Stressing over perfect meal/ambiance
May 11 is my husband's 40th birthday. He'll try anything. He loves food.
We've eaten at many great NYC restaurants; on the higher end we've loved Gramercy Tavern, Aquagrill, Gotham B&G, Union Square Cafe, Bouley (old space), Aureole, Il Mulino, Blue Ribbon, Babbo, Nobu. Some of our favorite meals have been at the bar--we hate stuffy and I'm not sure about this new wave of gastro-chemistry. I'd like to go someplace we haven't been that is romantic, or at least a space that is really pleasant to be in with soft lighting, etc.
Neighborhood doesn't matter. I'm just hoping to find that perfect place the food is good, the wine is good and your totally comfortable--you leave the place blissed out.
So, I've thought about these places and would like opinions and/or other recommendations.
Provence (which is just reopening)
Fleur de Sel
I have been to all the reservations on your list except for Provence, and for French dining, (as regulars on this board know) I am all for Eleven Madison Park. My experience at L'impero was also fantastic, so if you want to have Italian, L'impero will be my choice.
I would definitely go to Eleven Madison Park. If you've been to Bouley in the old space, and you enjoyed it, you might try it again in the new location. Food/service/atmosphere are wonderful. Also wonderful is its sister restaurant around the corner: Danube. Food is also wonderful and the decor is very romantic (IMHO). You also have my favorite restaurant in your list of "already have been to": Aureole.
Sure, Just to elaborate on Tasting Room, the space is beautiful and the menu format is great for sharing and tasting alot of different things. (Make sure you go to the one on Elizabeth street and not their wine bar on 1st and 1st). The upfront room has a bar and cozy booths with banquettes while the room in the back is airy with charming rustic wooden tables and cute small gold lights on the ceiling--very charming and romantic in an elegant, understated way. The food is seasonally driven new american--I liked it because the chef's style is to just buy top ingredients and let the quality of the food shine --e.g. I am not usually a fan of chicken/poultry at restaurants, but they had a great hen dish with leek and morels that just had the natural pan juices as the sauce and with the thigh meat made into the a sausage). I also loved dishes like the smoked trout eschebeche, and the poached sturgeon with black lentils and smokey bacon. Dishes like Clam pot pie (served in the clam shell as the pot) or the lamb that comes two ways (as a meatball and as just a cut of meat) are also quite creative and whimsical without being over the top. Everything on the menu comes in "taste" size or "share" size so it is easy to order alot of little portions and have a tapas size meal or order a satisfying entree size of something you love alot.