Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Feb 15, 2009 04:04 PM

Help narrow down must trys for 3 night anniversary foodie trip!?

I was last in NYC with my sisters in 07 (& ty chowhounders for your direction back then) and it was quite a different trip to the one planned with my husband of 10 yrs this year for May. I would like it to be a very special 3 days . Hes very into his food and the last amazing & romantic meal we had in London was Clos Maggiore. Id love to find something of that ilk in NY.

Ive been to Keanes and liked its atmosphere very much , and we may visit there together this time , as hes very into his Steaks. Ive also been to Pastis, which was nice but not out of this world. (Although our table was not far from Matthew Perrys that night so we had a few hot under collar girls with us!).

He had wanted to do Per Se , but Im feeling that the price per head may be a touch too much this time. Although I know many rave about it.

As you can imagine its so hard to come up with a definitive short list as there so much good food not all of it Michelin star level !

So to this end I would really appreciate some direction.

This is my list so far :

Le Bernardin
Jean Georges

Are any of the restaurants in say 60Thompson or The Library any good?

Is there anywere else that is a must that I haven't included? May be something a little lower down the price range, but still gourmet, fresh, well thought out $70- $120 pp inc a glass?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. We have 4 weeks to go and still nowhere booked! We've sat for over 4hrs tonight researching!

    The only one that sticks out so far with all our research is EMP. (Although found out tonight we can only book at the earliest on the 18th!).

    It is really hard to narrow down for 3 nights and 3 types of restaurants, (to get a broad spectrum of places) ; Relaxing classic steak house , Luxury progressive and fun & funky!

    We decide on somewere read a review and then get stuck again!

    1. I don't think NY really has a "romantic" restaurant of quality - surely nothing that looks like your ideal in London..
      Dugustation is not romantic, unless you consider sitting at a bar with other people romantic (with very good food, but still.)
      Le Bernardin is romantic only if you find airports romantic - very sterile (once again-very good fish.)
      Picholene trends a little older and is, even to me, a bit stuffy.
      EMP-some find this romantic, others do not - you can look at the photo and decide - I find it romantic in the daylight-especially as the sun goes down over Madison Square Park.
      My pick, however, would be Jean Georges - great food, service, and room.
      I don't know what else you are doing other than eating, but note that the last two have really good lunchtime deals-you could go to one for lunch and one for dinner.

      1. I think people's ideas of what makes a restaurant "romantic" can differ substantially. Some like lots of flowers and frou frou. To others, it's all about the lighting.

        We've not been to Degustation, but I agree with David W that sitting at a counter is about the furthest from romantic for me.

        We were very recently at Le Bernardin, after not having been for a very long time, and though the cuisine was superb, the space still did absolutely nothing for me. Their attempts at camouflaging the fact that it is located in the lobby of an office building fall don't work very well, and as before, I found the decor very unappealing. Plus, I was shocked that a restaurant of this caliber would have tables jammed so closely together -- something I did not recall from our previous visit.

        I actually found the "new" decor at Picholine much more attractive and appealing than the photos I'd seen of it. What David calls "stuffy," I prefer to describe as "civilized." But I wouldn't call the ambiance romantic.

        EMP is our favorite NYC restaurant,. I adore the grand and gorgeous space, and the flowers always bowl me over. But I've never thought of it as romantic. They do a great job with interior lighting at night, but in daytime, when the daylight and, hopefully, sunshine sunshine, pour in through the huge windows overlooking Madison Square Park, it's truly magical.

        Jean Georges also has a very different feeling during the daytime as opposed to the evening. During the day, there is a very light and airy feeling provided by the huge windows that surround the dining room, while in the evening, the lighting and the draperies give the space a lovely, shimmering, golden glow. So, of those on this list, it comes closest to my idea of romantic, especially if you are seated in one of the two snug alcoves, each of which has one table for two.

        Veritas should definitely be added to your list. Chef Gregory Pugin took over the kitchen last summer, and his cuisine is sublime. The dining room is small, and the decor is of the minimalist variety with a few pieces of glassware in shadow boxes and two lovely floral arrangements on either side. Together with the perfect lighting, the space has, for me, a very soothing and romantic feel.

        3 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          OK I think its safe to say that Degustation should be saved for a lunch time slot.

          Having been several times to NY , this will mainly be a shopping and eating trip rather than a tourist tour! To possibly fit all these wonderful places in we're going to have to do some at lunch time!

          After reading several reviews about the atmosphere of Le Bernardin , I think I may pass on there also. I actually quite like the look of EMP both during the day and evening , I just feel that its a must as the reviews are so favourable and Ive not really had anything as progressive in presentation like that before.

