Le Lan, Blackbird or Arun's?
Le Lan, Blackbird or Arun's for anniversary dinner for NYC couple (by way of the Midwest)? I have reservations at all three. Would be initial dining experience at each.
Of these three, I would choose Blackbird, which I have always enjoyed.
The problem with evaluating Arun's lies in the question, "What do you compare it to?" If you compare it with other Thai restaurants, it's about three times the price, and there lies the rub. There are some people who claim that it's an entirely different experience, and so it's worth it, the same way any upscale restaurant is often worth more than a more casual restaurant. Sorry, I don't buy it. I enjoy upscale restaurants and don't mind paying more when the food is better than the "cheap eats" places, but the food at Arun's just didn't strike me as any better than (or any different from) other Thai restaurants. I ate there a long time ago, and that was my reaction at the time; maybe it has changed, but from what I've heard from others who have been there recently, it doesn't sound like it.
Thanks. That is where I am leaning and had Arun's at bottom of list. Frankly I am trying to decide between Le Lan and Blackbird, although I know they are very different from each other. Last time we celebrated our anniversary in Chicago, we dined at Alinea, which was out of this world and remains the best meal I have ever had (blew away per se, for example), but it is closed this week. Thought we would go in a more casual direction this time around.
I had an incredible meal at Le Lan last week. The new chef, Bill Kim, who most recently worked at Charlie Trotter's, also spent time in some of the nation's other top restaurants (including the late, great Trio under Shawn McClain and Susanna Foo's in Philly). I enjoy chef Kim's pan-Asian flavors much more than Le Lan's former French-Vietnamese format. We ordered a lot of dishes and every one of them was terrific.
Blackbird remains a great restaurant, serving beautifully conceived and executed (but unpretentious) dishes. However, if you want a quiet, romantic dinner be aware that the tables are extremely close together and the restaurant can get quite noisy (Le Lan is better--but not by much--in this respect). This is a deal-breaker for some (not me).
I haven't been to Arun's in years, so I can't comment. I know what you mean about Alinea. It truly plays in an entirely different league than almost any restaurant in the country.