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Special birthday dinner - suggestions, please!

First, a heartfelt thank you: based on your recommendations, had a wonderful time at Eleven Madison Park.

Need to take a dear, dear friend out for her birthday. She (and I) prefer someplace that isn’t into very ‘heavy’ foods; seafood is always a plus. We DO like tasting menus, though it isn’t mandatory. She just moved to the UWS, so I thought perhaps to try something there, though the choices seem limited for something ‘fancy-ish.’

Some thoughts based on my perusal of recent comments: Telepan, Picholine, Sushi Gari (though I hear Yasuda, on 42 St. is a better option). 'Course, it doesn't have to be the UWS: but it would be nice to give the new 'hood a shot given that we always seem to go downtown (or east) for culinary adventures.

Looking forward to your great suggestions!

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  1. In terms of Gari vs. Yasuda - I like both. I think Yasuda edges Gari out in terms of variety and quality. However, I do like Gari's "special" sauces/preparations etc.

    1. i recently had a beautiful meal at picholine. it is, without a doubt, special occasion fine dining. i havent been to telepan, but have heard good things. my feeling still is that picholine might be the most refined option on the UWS, short of maybe jean georges or venturing into TWcenter spots.

      1. Leaving the UWS will give you more options, but with Picholine and Jean-Georges to choose from, there's really no need.

          1. Yasuda is amazing. Outside the fishmarket in tokyo, it's the best sushi I've had.

            1. Thanks so much for your suggestions. I'm also thinking about Perilla, based on other comments I've been reading about on the board.

              You guys are the best. (Though I agree with a poster downthread that once you all start to list your personal experiences, somehow my short list expands, rather than shrinks).

              As an aside, this is a regular 'event' we've had in our friendship, once we graduated college. Our birthdays are six months apart, and we've always 'blown' a healthy chunk of change (well, when we were 22-3, it might not have seemed like a lot but it was still a big percentage of our salaries!), at a fancy NYC restaurant. Throughout almost a quarter century of friendship, and life changes, we've almost always kept up the tradition, with some remarkable, toe curlingly delicious meals (equally matched by the conversation!). A number of those restaurants don't exist anymore, the most memorable being a four hour dinner at Quilted Giraffe.

              In those days, pre-Internet, all we had to rely on was Zagat's and The New York Times to figure out where to go to next. I'm happy to have you guys helping out on the most recent foray!

              1. Yeah seems Dovetail would pretty much fit the bill here.

                1. Dovetail has wonderful food, but be aware it is much more casual than Picholine or Jean-Georges. I would highly recommend it if that is what you are looking for.

                  1. if you want to do a seafood tasting menu, nothing beats le bernadin in my oinion..... i admit i don't tend to venture much to the uws so I have yet to try Dovetail. despite the rave reviews it has been getting. I love Yasuda and think you can't go wrong with that choice - I have not yet been to Gari so I cannot comment, although it is on my list of places to try. Another thought, although you would have to venture downtown would be Degustation, the portions are somewhat light but quite tasty and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there, I was even comped with some nice rose champagne due to the fact we had to wait a slight bit for are reservation. Either way, I hope you have a wonderful and celebratory time. I think with all those listed you will have a wonderful time at any of the mentioned places.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: kesues

                      I've had the pleasure of Le Bernardin, and agree with you wholeheartedly. I'd love to try Degustation based on what I've heard here, if I can convince her to head downtown...

                      1. re: drummergirl

                        Telepan has very good food (at times excellent) but I don't think I would consider it a special event restaurant. It's a "what are you doing Wednesday night, let's go out to dinner" kind of place. Picholine, based upon our most recent dinner, is one of the best overall meals/evenings we have had this year. Highly recommend the tastings.

                        1. re: Spiritchaser

                          I've been edging toward this one, based on all of your comments here. I hope she agrees to go here!

                          1. re: drummergirl

                            Hey, drummergirl,

                            I'm so pleased that you enjoyed Eleven Madison Park, our favorite restaurant in NYC.

                            If you are edging towards Picholine, I urge you to take the plunge. After not having been there for quite a long time and having mixed experiences previously, we had dinner there a couple of weeks ago. We did the Tasting Menu Royale. I hadn't expected to be so blown away, but it was truly sensational! In addition to the superb cuisine and excellent wine pairings, service was faultless, and the refurbished interior is quite pleasing and extremely comfortable.


                            Happy Birthday to your friend and Bon Appetit!

                    2. I know it's a bit beyond your ideal parameters, but have you thought about Aquavit? They have a nice, light seafood-heavy tasting menu.

                      For a lighter meal uptown, I agree with suggestions of Dovetail. It's not as formal as Le Bernardin, but the dining room is nice enough to denote something special, I think. Portions are on the smaller side, so you won't feel overly full.

                      81 is a very attractive, special occasiony space and I quite liked my meal there, though it's probably on the more traditional (to my mind boring) side of meal prep. food has also been overly salty on the two occasions I've been.

                      Bar Boulud, a little further south near Lincoln Center, is also a fine option. (Order tapas style.)

                      I have never (to my own surprise!) been to Picholine. It sounds to me like a lot of ppl think that's a good option.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: cimui

                        I took her to Aquavit on her last birthday, and it was spectacular. I love that place; the food was superb, and the service matched it. I'd definitely go there again, regardless of location.

                        I'll have to check Dovetail out further; I think I'm confusing it with someplace else that I thought DIDN'T get such accolades.

                        Is Bar Boulud on the casual side? (Not that that's a bad thing, mind you!)

                        1. re: drummergirl

                          you two are well eaten, indeed! (good thing you save so much on fruit. ;)

                          dovetail isn't well loved by everyone, but i think many objections were in reaction to being seated in the less desirable downstairs space and to the wait time many of us experienced when it first opened, despite having reservations.

                          bar boulud is... hmm... a much classier than usual bar masquerading as a casual drinking hole -- i guess a bit downtowny in feel. you won't find leather banquettes or the lush interior decorating as at other boulud restaurants. the space is more spare, all blond wood and clean lines -- but the food certainly doesn't taste like it was casually prepared. some people complain about the narrowness of the room, but it didn't bother me, personally. i find the space sexy and the food sexier.

                          1. re: drummergirl

                            Bar Boulud is upscale but definitely more casual than the other places mentioned. The food is excellent but simpler in style than Dovetail, Picholine, etc., classic bistro dishes and charcuterie of the highest quality. It is just not a place I would consider for a special occasion. In a choice between Dovetail and 81, Dovetail wins hands down. The atmosphere at 81 is IMO weird and kind of grim, like an old hotel dining room (which it is) that has been tarted up with some red velvet curtains and banquettes. I thought the food was good, but not exciting enough to justify the high prices. I've been waiting to hear of an improvement that would tempt me to try it again, but it continues to get so-so reports, so I'm holding off.

                        2. Spigolo would fit the bill perfectly-must make reservations!!!!!!! small restaurant and outdoor seating-but for indoor seating (only 11 tables) need reservation-212-744-1100-81/2nd ave