Salts, which is definitely more expensive, but the quality stands up to the prices, in my opinion. I think it would also be a good place to consider for a celebration. Again, reservations are a good idea here.
Love Salts, excellent meal every time. Rendezvous does not have the best ambience. Chez Henri is good, Salts is better. There is also Harvest in Harvard Square, consistently good.