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Apr 6, 2007 11:42 AM

Help me decide: Alta or Urena

Hi, i've never been to either restaurant, but i have reservations at both currently for tomorrow evening.

this is a "sorta bachelorette" party -- my good friend is getting married next month in VA, and she and 2 friends are coming up for a fun 30 hours in NYC. we have a man joining us for the festivities as well, and we plan to go out dancing after dinner.

atmospherically, it would be great if the place had some charm and style, but it should also be a place where we can actually converse and enjoy each other's company.

and the FOOD. the food is the most important deciding factor. i've read plenty of good things already about both places for the food. the Urena menu makes me out and out drool, but the one at Alta looks pleasingly tasty as well, and more varied.

finally, we're hoping to keep the meal at either place to around $50 per person, excluding tax, tip, and wine.

any advisement is appreciated, but it would be particularly valuable if you have been to both places and/or been to either place within the last 6 months.

thanks in advance for your help.
(usually posts on the outer-boroughs board)

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  1. I have never been to Urena, but I have been to Alta three times... once for a bachelorette party coincidently and twice with just friends for dinner. All three times the food was incredible with a wide variety and a nice selection of drinks (fabulous sangria) - have the Philadelphia Surprise! However, the service on two of the three times was kinda rude. Granted, it was just bad luck on my part, but I find that when this place is busy, they get over overwhelmed fast and have a tendancy to rush you out in favor of turning over the tables.

    One of the times, we had a large party (with a reservation a month in advance) of 10 people and we were late for the reservation b/c of traffic - nothing we could do. We had even called ahead to them at least twice. They were very accomodating over the phone, but once we got there they basically said we had 90 minutes and had to be out for another party. Towards the end of the meal they started hovering and even refused to serve us dessert because of timing. The other time a friend and I walked in off the street (no ressie) and they sat us b/c a party hadnt showed up and said we had about 2 hours with the table. Not an issue for us. Turns out they came over 45 minutes later and said they needed the table back. Since that was their error though, they set us up at the bar with a free round of drinks which we thought was very nice.

    So basically if you want to sit, schmooze and catch up with your friends, Alta may not be the best place if they are busy. But definitely great, great food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Juliana630

      the room at alta is special with its two levels, the food at urena i think better. but apples and oranges. you will get to try a lot of different things at alta by virtue of it being tapas. i just found the flavors at urena to be more focused. the room at urena is weird. arranged in an odd way... a lot was written about that when they opened.

    2. I don't know anything about Alto. But Urena does not seem to have the atmosphere you are looking for. I was there last Saturday night at 8pm, and it had all of the energy of the inside of my shoe (ie none.) The food was good, but seriously, I couldn't have been more bored with the rhythm of the restaraunt. Not one member of the staff looked like they cared at all.

      6 Replies
        1. re: jsmitty

          thus far i'm gleaning that the food at Atla is solid - good. the food at Urena is more special (could it be transcendant?). BUT, the atmosphere at Alta is likely more in keeping with the mood of the night...

          still a tough call for me, because i'm always one to place food quality above everything else, but the atmosphere at Urena seems a little "dry" and that might put a real damper on things.

          any additional feedback?

        2. re: selizara

          When it comes to a restaurant's atmospherics, one person's view that it lacks energy is another person's view that it's civilized.

          One of the things I really like about Urena is that it *is* quiet. No thump, thump, thumping music. No noise level from people merely conversing that is so hideously high you have to shout in order to be heard at your table. No leaving the restaurant hoarse and with a pounding heachache.

          Despite the somewhat odd space that jsmitty mentioned, it's a very comfortable place to dine. Tables are nicely spaced, the decor is attractive, and they've fixed the initial lighting problem so that now the room has a soft, pleasant glow. I found the staff to be quite friendly, and service was fine.

          Most importantly, if charlie_b's main focus is for excellent food, he will not be disappointed because Alex Urena's cuisine is creative, interesting, and seriously delicious!

          1. re: RGR

            the was coherent and well written no doubt. but i still assert that there is a palpably odd mood in the room that is not a question of civilized or not. however hard to quantify this perception, the food is worth the visit....

            1. re: jsmitty

              "...[A] palpably odd mood in the room..."? Not in my view. And I stand by my description of it being very civilized.

            2. re: RGR

              civilized is fine. let me describe my group a bit.
              we're all in our late 30s, 3 people live in Charlottesville VA (which has some surprisingly good restaurants too), and i and one other live here in NYC. we are going to a club dancing later, so i do certainly think that a conversational place is key.

              we could certainly put up with a "odd mood" when combined with great food and conversation.

              on the other hand, if Alta is very loud and we won't be able to talk well as a group (and we're 5, so intimate tete-a-tete's are out), then clearly Urena is a better choice. but if Alta is not overly loud, but has a more festive atmosphere, it might be a more appropriate choice.

              i would describe Acquvit's new digs as being kinda dry, austere, even "odd", but not enough so that it was unpleasant, or that it interfered with the amazing food.

              it sounds like Urena maybe has a mid-town, unhip atmosphere, and Alta has a more downtown, trendy vibe? again, *still* not sure what my choice would be.

              i continue to appreciate feedback. i'm hoping i make the choice by a manner *other* than flipping a coin.

              i'm definitely drawn to seriously delicious, and inventive. (i've not yet gone to wd-50, but i so want to).