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May 16, 2007 10:35 PM

Tough Chowhound challenge - Upscale/non-stuffy/foodie celebration dinner

I've been asked to find a spot to celebrate my significant other's late-20s birthday. Some considerations:

1) He doesn't want "stuffy."
2) Good food's a must. His dad's the head of a gastronomy society. The parents will be there as well, so a spot like, say...Freeman's might not do it.
3) No limit on price, but we'll need to have a space Monday night for a crowd of 5. Babbo, unfortunately, won't cut it.
4) Ideally - and this is my only consideration (not completely necessary) - it wouldn't be too quiet a place such that I'd have to make a lot of small talk. I just want to eat and keep my head down really.

Places they've liked recently: Cafe Grey, Little Owl, Mas.

They didn't like Veritas, Tocqueville was too just so-so for them, 11 Madison was good enough but didn't earn raves.

I'm thinking Cru, Craft, Landmarc, Blue Hill if the food really merits it over the other places (yes, yes, it's stuffy, I know)....

Any strong endorsements would be GREATLY appreciated. Thank you in advance!

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    1. re: chow_gal

      Stanton Social, Landmarc is excellent. The restaurant in the Rivington Hotel was excellent. I forget the name.

      1. re: princeofpork

        Thor is the resturant in the Rivington Hotel (get it The Hotel On Rivington - ha)

        Hearth is excellent too.

        1. re: rdflig

          I found THOR both mediocre and overpriced, so I can't believe the head of a gastronomic society would enjoy it. I'd also tend to nix Spotted Pig, which I found a bit more passable than THOR but highly unexciting, overpriced, and very cramped. So I can help exclude some possibilities, but I feel kind of reluctant to take any responsibility for recommending a place under these circumstances. I had two very good meals at Hearth and look forward to returning, but neither meal was actually great from beginning to end, merely very good and a fair value, with very good service.

      1. re: Andrew P.

        Perilla probably fits all your needs (great food, totally not stuffy, a bit on the noisy side). Plus if the folks are foodies, they probably watched Top Chef, so you could score points with that.

        Other options, Spotted Pig, Po.

        1. re: BW212

          Blue Ribbon could be good if you go early and don't mind potentially waiting a little.

        2. Hearth is a great option. As a second choice, I'd go with Blue Hill - we had visitors in town who don't do small talk and they were so happy with the food there that was all they talked about!

            1. re: lisette

              Too iffy. Today is Scott Conant's last day, and the new chef, Michael White, is not scheduled to take over for a while.

            2. Casa Mono. They've recently revamped their menu and as delicious as it was before they have some GREAT new dishes. Always a favorite of mine.