HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


Restaurant recco for marriage proposal

Looking for a restaurant recommendation to pop the question on Valentines Day. We will be flying in from Toronto for this, as I can't find a resto here that really provides the total experience.

Ideally, I'd do this at Joel Robuchon in Vegas, as it has all the elements I'm looking for; luxurious interior, sexy, reliably excellent food, impeccable service and a buzz to the room. Unfortunately, we can't spare the travel time. This is in late Friday night, fly out Sunday aft.

Manhattan just has so many choices and though it's the fave city of my fiance-to-be (fingers crossed...), I've never been myself.

That said, here's what I *am not* looking for:
a) Ethnic food - we already get tons here,
b) Italian food - ditto,
c) Old school, where most of the diners are over 50,
d) Tables full of loud salesmen from Milwaukee, hooting it up on expense accounts,
e) Tables full of tourist families checking another item off the itinerary,
f) A place focused on turning tables - the restos we frequent here and in Montreal let you stretch out your meal at your own pace,
g) Waiter attitude - it's one of the most special nights of the rest of our lives, I don't want to have to deal with sneering or snooty waiters and hostesses acting like we're privileged to be there.

So, given that picky list of criteria, can anyone point me in the direction of a night to remember...?

Please and thank you.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I wish I had a recommendation other than "don't do it at a restaurant on Valentine's Day in New York." If you search the board for older threads you'll see countless stories of boring prix-fixe menus served by indifferent waitstaff.

    Valentine's Day, like New Years Eve, is largely considered "amateur night."

    That said, if your heart is set on this, who am I to tell you otherwise? In that case, I'd aim for Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Per Se, Momofuku Ko, Jean Georges or go to the Joel Robuchon here...something of that ilk. Those should hold their standards high even on V-Day.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sugar

      I am not sure I'd call any of those sexy or having a buzz to the room.

      1. re: kathryn

        yeah, right. I missed that piece.

    2. A lot of the sexy places I can name aren't really luxurious, and they're often buzzy to the point of being loud. Is that OK with you?

      There are also a lot of places with excellent food and impeccable service that have grand dining rooms that are luxurious and comfy, but lack the buzz and sex appeal you seem to be looking for.

      1. As said above, I'd avoid Valentine's Day as it's one of the most trite days for fine dining.

        That said, I think Per Se would be the absolute best choice for your request. IMO, it is a much better restaurant than Joël Robuchon at The Mansion in Vegas. Try to secure an early reservation to enjoy the panoramic fourth floor view of Columbus Circle and Central Park as the sun sets. Daniel would be a close second overall for its opulent dining room and atmosphere. Jean Georges and Eleven Madison Park are very worthy choices as well.

        In terms of food, Le Bernardin would be right up there with Per Se, but the interior is quite subdued and understated so it probably won't be to your liking.

        2 Replies
        1. re: hcbk0702

          While the food at Per Se is obviously fantastic, I wouldn't call it romantic. If fact, when my husband and I were there before Thanksgiving, we kept remarking how unromantic it was. You're so focused on the food and the show of servers that it's kinda hard to have a romantic moment. That being said, the food was great and if you go, try to get a seat on the second level or maybe near the fireplace. We were on the first level right by the entrance from the bar. That's what we get for getting the reservation the day before.

          Oh and while Valentine's Day is a bit cheesy as a day to pop the question, it's very sweet that you are putting so much effort into it. Good Luck!

          1. re: KateMW

            The Per Se dining room has a rather cool, elegant, but measured aesthetic, which is not unexpected from an Adam Tihany design. But I can't really think of a great restaurant in NYC with the same kind of over-the-top, marble checkerboard and purple velvet style that the Vegas Robuchon flaunts. I don't think either restaurant is terribly romantic, but Per Se's view is certainly a nice perk.

            There are plenty of smaller, non-fine dining restaurants that are romantic, but I don't think the OP is looking for that kind of place.

        2. We had an anniversary dinner at Eleven Madison Park. It had an elegant atmosphere. If you go the restaurant route, this would be an excellent choice. Make sure they know ahead of time so you can pick the time (before dessert, after?) that would work for presenting the engagement ring.

          1 Reply
          1. re: conniemcd

            I wouldn't really call EMP sexy or buzzy, though. It's grandiose but a little restrained and not super luxurious. BUT the service is the best in the city.

          2. Yes, I realize that doing this on Valentines Day is a major league cliche, but I've already had to postpone this more than once. We are both busy and travel frequently so I typically have to plan *surprises* at least 6 weeks out. If I don't do it then, it'll have to wait until spring...

