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Need a little help

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I have a dear friend from NYC who is coming for a visit at the end of the month. Four of us are going to celebrate his wife's birthday while they're here. Here's the dilemma: They are wealthy, fussy, and have literally eaten at every fine restaurant in NYC and most of Europe. He is a wine freak. I am a beer freak. They're Italian and have no interest in eating that cuisine here (so no Bar La Grassa...). I've already taken them in year's past to La Belle Vie so that one is kind of out too. They prefer subdued to noisy, classy to dive-y. I am utterly lost as to where to take them.

Help please?

HuaGung

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  1. Provided liquor is not essential:

    Alma.

    Piccolo.

    Heartland.

    1. 2 ideas:

      Meritage.

      Cocktails at Bradstreet Crafthouse, dinner at Cosmos.

      11 Replies
      1. re: meljohns

        Completely agree with cocktails at Bradstreet and dining at Cosmos; its upscale, quiet and the food is really good.
        Not as fancy but really good, NGON on University. The chef trained at the CIA, the beer and wine list is great, and the upscale fusion Vietnamese food is good.
        Haven't eaten at Piccolo yet, but all the reviews have been extremely positive.

        1. re: run2eat

          Ngon is what I thought of too. Might not be upscale enough, but it's classy, I think. Nice sort of French/Indochine kind of decor, not exactly your typical bare bones pho house.

          I'm not enough of a wine snob to know but I think the wine list is cool, as it focuses on organic wines and such. And the local beer list is fan-fricken-tastic, always something local on cask and a seasonal, etc....you could always drink a lot of good beer if your friends start to get fussy?

          1. re: run2eat

            Ooooo I like the Ngon idea!

            1. re: Foureyes137

              Unfortunately, HuaGung has never been a big fan of Ngon.

              Heartland and pray that they are "on". It's very subdued and not at all hip-warehouse-y like Alma and definitely "local," so, at least unique in that respect.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                My earliest posts on this site were, to say the least, not complimentary of Ngon. I was wrong then in my harshness, but, if pressed today, it would be #2 on my list of "Restaurants Everyone Likes--Except You." I admire the young man's ability to succeed, but I don't care for the food.

                To put my friend's lifestyle and tastes in perspective, for my birthday he took my wife and me to Le Bernardin in NYC. His favorite restaurant is Per Se. We truly have nothing here on the scale of these places. Not to complain, we have a lot to offer, I'm just intimidated I guess. The Bradstreet/Cosmos combo is intriguing, but I'll hold off a bit to read a few more ideas.

                I'd considered Alma because I love the place, but, think I need a little more high-end atmosphere.

                Thanks for all the suggestions so far, and please keep 'em coming if you have a mind to.

                HuaGung

                1. re: HuaGung

                  I've been to both Le Bernardin & Per Se (most recently in November) and had outstanding world-class meals in a world-class city...but if your friends are coming here looking for that level of pretensio...dining, of course they will be disappointed. If they aren't able to treasure regionalism (including our gee-willickers friendliness), why bother leaving NYC?

                  I don't think it's fair to you to try and create a similar experience one gets in a city with 8 million people in a city with under 500K. A city with far, uh, thriftier diners no less (thus, one real formal dining room in LBV...how long did Porter & Frye last as it was?). Shit...take them to Quang or the Nook. At least it'll be fun to see the looks on their faces if they're really into pretension and formality.

                  1. re: Foureyes137

                    Don't misread this... They're not looking for pretension, or things better than NYC offers. Hell, last time I saw him he took me to Shopsin's for lunch so clearly he has a sense of humor!

                    The pressure is from me, not them. They're very gracious people. I'm just trying to put together a night where we're all comfortable and we can celebrate her birthday in style. The more I think about it, the more I think I might do Bradstreet and then Alma, atmosphere being less important than the food and the company. I really do love that place. And you and Bob_S are both right. I think focusing on what's best here is the right way to go.

                  2. re: HuaGung

                    I'd still recommend Heartland, ( assuming it's not #3 on your list...)

                    It's the most subdued place we have that has a real commitment to local sourcing. It is pretty casual, but impeccably so. I think it is uniquely Midwestern. When they are on, they really succeed. And when they are off, at least you can appreciate the level of ambition...

