Does she like Japanese food? Perhaps a kaiseki meal will fit the description? Because for the very least the chef will need to follow the "rules" of preparing the kaiseki meal, use seasonal ingredients, and make sure the flavors are subtle yet enjoyable. It's tricky and the chef does need to put a lot of thoughts to it.
I like Sugiyama a lot but the draw back is that the menu pretty much stays the same. Kyo Ya will be another great choice plus it is cozy and sort of romantic for a date.
On vein of what' being suggested how about Degustation?
My call for a first date depends on whether you've met before or not. If you haven't I'd really keep things casual. You don't want to spend 3 hours with someone you've just figured out isn't right for you. A really nice burger could fit the bill.
This might be more casual then what you're looking for, but I think David Chang's Momofuku Ssam bar is THE place in Manhattan right now to find thoughtful food from a thoughtful chef. For a first date, there's a lot to talk about... not the right place if she's a vegetarian.
I know you have dined at many if not all of the best places so this question is puzzling to me.
I assume you are not wanting to show the deep pockets on the first date, Le Bernardin, JG, etc.
So, are you just frustrated and confused as to what she meant and are trying to get input?
So, mid level joints?
Cafe Boulud? kinda above mid, I guess
I guess BLT market but it is overpriced, might as well go back to a 3 star.
Maze/Gordon Ramsay?I can't believe I wrote that. I might consider the former, certainly not the latter.
Those are sort of towards higher end but again, I know you know the big boys this is the level down but maybe not really mid.
I think anything lower, the food just drops off the charts
Well, that is my contribution for now, though probably of no use.
Well, seems the people following did not read Midtown, or Noveau Francais or American.
Because before I read that, I had Degustation down with some others and if you can go downtown, any cuisine, surely the choices are relatively plentiful. Not to say you would be guaranteeing success with your lady.
That said, I would go with Cafe Boulud over Park Ave Winter, though the latter is a nicer room and maybe you won't feel so much in the sight of others since at Cafe Boulud everyone sees everyone. of course, asking for certain tables helps a bit. Also, have only eaten there once since Kaysen took over the kitchen but seems he is doing a good job.
But that is me and my refusal to cater to someone I don't believe knows too much. I am confident enough in my selections that both parties will be fine instead of myself being angered the whole time I am at whatever locale I did not care to go to in the first place.
Cannot waste a meal somewhere I would never go to on my own. Park Ave W is just not enticing enough to me that I see going there at that price point to experiment when I know there is something it won't top with all else being equal. Of course, in this case, perhaps the room is enough for you.
Did you ever get any specific examples of what she likes? I guess not.
One lucky girl,. Starts at the level of Park Ave Winter, she is one good turn from accompanying you on your 3 star meals. Not like you are starting her off at, well, let's use the fancy McD's, Shake Shack(a good burger, I don't see that as your style). The people should do a bit more homework before throwing every possibility out there. I know you know the score but are just struggling with this choice.
As for you being schooled about THE place in Manhattan, well, quite rich.