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Jun 6, 2008 04:06 PM

Babbo fully booked! - now I'm lost!!

Hello! I, myself a Toronto chowhounder, will be meeting up with Singaporean chowhounder 'Fourseasons' for a mini chow-meet and greet in NYC. We were stunt to find out that Babbo ( our first choice ) is fully booked on July1st, the day of our planned meeting. Is 'Lupa' or 'A Voce' a good alternative? We are looking for a really good Michelin star restaurant that is NOT TOO FORMAL since we'll be dining with children. Some of our other choices include Gramercy Tavern, BlueHill, Spotted pig, The Modern, WD-50 and Etats-Unis. My friend and I are both foodies having just came back from a culinary adventure of Michelin calibre establishments in both Hong Kong and Tokyo. Therefore, for our NYC meet, good consistent food is paramount!! Thanks in advance for all your help!
BTW, we've eaten in Per Se, Daniel, Le Bernardin, L'atelier Robuchon, Cafe Boulud...Hopefully food from recommendations will be equally tasty?!!

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  1. If you have not been to Gramercy Tavern and you can get a reservation there, you absolutely must. The food is outstanding and the service is equal. It's a truly wonderful experience that would be consistent with the list of restaurants you've already tried. Union Square Cafe would be my second choice and L'Impero my third. Good luck, and please post where you finally chose!

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmo9

      I second Gramercy Tavern. Excellent food. Excellent, attentive service.

    2. Tsk, tsk, even after all this discussion:

      How large is your party? I really like A Voce but their chef has announced he is leaving soon....

      7 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        Obviously, kathryn, we cross-posted.

        1. re: kathryn

          I know! I know! I know! Sorry!........Blame it on me!!!
          For his one week stay in the big apple, I believe Fourseasons has already firmed up his eating itinerary. However, it is I, the culprit, with my impromptu decision to fly down and join him for some 'high calibre NYC chow, that is screwing things up for him!!
          I'll be travelling alone, so our party for July 1st will be 3 adults and 2 kids ( 7&10 ). We've decided to go to Sushi Yasuda for lunch on the 2nd, therefore we would like to settle for some good western chow on the night of the 1st. Preferably Italian, if not, then French. Based on previous posting on this board, we are also looking at Aquavit. Its one of those restaurant that I am surprised Michelin does not award it a star. The other one is EMP. I heard great things about Gramercy Tavern as well. but since it is Michelin star rated, is it too formal for kids? Finally, if chef Carmellini is leaving A Voce and Del Posto is too inconsistent for a Michelin 2* ( and too formal ), then, is Lupa our ONLY CHOICE for consistently good Italian? imo9 suggested L'Impero, however I've read that there is a recent turnover in the kitchen resulting in a new chef coming on board. Has he settled in yet? Thx!!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            hi Charles,

            Lupa your "ONLY CHOICE"??...hardly!!!...NYC has hundreds of Italian restaurants!...personally, i'm annoyed by the Batali obsession in NY and i refuse to go to his restaurants anymore because of rude hosting issues and general attitude (though i sometimes make an exception for Casa Mono)...i've had amazing dishes at Babbo but i've also had a sugary salad that i sent back and a bland tough pork chop...

            that said, Lupa can be a fun place...the various starters make it fun for group sharing...pastas are yummy...but some dishes are often's a pretty casual restaurant, good for kids...just don't expect them to seat any incomplete parties, so it can be an annoying place to meet up...

            do a search of the board for favorite Italian and you'll get dozens of alternatives...your aim for a Michelin star place yet somewhere casual is a bit of a favorite upscale Italian is Il Giglio in Tribeca: it's oldschool, elegant, and festive w/ caesar salad, veal, etc: but it sounds like you want something a bit more trendy other fav Italian places are more casual and moderately priced: Cacio e Vino (cozy East Village place w/ large menu of Sicilian specialties as well as pizzas) and Malatesta (Far West Village w/ outdoor seating): but i think of those two as great neighborhood joints, not destination restaurants to seek out from the other side of the world (although my friends from Tokyo loved Cacio e Vino last summer)...

            i haven't been to Gramercy Tavern in several years, but it does have a vibe that i'd say would be comfy for kids...

            1. re: Simon

              I don't think you can compare the food at Babbo with Cacio e Vino or Malatesta. They are not at the same league, not even close. While they may be good as neighborhood restaurants or for a weeknight dinner, I will not consider them as destination restaurants, left alone telling visitors from Singapore and Toronto to go for what supposed to be their top italian dinner.

              1. re: kobetobiko

                if you read my post, you'll see i actually said that they are "not" destination restaurants, but rather i described them exactly as casual "great neighborhood joints"...

                i wasn't comparing either one to Babbo...Charles was talking not just about Babbo but also Lupa, which isn't really much more than a casual neighborhood place itself, albeit w/ extremely good pastas, lots of hype, and arrogant staff...personally i'd rather eat at Cacio e Vino than Lupa any day...but what i really wanted to do was dispell the notion he had that Lupa was the only option left to him, which couldn't be more wrong...and to give examples that Italian places in NYC come in many delicious varieties...

              2. re: Simon

                I seen teenagers eating with their families in the GT Dining Room but never children that young. Perhaps the Tavern Room.