          Thank you RGR for the Veritas link ,I will have a look and add that to the ever growing shortlist! It sounds very promising.

          I will also take another look at Jean Georges and read some more reviews on here.

          I know it shouldn't be this hard , but the main concern is doing all this research and then sitting down and being very disappointed. We also are coming very close to the 4weeks before booking window! Given that we have 3 precious foodie days , Our choices will have to be discerning and well thought out! Its serious business this eating!

          1. re: melsy


            I've attached photos I've taken, two of EMP and one of Veritas. Hope they help.

            1. re: melsy

              Degustation does not serve lunch.

          2. Definitely Jean Georges. Is there some reason you've bypassed The Modern? I've enjoyed that one a lot (if you like the current season's menu).

            I'm very fond of EMP and Le Bernardin, but just haven't every made friends with Picholene. It's "classic" in its service which might be what another poster calls "stuffy", but I get what he's saying because I always feel that it's a bit pretentious which I don't feel in other classic restaurants. For the record I go back to the days of Cafe Chambord and Le Pavillion, so I'm comfortable with classic formal.

            For romantic our go-to place was Water's Edge on the river in Long Island City. The restaurant has a free boat shuttle from Manhattan. Haven't been for a while so someone on the board may have more current info. Zagat still rates it well. And it is certainly uniquely NYC and the view is unbeatable.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Jane A.

              We looked at The Modern and for sure the food looks wonderful but the atmostphere from the images looks a bit corporate and suity, mind that could have been day time images?

              It does look very charming at the Waters Edge , but I know that my husband is really not at all into traditional decor & atmospthere.

              Great theres another whose a fan of EMP!

              1. re: melsy

                The Main dining room at The Modern , overlooking the sculpture garden of MOMA is an extremely romantic spot, especially at night. Another spot would be The River Cafe.

                1. re: melsy

                  I can understand why The Modern would photograph corporate and suity, but rest assured, it's not, even in day time. It's a very gentle quiet place, elegant, but still quite friendly.

                  Great food too.

              2. For Top Notch places you can't go wrong with Eleven Madison Park or Daniel.Also Aureole is romantic,excellent food and service although I haven't been there for several years so can't speak from recent experience.The bar at The Modern is fun if you plan on going to MoMA anyway.I really like Gramercy Tavern for lunch.Also Bouchon Bakery,which is in the Time Warner Center at Columbus's run by Thomas Keller(Per Se) and the sandwiches,etc are very good.It's in the middle of a mall time building so the setting isn't much,but it is right off of Central Park and a good breakfast or lunch spot if you're doing any sightseeing in the area.For steak I like Post House,Quality Meats,Maloney & Porcelli and PrimeHouse.All have good steaks in a couples friendly setting.

                22 Replies
                1. re: foodnwine

                  The new Bouley is a beautiful romantic spot with wonderful three star food. You will love the atmosphere.

                  1. re: Will4Food

                    What would do withought Chowhound I dont know!

                    As we cant make decisions right now , heres a rough food journey for us and the plan so far!

                    Fri night - not sure yet , but I still LOVE the atmostphere of Keens as a steakhouse the best, something about the old style decor. Im really stuck other than there as the new wave steakhouse decors arent relaxing enough after a long day travelling from London. Anywere else Ive missed? Gotham bar & grill possibly???

                    Sat lunch EMP to hopefully get a beam of sun view! Sat night Buddakan (yes may be be flashy - style no substance food!, but might be fun and we're meeting my brother in law and wife there)

                    Sun Lunch - Shake shack for a more casual nosh (unless Brother in law suggests Mercer brunch as theyre staying there) Sun dinnner - Veritas or Bouley , both look more our kind of romantic! Sun late - Luxee for desserts

                    Mon lunch - Degustation for a fun nosh

                    How does that sound?

                    1. re: melsy

                      EMP does not serve lunch on Saturday. Degustation serves only dinner, so you can switch EMP lunch to Monday.

                      I would choose Veritas over Bouley for your Sunday dinner. Although we haven't been to Bouley, a friend of ours recently had dinner there and had a horrible experience. But if you feel you must try Bouley, they do serve lunch on Saturday.

                      Another excellent option for Saturday lunch is Tocqueville. Why it travels a bit under the usual culinary radar is beyond me because the market-driven cuisine is delicious, and the understated elegant space is wonderful.


                      Keens is our favorite NYC steakhouse for exactly the reasons you loved it. So, you'll get no argument from me about going back again. Just as a reminder, have a look at the marvelous photo on their website.


                      1. re: RGR

                        Such a shame about Degustation , the last time I came to NY I had to miss it too , I just cant seem to work it all through right now and include it! I also cant seem to find anywhere else quite like it for a more different but very well put together way of eating lunch? Lunches are almost harder as they are dependant of course on where we are shopping or wandering and sometimes you just end up going into wherever you can find! (Not always a good move!).

