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Suggestions needed for amazing upscale dinner with atmosphere!

Coming into town for several days in late July and while I visit several times a year and would consider myself well oriented and familiar with the city, I'm looking for something new and entirely different as I want to surprise my girl with a knock-out incredible evening on our first night in town.

What I absolutely don't want is some trendy hot spot for the soho fashion set with house music and gelled hairdos. But I'd also like to steer clear of the grand aesthetic pretentions of a place like Daniel if that makes any sense. Not too hip. Not too square. I'm looking for something more intimate that offers a completely unique otherworldly culinary experience that's not over the top formal nor scenester, and a romantic setting. Looking to spend in the $150/table range give or take.

Don't know if this fits the bill as I've never been but I was considering Tamarind as an option. Would like more current suggestions though...

Italian/Greek/Seafood/Sushi is *out* as we could do well with that anywhere.

Indian, Japanese, Thai, Haute Asian, French, European, Steaks & Game (though don't want a formal steakhouse) and so on would be perfect... I think she'd definitely appreciate if we steered towards the Eastern Continental (Asian/Indian/western Euro,etc)

Atmosphere should be as much a focus as food and presentation. If it matters, we're both mid-twenties. Thanks in advance for any help!!

PS - This would be a Thursday night and I should mention that there's no preference in regards to location... we're staying in Chelsea but can head Uptown, Midtown, SoHo, LES, wherever!

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  1. What do you mean by $150/table? How about telling us what your budget is per person including wine, tax, and tip?

    7 Replies
    1. re: gutsofsteel

      Well we are two people.. I thought that was alluded to by my 'romantic/intimate setting' criterion. I am looking to spend no more than $200 tax-in for the both of us.

      Can take or leave the wine as we'll be heading out for drinks and later champagne back in Chelsea so don't want to let that be a deciding factor!

      Thanks.

      1. re: OliverB

        So $200 total for two people including tax and tip...no wine?

        How about Tabla? Or Devi? (although you might want some current input on Devi if Hemant Mathur is really gone)

        1. re: gutsofsteel

          Yep, that's the aim...

          Devi sounds great and was a consideration. I think I've actually been once before several years back but not certain. I definitely appreciate the "feel" of the room over the others. But food-wise is it above Tamarind? The menu at Tam seems more interesting.

          Tabla doesn't seem as atmospheric or to possess much of any distinct character from the photos of the dining room that I've seen online. I could be totally off but the menu also seems a bit over the place and from several reviews I've gathered it's not so much Indian cuisine as inspired? I could be completely mistaken and it's not necessarily a deal breaker either way...

          Between the three mentioned (assuming they're the main candidates) which would I do best with?

          Thanks again for the help!!

          1. re: gutsofsteel

            Quick follow-up... from all I've read so far, I'm almost certain we'll end up with Devi.

            I just want to get some recent assurance that all is still going strong in the kitchen..

            1. re: OliverB

              It has changed hands and chefs and if Hemant is completely gone (which I believe he is), I would make another plan until a good amount of time has passed and the kitchen is in the hands of someone else for a while and good reports are coming out consistently.

              I'd choose Tabla.

              1. re: gutsofsteel

                That's really too bad because I am now certain that I've been to Devi before and had a fantastic latenight meal back in '06.. I was really enticed by the 7 course tasting menu too, bummmer!

                I'm really not wild at all about the decor of Tabla. Would like other recommendations for Asian or European if indeed Hemant is out and Devi is struck from the list... how recently has the place changed hands?

                Would be great to find another place with similar intimate atmosphere as Devi..

                1. re: OliverB

                  Devi is clearly in transition. It's not the time to go there. I heard from a couple of people that recent meals there have been unacceptable. Hemant is gone.

                  http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

                  A place to consider is Allegretti...

      2. do u like BBQ? not upscale, it's casual/relaxed, very friendly; but the food is the thing! in the Times Sq area, w/bar, extensive menu that u can view online; so many items on the menu are good --too many to mention, your stomach will thank u > > www.virgilsbbq.com
        if u go plz let us know! have fun in NYC

        3 Replies
        1. re: TRobins

          I don't think anything could be further from what the OP is looking for.

          I know you said no Italian...but maybe consider Maialino...a roman-style trattoria. It's lovely.

          1. re: TRobins

            Thanks but Virgil's is not at ALL what I'm looking for... I love BBQ if it were a casual or solo outing, but can't see myself heading up to Time's Square for it. Just came back from a week in the South and I probably wouldn't throw away a meal in NYC on that, especially in the middle of a busy tourist trap like TS.

            Allegretti probably isn't for us either, I'm really looking for something much more intimate and unique and the menu on the site doesn't do anything for me. I was in Quebec City in March on a week-long foodcentric vacation and my standards are set high! Should mention that I'm from Montreal so if we're gonna do French, would like it to bring something distinct and different from NYC that can't be had over here. Atmosphere as mentioned, is a huge factor.

            Thanks for the recommendations though and please keep them coming!

            What about Asian?

            1. re: OliverB

              Sakagura? Kyo Ya?

