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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 oversalted...it'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 clash...my 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 though...my 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.

                  2. Hi Charles,

                    I exchanged quite a few posts with 4Seasons in different boards before. The closest alternatives to Babbo are Del Posto and Lupa. The latter is just about as hard to get reservation for dinner as Babbo. Del Posto is the easiest to get reservation since the place is huge.

                    Del Posto is definitely more formal and more expensive. I think most people complaint about Del Posto being overpriced and portion too small. I personally do not think the portion size was small and as I don't think it will be a problem for all of you as I suspect you will have smaller appetite (as 4Season mentioned in his other post). Have you considered having Italian on 2nd as lunch and Yasuda as dinner on 1st? The advantage of have either Del Posto or Lupa as lunch is that for Del Posto it will be more causal at lunch and for Lupa it will be less crowded. I think Yasuda is best to be enjoyed during dinner time by having omakase.

                    Just a thought.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: kobetobiko

                      Good points, Kobe,


                      Lunch in Del Posto is only Wed-Fri. If you don't mind the Enoteca, you can reserve that. A bit less formal but it is an open part of the whole main space. You should reserve for 5 but lunch should not be a problem.
                      Since I have seen yourself and 4seas on other boards, I would agree with Kobe on Yasuda for dinner for your tastes, especially 4seas and his other point about you not worrying about portion size with Del Posto. Personally, I only eat in the Enoteca now but I have my reasons which probably do not apply to your case.
                      Watch out for A Voce, chef change is a dicey issue. Mostly because you don't know if the next person in charge has the care or know how to keep a standard. Not many do.
                      Lupa is very suitable for children but I never reserve there, just walk in but you may have to wait(probably not long at lunch if at all). Children can eat in the Enoteca of Del Posto, also. I assume they are not the unruly horrors that are so common today in the US.
                      In essence, I am repeating Kobe's points.
                      Enoteca of Del Posto not a terrible alternative in terms of casual vs high end if you were willing to eat at Lupa.
                      As someone else stated, also earlier, Gram Tav, just walk in to the Tavern Room. Food is from the same kitchen and children are fine there.
                      I suggest you check menus of these places if you decide on lunch to see if the offerings are to your liking.


                      1. re: foodonlygood

                        The Tavern Room's food is excellent, but it is quite different from what is served in the dining room, i.e., much more rustic. Also, since they don't take reservations, depending on when they walk in, there can be a substantial wait (45 minutes to an hour). I'm an adult who detests long waits for a table, so I can't imagine the children would be happy with it.

                        1. re: RGR

                          Thank you for trying to correct me but I stated that the kitchen is the same, not the menu. I specifically stated to check menus for lunch v dinner. I figured Charles and 4seas are sharp enough to check one room vs the other.
                          I do not believe I intimated the wait would be short or long. I was seconding someone else's suggestion.
                          Waits anywhere can be bad but that is obviously a price of just showing up.
                          I do not wait long and I find at some places(LUPA) if you are smart enough to realize that the dopey hostesses in front are completely incompetent, your wait will be shorter.
                          Seriously, why are they always so stupid, different ones, over a few years. 30 minutes, OK. I see multiple tables open, way too many to be taken. Talk to manager 10 minutes later and sit down.


                    2. What about The Red Cat on 10th @ 23rd? Casual new american and a Jimmy Bradley joint. http://www.theredcat.com/redcat.html. Purportedly, Bruni is a fan too.

                      1. Many thanks to you all for your kind help and suggestions. Fourseasons' NYC friend finally managed to use his clout and get us all a 5.45pm reservation at Babbo. So, our chow itinerary is set! Early dinner at Babbo followed by a late night snack at Momofuku ssam.on July 1st. Lunch at Yasuda followed by 'raw oyster afternoon tea' at Grand Central on the 2nd. Will try to report baclk!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          love babbo, love sushi yasuda (had dinner at yasuda's station tuesday evening. not sure he's there for lunch. charming gentleman). the oyster bar at grand central? not so sure.

                          i look forward to your report.

                          1. re: steve h.

                            Hi Steve! I just wanted to grab some fresh oysters/shellfish around 4pm before heading out to La Guardia for my 7.30 flight back to Toronto. If not Grand Central. then where? Any good suggestion? Thanks!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              shaffer city. 5 west 21st street. sit at the bar. bask in the glow of the fish tank. heck, maybe order a gimlet (straight up) or two. the place won't be busy at 4 p.m. or so.

                              have too much fun.

                              1. re: steve h.

                                I personally like Aquagrill more than Shaffer City.

                                1. re: kobetobiko

                                  It being a weekday, though Aquagrill will be closed around then (gap between lunch and dinner service) - alas!

                          2. re: Charles Yu

                            Clout for 5:45pm reservation? I would not go beyond a sincere Thank You to whomever obtained it.
                            Hope y'all have a nice foodfest those couple days though I have to agree with Steve H about Grand Central oyster. Seems there might be something better available but I hope it is great for you.


                          3. When all else fails phone wise, grab a res for a lil' money @: www.tablexchange.com