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A restaurant for an architect...?

  • r

Been a lurker for a while, taking cues from the great posters here, but I have to post my particular dilemma, to see if we can get another solid answer.

Going to Manhattan in mid-November with my girlfriend, and I'd like to book a birthday dinner. We're both aspiring foodies, driven by our love to eat and attention to detail.

The thing that gets her, though, is the architecture. She's particularly critical of the materials used and the way the space feels. She recently slammed a restaurant in Boston which despite having some fairly good food and showed a lot of promise for future visits, had this ridiculous blue light wave in the ceiling and an awkward split in the dining room.

To the point: I'm looking for a classy place, preferably Midtown or below, that has food as attractive to the palate as the surroundings are to the eyes. Sorry if I can't give a NY reference - most places I know are in Boston. Type of cuisine or price point isn't particularly important.

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    1. Interesting request. One of my closest friends is best friends with a pretty famous architect/engineer. He raved about the architecture at Aquavit. I've only eaten in the front cafe, where I've always enjoyed the food, though reviews on this board are mixed, and I find the design on the sterile side.

      4 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        I ate at Aquavit once, not a major herring fan . . . the design is amazing especially that indoor waterfall. Unless they have redecorated since I went years ago when I worked in Midtown.

        Also Asia de Cuba. I only went there for drinks. Not sure if the food is worthy of a hound.

        1. re: financialdistrictresident

          They've moved from the location with the waterfall. I'm also not a huge herring fan, but love the curried herring - I think it is served with apple.

          1. re: MMRuth

            I love the herring at Aquavit, but would have to say the new (well, not so new now) space looks more like an airport waiting room.

        2. re: MMRuth

          Aquavit is the first thing that came to my min.

        3. For good food and very interesting striking architectural details....The Capital Grille...great steak and the building interior is awesome

          1. Weird nobody mentioned the Four Seasons in the other thread. I'd imagine your friend would enjoy the ridiculously high-modern Seagram Building — Mies van der Rohe designed it, and the restaurant. Lunch there might be nice (huge glass windows), though it will be packed with stuffy business types.

            2 Replies
              1. re: cmballa

                I'll third the 4 seasons. It's easily one of the great interiors of NYC. I would suggest going for the whole nine yards in the pool room. It also shows a style of relaxed, comfy table spacing that has mostly disappeared from NY dining.

                1. re: AK21

                  Perry St, right in the Richard Meir (sp?) towers. The Modern, overlooking the sculpture court at MOMA. Both are clean, modern spaces. Other spaces I like: Anissa (crisp, elegant), Chanterelle (like a 19th c. palace room), Thalassa (used to have a waterfall-- still does?).

                  1. re: simetrias

                    Ditto both places! Also, restaurants in the Time Warner Center overlooking the Central Park/Columbus Circle are great (Asiate at the top of the Mandarin Oriental!)

                    I like to eats.

                    1. re: druz99

                      De gustibus non disputandem notwithstanding, I wouldn't take an architect friend within 5 miles of the Time Warner Center in its entirety... (g, shudder)

                2. I'd say maybe Guastavino.. However, I thought they closed long ago, though recently read/heard about someone eating there, so i'm not sure what the deal is/ if it's back...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PhishFoodie

                    Gustavino is no longer a restaurant. I believe it is now an event/catering space.

                    Your mention of Gustavino reminds me that Wolfgang's, the steakhouse, is located in a landmarked space that is architecturally very interesting. The ceiling was designed by Gustavino, and the workmanship is truly gorgeous! (Photo on website.) I think the food's very good, so if Rudi and his g.f. likes steak, they might want to check it out.


                  2. Eleven Madison Park is definitely a contender, as well as Lure Fishbar, in the exquisite dining room category. Or try Del Posto for a real feast for the eyes.

                    2 Replies
                      1. Depending on his/her taste, I would say the Lever House. What a cool space! And the food is great. I do prefer to have drinks there than to dine, as I find the crowd a tad, er, stuffy, though.

                        1. Based on today's Times review, I'd say Park Avenue Autumn - it sounds wonderful and on the plus side, it's designed by the team at AVROKO - who does fantastic work. Others by AVROKO are Public, Stanton Social and European Union, all of which get love from the board. I like EU in particular for both the space and the great upscale yet comforting gastropubby food.

                          Others to try from high end to lower - the Modern (beautiful space, hearty food), Asiate (beautiful views and asian-fusiony menu), Perry Street (clean modern lines and good food), Degustation (very good reasonable tasting menu although gf might not like the bar seating) and Tides (tiny but well designed seafood place in LES)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: kayonyc

                            I'd second Park Ave. from the review, and also their sister restaurant Quality Meats. I love the decor there. It is stunning and I wish I could live there. The food was good too. Kind of a steakhouse for people not so vested in the steak.

                            1. re: traceybell

                              I third any of the AvroKo space, especially Quality Meats and Park Ave. Autumn. Also, lure's space is interesting.

                            2. re: kayonyc

                              I second Asiate. My husband took me there for my 30th birthday and it was the best dining experience in the city I've ever had. The views are incredible, the food is innovative and delicious, and the service was amazing. On top of that, the atmosphere was pretty relaxed and despite the openness of the room, it was very quiet.

