First Time Solo for Wife and Daughter in NY
I am a LA Chowhound sending my wife and daughter (13) to NY for a week vacation. They are very adventuresome eaters and have been known to break $200 themselves for sushi. Please recommend some unique NY places and I will return the favor if you come to LA. Yes they are from LA so they are health conscious and like weird food.
If they like Sushi, Sushi of Gari on the upper east.
Pure Food and Wine--a Raw Food restaurant that according to friends who are into that thing is really good.
Blue Hill - Farm to Table deliciousness
Cafe Gray offers a delicious mix of Southeast Asian and Central European.
It's house in a glamorous room with a lovely view of Central Park. I found the food to be prepared with authoritative care. Each dish offered a pleasant surprise.
WD-50 is an excellent recommendation. Since your wife & daughter are very adventurous, WD-50 will fit the bill perfectly. Bizarre, but delicious.
Balthazar is a good rec, and I like it a lot, but more for the scene, which is great, but not something you can't find in LA.
Babbo offers incredible Italian food, and definitely works for the adventurous type; and the atmosphere is boisterous and fun.
Aki Sushi is always fun, it's inexpsensive and by no way authentic, but they have some pretty neat takes on innovative sushi.
Le Gigot is a great French bistro, both delicious and comfy.
Second WD-50. More unique and harder to find in LA. Portion size is relatively small so it should fit their appetite.
Since you are from LA you may want to skip sushi or Japanese as there are so many choice back home.
How about Le Bernardin? Best seafood in New York, on the more expensive side. But since it is almost all seafood it should be (pretend you don't know the butter and other stuff that go into the dishes) quite healthy.
I will also suggest one of Mario Batali's restaurants (Babbo, Lupa, Casa Mono, Del Posto, etc.) since he doesn't have any restaurants in the West Coast (yet...). For sure any meal in his restaurant will not be healthy, but you will probably come across with some bizarre (but tasty) ingredients.
Alice's Tea Cup - I've never been there but the Zagat recommends it as a mothers and daughters place. It's a few blocks up from Bloomingdale's (My condolences on your credit card).
Momofuku is all the rage here but I think it's overrated.
Sushi on the west coast is considered to be better but if they insist, my favorite one is Sushi Seki. For the weird catch of the day they should go to Kanoyama. See their website for an example of the daily fish selection.
If they are adventurous enough, they can eat microwave reheated veggie Indian food for less than $5 at Punjabi together with all the taxi drivers. It's actually pretty good and a fun place to try out. It's where Houston becomes e.1st near 1st Ave.
You should also take a look at this very recent thread, http://www.chowhound.com/topics/358860
And if this was the outer boroughs board, everybody would have said Sripraphai and Spicy & Tasty.
Also, Leela Lounge on 1st W 3rd St (near NYU) takes pains to serve only healthy food. No cream, no butter no Ghee, etc. It's an Indian fusion restaurant which means it's Indian but not really. More like inspired by Indian cuisine. In any case the food is really really tasty, except for the desserts.
Bread Tribeca, then walk around Chinatown and get some green tea or red bean ice cream. My 13 year old loves Soho and the Lower East Side for shopping. It's not upscale, but Veselkas in the EV for Ukrainian food night be exotic for a California girl. Tapas is another idea, search this forum for better suggestions than I can make. And Sugar Sweet Sunshine on the LES for cupcakes (another fun shopping neighborhood). Pink Pony coffehouse (or cafe litteraire) on Ludlow if your daughter and her mom want to look at good 'zines, or catch a poetry reading.
I just thought of the Grand Central Oyster Bar. A beautiful New York location, and good seafood. too.
Then there's Cafe Sebarsky on 86th and Fifth. Great Mother/Daughter (13 yr. old) spot and be sure to try the Flourless Chocolate Cake. It's unbelievable!