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Help w/ Anniversary trip to the Theater District....

Hello all,

I am in the process of planning a surprise trip with my wife to New York City for our 10 year anniversary. This will be the first time to the city for both of us and I am quite excited. We will be staying in Times Square for 5 nights from Monday (2/4) to Saturday (2/9). I am planning to do a lot of sightseeing during the day and planning on taking her to see 4 or 5 Broadway shows in the evenings. Over the past few nights (when my wife is asleep), I have been doing alot of research on these message boards for pre-theater restaurants. The following restaurants have been recommended and are followed by a few questions:

Italian: Trattoria Trecolori, Lattanzi Ristorante, Ecsa, Vice Versa, Roberto Passon, Cascina

American: Amalia, West Bank

French: Cafe Madelaine, Marseille

Q1) On our anniversary (Thursday night) I am taking her to see the Phantom of the Opera, our favorite, at the Majestic @ 8 pm. I would appreciate any suggestions as to the most "romantic" and/or "Anniversary appropriate" pre-theater restaurant either from the list above or maybe some that are not mentioned.

Next, since we will be eating 4 to 5 pre-theater meals, I would love to hear what your opinion is as to the best all-around

Q2) Italian,

Q3) French,

Q4) Steakhouse, and

Q5) Seafood

restaurants in the Theater district. For questions 2 thru 5, the basis for evaluation would be the overall quality of the meal and service, not so much how romantic the setting.

Lastly, I would like to thank and commend all of you who take the time to answer all of the various questions posed on this board. As a NYC newbie, it is a very daunting task to try to make an educated decision on what to see and where to eat, but I have learned alot by reading this board and you provide a great service to those like myself. So thank you in advance for helping me make this a great and memorable trip.

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  1. Of those listed, I think-
    Q1 ViceVersa-ask for a corner table
    Q2 ViceVersa
    Q3 Madelaine (not the consensus on this board, but it's my choice)
    Q4 none
    Q5 Esca-especially the raw selections.

    One thought-it flies under the radar, and is far from the best restaurant in NY, but I just had a pretty nice dinner at Triomphe-it's small and romantic-especially if you ask for one of the single tables by the mirrors or one of the corner banquets...the food is somewhat traditional French. I found it suprisingly enjoyable.
    http://www.triomphe-newyork.com/
    I've also been eating at Insieme frequently-very nice, very solid food, and a bit different.
    http://www.restaurantinsieme.com/

    1 Reply
    1. re: David W

      Q4 - I haven't been to a steakhouse in a while, but Gallagher's is still going strong on 52nd, just west of B'way. It still gets a decent review in Zagat, and it's historic in that it's been around since 1927 when it was a no-kidding speakeasy. In the old days they raised their own Angus cattle down in Virginia! (It was a great tax deduction!)

    2. Q1 - Vice Versa
      Q2 - Vice Versa or Orso
      Q3 - Marseille
      Q4 - I'm not a steak fan, so can't say
      Q5 - I found Esca overpriced and ordinary, but unfortunately I cannot come up with a great seafood rec.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rrems

        For seafood, you could go to Pampano and then get a cab across town.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Looks like David W and rrems could make reservations for me anytime. I completely agree with their lists. Esca can be very good if you hit it right.
          As for steaks, I guess I would suggest Keans though no steak places have really set me flying! Actually, I think you can get better steaks at many upscale restaurants.
          I also just googled "triomphe" and the menu looks very inviting. Another one to add to my list. Thanks David W.

          1. re: idia

            I just checked Triomphe's menu too and it does look very interesting. I will plan to try it.

      2. Q4 - Del Frisco's - 49th & 6th Avenue-best ribeye in the area & don't forget the potato chips!

        1. Addition to my above post: If you like organ meats or just classic bistro food, Chez Napoleon would be a great choice. We had dinner there tonight, and I had the brains and my partner had a venison steak. They have great kidneys, calves liver, and sweetbreads, in addition to a wide array of less adventurous but very tasty dishes. The atmosphere is informal, it's not expensive, the owners are French as is most of the waitstaff. It's the kind of bistro you can still find in France but is dying out in New York, and you certainly won't find anything like it elsewhere in the US.

          1. Esca is close to theaters and an outstanding experience on several visits in the past few years. Outstanding Italian seafood with interesting menu. One of the better NYC restaurant experiences you can have in my opinion. All the tables are great. Raw selections are very special.

            1. Thank you all for your input. I am looking forward to trying your suggestions, and any additional suggestions would be appreciated.

              Would you recommend that I go ahead and make reservations at these restaurants? If so, how much time should I give myself to eat and walk/ride to the theater (1 hr, 1 1/2 hrs, 2 hours, etc.)? Two of the shows (Tuesday & Wednesday) start 7 pm and the rest (Monday, Thursday & Friday) begin at 8 pm. Thank you very much.