              Also, technically Zenkichi is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but it's special in that each party gets their own private booth.

              Edited to add: I see that Kyo Ya is mentioned several times below and heartily second the suggestion.

              -----
              Sakagura
              211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017

              Kyo Ya
              94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

          2. Bobo fits your criteria.

            Other thoughts: Little Giant or the Breslin

            1 Reply
            1. re: stephaniec25

              Note that the Breslin has great atmosphere but doesn't take reservations and can get rather crowded, making it not terribly romantic.

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              The Breslin
              20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

            2. The budget constraints make it difficult. You're essentially skipping all the NYC restaurants with an $85+ prix fixe. I guess some places if you order a la carte you can do it.

              Aldea, Gotham Bar and Grill, and Tabla would be my recs.

              -----
              Gotham Bar and Grill
              12 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003

              Aldea
              31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

              4 Replies
              1. re: fooder

                Let's lose the budget constrants then and take it from there... I'd prefer to not spend more than $200 on dinner but could afford to exceed that for an absolutely out of this world experience.

                Haven't had a chance to explore Stephanie or your latest recommendations (doing that now) but another consideration was Kyo Ya in LES... Any opinions on this?

                Thanks so much and I'm looking into all suggestions now, will report back!!

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                Kyo Ya
                94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                1. re: OliverB

                  Kyo Ya is lovely. Not inexpensive.

                  I think their $120 kaiseki requires a specific reservation. Worth it.

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                  Kyo Ya
                  94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                  1. re: OliverB

                    Aldea would be a good choice and you can sit at the chef's counter and watch the kitchen prepare dishes, which is a bit unique.

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                    Aldea
                    31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

                    1. re: OliverB

                      Kyo Ya is in the East Vllage, not the Lower East Side, and it is beautiful. The food is very subtle, and the atmosphere is quietly beautiful. It's not the first place that springs to mind for a a twenty-something looking to "surprise my girl with a knock-out incredible evening" but it is beautiful, and the food has an earthy grace.

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                      Kyo Ya
                      94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                  2. Oliver B what do you think about Les Halles. I have always liked it myself and I think it's in your price range. I like the atmosphere most but the food is good.

                    Les Halles @ 411 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 212 - 679 - 4111.

                    http://leshalles.net/brasserie/

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: Littleman

                      Les Halles tends to be generally disliked on this board. It is not in the same league of these other truly "amazing upscale" places being suggested. Oliver B - How about SHO or Degustation? Maybe even Aldea, if you want to keep prices down.

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                      Les Halles
                      15 John Street, New York, NY 10038

                      1. re: chow_gal

                        Degustation is a good idea....I think SHO has no soul and does not have the atmosphere (intimate) that he is looking for.

                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                          "I think SHO has no soul and does not have the atmosphere (intimate) that he is looking for."

                          Hey, that's a GREAT word to describe exactly what I'm looking for... I want to find a place with "soul"! A lot of these restaurants are indeed excellent and would serve me well on other intended dining ocassions but feel a bit "cold" and not suited to this special night that I have planned.

                          Thank you all for the suggestions nonetheless! : )

                        2. re: chow_gal

                          Both great suggestions... SHO is a bit out of the way for what it is though. I'm still leaning towards Kyo Ya as a second option from all I've seen and read so far. Seems to fall in best with what I'm after: intimate setting and unique in the way of cuisine and atmosphere. Anyone know what's included with the $120 kaiseki and is it equally merited if ordering off the menu?

                          -----
                          Kyo Ya
                          94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                          1. re: OliverB

                            Here are two recent Kyo Ya kaiseki write ups:
                            http://www.eatbigapple.com/english/20...
                            http://lawandfood.blogspot.com/2010/0...

                            -----
                            Kyo Ya
                            94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                        3. re: Littleman

                          Les Halles is a mediocre restaurant at best.

                          -----
                          Les Halles
                          15 John Street, New York, NY 10038

                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                            What about Jane Restaurant. Is it mediocre. Seems every restaurant I suggest is mediocre. I guess I should not suggest any more since I don't live there.

                            1. re: Littleman

                              Jane is a neighborhood restaurant, nothing special about it.

                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                Tell me what's the difference in a neighborhood restaurant and any restaurant in NYC as long as they meet the OP's requirements. I never will understand the mentality of NY's.

                                1. re: Littleman

                                  A "neighborhood restaurant" is a place that is nice if it's in your neighborhood, but not worth going out of your way for. Jane does not fit the OP's requirements in any way.

                                  Have you been there, Littleman? If so do you find it intimate, an "otherwordly culinary experience" or romantic? Does it provide a "knockout incredible" evening? Because that is what the OP is looking for.

                                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                                    Jane's is knockout incredible other wordly incredible culinairy experience and culinary experience and romantic provides knockout incredible evening. Now what Ms. Guts. I have been there 3 times. How about your experiences.

                                    1. re: Littleman

                                      I think it's cute how you've deemed yourself an honorary NY-er, and you clearly love the city. It's just that, well, your suggestions almost always tend to be a bit 'off'. Perhaps 'tone deaf' is the right phrase.

