as usual, my friends have tapped me to choose the restaurant for someone's birthday celebration. unfortunately, the guest of honor has made a request that's not really within my area of expertise, so i'm counting on my fellow Hounds to help protect my rep as the food expert of the group!
and i quote:
Me: "if you want me to choose the restaurant, i at least need to know what kind of food you want and which neighborhood you'd prefer."
Him: "nice but reasonable sushi or something Asian-fusion-y anywhere south of midtown."
forget the "reasonable" part for now, because he's not paying anyway ;)
of the group that's going (early- to mid-30's M&F, anywhere from 4-8 of us, head count hasn't been finalized), i'm honestly the only Chowhound. and Mr. Birthday is a bit of a partier, so a traditional sushi bar isn't going to work. he likes his cocktails, and will definitely prefer a hip, sceney vibe. Buddakan was my first instinct, but i sifted through a zillion past threads to get a sense of other options and there really doesn't seem to be a consensus on food, nor is there much feedback about the atmosphere at other places.
he just moved here from Southern California and has been to Mr Chow in LA several times, so that's out. i'd like to avoid Koi because i've been to the LA location numerous times, plus it's not "south of midtown" - nor is Asia de Cuba, which we've both also been to (and most of the food is pretty unremarkable). Tao isn't an option because the food sucks.
so at this point, i'm looking at Buddakan, Megu or Spice Market. maybe Sushi Samba, but i'm not a huge fan. my only other consideration was Chow Bar, but i haven't been there in about 10 years, and IIRC, it's small and not all that high-energy.
Edit: does anyone go to Bond St anymore? i haven't been there at years, and i wasn't bowled over by the food back then.
has anyone been to the newly-opened Ajna Bar (formerly Buddha Bar)?
thoughts? i could really use some help on this one, and the clock is ticking because of course he left it for the last minute - it's next Friday, the 18th.
You didn't mention Nobu? I prefer Nobu to Megu personally.. Nobu fits most of your requirements and the pricing is better than Megu as well. I like Nobu scene more than Megu, although I haven't been to a Nobu in a year now. I don't like Spice Market (didn't Bruni crush restaurant in past few months?), but its in the young Meatpacking district I guess.
Other ideas, Kittichai, Fatty Crab, Asiate, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Morimoto
i *completely* spaced on Nobu, probably because i've eaten at the LA one so many times. but i'm not sure if he has, so that's definitely a consideration. thanks for the reminder!
i didn't like the things i read about Kittichai so i crossed it off the list. i also think the food may be a bit too "Thai" for him.
the menu at Fatty Crab is unfortunately too "scary" for some of the less adventurous palates in the group (including Mr Birthday).
i nixed Morimoto after reading several comments that it was overpriced and underwhelming (i think i read some negative things about the service there too).
and i know the food at Spice Market gets a lot of hate, but then i found some positive CH reviews and got totally confused!
what's the atmosphere like at Blue Ribbon Sushi? i've actually never been there.
Spice Market, Buddakan, and its ilk gets a big "meh" from me. Perhaps Momofuku Ssam or Noodle Bar? If you have 6-8 people, the Bo Ssam at Ssam Bar or the fried chicken dinner at Noodle Bar would work nicely, assuming there are no vegetarians or vegans. Both are trendy and popular, while serving great food.
And regardless of what you read, Spice Market is still bad.
I'll venture some more:
Japonais (I went once and didn't like, but since then friends said they liked and said it was sceney)
Bond Street (used to be a date spot for me 5-6 years ago.. downstairs is more sceney but less seats))
Jean Georges (too fine dining? "fusion"...?)
Public (is this stretching asian fusion? Nolita area is hot area -- i never ate at Public for dinner though)
Vong (I've never been, but throwing it out there)
I would hesitate to call Jean Georges fusion, although there are certainly strong Asian influences on the current menu and JGV has had a long and successful history of using Asian ingredients. Le Bernardin has a similar number of Asian-inspired dishes on its menu, and I don't think anyone would call it fusion, though it isn't traditionally classic French either.
Aja is not very good...which is probably why it is closed. I've had limited experience with the food at Pranna, not yet a full dinner, but they have great atmosphere and I have generally enjoyed what I've eaten there and I do love that they take the "pan-" portion of pan-Asian seriously. Perhaps someone with more extensive experience can comment.