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

  • melsy Feb 15, 2009 04:04 PM
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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.

http://www.closmaggiore.com/v1/defaul...

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
Degustation
EMP
Picholene
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?

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  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.

        http://www.veritas-nyc.com

        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

            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. http://www.watersedgenyc.com/dinner.htm

            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 Circle.it'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.

                      http://www.tocquevillerestaurant.com

                      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.

                      http://www.keens.com

                      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

                            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:

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3371...

                              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

                                    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

                                        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:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6111...

                                    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

                                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:
                                  http://thewanderingeater.com/2008/01/...

                                  http://www.jean-georges.com/

                                  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!

                            2. "Relaxing classic steak house" - Craft
                              "Luxury progressive" - Cru or Blue Hill
                              "fun & funky!" - WD-50

                              26 Replies
                              1. re: toddw8877

                                Wow you guys have been busy , great discussion. Alas I still think were unable to fit in Degustation. All this talk though makes me want to try it anyway at some point in my life!

                                Were still in a quandary about our food schedule and this is where were at so far! Its nigh impossible really!

                                Fri dinner- Mercer Kitchen now booked , as BIL is staying there and its easy to walk to from our hotel!
                                Sat lunch - if were in the mood The Modern if not , may be somewhere brasserie style round Soho/ Nolita area?
                                Sat dinner EMP is now booked (despite some not so happy campers on chowhound after a visit, call this a curiosity killed the cat thing). I'd do it on Monday lunch, but Im never quite relaxed the day I fly back! After we will go to Buddakan for drinks if thats possible?
                                Sun - Shake shack or PJ Clarkes, as we need to have some food thats fun and quick if on the hoof , although I have a personal reason for going to the latter as its the same name as my late papa.
                                Sun dinner - still cant decide, as much as Veritas looks beautiful, I think we still want somewhere fun and funky and poss mid priced rather than up scale for a more relaxing night, although I know that my husband was looking at WD-50 the other night! May be Gotham Bar and Grill? (Just to throw a new piece into the discussion mix!!). After this Id love to visit Luxee as Ive always wanted to go to a dessert restaurant.

                                The one reason for not including Jean George is that we eat a lot of up scale Asian food in the UK (Nahm & Zuma ) and would like some really different flavours for this trip.

                                I think its the shere number of choices and the constraints on days (due to certain places opening times) thats making this such a hard choice.

                                Thank you so much in advance for any continued efforts to sort my scrambled head out!

                                1. re: melsy

                                  Re: Sunday. Presuming you are considering the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, unless you get there just before it opens at 11 a.m., there is no way it will be quick since the wait on line can be an hour or more.

                                  Gotham Bar & Grill is not funky. It is way bigger and more lively than Veritas.

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    Yes RGR the one in Madison Sq prk. It depends on how the weather is though and where were heading that day. Do you have any idea on PJ's?

                                    I was more relating the fun and funky vibe to wd-50. I feel Gotham has a more sophisticated air about it. I was just throwing out another idea!

                                  2. re: melsy

                                    Saturday lunch - if you are interested in the Bar Room at the Modern, it gets pretty crowded for weekend lunch. For brasserie style around Soho/Nolita, it's going to be pretty packed there too. Soho is a very popular weekend destination for out of towners, AND you'll be hitting it up around prime brunch hours.

                                    For Shake Shack, it will not be quick, unless the weather is foul. Shake Shack in Madison Square Park is completely outdoors, without any cover if it's raining.

                                    For dessert bars after dinner, I would also consider the dessert tasting at WD-50, dessert tasting at Tailor, or a visit to Chikalicious.

                                    1. re: kathryn

                                      Yeah, for brasserie in Soho, I'd recommend Balthazar, but if you go without a reservation, you'll probably wait an hour, I'm guessing. I simply wouldn't go without a reservation, period, unless I were going before 10:30 A.M.

                                      1. re: Pan

                                        Is Balthazar any beter than Pastis , although nice , we found Pastis a bit like an upscale version of a French Brasserie chain in the UK called Cafe Rouge!

                                        But for sure , we really want to pre book as much as possible for a more stress free trip!

                                        1. re: melsy

                                          I think Balthazar is definitely bettter than Pastis, and well worth the slightly higher cost.

                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            I've liked both, but have been to only Balthazar for brunch (Pastis has been a late-night cocktails plus food place). How is Balthazar better?

                                            1. re: Pan

                                              For dinner, I find the Balthazar dinner menu a little more interesting.

                                              1. re: Pan

                                                I've only been to Pastis for lunch once, and to Balthazar for lunch and dinner a number of times. We left Pastis thinking that we thought the food and service at Balthazar was better, and we like the room (and neighborhood) of Balthazar better as well. I don't remember what he had at Pastis - just that we left thinking that we weren't going back. Wasn't terrible or anything. We felt the same way about Schiller's. I guess both places seem slightly more casual than Balthazar as well.

                                          2. re: Pan

                                            For me, the food at Balthazar falls well short of what I'll consent to eat. I'm not saying it's inauthentic French, nowadays there is a lot of bad food in France, too.

