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High-end Philly Birthday Dinner

Hi all - I'm from Boston but will be coming to Philly to help my sister celebrate her birthday. Could you suggest a couple of places that would be good for a special occasion? Looking for good quality food, fun (not old-school and sedate), with a good wine list. Cost is less of a concern. What does Philadelphia have to offer? What are the hot places to go? The restaurant that you would choose to go to if you could only pick one?

Looking forward to your responses, and thanks!

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  1. Last year I had a great meal at Lacroix for my birthday. Got special treatment too, toured the kitchen, the Chef came to the table, signed my menu and when I commented on how good the chocolates and peti-fors (?) at the end of the meal were, they brought me out a box full of them to take home.

    1. XIX at The Bellevue and Lacroix at The Rittenhouse are both high-end with interesting food without being stuffy.

      3 Replies
      1. re: hungry100

        Fun and hot is Osteria. Great food and good vibes. Plus there's always Le Bec Fin. Also, for great food, Vetri.

        1. re: Beulah

          I second Osteria for fun and hip place and would add Tinto, James, and Ansill.
          If I had to pick one personally, I'd go with James.
          If I wanted a more boisterous, festive atmosphere for a birthday, I'd probably be torn between Osteria and Tinto.

        2. re: hungry100

          I've had two bad experiences at XIX. If I had to choose the top high end restaurant, it wouldn't be on the list.

        3. While everyone mentions fabulous restaurants, if I had to pick only one, it would be Le Bec Fin. It's just fantastic.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Den

            I am thinking of a more fun place that is upscale with great food right down to smashing decor -- Buddakan. The others suggested so far are absolutely wonderful dining venues but defintiely on the classic and sedate side.

            1. re: idia

              Buddakan or LaCroix would be my first choices.

          2. For great food I'd go for one of the following 5, in this order:

            Vetri, Amada, Lacroix, Tinto, James

            1. Since no one has mentioned The Fountain Room at The Four Seasons, I'll throw that into the mix too. While I wouldn't call it the most "fun" or "hottest" restaurant I've ever been to, it is on the short list of restaurants I would choose for (very) special events as the food and service are first-rate.

              A brief story on the service...

              The first time we dined there, my wife asked for the location of the ladies room. Instead of telling her that it was out in the hotel lobby, one of the staff escorted her there, waited for her, and then escorted her back to our table.

              I was impressed.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Philly Ray

                Hmmmm. I think she's got a secret lover, if you ask me.

                1. re: idia

                  I forgot to add that my wife was 5 months pregnant at the time. Not that that meant she needed extra assistance.

                  But you could be on to something. Our daughter did come out with blue eyes and neither my wife nor I has blue eyes. My wife keeps telling me something about a recessive gene, hmmm......

                  1. re: Philly Ray

                    I should have also mentioned another high end restaurant with out the frills or fancy fixin's.
                    Estia for superlative Greek seafood.

              2. Since Buddakan has been mentioned, I'd throw Tangerine (another Stephen Starr restaurant) into the equation.

                1. Cost not an issue. Fun, hip, good food, and hip?

                  Barclay Prime
                  Palace at the Ben

                  1. Thanks everyone - I'll check these out and let you know what we decide!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: lorita113

                      Honestly, it depends on what cuisine you're looking for, how loud of a room and how large of a party.

                    2. I love Vetri and LeBecFin, but I think they would be too sedate for this occasion. Not sure about LaCroix, which I also love - might be too quiet.
                      Wouldn't recommend XIX.
                      The other suggestions sound fine.

                      1. I would go to Estia , They have private rooms and the food is delicous. They are located on Locust street its greek/medditerranean, its ideal for a group birthday dinner OPA!

                        1. Thanks to everyone who responded. On the Friday night, we went to Morimoto. We had a phenomenal waitress who managed to get us three different Omikase menus even though they're only supposed to do two per table - it was a gastronomic event. we had a couple of their specialty drinks - would especially recommend that togarashi martini which had a nice little kick to it that wasn't overwhelming.

                          The seafood was fresh and phenomenally well-prepared. The only main complaint I have is that there was almost too much - we were doing well with all the lighter fare - seafood primarily - throughout the first several courses, and thought, "well, there's only two courses left, we should be okay" - we just didn't realize that the two remaining courses (before dessert) were heavier, meat-based dishes - we practically rolled out. Among the standouts were an excellent toro tartare, the black cod miso and the kobe beef with black truffles.

                          For the birthday dinner, we had a party of 10, so rented the private room at La Croix. This was a trully fantastic meal. We started wtih a choice between the butter lettuce salad (Cashews, Blue Cheese, Honey Black Sesame Vinaigrette), which was surprisingly good - the flavors worked very well together, and was a nice introduction to the meal, and a Banana (Mastic, Truffle, Majorero Cheese, Shortbread) which was somewhat disappointing. The banana was barely grilled, and the flavors seemed disconnected.

                          The second course was between seared scallops and braised escargot (Parsley Root, Red Curry, Lamb Bacon). The braised escargot was quite good though Im not a huge escargot fan. The seared scallops were excellent - really good though not unusually so.

                          The main course was a choice between a black cod char sui and the muscovy duck breast cassoulet. Both of these dishes were incredible. the black cod was really interesting - a mixture of flavors I wasn't expecting but that went together surprisingly well, while the duck breast was a well-executed traditional dish.

                          We also had a sumptuous foie gras course in between, which was generous and well prepared (not overdone as it often is). We also had side dishes of Sweet Potatoes, Smoked Honey, Miso and Maitake Mushrooms, Horseradish. These were both good but not really anything special.

                          the dessert choices were a Chocolate-Cherry Clafouti (Muscovado-Brandy Ice Cream, Walnut Glass, Cocoa Crystals) that was rich but not too rich - velvety. The really interesting dish was a frozen coconut cream (Yuzu Gelée, Berry Mélange, Candied Pistachio) which was different than anything I had ever had and a nice, light end to what had been a very rich meal.

                          The sommelier is excellent and knows his craft well, but the mark up on the wine is outrageous. Overall, both restaurants were absolutely fantastic, well worth the money and I would highly recommend going to either again.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: lorita113

                            Thanks so much for reporting back. Often, we never know how things turned out.
                            You gave great descriptions. Sounds wonderful!

                            1. re: lorita113

                              I have to make a reservation at Lacroix! I haven't been for a couple of months and now it is time.