                              Four Seasons is also nice for afternoon tea, if you're into that sort of thing!

                              1. re: jamielynn

                                Oh I forgot about Gilt! The name says it all, doesn't it?

                              2. Not for the food, but if she's in to weird funky architecture go to Morimoto. I think its hideous and chic all at the same time, but some might be into it.

                                There are like no right angles in the whole place. It was the joke of the night. It was weird.

                                I love the architecture of Asia de Cuba too -- but I just remember liking it, I haven't been forever.

                                1. Masa might work. Some rave about the peaceful setting, the quality of the fine wood at the bar, and the exquisite food. Regardless of space, she could be so mesmerized by Masa himself that the decor will fall by the wayside.

                                  FYI, I've never been, but I eat up the reviews on CH. Especially this one:

                                  1. Excellent set of replies so far - thanks a bunch. If there's any more, feel free to add. I'll let you know what I pick - and the results - after it happens.

                                    1. We just ate at Market Table (from owner's of Little Owl), and despite the fact that it wasn't designed by a "starchitect" I thought the design was perfect, comfortable and flawless. From high beemed ceilings, to exposed brick to huge picture windows (facing Carmine Street), perfect colors, lighting, servers uniforms, etc...I was blown away...not to mention the food--It was so good, and the place is so romantic.

                                      Market Table
                                      54 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014, USA

                                      1. Matsuri -- 369 W 16th St, New York 10011
                                        At 9th Ave .

                                        1. I would do the following:

                                          * Have a pre-dinner cocktail at Brasserie (100 E. 53rd. bet. Lex. and Park)
                                          * Have dinner at Lever House (390 Park Ave. enter on 53rd St. between Park and Madison)
                                          * After dinner drink at Grayz (former Aquavit space at 13-15 W. 54th St. bet. 5th and 6th Aves.)

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: dkstar1

                                            That looks excellent. Those are some really interesting-looking places. And would it be safe to assume the food meets some Chowhound standard?

                                            1. re: Rudi

                                              How about per se or one of the time warner restaurants?

                                              1. re: Rudi

                                                yep, I think so. Brasserie's food has tapered off over the years,..but its a great place to have a cocktail and a hard boiled egg (they serve them at the bar). Food in general is passable but nothing to wow you.

                                                Lever House has very good food and though I haven't been to Grayz, I assume its probably pretty good.

                                            2. I only have 2 words: Lever House. There is a resturant by the side of the famous building and it looks modern cool. Very expensive but very impressive!

                                              1. Jean-Georges. Once you're past the glitz of the Trump exterior this is one of the most beautiful spaces in Manhattan--with food to match. Nougatine, the less expensive "cafe" is also a glamorous beauifully lit room with food as good as, though not as elaborate, as the main dining room.

                                                If you haven't been to the 4 Seasons make a point to go and at have a drink at the bar. Anyone with an interest in architecture should visit at least once.

                                                1. A few years ago I had dinner at Suba, on Ludlow St, lower east side.

                                                  It may have been remodeled since, but it was memorable for a basement level dining room surrounded by a moat!

                                                  I think it even got 2 stars recently in the New York Times.

                                                  1. Most mentioned I would agree with: Perry St, Town, Eleven Madison, The Modern, Public.
                                                    Add Spice Market and Buddakan. Buddakan is dramatic. The Grand Hall with its communal table is amazing. I keep seeing Grayz pop up on the board. Is it a late night place?

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: skypilot

                                                      Buddakan is more like a stage set than an architectural marvel. I think Spice Market fits the same bill. And to the poster below...Chikalicious? Boring, uncomfortable and hardly interesting room.

                                                      1. re: dkstar1

                                                        I, too, was surprised to see Chikalicious mentioned. While I think Chika's desserts are worth a visit, I wouldn't do it for the "architecture" since, as you said, the place is quite plain.

                                                        It just occurred to me that an architect would find Tides very interesting. Whoever designed the teensy space did a superb job, especially with regard to the truly unusual ceiling. In fact, the design won an award. And the food's delicious! :-)


                                                        1. re: RGR

                                                          I mentioned Chikalicious the context of the NYT article on Design & Construction Resources, who have done a bunch of restaurants in a similar style (clean, modern, sleek, etc.)

                                                    2. You might want to also consider peeking into Chikalicious, Momofuku Noodle Bar (the new location, story in the NYT today), Kyotofu, Soto...


                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                        Those designers are pretty great.

                                                        Also, Chang. Those huge posters of the Band, and John McEnroe !

                                                      2. After reading through all the replies, I totally agree with Eleven Madison Park, Lever House or Four Seasons. All great, dramatic spaces; very upscale and fine food. I would stay away from Buddakan and Spice Market - they both have cool spaces, but I would not consider them classy/upscale. They are fun and somewhat touristy; food is average and not for a special occasion.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: LifeisGood58

                                                          I would agree with a lot of the above.

                                                          I think its easy to mistake "dramatic spaces" and good architecture to good interior design and mood lighting.