                    You are correct, though, that we don't have anything along the level of Le Bernardin or Per Se, but, if they are the world travelers that you say they are, well, then they know that already.

                    Don't be intimidated as this has nothing to do with whether you have good taste. This is a relatively small metro area. No one should be having Per Se level expectations when they come here and I'm sure your friends do not. I think the worst thing you can do is take them to a place that is a pretender. So just take them to a place with the right atmosphere that serves up honest, sincere food and forget how it compares to something in NYC. You have good taste; you'll be fine.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Well stated. Thank you.

              2. re: run2eat

                Say what?!? I was a college acquaintance of Hai Truong (chef/owner of Ngon) at the U of M. He was a finance major. Where did you hear he trained at the CIA?

              3. re: meljohns

                I second the Bradstreet/Cosmos rec. Ate ate Cosmos for restaurant week. It was incredible!!

              4. I haven't been there in a while so maybe others will chime in if this is a bad idea, but have you considered Sapor? It seems like it might fit the bill quite well from what I remember.

                2 Replies
                1. re: LiaM

                  I've always found the execution at Sapor to be just a bit short. Not bad, but in my opinion, it's not quite at the same level as the top tier of restaurants in the Cities.

                  I've not been to Piccolo and might be hesitant to suggest it for this meal without checking it out. But it might be an interesting choice.

                  The other thought that I just had was the chef's table at Corner Table. I've never sat at the chef's table there, but the food is quite good and, from my understanding, the table is quite a trip. Perhaps with a little advance warning, you could have the chef whip something extra special up for you.

                  EDIT: I just looked at your comment re the atmosphere at Alma. Corner Table is about the same. If you're looking for polish, it's going to be hard to find a room that will stand up to Le Bernadin other than LBV or Cosmos. I say that you go for Midwestern hominess since we're never going to be able to compete with Le Bernadin or Per Se. Play your strengths with great food and local ingredients.

                  1. re: bob s

                    I haven't eaten at the Chef's table at Corner Table but according to Scott, the owner, you pay a certain amount per person and they'll feed you (with wine) for as many course as you can eat and it's all chef whim.

                2. Did Porter and Frye totally fall off after Steven Brown left? The atmosphere there at least is close to Cosmos or LBV in poshness. Or 20.21, although the food there was not good when I went. Heartland seems like a good choice. What about somewhere at the W? Lurcat? Trying to throw stuff out that hasn't been yet. Jasmine 26 might be a better pick that Ngon, if you want to do an upper crust asian place here. I don't know how their wine list is though. Azia has a pretty extensive wine list I think (across the street).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: larssten

                    um. . . yeah, since you mention it--- porter&frye is ****not**** a good current rec, at least for this type of meal experience. the establishment has in fact let a series of really really good exec chefs go, and after getting rid of joan ida (recently), they've decided that their food needs to be "more accessible," & that they no longer need to have an exec chef, a good kitchen manager should fit the bill nicely(!!!) so for burgers and pizzas, porter & frye all the way. for a good dining experience. . . anywhere else in town would be better.

                    i will echo some of the sentiments of some of the other folks upthread. msp can't compete with the highest of the high end dining experiences available in nyc-- so go someplace local and charming, with none of the hoopla and pretension, don't try to bill one place or one meal as "the best place in town" or anything, just say you're going to a great local place with nice friendly atmosphere, and you can sample some local farm or regional specialty things there. if it really is all about the food and experience, the op's uber-sophisticated friends should dig. i will throw out for consideration lucia's in uptown. it's pretty, it's venerable, the tiny menu changes weekly and is scrupulously local-sourced. . . it's not fancy or pretentious, it's just good and honest. and you can get homemade freakin' pie there-- which should make the average new yorker swoon from midwest/americana overload and they will probably talk about it for weeks when they get home-- or maybe only if it was strawberry-rhubarb pie. if you need to do an analysis over the handmade bread basket, the restaurant has culinary importance for our region, bla bla bla, but if not it's just a nice bistro with good food and service. and pie. :)

                  2. I haven't had the chance to eat there yet, but from what I've read and heard, Sea Change is making a lot of waves (pun not intended) for delicious and inventive dishes.

                    You could use the opportunity to show off the Guthrie, as well. I read somewhere that MSP is second only to NYC in terms of theatre seats per capita...