                        Thank you RGR for the Keens link , I was showing my husband the other day , but I hadnt noticed the hilarious Bourdain video about it, hysterical and so spot on ; "a bar with big bar food"!!! Im such a carnivore , but I do actually like the crudites nibbles!

                        Thank you all so much for your continued advice , it really is a great help. Im driven to organise it all tonight as we wanted to call EMP tomorrow to catch the early morning bookings for Monday lunch 4wks from now! It does look really lovely and Im bolstered by such good opinions of it. Im sure it was in an epsiode of SATC!?

                        Im getting there slowly but surely!

                        1. re: melsy

                          Happy Anniversary!

                          I just want to note that not everyone has had a stellar experience at 11 Madison Park under Chef Humm, and also that there have been several pretty ecstatic meal reports from Degustation recently, including one from me (my dinner there with my girlfriend - yes, a romantic dinner - was the best I'd had in New York in quite a number of years). You have to decide whether sitting at a counter of an open kitchen is really unappealing to you, such that you'd pass up the opportunity of having a meal there. I hope that, if you miss it this time, it'll still be there when you have a chance to come back, but given this economy, I wouldn't be overly sanguine.

                          Above all, though, I hope you have a wonderful stay and great dining experiences, and look forward to your reports back on wherever you do go, when you have a chance to post about it.

                          1. re: Pan


                            You've mentioned your less than enthusiastic feelings about EMP many times before, and it always saddens me that you didn't find your experience there top notch. But let me say that there is not one single restaurant that does not have some detractors -- and that includes per se, where we had a very good meal, but not one I thought was in any way superior to the countless superb meals we've had at EMP or, recently, to the three we've had at Veritas since Chef Pugin arrived.

                            As far as romantic ambiance goes, if you think dining at a counter is romantic, all I can say is, "Chacun à son goût." :-)

                            1. re: RGR

                              Chacun a son gout. Precisely. But the thing is, I'm not the only person who's reported a less than stellar experience at 11 Madison Park. People tend to post recommendations more than discommendations, so before I went to 11 Madison Park, it seemed to me that everyone was raving about the place, but look at all the less than enthralled reactions that came out in this thread afterwards:


                              Granted, it's not a very recent thread, but I would just hate for someone else to assume that everyone has always loved the place.

                              1. re: RGR

                                Hi RGR,

                                Though you might normally assume that sitting at a counter is not romantic, I don't think this is so in the case of Degustation. The ambience, service and food combine in such a way that it does feel at least as romantic as EMP or Veritas, probably more so, at least in my opinion.

                                1. re: rrems

                                  I might add to RGR that you might want to actually have a meal there before deciding how it will feel to you.

                                  1. re: Pan


                                    I am fully aware that you are not the only person to ever post a less than positive review of EMP. No restaurant, no matter how many raves it garners from some, can ever please every diner.

                                    And to rrems, as well:

                                    We occasionally do bar dining in an upscale restaurant near our home in NJ. The room is beautiful, the chairs are extremely comfortable, the service is excellent, and the food is stellar, but yet, it has never felt romantic to me. However, when we dine in that same restaurant's formal dining room, the romantic feel is there.

                                    Could be Degustation might change my feelings. However, because I am something of a picky eater, I like to see a menu, especially before going someplace new to me. Since they don't have a website, the menu on MenuPages is not up-to-date, and I'm not about to make a special trip to the restaurant just to view the posted menu -- which, in any event, could be completely different by the time we managed to get a reservation -- I doubt I'll be dining at Degustation anytime soon.

                                    1. re: RGR

                                      You have to have a certain amount of flexibility to have a tasting menu, in any case. And if you don't like some of what they have on offer, they will work with you to serve you a menu you will like. I think you're making a mistake by being too rigid about having to see the menu before making reservations. Haven't you been to restaurants that change their menus every day, depending on what was fresh at the market that morning?

                                      Small quibble: I actually think that 11 Madison Park _could have_ pleased me. The fact that it didn't had more to do with the extremely slow service that evening than the food, although the food certainly could have been a lot more mind-blowing, overall. I have a feeling that they may have had an off night, all told, but one difference between us is that I simply don't have the money to go to such an expensive restaurant repeatedly, and when it's a special occasion and you feel cheated, you don't appreciate it. On the other hand, given the complaints some hounds have had about service at Babbo, my brother and I may have been lucky the night we went, plus it was significantly cheaper than 11 Madison Park and the food was clearly tastier - a comparison of one night at one place vs. one night at another. Maybe if it really didn't mean much to me to pay over $100 for dinner every few weeks, I'd give 11 Madison Park another try, and another, and find that it has a better track record than Babbo in terms of food and service, but high-end restaurants often have only one chance to make a good impression, and they know it.

