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Jan 7, 2007 07:37 PM

Need help choosing restaurant for fiancee's birthday dinner

I need your help choosing a restaurant for my fiancee's birthday dinner.
Last week in January. Looking for a place with excellent food, good service, and nice decor that takes reservations. Bklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carrol Gardens, Park Slope OK. Max $100 PP.
We went to Convivium in PS last year and loved it, but we have been there a lot over Christmas and want to try something else.
Manhattan OK too.
Thanks in advance.

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  1. I am a broken record for two person birthday dinners in Brooklyn: Garden Café in Prospect Heights. 11 tables, well spaced. Small changing menu. Husband in the Kitchen, wife out front. Caring, but totally unobtrusive service. Not being sweets lovers, we had the cheese plate instead of dessert, but they managed to put some candles in it for the birthday girl.

    1. Also consider Saul. The food is very good and I find the atmosphere more romantic than, say, The Grocery or Chestnut.

      3 Replies
      1. re: eeee

        Thanks. Looked up Saul. Reviews say that portions are tiny. Don't love huge portions you can't finish, just regular size. We don't doggy bag, but don't want to leave hungry either. Any further info on this?

        1. re: Jpand

          I've been to Saul many times and have never left hungry.

          That said, its not the sort of place you go for huge's not that sort of place.

          I've always enjoyed meals at Saul, its one of the nicer places in brooklyn. I think if it were in manhattan, it wouldnt fair as well, as I dont find the food to be tremendously innovative. Just well prepared and with attention to detail. The best dish I've had there is lamb 4 ways when it was on the menu...that was superb.

          I did the tasting menu recently and except for the final savory dish (a short rib dish as I recall) it was all great. The meat I'm referring to tasted like it sat under a heat lamp a bit too long. Not bad, just a little dry/over cooked.

          I wouldnt call Saul overly romantic...that would be Convivium to me. But the lighting is very nice, the interior is pretty, and its a nice date place.

        2. re: eeee

          It's been a couple of years since I went to Saul in large part because the interior was so minimal and stark. Maybe they have re-done the room but the atmosphere that I remember is the opposite of romantic, besides which the food was unmemorable and expensive and the portions were small. Chaque a son gout.

        3. I like Garden Cafe, but the menu is so limited. It doesn't seem quite festive or romantic enough. Chestnut is not my idea of a celebration/romantic kind of place. Tho I love their $25 prix fixe.
          Thanks for suggesting Saul. Never been but the zagat rating is high. What is romantic about Saul?
          Someone at the office suggested River Cafe. Has anyone been recently?

          8 Replies
          1. re: Jpand

            candidly, it sounds like you are looking for a manhattan type restaurant. We have great food in downtown Brooklyn and plenty of style, but not a lot of glitz (river cafe and maybe Tempo excepted).
            Good luck!

            1. re: jen kalb

              What the heck is a "Manhattan" type restaurant?
              Not looking for glitz, just fine dining. We have found lots of it in Brooklyn. Favorite lately is Convivium. Love Henry's End Al Di La, and NP, but they don't take reservations.
              Birthdays are very special occasions. Just looking for an appropriate place.
              Reverse snobbery is so 90's.

              1. re: Jpand

                There's a River Cafe review recently done by a visitor from London during Xmas week if you do a search. I like the place but I think you'll wind up over your $100pp by a bit if you go. We spent about $150pp last time there (8 mos. or so ago). But, while the place is drop dead gorgeous and romantic, the food is not better than Convivium, Tempo or al di la or Saul (although it has its moments). Jacket required.

                I agree with Jen that Tempo would be the other choice here. If you go on a weekend, when the larger room is in use, it'll be more of the type of place you're looking for. The food is as European eclectic as Convivium with some very nice touches. Strong wine list. The cocktails are good. Nice upbeat vibe with all the touches.

                I'm not a fan of Saul, but the room is also "grown up", albeit more plain, and the food is highly recommended by most of the people I respect. I've been there 4 or 5 times and conceed that this is a contender... I just haven't had a meal there that makes me want to return.

                We seem to like the same places so take a look at Tempo.

                1. re: Steve R

                  Thanks. Really like Tempo too. Last week we were there with a group of 6 and had a first rate meal. Everything delicious,service was great.

                  I thought I'd like to try something new this time. Altho sometimes the old favorites are the best choice.

                  1. re: Jpand

                    Well, in that case you have 2 choices:

                    1- try Saul and report back. Obviously, I have self-interest at heart here;

                    2- go to Henry's End and let Bonnie sing "Happy Birthday". Nothing like turtle soup and elk chops for a birthday.

                    1. re: Steve R

                      Saul is still on my list, but the tiny portions is a turn off. Especially at those prices.
                      We go to Henry's End a few times a month, and love it, but want to try something new. Not a great place for a birthday as they don't take reservations.
                      There are some people who eat at HE 4-5 times per week.That's loyalty for you.

                2. re: Jpand

                  excuse me, I mistook you - it seemed like you were heading toward the conventionally romantic in your last post.
                  Garden Cafe seems plenty romantic to me (as does Convivium)- but you seemed to be looking in the direction of a River Cafe or maybe Tempo...something maybe bigger and glossier...

                  Al Di La, on the other hand, seems too bustling to be "romantic"

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Love Al Di La, but no reservations makes it a bad choice for a special dinner. Nothing celebratory about standing on line for an hour.

            2. Don't know if the Red Cafe on 5th Avenue would fit the bill. We've always found food to be excellent, and it's a very cozy, intimate place.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Marion Morgenthal

                Thanks for the tip. I'll put it on my list of places to try.

              2. I have to agree that maybe Saul isnt the first place I'd recommend for a romantic bday dinner. My husband and I didnt think it was the slightest bit romantic and I still talk about how tiny the portions were. My scallop dinner entree included 3 small scallops. It was laughable. Since you seem to consider the best restaurants in bklyn a regular night out maybe going somewhere in manhattan might feel a bit more special, or at least different. In that case you should take a look at the manhattan boards for great ideas but i'd have to recommend cru or hearth judging on your taste (which is very simiar to mine)

                1 Reply
                1. re: bhkart

                  I agree with Bhkart on the manhattan suggestion...and Cru and Hearth are too of my absolute favorite places. Though I dont think Hearth is any more romantic than Saul? Better food though at Hearth in my opinion...cabbage stuffed with sweetbreads is the best dish in the city IMO.