ouest, dovetail, telepan?
recently moved from the East Village uptown (upper east side, actually), and i am looking for a restaurant for a birthday dinner for my wife.
thoughts on these places. ouest looks good, but i read some reviews that say it is "stuffy" - is that true? we don't really like that feel, we are in our early 30s and like going out in the EV (ssam bar, frank, etc.) but want to try somwhere uptown).
any similar recs on the ues?
All three of your candidates have excellent food, IMO. I find that Telepan does the best job of highlighting seasonal ingredients and concentrating/highlighting the flavors of every dish. I also find it to be the most relaxed (not as noisy as Ouest, with service excellent but less formal than Dovetail).
If you want to add a candidate, look into "81" across from the Museum of Natural History. Also wonderful food, also terrific service.
All 3 are good choices. I wouldn't call Ouest stuffy at all. All 3 places can seem that way if you go on the early side, but later in the evening most of them can get rolling pretty well, and can have a lively atmosphere. I like the food at Ouest a lot, but find myself going to Dovetail more often. I'd rather sit at the bar at Ouest, and prefer having a full meal at Dovetail.
Telepan is also great, a little more relaxed, a little brighter, but they really showcase the seasonal ingredients, and put out pretty consistent food.
Eighty One has perhaps the stuffiest atmosphere, but the food is really good. A lot of people complain about portion size, but I've found it consistently filling, and I have a pretty good appetite. I really like eating in the bar area/ lounge at 81, but find the dining room there pretty uptight. Service level is really high there, and I've never had a bad meal there, but if you skew towards the Momo's and the ilk, then this is not the place for you.
I wouldn't hesitate to go to either Dovetail or Ouest. I'm in my mid 20's and never felt uncomfortable, or like I was dining with a bunch of bluehairs. Dovetail will have a slightly more creative, adventurous menu, but everything (and I've had pretty much everything) on Ouest menu is prepared very well, and of a high quality.
As for the UES, not sure if Cafe Boulud is open yet, but that would be an option. Other than that, I'm not too educated on the UES dining options.
Of your 3 choices I like Dovetail best and think it the most special for a birthday dinner. I didn't love Ouest on the one occasion I was there, but would give it another try based on others' assessments, and I am one who finds the portions at 81 a bit too precious and it feels stiff to me. I recently had dinner at Dovetail and found all of the courses and combinations delightful, surprising, and delicious. Also, a nice, intimate setting without being too formal
I ate at Dovetail last Monday for the first time and it was pretty bad. The tomato cocktail at the bar was almost undrinkable, the fried lamb tongue was barely OK, the lobster sausage with pork belly was way overseasoned and badly paired I thought. The pig 5 ways or whatever it was called, was merely bad, with some horrible tasted spaetzle or something with it. The duck hearts were reasonable. It's possible it was too much offal to order in the summer! Anyway, I wasn't impressed with the execution. The lobster sausage alone was one of the worst things I have eaten this year in terms of it being massively and ham-handedly over-seasoned.
And I think Dovetail's decor borders on the 70's fern bar cheesy with the formica woodgrain tables and brick walls - sorry!
My 2 cents - I've been to all three you have above, but if you're going to be on the UWS, then you have to check out Bar Bao.
100 West 82nd (And Columbus)
This exciting and fashionable Upper West Side Vietnamese-fusion spot is all about quality preparation of quality ingredients. Simply: They cook food real good. Here's the must haves: The sweet breads (deep fried glands that taste like chicken nuggets), the pork bellies (thick cuts of Bacon, perfectly cooked), and the Duck Hash (duck meat, daikon, and a fried egg).
Tip: This place is a duck lover's paradise, with 4 amazing duck-centric dishes (The duck fried rice is most popular)
I really like Bar Bao, and have been telling people to go eat there any chance I can, but don't think it is on the same level as the other places mentioned. It definitely has a different atmosphere, and the food is of a high level, but I don't think of it in terms of a special occasion place.
Ouest is really great. It's high end comfort food and the restaurant itself is very cozy and great for a birthday dinner.
Been to Telepan thrice. It is consistently excellent in terms of service, quality of ingredients, preparation. Dove Tail seemed like a Telepan knockoff to me when I was there. However I would go back. Ouest is a much warmer environment, and is much larger in both bar and dining area than the other two. It also gets a more varied crowd than DT and Tele., Only complaint about Ouest is somewhat spotty service. I also had a someiller (spelling) there who was not up to speed on the wine list. However all three are great before a Beacon Theater concert.