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In need of help for Special Celebrations

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I am flying in from Australia (again. I am working on a trip report from my best of days that included hamburgers, pizza and desserts (that was a tough day). This time for just one day, next Saturday, in order to celebrate two friends bdays. One I am taking to lunch and one I am taking to dinner. I want something upscale and special, but not at all too stuffy (all of us in mid-late 20's). I prefer a tasting menu for both, but could do without it for lunch. The friend I am taking to dinner is allergic to shellfish (shrimp, lobster, etc.), so that shouldn't be a large part of the menu. I have Le Bernardin booked, but rethinking that. I am looking for American, French or Italian suggestions. On my last trip I did Per Se, and was not wowed.

Thanks

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  1. Jean Georges is great for lunch. $28 for 2 courses and $12 for each additional, so you can construct your own tasting menu. Perry St., the more casual restaurant in the same family, is also a good bet. $24 for 3 courses.

    1. Hearth has a lovely tasting menu ($80) for dinner. It currently includes a lobster dish, but I can't see why they wouldn't change that for a customer who is allergic. They also have fantastic drinks. An alternative to Hearth is Peasant.You cannot go wrong there- same general price range, and I love everything on their menu. They have a terrific wine list, if that is more your thing. For lunch, why not try something like Cafe Boulud (a la carte) or Bouley, where tasting menus will cost between $40 and $50 PP. Cafe Boulud is in the same general range, maybe a little bit more PP.

      1. You were not wowed by Per Se??

        2 Replies
        1. re: doona

          I certainly can't say I didn't like it. It was fantastic, but I think it was more a case of so much hype that was just unreachable. It was great and certainly one of the best meals of my life. I think, for me, the biggest problem was the progression of courses. It just didn't seem to satisfy my palette like I expected. I will post a breakdown of my courses when I get a chance.

          1. re: doona

            doona, Although I've not been to Per Se, tenpercent27's reaction is not totally surprising, at least to me. If you've seen the "Overrated restaurants" thread which has garnered several hundred posts, you'll find that Per Se is included -- as is just about every major restaurant (and, of course, plenty of more minor ones).

          2. I agree with Lucia on the lunch for Jean George. It is great value and great food, really not much you can ask for. Another option is Eleven Madison Park, which offers a lunch tasting menu so you don't have to think about what to choose.

            For dinner, try to get to Babbo if possible. The pasta tasting is wonderful, not too seafood centric (and of course you should ask for substitute for any shellfish). The only problem is reservation. Normally you will have to call exactly 30 days ahead for a table, and the availaibilty is gone within first 10 mins when the reservation line opens. If you can score a table (if someone cancels), or if you get there at 5-ish when it opens, you can possibly get a seat at the bar, and order from there.

            If that doesn't work or if you think it is too much trouble, then try Eleven Madison Park for their dinner tasting menu or prix-fixe instead of lunch. They are very accommodating about customers' requests, and the suckling pork and duck for two dishes are absolutely sensational!