            Didn't realize there was such a hate on for Valentines Day, however...

            1 Reply
            1. re: Thatcher

              A few things to consider when dining out on Valentine's Day:
              1. It's going to be very busy
              2. May feel a bit like "amateurs' night out"; lots of fine dining newbies that day
              3. Could have a very "lovey dovey" sort of vibe
              4. Much higher chance of other proposal events in the dining room
              5. Menus are often dumbed down and prices are jacked up

              I don't think it'll be much of a problem at places like Per Se though. Also, many people will have no issues with most of the above list; in fact, they may enjoy it. It just depends on your preferences.

            2. Id go with Eleven Madison Park or any of the Boloud's really...

              1. I agree with the others and it would be best NOT to do this on Valentine's day. Other than that, I would suggest going to Daniel. They go above and beyond with service and food. The space is beautiful as well.

                8 Replies
                1. re: taboo

                  When it comes to service, I disagree with your statement that Daniel goes "above and beyond." The last time we had dinner there, we suffered through several very serious service problems -- inexcusable for a restaurant of Daniel's supposed caliber.

                  1. re: RGR

                    RGR...I am surprised. I have not been since they have redone it, but I went for New Years a couple years ago and they could not have been more seamless...maybe it changed.

                    1. re: taboo

                      Our dinner with the service debacle pre-dates the refurbishment. However, a close friend went recently and reported some service errors, though not as serious as ours.

                      They are capable of seamless service, such as you received, because prior to our poor experience, we had dined at Daniel twice (once in the original location and once at the current one), and service couldn't have been better. So, frankly, we were totally shocked at the poor service the last time.

                  2. re: taboo

                    I second Daniel as it really is a sumptious space. One if by Land, Two if by Sea is regularly toutetd as being one of the very romantic places in town. Firebird is quite cosy and sexy I think, as is Il Buco. Picholine might be nice too.

                    1. re: bronwen

                      "One if by Land, Two if by Sea " I do not get the appeal of this place
                      I didnt find it remotly romantic, and the food was less than average...

                      1. re: bronwen

                        OIBL has very meh food. Most romantic, imho? La Grenouille. ask for a corner table and let them know what you have in mind.

                        1. re: bronwen

                          OIBL has very meh food. Most romantic with yummy food, imho? La Grenouille. ask for a corner table and let them know what you have in mind.

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            He said he wants to avoid:

                            "c) Old school, where most of the diners are over 50,"

                            I personally think that conflicts with some of his other criteria -- but it would certainly rule out places like La Grenouille.

                      2. Thanks all for weighing in and other suggestions. Seems like I've been roundly spanked on the Valentines evening idea. Can't fault a guy for good intentions...

                        I do like the idea of an over the top, morning after surprise champagne brunch in the room. That's a great plan. As for the night of, it looks like Daniel or Eleven Madison are at the top of my list.

                        Thanks again.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Thatcher

                          When you make your reservations, make sure to tell the establishment about your intentions. They'll go out of their way to make it even more special.

                          1. re: Thatcher

                            Either one you pick will be great, but Daniel I feel has a nicer ambiance than EMP. Do the champagne brunch in the room.... so much more intimate and near the phone since she will want to call everyone. Have fun!! :)

                            1. re: Thatcher

                              Conversely she will be all dressed up and beautiful if you propose at night and might be feeling rotten the next morning and be looking less than her best. I prefer being proposed to when I'm looking good!

                              1. re: Thatcher

                                Thacher, I'm afraid you're not getting it.

                                Eating out in Manhattan on Valentine's Day is a disaster whether you propose or not.

                                Most restaurants -- almost all the ones that have been recommended to you, AFAIK -- have stupid MANDATORY "Valentine's Day" menus, where they give you WORSE food than they usually serve at HIKED-UP prices. As the menu is MANDATORY, you CAN'T avoid it. You CAN'T order their usual menu: your choices will be limited to only a couple of options, which are not the same as the food they usually serve.

                                Basically, you're just asking to get ripped off.

                                Also, since the restaurants are VERY busy, but crowded with people who don't eat out much and therefore don't know how to act, service gets pretty substandard, and the staff pretty surly.

                                Really, this is just the WRONG DAY to eat out in New York City.

                                1. re: Sneakeater

                                  Trying to be constructive, what I would do if I were you is avoid the whole Manhattan high-end shitstorm that night. Go to a great ethnic place in Queens -- Sripraphai, a fabulous restaurant by anyone's standards -- or maybe one of the New Brooklyn Cuisine places in Brooklyn.

