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Advice: 3 evening meals in Manhattan

I am a Londoner coming to New York in September with my girlfriend for a week (we are in our mid 20s). Although I have been to NYC quite a number of times in the past, it has been about a 3 years since my last visit.

In addition to other, cheaper dinners out and lunches I would like to go to 3 'top' restaurants and was wondering if any of you well informed people on here could help me make some decisions. So far I have been using the Time Out Eating... and Zagat 2009 guides for reference as well as some friends recs.

My general thoughts in terms of food type were 3 out of 4 of the following:
American Modern
French
Seafood
Japanese

Area is not a real problem but we will be staying near Grand Central Station. Between these 2 meals I have a total budget of around $1,000, so about $150 a head all in rough average.

We would prefer to go places that are only in NYC or the US, in other words def. not Nobu, Ramsey, Robuchon. So far Gramercy Tavern, Megu and Aquagrill have been recommended.

Also in general how hard is it to get reservations, what are the easiset times to get a table etc.

Thanks a lot,
Keith

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  1. I'd say include Minetta Tavern in the West Village in your plans for a very good French/American food and experience. We were there last week (still to post a review) and the dishes and the New York ambiance is well worth it for anybody that likes the good stuff. If you do decide on doing MInetta, you should call in advance for reservations.

    7 Replies
    1. re: RCC

      Some other very fine choices:

      --Eleven Madison Park
      --Le Bernadin
      --Corton
      --Dovetail
      --WD50 (Edgy, creative cooking)
      --Picholine
      --Craft
      --Annisa
      --Blue Hill (where the Obama's ate recently)
      --The Modern

      1. re: Will4Food

        > --WD50 (Edgy, creative cooking)

        For a UK resident who has access to Fat Duck, though, I don't think this recommendation makes sense.

        1. re: Will4Food

          Thanks Will, have heard of a few of the names above so I will look further into them. The Minetta also looks good RCC.

          Kathryn: yes I have been to the Fat Duck and although brilliant as it is, I feel that sort of meal of creative (very different) meal is a one a year/ every two years sort of thing.

          1. re: Keith_ell

            That's what I figured! Let's perhaps stick to stuff you can only find in NYC...

            1. re: Keith_ell

              Minetta Tavern has been around for ages now. However, when Keith McNally of the Balthazar/Pastis group took over 3 months ago, they retained the classic NYC tavern-like ambiance and décor, but revamped the dishes to a level that’s been currently hyped about by the press and locals, but imho, deservedly so. The only downside to all the hype, understandably, is that it is currently a must eat at and be seen place (last week, I spotted a celebrity chef and his son, yes Batali seem to be enjoying their dinner, and an actor in separate parties). You will have to get your reservations as far ahead as you can.

              We enjoyed it so much that we have already made reservations for next month for the other dishes that were being paraded around us. Al it took us was a phone call to make them.

            2. re: Will4Food

              Corton and Dovetail did not live up to my expectations. Overhyped? Enjoyed The Modern, EMP (lunch) and Anissa. I think The Modern and EMP are more upscale then Annisa (more casual dining experience).

              I've been to Aquagrill several times. It's good, not really an upscale place. Harbour has been getting good reports on this Board. John Dory is also new. I have not been to either yet. If you're into wine, Cru and Veritas have excellent wine lists. I have only been to Cru.

              Jean-Georges (French) or Le Bernardin (French/seafood) are possibilities. Caveat, both are still on my go to list. JGV cooked for the presidents at the UN last night:

              http://eater.com/archives/2009/06/eat...

              www.jean-georges.com
              www.le-bernardin.com

              1. re: financialdistrictresident

                I've been to The Modern, EMP, Jean Georges, and Le Bernardin, and I don't think you can really go wrong with any of them. EMP has the best service. The Modern has the nicest view. Le B can get a little repetitive with the all seafood menu but I didn't think it was a problem. I thought the flavors at JG and EMP were a little more experimental, so that depends upon your personal preference (I really like that). Jean Georges and The Modern both try to assault you with petit fours and palate cleansers and such at the end of the meal, which I loved because I have a bit of a sweet tooth.

          2. The hardest places to get reservations are ones that are new/hot (especially anything recently reviewed by the New York Times) like Scarpetta, Corton, Minetta Tavern and ones that are more like insiders' clubhouses like Waverly Inn and Rao's.

            The more established places that it is a pain in the neck to reserve for are Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, and Babbo, which are typically booked up the day they open their books or have only 5pm or 10:30pm remaining. OpenTable.com is a good tool for those who allow booking online, note, however, that not all tables will appear as some will be held for those that phone.

            It's always easier to get a non-weekend night table (especially Monday through Wednesday), a lunch time table (for weekday lunch), and for dining early and late.

            For American Modern, I've always had good meals at Gramercy Tavern and the service is fantastic. Save room for dessert. For French, it depends if you want old school French or more modern/lighter French, like Jean Georges. For seafood, Aquagrill is good, but if you are going all out, there's only one place: Le Bernardin. For Japanese, it depends what you want. Sushi, kaiseki, etc? There are a wide variety of specialized Japanese restaurants in New York. (Example: for Sushi, Sushi Yasuda is the obvious choice.)

            1 Reply
            1. re: kathryn

              Thanks, glad to see the process is basically the same both sides of the pond (maybe I should try and get my body on some time zone when dining at 11pm feels normal to make things easier). I think I should then probably do one on the Monday and one on the Wed to try and make sure I get into some of my top choices. Although I will def. have a look at OpenTable.com as a starting point.

            2. if I had only 2 dinners in N.Y. city - I'd go to Babbo and Eleven Madison.

              1. The original comment has been removed
                1. Megu has a Hong Kong branch and hence not NYC only.