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What does everyone think is the best tasting menu, short of Per Se?

Taking wife out for early V-Day dinner on Thurs. Per Se is best tasting menu experience we've had in NYc, but she feels like dropping $500 on food is "grotesque" in this economy.

So what do people say is the best tasting menu short of Per Se (and I suppose Masa, pricewise) in NYC? Meaning I guess that dropping $200-300 on food would be less grotesque.

Nothing is jumping out at me -- we've eaten at Daniel, Aquavit, Bouley, the Danny Meyers, the JGVs, the Blue Hills, etc, although not necessarily recently. So would be very grateful for some hot tips to guide my choice.

Fairly neighborhood agnostic but would like a pleasant, somewhat romantic, not stodgy room.

Signifier -- the caviar tapioca ice cream cone thing at Per Se is deeply loved. So a decent but not ridiculous number of plates with some tasty amuses etc.

Many thanks for the help.

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  1. Cru has a great tasting menu, and a VERY deep wine list to boot.

    1. Just had a wonderful 8 course tasting menu at the new Bouley ($155 pp). A few of the courses had choices, and they are very gracious about allowing substitutions. It's almost a brand-new menu from the "old" Bouley, so if you enjoyed Bouley before, you'll love it now!

      1. Have you been to Blue Hill Stone Barnes? It is such a great venue. I have eaten at Masa and highly suggest it, but it is more like $400/person now.

        1 Reply
        1. My personal favorites (after Per Se) are Eleven Madison and Jean Georges. Not sure when you last were at Eleven Madison, but if you haven't been since Chef Humm started a few years ago, that would be my pick for blow me away tasting menu. We also just recently had a tasting menu at Veritas which was terrific and they have one of the best wine lists in the city.

          1. If you like caviar and (I am guessing) seafood, how about Le Bernardin?

            1 Reply
            1. re: kobetobiko

              Mmmmmmmmm...Le Bernardin.....pure decadence