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A truly fabulous dinner for two: please help me choose the place

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My mother is coming in to town from southern California to spend Christmas with me. She hasn’t been here in over 20 years, and I would like to treat her to one really fabulous dinner while she is in town. As long as it’s manhattan, neighborhood doesn’t matter. I’m thinking max $150/person for food only. Restaurants I’m considering: degustation, convivio, eleven Madison park, and craft, although I’m definitely open to other options. I haven’t been to any of the above, but have been dying to try them all, along with a few others that are too pricey. Also, I’m a little concerned about the timing of the visit and availability of reservations. I’d love to do make this our Christmas eve or Christmas dinner, but that’s not mandatory. Thank you in advance for your advice!

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  1. Picholine has availability on Christmas Eve, one of my favs in the City. I also like your choice of EMP. You could also look into Bouley (the new location is quite beautiful and I bet it's done up nicely for the Holidays).

    1. umai, i'd probably pick on the basis of where you think your mother would be most comfortable spending christmas eve. does she enjoy very glamorous, grand spaces or is she more into warm and cozy spaces? there is excellent food to be had at many restaurants in town; to me, on a special occasion like this, it is the atmosphere that really distinguishes between a good and wonderful meal.

      so.. that said, picholine has pretty good food, though i would not rate it on par with some of the other places you mention. (there are a few misses on the menu, like the fabled uni mousse, which uses sub-par uni in my experience.) the dining room is formal and, in my opinion, it and the service are mildly stuffy.

      you might find it helpful to check on opentable to see a list of restaurants that are open on christmas eve.

      1. Of the places mentioned, eleven madison is most special. It is great. In past years I have had christmas and christmas eve dinners at both Bouley and Jean Georges whish were great. The latter had a special, reduced, holiday menu which I would go back to.

        3 Replies
        1. re: maxine

          I have eaten at Convivio, EMP and Craft. All were good, but Convivio's food did not blow me away. The place and price you can not beat though. How about Grammercy Tavern?

          1. re: taboo

            Agreed on Convivio-i was terribly dissappointed-more so at attitude of waiter when i told him my braised short ribs were ice cold in middle-he got very snippy! that kind of attitude crosses a restaurant off my list-forever!!!!

            1. re: UES Mayor

              Oh dear - that's too bad. We had a great waiter there.

        2. Degustation is not very "lovely Xmas Eve"-like. Counter seating, so, if your mother is not down with that, X it.
          11Mad is considered a higher level than the others.
          On that level and price you can go pretty much anywhere except Per Se.
          For the nicer places considered more along the 11Mad lines, JG, Daniel, Bouley would probably be the most obvious.
          I think if you book now you should be able to book something for one of those days.
          If you want a lower level, though not necessarily low, well, the options open up.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dietndesire

            Agree entirely, my decision would be between:
            EMP, Bouley, Jean George & Daniel.

            Though the Modern and Picholine would be close runners up, and while I haven't been, suspect that Aureole might make that second round cut as well.

            As others have said at $150 per person for food alone, you can go essentially anywhere in the city except for Per Se, so really enjoy!

          2. Thanks all for your advice! Based on your recommendations, I tried Bouley, EMP, and JG for reservations. JG's availability worked best with our schedule, and we're both very excited about it. Will report back later!