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Best "big name" restaurant

My husband and I are visiting Manhattan for the first time in many years. We live and work in Northern California wine country (I'm a chef, he's a sommelier). We are on a budget for this trip and plan to do a lot of eating at great local joints. But, we want to hear from savvy NY foodies: If you could splurge on only one meal in a "big name" Manhattan restaurant, where would you go? Nobu, Per Se, Il Buco, Esca, a Batali property, Alain Ducasse?

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  1. Hey, mariadc3, You can scratch Alain Ducasse from that list because it has closed.

    No surprise to board regulars, I would suggest Eleven Madison Park -- but with a caveat. Since Chef Daniel Humm was previously at Campton Pl. in S.F., if you've sampled his cuisine there, then I wouldn't choose it. If not, in addition to his fabulous French-inspired cuisine, EMP has a fine wine list, first-rate service, and a gorgeous space.


    Another of our favorites is Veritas. I think it would be especially interestng for your husband, the sommelier, because Veritas has one of the most extraordinary wine lists around. And as a chef, I think you will truly appreciate Chef Scott Bryan's superb New American cuisine. This is not to say, of course, that both of you won't enjoy both aspects of dining there. Service is cordial and professional, and the small space has very stylish minimalist decor.


    Hope you and your husband have a wonderful visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

    1. Jean Georges should be in the running. Not Nobu. Not Il Buco.

      1 Reply
      1. re: erica

        il buco so wildly disappointing...

      2. I think you might enjoy Aureole: great food, service, ambiance. The wine director is my favorite; your husband should enjoy comparing "notes" with him.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ellenost

          Get the veggie tasting menu with the wine paring. One of the best meals you'll ever have.

        2. your credentials are intimidating. still, i'll take the pepsi challenge and say that babbo has no direct counterpart in the bay area. i'll raise the bar a bit and say that steak and northern california are strangers: keens steakhouse is a solid selection.

          a gentleman from the bay area, he goes by the chowhound handle of porthos, swears by sushi yasuda. his writeup inspired me to to take my family there. porthos knows his stuff.

          1. Gramercy Tavern. Period. Spend your money on the best service, the tastiest food and a gorgeous atmosphere.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jmo9

              I like GT but I don't think it wins "period" over all of the others. I agree with jes13 below that Le Bern is a better choice.

            2. Babbo is unique, and it certainly has a big name. Nor is there anything like it anywhere else, but I don't think it should be your big splurge.

              Both EMP and Gramercy Tavern are fine restaurants, and I particularly like the latter.

              But what about Bouley? What about Daniel? Both have outstanding food and wine.

              Have fun.

              - Sean

              1. Le Bernardin isn't new or trendy but it has never disappointed me. The service is exquisite. I don't think Esca is "big name" enough for your purposes.

                1 Reply
                1. re: brendastarlet

                  Agreed. Le Bernadin is superb. I've been there 4 times, and each time I come away with a warm glow and spend days dreaming about the meal. Never disappoints. Jean Georges is also very good. Gramercy Tavern (recommended above) is forgettable. Each time I eat there, I find myself, weeks later, trying to recall what I ate.

                2. Of the ones you mentioned, I'd do Per Se. Best meal of my life.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: lucybobo

                    They live in Northern CA.. I'm guessing they've already dined at French Laundry, if they care for T Keller. I'd do something more "New York" than Per Se!

                    Maria, wherever you reserve make yourselves known when you call. That way you will be more sure to get the reservation you want.

                    I think I'd eat at the bar at Babbo, and have my big splurge at Le Bernardin. It is class and great food, wine and service ALL the way! (and no loud music!) However you can't come to New York to dine and not "do" a Danny Meyer restaurant! (You might enjoy Tabla, his Indian place in Madison Park.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      I agree to a "no" on Nobu. It's not in the same class as the other places you are considering. One you haven't mentioned is Aquavit. They do (or at least used to do) a 14 course "bite" menu that is out of this world (they have a vegetarian option for it too). Their foie gras ganache (with almond flour in it) is unreal.

                      Have a great trip!