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Feb 17, 2008 04:21 PM

PhD defense dinner

My bf is defending his thesis at the end of march and i want to take him out to a fabulous dinner to celebrate. This is a huge milestone, so i need it to be really special... We love places like Allen and Delancey, the Modern bar room, and Employees only- creative food with a funky vibe. He, for instance, loved Stanton Social ( i wasnt as much of a fan). However, we are also big fans of places like Perry street and Gramercy Tavern-classic, comfortable places. Basically, im looking for a place with great food and ambience thats not tooooo stuffy but IS a special occasion type of place. Price is not too much of an issue, though i will say that perse is probably a bit too much :)

thank you in advance for the advice!!

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  1. bastet212, do what you have to do! It is a huge milestone! But even simple will be OK.

    After my PhD comprehensive exams (years ago, University of Oregon, Eugene) I went with my wife and our friend Marilyn to the coast with a basket of great food and several wines. It was brilliant, such a weight off of one's shoulders after so many years of the grindstone, so special, so exilarating, so important to share with loved ones, such a brilliant day on a windswept cliff above the ocean and the future spread out before us all.

    My PhD defense was more an anticlimax. I knew by then that I had the tiger by the tail.

    1. I thought L'Impero was lovely (kinda stuffy, but not tooooo stuffy). It certainly had that "special occasion" feel to it. I think we spent about $300 for two - but we drank. A lot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: small h

        lol, well done. Ive actually been to L'Impero- it is wonderful. Im gonna be a tiiiiiny bit selfish here though and use this as an excuse to go somewhere *i* havent been, lol :)

        great suggestion though!

      2. Congratulations!
        How about Eleven Madison Park? It's the "cost-efficient" Per Se!

        5 Replies
        1. re: scoopG

          another great suggestion- and another ive been to :( I want to find something a little more cozy and less....formal? than EMP. Im not sure if formal is the correct word exactly- let me just say that id prefer an atmosphere more like gramercy tavern or Allen and delancy to the white table cloths of EMP...

          another great suggestion though, keep em comin!!

          1. re: bastet212

            I am going to throw Gotham Bar & Grill into the mix. Stupendous, romantic and deeeeelicious!

            1. re: idia

              I used to love gotham,, possibly the best venison i've had in a restaurant, but last time i went a few months ago, it seemed like they were in need of a renovation,, it just didnt seem the same.,,
              As far as a non stuffy Phd dinner ,,, how about Chanterelle, or Wallse, or Kittichai

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                I would recommend Degustation. 10 courses for $75 great wine list and cozy cool environment. Only 18 seats in the restaurant tand the chef cooks right in front of you. This is very refined spanish food in small plate format. I believe calling it Tapas degrades it since it is so much more than that.

                East 5th street between 2nd and 3rd avenue

                1. re: Sautrelle5

                  WOW, ive eaten at Degustation but didnt know the name,,i just thought it was jewel bako part 2. The dishes are great , the fried fish balls on a skewer are great. Every dish was really good,, i didnt try the wines i had the sake from jewel bako instead. I love this place. Also, you might try Jack's Oyster bar ,,same owner,, around the corner on 2nd avenue. The small dishes are really great.

        2. Bar Blanc. The food is superb, and the atmosphere is sophisticated, trendy, and fun. It is definitely not stuffy. The menu is limited, but if you have not been yet, I don't see that as a problem. I would also recommend Dovetail for superb food, and though I would not call it stuffy, it does attract an older, neighborhood clientele. To me these are on a level with Allen and Delancey, but more comfortable and not as noisy. By the way, L'Impero is also a favorite of mine, and I would say Dovetail has a somewhat similar atmosphere, and the food is better (though different so it is not easy to compare).

          1. sounds like wd 50 might be your kind of place. i love it. some people hate it. but i don't think anyone would disagree that it serves up creative food with a laid-back, but special-occasiony vibe. if you don't mind smaller plates, stanton social style, look into pegu, grayz, and casa mono. pegu and casa m can both get a bit loud.

