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Daniel, Aureole, Craft, or L'Atelier de JR for a bday date

Boyfriend's birthday is fast approaching...he narrowed down to these above selections for this year. Aureole and Daniel stick out as the two I've been most interested in. Aureole appears comparable to Picholine - a real favorite of mine- traditional, romantic, cozy, decadent.
I've been to Craftbar numerous times (though admittedly never Craft) and have been underwhelmed each time, but birthday boy enjoys CB and, more importantly, loves Tom C unconditionally. L'Atelier seems to have had more hit or miss reviews in my reading, so I hesitate....

What would you brilliant CHers say would be the pros and cons of each choice, and if you were narrowed down to these four, which would you pick?
Thanks as always!

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  1. I highly recommend Aureole. They have a new chef, Christopher Lee (formerly from Gilt); food is excellent! Service is (as always) flawless. I've been to L'Atelier, and I was underwhelmed and it can be very expensive (I even met Joel Robuchon the night I was there). Never been to Craft (I'm also a big fan of Tom C). Strong dislilke for all of the Daniel restaurants--I've had horrid snooty service at two of them (won't waste my money there anymore).

    1. Except for the style of the room, there's really no comparison between Craftbar and Craft. The former has never been quite the same since Akhtar Nawab left and they moved to Broadway. Craft, OTOH, still dishes out the same hearty, flavor-full, relatively simple fare they've always have. However, aside from the price (and the calories), I've always felt there's not much "luxe" about the Craft experience. It's definitely more of a casual (and less "romantic") evening than, say, Daniel. Ellenost's endorsement of Aureole is intriguing; maybe we'll check them out in their new place. Had a great time at L'Atelier at the counter, but they've had a chef change since then.

      1. Daniel, never had a problem with snooty service. There's a reason it's **** and not any of the others; the total experience from food, service, and decor, is flat out fantastic.

        1. Without having eaten at Aureole or Craft, but having dined at Daniel last week, I simply cannot imagine a better choice than Boulud's flagship. I'm about to post about our experience with the food (flawless), but want to address ellenost's comments about the service. We were treated impeccably: my sister, father, and I had an early reservation before the theatre and service was paced perfectly. The sommelier (French -- and fresh off the boat, by his own admission) and our head waiter (Bosnian) were playful, informative, and appropriate. Of course, there were also legions of waitstaff in supporting roles effortlessly enhancing our experience (A stool for my handbag? Why didn't I think of that! Would I like to try another variety of bread? Goes without saying! Who filled our water glasses?). My mom couldn't attend the dinner and the staff printed and wrapped a special copy of the menu to take to her. The two of you will be delighted by Daniel. Enjoy.

          1. I have been to Aureole (too long ago to be helpful) and L'Atelier . . .Both my experiences were excellent, though I preferred sitting at the bar. I can't remember if we went late last year or early this year, so maybe another hound has a more recent experience to share. I will probably skip dessert the next time I go and a hound's suggestion to order ala carte was the way to go.

            1. Having been to all of them, I would personally pick Aureole because I haven't been there in a while, and I've heard Chris Lee is doing some interesting things there. But as this is your boyfriend's birthday, I would pick Craft, especially as you say that he loves Colicchio unconditionally. Even if the food is terrible (and it isn't), chances are that it will be a memorable birthday for him. He would probably love Tom's Tuesday dinners where Colicchio cooks in an open kitchen.


              2 Replies
              1. re: Miss Needle

                the toms tuesday dinner suggestion was a great one, i cant believe i hadnt thought of it myself. a great way to make the craft experience more luxe and special occasionish. however, i called on sat and they were already booked for the 4/28 dinner. i booked aureole for the saturday before his birthday instead, but might possibly still try for the 5/12 tuesday dinner.

                at aureole - would you recommend the 3 course or the 5 course tasting?

                1. re: vatl619

                  Both are great! Check out the charliepalmer.com website to see the menus.

                1. I know I will be a lonely dissenting voice in saying that Daniel is not the one. I've heard it can be great. I've heard it can be miserable. The point is, it's way too inconsistent. My own personal experience does not contradict that.

                  I cannot say that I disliked Picholine. But I cannot say that I loved it either.

                  Skip l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

                  I have not been to Craft, but I will be going soonish. I would save that for a group outing.

                  That leaves Aureole. I haven't been, and since Christopher Lee has moved over, I've been wildly curious.

                  In summary: for the price you're willing to put down, there are about half a dozen other restaurants I'd much rather celebrate at. But it is not my birthday. I hope you and your boyfriend have a great meal wherever you end up!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ulterior epicure

                    I've been to Aureole since Chris Lee has become the new chef, and I am happy to report that the food is great!

                  2. Have only been to Craft and the food and experience is absolutely incredible!!!

                    1. Have been to all of them a few times and can decisively say Daniel has been the most consistent for an excellent meal.

                      Daniel and Aureole are certainly the more classical choices than Craft or L'Atelier, that is to say, the food will be less experimental than L'Atelier, the decor a bit stiffer as well as the service.

                      I personally think that Joel Robuchon's cooking is absolutely brilliant but was let down at L'Atelier in NYC. That said, I had one of the best meals of my life at L'Atelier in Paris a few years ago.