              2 Replies
              1. re: meataholic

                I think it depends on a few factors: proximity of the restaraunt to the theater; how fast you walk; do you enjoy a drink before dinner; do you like dessert and coffe...
                I would recommend 2 hours before the curtain. Most of these places cater to theatergoers, so they will be packed with people all needing to leave at around the same time. Also-there will be a lot of people on the street trying to get to the theater, and it can be congested.
                And yes, do make reservations as soon as possible...an easy way to do so is via opentable.com - that way you can plug in the day and time and see what's available. I'd say Esca will be the hardest reservation of the bunch.

                Oh, and regarding Triomphe-the online menu is representative, but not up to date-some items are on it, some are not. I had a nice tuna dish the night we were there, and a salad with pear and gorganzola. So don't go expecting a specific dish.

                1. re: meataholic

                  meataholic,

                  It's so caring of you to plan such a lovely surprise for your wife. My suggestions are as follows:

                  Italian: Trattoria Trecolori is our favorite in the area for well-prepared homestyle fare. Good service and pleasant atmospherics

                  http://www.trattoriatrecolori.com

                  French: dbBistro Moderne, 4-star chef Daniel Boulud's contemporary French bistro cuisine. Upscale, but not nearly as expensive as his eponymous temple of haute French cuisine. If you want to economize, they offer a 3-course pre-theater prix-fixe for $45.

                  http://www.danielnyc.com/dbbistro

                  Anothere fine option is Marseille, a bright, bustling brasserie with eye-catching decor that serves very good French/Mediterranean cuisine.

                  http://www.marseillenyc.com

                  Steak: Keens has been in its 36th St. location since 1885. Thus, in addition to delicious food, there's unmatchable old NY ambiance, i.e., walls filled with authentic American memorabilia and row-upon-row of old clay smoking pipes suspended from all the ceilings, as well as pipes belonging the famous people in display cases in the vestibule.

                  http://www.keens.com

                  Seafood: I'm not a fan of Esca. Our one experience there was pre-theater. The food was disappointing, seating was uncomfortably tight, and service was of the how-fast-can-we-get-you-out-of-here variety with not a hint of pleasantness or caring.

                  I suggest that you go to West Bank Cafe, which serves excellent New American cuisine, and which has quite a few fish and seafood dishes on the menu. Friendly, capable staff. Attractive decor, nicely-spaced tables, and comfortable seating.

                  http://www.westbankcafe.com

                  Reservations for dining pre-theater are an absolutel must! OpenTable is a good way to go, but all restaurants are not on their list. Also, restaurants on OT often hold back tables, so if you don't find a time that works for you, call the restaurant directly.

                  My best wishes to you and your wife on the occasion of your 10th anniversary. Enjoy your trip to NYC and Bon Appetit!

                2. Nizza is a Mediterranean restaurant run by the same poeple as Marseille...it is excellent, small to medium plates, with a great ambiance. It is just up the block from Marseille between 45th and 46th.

                  1. Thank you all so much for your input. I fell confident that we will have excellent pre-theater meals based off of your recommendations. I can't wait to get there!

                    1. All I can really speak to is Trattoria Trecolori. My wife and I just got back from a trip to NYC and we ate there before going to see Spamalot. It was good (not great) Italian fare with reasonable prices. The atmosphere isn't romantic, but nice. We were please, but not overly impressed, with our experience there. My wife got a ravioli dish that was good, but only luke warm and would've been better if it were hot. I got a veal dish that was very good. Our appetizer was the best part, a collection of different salumis, cheeses, olives, capers, and marinated peppers. We skipped the dessert because they actually didn't look too appetizing.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sbouldin

                        Too bad you skipped dessert since their tiramisu is seriously delicious.

                      2. I would recommend Le Bernardin for seafood. It is quite extravagant, it is definitely going to set you back a nice sum of money. However, if it is too pricey for the occasion they do serve lunch as well which I have not attended but have it on good authority that it is much less expensive than dinner and is superb.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: meldrom

                          I have read many good reviews for that particular restaurant. Maybe we can fit that in for lunch one day. Thank you for the recommendation.

                          1. re: meataholic

                            Okay, here's my list:
                            Italian (and anniversary friendly -- my favorite dining spot) Vice Versa
                            French - Rene Pujol
                            Steak - Keens (if you insist on a steakhouse)
                            Seafood - Le Bernardin

                            I would dine at 5:15 for the 7 pm theater and you should make that the closest place to walk to.
                            6 pm for the others and you'll have time to spare, even with a few blocks walk -- depending on the theaters.
                            Vice Versa and Rene Pujol are on 51st at 8 & 9.
                            Keens is the one where you will likely need a cab -- it's in the low 40's.
                            What fun!

                            1. re: idia

                              Correction on Keens' location: It's on 36th St., b/t 5th & 6th Avs., closer to 6th.

                              http://www.keens.com