                                            1. re: acidity

                                              Fair enough. Which brasseries in Manhattan do you like?

                                              1. re: Pan

                                                Sorry this answer is soooo long, but my original comment was short and sweet which is what I prefer, but Pan wants more context, so here it is:

                                                The OP said 3 day special trip, asked for "must trys", and had even researched (kudos!!!) and come up with some of NY's finest restaurants... I can let a lot of conversations here "go by" when I disagree, vive la difference. But this time I felt somebody's anniversary request was going astray by sending them to a jam packed institutional food factory. Balthazar is a fairly pleasing-to-look-at recreation of a fin de siecle (or some other Frenchism) brasserie, and if the OP said "I'm from podunk, love Vegas, and I really want EPCOT NYC and Paris" OK, then, and it's even a reasonable request from a NYer ("can't afford a vacation, want to feel like I'm a tourist in Paris").... but she actually said she'd been to Pastis and was not blown away by the food.

                                                More directly in answer to your question, if somebody asked for a brasserie recreation in NYC that is doing great food, I wouldn't have an answer. I'm not an expert on these places. Is Les Halles any good? I've been to L'Express and had a few things I liked, but it wasn't loud, nor hyped to me and I didn't have to wait on line, and you won't hear me sending people there unless we are standing nearby late at night which is when I went. I think I had better food at Pastis when if first opened than at Balthazar. I had high hopes for Benoit, and to my palate their food is better than Balthazar, but It's not a place I plan to return to either. I think "French restaurants" are in trouble in NY (and everywhere including France) but French culinary influence is alive and kicking. So, if a restaurant like Hearth or Cookshop or Spotted Pig puts a cassoulet on their menu, I'm all over it and would formulate my recommendations that way. If I had an urge for cassoulet, I'd come here to chowhound and search. And among the recommendations I saw, I'd love to see the gripes too. Fair enough?

                                                I have not been to Balthazar many times, but when I have been it's been in groups and I'll taste 5 or 8 entrees around me, and every time I'm yuck, blech, whoa, ... Steak Frites or moules marnieres is not rocket science, I'd rather go to a quieter little place unless Balthazar was doing something amazing, and to me they never have.

                                                1. re: acidity

                                                  Interesting. While I'm not saying that the food at Balthazar is outstanding by any stretch of the imagination, I've never thought "blech". I do usually have the same things though - including the steak tartare.

                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                    Thanks very much for the detailed answer, acidity.

                                                    I definitely didn't find Balthazar "blech" when I went there (only once so far, though). But I surely see the point that someone from London who may have spent a lot of time in Paris might not find Balthazar impressive. For my part, having been to Paris several times, I found that it really reminded me of Paris, in a good way. I understand why someone might not like the crowdedness, noise, etc., but all of that reminded me of the convivial atmosphere in some of the brasseries I've been to in Paris.

                                                    As for L'Express - I am trying to remember if that was the place on Park Av. South that I found mediocre and pretty aggressively overpriced, or whether that was some other French-named place on that avenue. The place I'm thinking of is on the east side of the avenue, just a few blocks north of Union Square. I haven't been to Benoit which, as I remember, costs more than I'm willing to pay for a brasserie or bistro in New York.

                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                      L'Express, mediocre and aggressively overpriced? That's the one :) But what it retains that Balthazar doesn't is casual-ness. I think Balthazar is below the level of "destination dining". So, If it was a little neighborhood place I could stroll into whenever, I might try harder to find something to eat there. But I have sampled some variety, and it was nothing I'd return for, let alone wait on line for. A restaurant like Landmarc I think is easier to get a good meal in. It's not a "French brasserie", but it fills the same ecological niche. Get your steak frites or moules there, and if they screw it up, they can bring you a new one it two minutes, they are light on their feet.

                                                      Is Balthazar blech? The food at Balthazar is not "deft", in my experience it's heavy-handed, heavy, and dull. Duck confit is a an example of being trickier than people think. You've basically got a fat-infused thing, deeper than deep fried. To my modern tastebuds, you'd better combine it with some things that come across "light"; deep flavors, ok, but not increasing the greaseload in the gut. (Steak tartare probably would be a good choice there, but I enjoy carne cruda and carpaccio so much that I don't usually go for tartare, i think the egg and mustard detract from the purity of the flavor of meat.)

                                                      There are two styles of reviewing on chow, the detailed menu and the "overall good". If I crave a certain dish or am seeking to put together a menu that I like at a difficult restaurant (let's use Grand Sichuan as an example) I'll research the detailed menus. But mostly I'm interested in "the overall", restaurants that do well with most everything they try, or that focus on what they do well.

                                                      1. re: acidity

                                                        I get the point about wanting Balthazar to be a place you can just walk into, but it did feel casual to me when I went for brunch/lunch on Labor Day - just a casual place you need reservations for, unless you go for breakfast before 10:30 A.M. And aren't there a lot of brasseries in France where you would be expected to get reservations, prior to coming?

