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need fun but nice b-day dinner for an LA person


i'm originally from NY but that doesn't help choosing a restaurant since they seem to change by the minute.

i'm coming out there in a few weeks w/ my assistant for business and it happens that we will be there for her b-day. she's not very happy about it so i want to take her out to a fun place but somewhere nice with of course, good food. any type of food will do except Asian since we eat very good asian food here all the time. some where that's a bit trendy and not stuffy. we're staying in times square but we can travel anywhere within the city.

how is balthazar doing these days? please help. thanks!!

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    1. Barbounia on 250 Park Ave. is excellent. I've eaten there many times and always loved the food. It's Mediterranean food is always prepared well and I've never been disappointed in my food or the cocktails I got there. Great atmosphere, pretty trendy as well. Moderately priced..definitely not cheap though!

      Other suggestions:
      Rose Bar on top of the Grammercy Park Hotel. Beautiful...

      Rosa Mexicano 9 E. 18th St.

      Koi in the Bryant Park Hotel (I know you said no asian but this is a pretty trendy place to go and great food)
      Spice Market in the meatpacking district (also asian but great atmosphere)

      Bryant Park Grill

      Hope these suggestions help!

      8 Replies
      1. re: mangia999

        Sorry mangia, but I was completely underwhelmed by Barbounia and horrified by their service (or lack thereof). I give that place until the end of the year. I'm not quite sure how it stays open in such a hot location. I also think that Spice Market is terribly underwhelming.

        1. re: LeahBaila

          LeahBaila, Are you talking about a very recent experience at Barbounia since the new owners took over a couple of months ago? We always had good food and excellent service under the old ownership.

          1. re: RGR

            I was there in February; how recent was the change of ownership?

            1. re: LeahBaila

              Not exactly sure, but I think it changed hands in the spring. There's a new chef, and they've revamped the menu, which is now Greek rather than the previous Mediterranean. I haven't been since the change, but I've passed by a few times and noticed they've removed the huge feather chandelier.

              1. re: RGR

                Interesting! If you go there before I do, please let me know how things are with the new chef. Since there was a change of hands, I'd be willing to try it again. The space is beautiful.

                1. re: LeahBaila

                  Agree about the space. I do like the look of this new menu, so we'll definitely be giving it another try.

        2. re: mangia999

          BTW, the original Koi Restaurant is out of California.

          1. re: mangia999

            I'd avoid Rosa Mexicano - high priced mexican food and you can get way better mexican in LA.

            Stanton Social is good - but may be better with a group of more than 2 ppl. It is tapas style and part of the appeal is trying lots of diff things.

            Otto is fun.
            I prefer Pastis to Balthazar but both would be nice bday celebration options.

            One Little West 12 or STK might be fun alternatives. In the meatpacking so good location for out of towners.

          2. The "new" Suba, Schiller's Liquor Bar, Red Cat, Figs and Olives (in Meat Packing District), Craft, L'Atelier (sit at the counter and watch the talent from the front row).

            1 Reply
            1. re: Will4Food

              I 2nd L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, had lunch there with my boyfriend and loved it, very fun, waiters were really nice and cool, it's fancy but also very cool and casual plus the food is really good. Another place that I like which is similar to that is Degustation in the east village, the place is really small and hip and it's all bar seating and you see the chef cook in front of you, it's spanish/french small plates, really good.

            2. Stanton Social came to my mind as well, and Balthazar is always great.

              I'd have to disagree with the above recommendation on Bryant Park Grill. The food is okay - nothing great and definitely not a place for the kind of night out you would like. It's a fine place for drinks since you can sit outside but go elsewhere for food.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pellegrino31

                leahbalia, you are right about koi. i used to live right near koi in LA and it's ok. more fluff than substance but it is a great place to get some insight in to the LA west hollywood "scene". you guys are great for all the suggestions. I can always count on NY'ers!

              2. Otto and Lupa are fun Batali restaurants, very good Italian..Lupa's always a hit but more difficult to get into. I've heard mixed reviews about Otto though but I personally enjoy it. It's always crowded and noisy, but if you go with a group it's fine so you can be noisy too. Food is simpler than Lupa but well done, lots of wine. Mermaid Inn is a terrific seafood place that's also fun and has outdoor seating. It's in the East Village, which is a great neighborhood with plenty of nightlife.

                1. I love L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and so it got my vote. However, I am not sure if there is a budget as dishes at Robuchon is quite small and price adds up very quickly. It will be hard to fill full and have alcohol without $200+ (and usually more).

                  For a more moderately priced option, I suggest Maze at the London by Gordon Ramsay. The bar is inside and they have sit-down tables and serve small plates and entrees and desserts (The main dining room that serves tasting menu is inside) The service there is impeccable, and so far I have great experience with the food there.

                  Another popular choice is The Bar at the Modern (at MoMA). I used to be a regular at this place but have found their quality (both food and service) to have somewhat slipped overtime. Nevertheless it is a great place to see and to be seen.

                  Wouldn't bother with Balthazar. While I think this place offers some nostalgic NYC feel which is what some people like, I don't think the food is anything impressive. Won't consider it for any celebratory meal.

                  1. i had a good meal last week at osteria mozza in los angeles. give babbo a shot and let us know how the east-coast cousin of the batali empire stacks up. it's ok to walk in early and sit at the bar without reservations.