                                      1. re: Pan


                                        I have said quite often on this board that I generally adhere to the maxim that a restaurant has only one chance to make a first impression. While I may be able to afford to dine frequently at high-end restaurants, I apply that principal to them as much as, or maybe even more so than, to less costly places. So, I understand completely your feelings regarding EMP, particularly since your funds are limited, and it was a special occasion.

                                        I had the same reaction to Le Bernardin the first time we had dinner there as you did to EMP. It was our anniversary, and I looked forward to going with great anticipation because Le Bernardin had gotten nothing but raves. Not only didn't the food wow me, but service was so icy, they could have turned off the a.c. (it was a warm night in June), and despite all attempts at camouflage, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was dining in the lobby of an office building, which is exactly where the restaurant is located. To say I left disappointed is a severe understatement.

                                        That experience was more than 10 years ago, and I never had any intention of returning. However, recently, for reasons I won't go into here, I found myself having dinner again at Le Bernardin. Though I still found the room as unappealing as before, the experience this time was totally different in two important respects. As expected, service was polished, but the staff's cordiality was palpable. More more importantly, the cuisine was seriously delicious. In fact, several of the dishes we had on the tasting menu totally blew me away! I'm now looking forward to dining at Le Bernardin again.

                                        I guess the moral of this story is that sometimes it is worth giving a restaurant a second chance.

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          Yeah, but in the case of 11 Madison Park, the only way I'll give it a 2nd chance is if someone else is paying.

                                          I don't know what the reactions to Le Bernardin were 10 years ago, but I've read some very unimpressed remarks on this board recently, so it doesn't wow everyone.

                                2. re: RGR

                                  RGR, I dined at Degustation with my beautiful who I love more than anything or anyone, and we didn't find the place the slightest bit romantic. It was very warm to the point where a patron across from us was wiping his head with a towel. The stools were not all that comfortable, the lighting was a little bright to be considered romantic. In addition, the other customers were very close to us, and we could hear every word out of their loud mouths.

                                  The food was incredibly delicious. The service was impeccable. Chef Wes rocked it out that night. But it was not a romantic setting to us at all.

                                  1. re: Slob

                                    I would agree, Slob. Just posted my review of our meal at Degustation (earlier this week) here:


                                    Setting aside feelings on the food, I would be hard-pressed to call it a romantic space; in fact, there's just no way I could call it romantic at all.

                                    Fun, relaxed, etc ... yes. Romantic? Nope.

                                    I'd say EMP, based on my meal there, but then it's significantly more costly than Degustation.

                                    1. re: a213b

                                      Slob and a213b,

                                      Thank you both for offering your opinions regarding the ambiance at Degustation. I have not a shred of doubt I would feel exactly as you do.

                          2. re: melsy

                            I see that you haven't included Jean-Georges in your line-up. If you move EMP to Monday lunch, you should consider lunch on Saturday at JG. $28 for 2-course (including amuse bouche and free sweets), beautiful atmosphere and excellent service--it's absolutely the best lunch experience you can have in NY.

                            1. re: fdb

                              I would highly recommend lunch in the main dining room at Jean Georges.
                              I also would like to add to those who think that EMP is overrated.

                              1. re: fdb


                                I have reservations for JG in Early May for lunch. Are we allowed to order more a la carte dishes with the 2 course special at $28. I have a big appetite and I"m just wondering if the 2 course is going to get me full. I don't always visit NY so I want to really be able to try as many dishes as possible. What is the best way you would do it? I will be dining with my boy friend. I'm wondering if it would be weird to order 3 of the 2 course meals and share them... Since the prices seem fairly good for lunch.

                                1. re: karynx78

                                  The prix fixe lunch served Monday through Saturday has two courses for $28 and each additional course being $14. If you are a big eater, I would definitely add on a third course.

                                  Don't forget that you also receive three amuses and the petit fours (chocolates, marshmallows, french macarons).

                                  Here are photographs of the sizes of the lunchtime courses:


                                  1. re: karynx78

                                    Portion sizes do vary, some being more substantial than others. You can certainly order additional courses to share. Also, do not forget about dessert -- $8 each. There are four to choose from. Nothing to stop you from ordering more than one, especially if they all appeal to you.

                                    1. re: karynx78

                                      We did each order an extra course plus a dessert, and with all the free goodies we were really satisfied. Some menu items are appetizers so they are lighter. As you go down the menu into the meat and seafood selections, the portions are not tiny at all. Enjoy!