            9 Replies
            1. re: cimui

              degustation is definitely top of the list right now... problem being that weve decided we REALLY want to go and may not want to wait that long, lol. Wallse, bar blanc and WD50 could definitely work too.... ill look into them, for sure.

              what about ouest? compass?

              1. re: bastet212

                We haven't been to Ouest, but from what I've read about it, I would think it might be too casual for such a special occasion.

                I've always liked Compass, and while we haven't been back since Chef Neil Annis returned, when he had his food during his previous tenure, it was excellent. However, if you're looking for small and intimate, Compass is not for you. It's a huge space with a dining room on two levels, a lounge area in front, and several private rooms.

                Since you've eliminated our favorite restaurant, EMP, my suggestion would be Jean Georges. Not too large, lovely ambiance and, of course, wonderful cuisine. When we were there in October, we were seated at a table for two that was set in a small alcove, which lent a very cocoon-like and romantic feel to the evening. There are two of these alcoves, and I recommend that you request one of them.

                Congratulations to your boyfriend on this major achievement and Bon Appetit!

                1. re: bastet212

                  Ouest gets a lot of praise on this board. I have not been there. You would not go wrong with Compass, but I think Bar Blanc and Dovetail are just a bit more creative.

                  1. re: bastet212

                    i don't think, based on your preferences, that ouest would be too informal. it's not stiff at all, but there's enough of an element of formality to the place to denote special occasion. i don't want to overtout the service because it's obviously pretty context dependent, but in my frequent experience, service has been so good that it, by itself, denotes special occasion. the house specialty is red meat and the sausages and sweetbreads are inevitably well prepared. definitely falls in your classic, comfortable category.

                    1. re: cimui

                      cafe bouloud? andrea strong just wrote a glowing review on her website. made me want to hop on a plane and fly in for dinner.

                      1. re: rooney

                        It's not Cafe Boulud that Strong just raved about but Daniel Boulud's brandy new spot, *Bar Boulud*. She very rarely disses a restaurant, so I take her glowing reviews with a giant box of salt. I have not been to Bar Boulud, but reports on this board have been *very* mixed.

                        As for Cafe Boulud, it is one of our favorites, but I don't think it's a good fit for what bastet212 has in mind.

                        1. re: RGR

                          I had a wonderful meal Friday night at Ouest, but I must admit that the atmosphere for such a special occasion should be a little "sexier" than that restaurant.
                          I second RGR's suggestion of Jean Georges. It just sounds perfect.

                          1. re: idia

                            I'll add a third for Jean Georges. Although it's a fairly formal room (less so with the remodel), I think the service is SO good that the experience of eating there ends up feeling terrifically intimate and relaxed. For example, the first time I went it was with my wife on our first anniversary. At the end of the meal they presented us with an extra dessert with "Happy Anniversary" written on it. The magic is that we hadn't told them it was our anniversary; we had said happy anniversary to each other once, at the start of the meal, and that was it. When she saw our surprised faces she said, "Oh, we're terrible eavesdroppers here." It's that level of attention that makes the place repeatedly rewarding.

                            Oh yeah, that and the best, most intelligent food in New York. If you like Perry Street, you're going to like JG. If you can swing it financially, the wine pairing is good.

                            Finally, you only defend your Ph.D once in your life (hopefully!), so make this meal special. Degustation has good food, but it's far from being a special space. It's a glorified lunch counter. I like lunch counters and I like Degustation, but its not my idea of a place to celebrate a milestone. It's where you go on a Friday night for a nice meal. I'd say the same goes for Ouest, Compass, and Dovetail. WD-50 is a little more special occasion becasue of the food, but the space is kind of blah.

                            1. re: jasmurph

                              Thank you all so much for the advice! JG sounds perfect and is probably what id go with if the graduate didnt just request "fun," "small plates," "like degustation" lol. I guess ill probably just go with that..... or casa mono...and save JG for MY defense, lol.