              3. re: Charles Yu

                The change of chefs at L'Impero took place nearly a year ago, and it has been consistently excellent. I think that at $64 for 4 courses, it is one of the better values around. It is also a place you can definitely take children to, but just a heads-up: it is not "formal" in the sense of "jacket required", but it is not a jeans type of place either. Nice shirts and dress pants will work just fine. As far as Lupa is concerned, your only option is to do a walk-in and be prepared to wait an hour or more. Just like Babbo, Lupa is fully booked one month in advance. However, Lupa holds half the tables for walk-ins.

            2. With regard to A Voce, the restaurant has announced that Chef Andrew Carmellini will be leaving his post as executive chef. I think he will be gone by the end of this month (June). No replacement has been named. At this point, I would not recommend going there.

              How young are the children? This could make a difference when it comes to the other restaurants you are considering.

              1 Reply
              1. re: RGR

                From Fourseason's thread, he has two children, aged 7 & 10.

                Unsure if Charles has progeny...

              2. Go to Babbo at 5:00 - 5:30 on July 1st and ask to be put on the waiting list. You'll get in, no problem. I've done this twice, once on New Year's Eve, and had no trouble.

                1. howdy charles,
                  del posto is a decent babbo fallback. you might want to get your reservation in now.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: steve h.

                    I've had consistently good meals at A Voce. A change in chefs would be disappointing. Their pastas have all been excellent. Lupa also does great pastas, arguably better than their main dishes. (However, as others have mentioned elsewhere, I think they can be heavy on the salting. About two weeks ago I simply couldn't eat their pasta carbonara because of this.) I think you will have a much easier time getting into Lupa than Babbo without a reservation. We did just that at Lupa and waited only about 5-10 mins max at about 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, though that might have been unusual. In contrast. Babbo is simply packed, every night - but the food is terrific. Last month there I had a pappardelle with thyme and morels that was outstanding. Ditto their very different cheese cake. From the time we arrived, around 6:30, till we left, around 9, we didn't see an empty table and the downstairs bar area was consistently packed.

                    Aquavit is excellent. However, note that they have two dining rooms. The less formal cafe in the front, where the kids will find items to eat (terrific Swedish meatballs, best I've had), and the more formal restaurant in the back, which is only prix fixe. If the children are well behaved they can certainly opt for either dining room but, the cafe will have more options for them. Aquavit also does a terrific brunch on Sunday, with lots of seafood options. For Italian, also take a look at Fiamma, downtown. They have had some excellent food since the new chef arrived, and similar reviews. It is a pretty room.

                    On some of your other selections: I've generally preferred the food at Gotham Bar over Gramercy Tavern, though the tables are much closer together at Gotham; The Modern is good but not equal to other restaurants you've mentioned (also, the main dining room, overlooking the sculpture garden, is formal, the front dining room/bar, with very good food, is very casual and often very crowded, serving good food), WD-50 is a very interesting spot. Alain Ducasse just opened Benoit, on West 55th street, off of Fifth and you may want to look into that. Its a classic French bistro, similar to the Benoit he opened in Paris. Its only open about a month but it is now hitting its stride. He also has Adour, in the St. Regis hotel, which is a beautiful spot, with terrific service. I imagine that because it is located in a hotel they would probably be very accommodating as far as food options for the kids. One more newish and high quality spot you should look at: Anthos, a Greek/Italian spot on west 52d. Pretty room and very good food. Park Avenue Spring, at about 62d and Park, also has very good service and so far very good food.

                    Also, you haven't mentioned any classic steak joints. NYC is a great spot for one. I am an old school fan of Peter Luger's. Its right over the Bklyn Bridge and looks about the same as it did almost 100 years ago. Great steaks. You can get there by taxi easily. You can even go for lunch, though in that case dinner would have to be pretty light. There are many other excellent steak options in the city too. Certainly, some will say you shouldn't miss one if you want to sample some of the best food NYC has to offer.
                    Have fun.

                    I'm heading to Singapore in a bit and would love some suggestions from Four Seasons down the road.

                    1. re: comiendosiempre

                      Hi comiendosiempre,

                      Adour is a wine "bar" so to speak. I had been there once and the environment was very adult driven. Definitely not a place for kids.

                      1. re: kobetobiko

                        Are we talking about the same Adour, the restaurant in the St Regis that used to be Lespinasse? Yes, it has a beautiful wine display when you walk in but it is very much a restaurant, not a wine bar. Yes, its very expensive, and very adult, but if the kids are well behaved I think you can bring them in there easily.

                        On the Babbo front, if you need a table for more than two or four people, I think the chances of getting one is very slim. They are simply packed every night and they don't have many tables larger than a four top.

                        Del Posto is also very good, and I also didn't think the portions were small. Their linguini with crab, jalapeno and bread crumbs was outstanding. Yet, the atmosphere is a bit of a downer, we thought. It reminded me a bit of a cruise ship - though I've never been on one. Morimoto, across the street, is a much more interesting spot.

                        One other food selection that is pretty unique to NYC is very upscale Mexican. Look at Pompano, on 49th off of Third. Very pretty room, great food, and an outdoor patio. The chef just opened another Pompano in Mexico City and it too has gotten great reviews. The lobster tacos and tamales are great, as is the guacamole. The kids would also enjoy it much. While Pompano is predominantly seafood, they have a great thin steak with home made mole sauce and rajas. Also, great wine list.

                        1. re: comiendosiempre

                          Hi Comiendosiempre,

                          Adour is a wine bar + restuarant with food and wine working together for your whole experience. The food is, again, supposed to go well with your wine and vice versa. I agree with you that it is a restaurant, but the wine bar was more of an attraction than the restaurant. Regardless, I don't think that's a place for kids or family. Much more of an adult "restaurant" for me.