                                  High-end Manhattan restaurants are just off-limits that night.

                                2. re: Thatcher

                                  I'd definitely go with Eleven Madison Park, and during the day it's gorgeous too - why not do lunch on Sunday there as a celebration? And I totally agree that going out to a high end place on V-Day is a bad idea. You could pop the question on Saturday night somewhere lowkey.

                                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                                    EMP is closed on Sundays. They also stopped serving weekend lunch/brunch a while ago.

                                3. I highly recommend Eleven Madison Park. When I had dinner at EMP in July, a couple from the UK got engaged right in front of us. It was so sweet. The staff brought over to their table 2 glasses of champagne to celebrate. EMP is probably the top NYC restaurant (much better than Joel Robuchon in LV--I've dined at JR, and thought it to be only okay). Stay away from Daniel; I have also experienced some very serious service problems, and would hate for your special day to be ruined.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ellenost

                                    I don't want to sound like a broken record, but based on past experience (I don't know for sure that they're doing the same this year, but you should at least check):



                                    (Also, I'm not sure it's the place to go if you want to avoid middle-aged people. But that's a problem with just about EVERYWHERE anyone's recommending to you.)

                                    PS -- I'll bet Corton doesn't have a dumbed-down Valentine's Day menu. Also, it's clearly the "hippest" of New York's great high-end restaurants.

                                    1. re: Sneakeater

                                      OK, I checked, and last Valentine's Day Corton served a set menu -- no choices -- that wasn't particularly dumbed-down (Paul Liebrandt doesn't do that) but WAS $85 more than their usual menu.

                                  2. It really depends on what kind of atmosphere you like. I would recommend something like Blue Hill, which has an underground, dark, speakeasy feel that is the polar opposite of EMP. Another place I would consider is Del Posto except you said no Italian.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: nitajan

                                      Only restaurant on this list I have not seen mentioned is 81. Use Open Table and tell them why you are going, and they will add a little something for you. Both times I have gone, service has been outstanding, food has been great, atmosphere has been good.

                                    2. This takes us off the Manhattan page, but what about the River Cafe? I can't imagine it's all that different on Valentine's Day (maybe the prices go up, but it's always a set menu.) It's not the best restaurant in NYC (or even in Brooklyn, for that matter,) but the location is amazing. It was practically built for occasions like this.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: chorosch

                                        Yes, River Cafe really is spectacular. Good suggestion.

                                      2. Here's a link to what restaurants were doing for menus and prices last Valentine's Day -- you should note that most of these places only offer the set menus for that night (EMP is on this list, so you should check whether they also offer the usual menu), often more expensive than their regular fare, but not as good. People -- mostly people who don't go to expensive restaurants very often -- pay up for the privilege of eating somewhere fancy on V-Day, which can make even the best of restaurants feel very touristy:


                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: ABT

                                          That's kind of why I was suggesting the River Cafe. Even on a random night there is something kind of weird and otherworldly about it. It's just so over the top that you feel like you are there for a special event.

                                          Now, I don't think the food there compares with other suggestions above, but I feel like going to EMP or Daniel on Valentine's Day would kind of ruin what would ordinarily be a wonderful night. At the River Cafe, you will remember the night, not the food.

                                          1. re: chorosch

                                            Would you call the River Cafe buzzy?

                                            (I guess the owner's name is Buzzy.)

                                            1. re: Sneakeater

                                              No, not really. I guess I got lost in the thread... River Cafe doesn't really meet all those criteria, but it might be an alternative if the OP is willing to trade setting for buzz. I was thinking more of the memory of the evening than how trendy or buzzy it is.

                                        2. Thanks again all, for weighing-in on this. Since V-Day is such a lunchbag letdown in NYC, I've bought us 2 tickets to Paris instead and will make a long weekend out of it. Now I need to start all over again and look for a recco in that city.

                                          We will definitely hit EMP when we get to the city, however. Thanks for confirming that it's worthwhile. I'm excited about eating there.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Thatcher

                                            Boy did you make the right decision!

                                            1. re: Thatcher

                                              Congratulations on a brilliant idea. Happily, there's a chow board for France. Have a great time.

                                              1. re: Thatcher

                                                Yay, good idea, don't forget Monday after Valentine's Day is a holiday for most in Ontario.

                                              2. The Empire State Building is open till 2a, you should go up there after dinner. Congrats! You should ask her all over the city!!! Keep asking her for the ring back. I would look into hiring a photographer for a couple of hours that evening or the next day and shoot some photos of you two around the city.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: waitress

                                                  The OP mentioned that they are going to Paris instead, though....