                                                        It sounds like part of what you object to at Balthazar is that their classic food is really classic, heavy food. Some people go to brasseries not because they want a modern take on things, but because they actually want comforting, traditional French brasserie food. I thought their duck pot pie, made with duck confit and mushrooms, was delicious and well-made. I didn't feel the need for them to make it lighter than it was - although it somehow seemed deceptively light to me.

                                                        I've been to Landmarc's Tribeca location a couple of times. The atmosphere is entirely different from Balthazar's, as you mention. I think I probably don't know either place well enough to pass judgment on the overall quality and taste of the food at both places, except to say that while I've been pleased with the food at Landmarc, I was more wowed by the meal I had at Balthazar - as brasserie food, though; not as anything it's not.

                                                        Now, to go on a tangent (having understood your overall point): You really find it difficult to put together a menu you like at Grand Sichuan?

                                                        1. re: Pan

                                                          or... I have liked the items that Balthazar tries to make on other occasions, and I still like them, and I will eat them again, and I've been to Balthazar and I don't like the way Balthazar cooks them.

                                                          If I followed the advice to go there, I would be extremely disappointed, and I will continue to advise people not to eat there, especially if they are looking at a "once in a blue moon" special trip to NYC. For people who live here, I would advise that they look at the menu, pick what they want, and then search the boards for places that do a great job of it.

                                                      2. re: Pan

                                                        When L'Express first opened many years ago (I'm thinking early '90's), the food was actually very good. But over time, it has gone downhill.

                                                        Further north on PAS, there is Les Halles. Another place where the food has gone downhill. Frankly, I've never really liked the place because the seating is sardine tight, service is hapharzard, and the noise level is deafening! I think it continues to ride on the Boudain association even though it's been ages since he last cooked there and, afaik, he no longer has any connection to the restaurant.

                                            2. re: kathryn

                                              We weren't sure if you could pre book any of the more brasserie places in Soho. Ive been to Zoe's and waited for 40mins at the bar before. For that ilk it seemed to be a better one?

                                              Ooh I forgot about Tailor, oh boy my head will explode with all this amazing choice! You recommend Chickalicious over Luxee?

                                              1. re: melsy

                                                You can make a reservation for Balthazar in advance over the phone. Not sure about Zoe's.

                                                For dessert bars, I've not been to Luxee but friends who have (who are really into dessert) say it's not good at all, and they prefer WD-50, etc. I think WD-50 for dessert is excellent but Tailor gives it a run for its money. Chikalicious is a little less out there and has a cuter atmosphere.

                                                1. re: kathryn

                                                  How does Bistro les Amis compare to Balthazar?

                                            3. re: melsy

                                              We just had a stellar meal at EMP-from the gougeres, to the small plate of amuses, the ricotta di capra, the duck (that crispy skin!), the vacherin and those amazing macaron's...I wouldn't worry about that meal.
                                              I'd also note that the pace of the meal was perfect, as was the service. I'd especially recommend trusting Mr Ragan, the sommelier, who is a joy to consult on your wine selection.

                                              1. re: David W

                                                Wow the conversation is still going strong.

                                                David W - your explanation has made me really look forward to EMP.

                                                Thank you everyone for your direction and a very intriguing look into the Parisian themage of NYC "famed" restaurants! It is true that they are rather a Pastiche on a Paris brasserie & I have been lucky enough to dine in Paris for work for several yrs. Balthazar is may be more of a scene, coupled with some trad french fare than a progressive gourmet destination. I think sometimes they are suitable if your looking for a certain vibe , that being the place to be. I suppose it depends on what night your looking for.

                                                Im still struggling on Sunday night and may start another topic for that very purpose, as this topic was more about the best Romantic fine dining experiences in NYC. We've struggled with making a decision on any of the other fine dining restaurant recommendations as we realise that we would also like funky happening places also just to change up the tempo of our last night in NYC, (Although we still would like the food to be worthy!). The choice is also narrowed as so many good places are not open!

                                                1. re: melsy

                                                  If you haven't already, check on opentable.com for reservations Sunday night to see what's available...
                                                  Let me get you started-one of my favorites these days is Perilla-it's a lively spot with very good food (you need a reservation)-
                                                  http://www.perillanyc.com/
                                                  You could start off with drinks in the lounge at Perry St-it's a great room, especially in the late afternoon as the sun sets over the Hudson-
                                                  http://www.jean-georges.com/
                                                  Note-the pier just off W10th is a great place to walk before going to Perry St.

                                                  You could also visit our version of 10 Downing-although it can be a bit loud, the views up to the Empire State building are great, and the food is very nice as well.
                                                  http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

                                                  There's also a variety of spots on Bedford in the same area...

                                                  1. re: David W

                                                    Well Im back from the big A into London this morning and a big thanks again to all that guided us. Weve had a great foodie time!

                                                    We realised to late that may be we would have really enjoyed Jean George, as that was nigh impossible on the same weekend, we tried to get a last minute table yesterday lunch time at Nougatine instead , but alas it would have been too late with our flight times. We decided for ease & speed,(as we were there), to go to the Landmarc in the Time Warner building .We will have to save the others for next time!

                                                    When Ive recovered from the jet lag ,I will compile a review of our NYC fooderie experiences from the last few days.