                                      I mean come on, you *know* Jane is NOT "knockout incredible other worldly, incredible culinary experience". You know that. Your enthusiasm and generosity with recs is sweet though.

                              2. re: Littleman

                                Littleman,

                                There's nothing wrong with an out-of-towner making suggestions. However, I think it's important to make sure that the suggested restaurants meet as closely as possible the parameters that are set forth. Oliver wrote the following:

                                "I'm looking for something more intimate that offers a completely unique otherworldly culinary experience that's not over the top formal nor scenester, and a romantic setting. Looking to spend in the $150/table range give or take."

                                Have you been to Les Halles? If so, it's hard to believe that you think it provides a "completely unique other worldly experience," that it's intimate, or that it in any way, shape, or form has romantic ambiance.

                                I agree with gutsofsteel that the food atLes Halles is mediocre at best. Furthermore, service leaves a whole lot to be desired, seating is so cramped it would make a sardine uncomfortable, and the noise level is hideously high. Ergo, not at all what Oliver has in mind.

                                1. re: RGR

                                  Even Anthony Bourdain, who used to work there, mentions in his new book that they have increased the number of seats in the dining room by a large amount, without ramping up the staffing in the kitchen.

                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    Even going back to when they first opened, I felt the seating was very squished. So, if they later added seats... Yikes!

                                    I think you'll agree that Les Halles continued popularity, especially with tourists, rests on its association with Bourdain even though he long ago stopped cooking there. And I didn't think the food was all that great even when he was in the kitchen. Of course, he was still a "nobody" back then.

                                    Although I thought the hanger steak with frites was decent, I stopped going there because I couldn't tolerate the insane noise level and, before the city-wide total ban, the cigarette smoke.

                                    1. re: RGR

                                      There's a mention of a deli that folded next door and Les Halles taking over that space in his new book. But it wouldn't surprise me if they've been adding more seating through the years thanks to Bourdain's popularity. Even Bourdain admits he wasn't a very ambitious cook back in the day...after all, it's brasserie food, not Le Bernardin quality cooking.

                                      -----
                                      Le Bernardin
                                      155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                                      Les Halles
                                      15 John Street, New York, NY 10038

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        Of course, nobody expects food at brasseries to be of 4-star quality. However, I'm sure you will agree it can still be very good in its own way. We recently tried Cercle Rouge for the first time and have been back a second time because the food being served there is delicious.

                                        Cercle Rouge photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                                        and here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                                        Edited to add: I do remember that Les Halles expansion.

                          2. I haven't seen Bouley mentioned here in a while. I love that restaurant. I really like the original location but the new one is just a few blocks away and David Bouley is a great chef.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Littleman

                              Bouley looks excellent but I think we're gonna go with Kyo Ya as mentioned. My ladyfriend is more in tune with the earthy organic and exotic if that makes any sense (I dont think so!) and in a city like NY first-time together, I have a feeling something smaller and distinctly more intimate yet serving equally extravagant and excellent fare would go over better with her than these more fashionable tables... at least for what I've planned on this particular date! Kyo Ya seems like a warmer and more exclusive place for a romantic late-night meal, and the menu is something that definitely can't be recreated this side of the border! So far we're knocking out a pretty good record with this selection... But by all means, if other ideas spring to mind- post 'em here regardless as I'm still making notes!

                              Thanks everyone.. even if I largely ignored many of the suggestions!! hah!

                              I appreciate all of your help.

                              1. re: OliverB

                                You'll love Kyo Ya. It's really lovely and intimate. Splurge and do the $120 kaiseki - it's very good.

                                -----
                                Kyo Ya
                                94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                                1. re: OliverB

                                  Oliver,

                                  I agree with gutsofsteel that Kyo Ya is just the kind of place you have in mind. We had a wonderful dinner there recently. Here are photos taken by one of our dining companions:

                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulterior...

                                  Note that Kyo Ya has no signage, so one can easily walk right past it. The building it's in, 94 E. 7th St., is directly across the street from Luke's Lobster. Kyo Ya is down a flight of steps on the basement level. Don't let that deter you. The interior is lovely.

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    Thanks so much RGR... it was actually your terrific photoset and blog posting that persuaded my decision. Every single dish looks outstanding, I can't wait!!

                                    And thanks again gutsofsteel for all of your help and advice!

                                    I'm really looking forward to our meal here! How far in advance would you suggest I should call for reservations and would we have a problem dining later, around 10ish on a Thursday night? As I'm planning an entire evening out in detail, I wonder if I need to set aside more than 1.5 hrs for dinner at Kyo Ya?

                                    Thanks again!

                                    1. re: OliverB

                                      Plan at least 2 hours at Kyo Ya. And reserve as soon as they will take a reservation...don't know if they will take a 10pm. You should call now and find out, and ask when the res. book opens for the night you want and then call on that day.

                                      -----
                                      Kyo Ya
                                      94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                                          Just want to thank you again... reservations made this aft for Kyo Ya on the 29th at 9:30pm!

                                          Went with one kaiseki and will order the second a la carte as I'm not sure what my girl would want (she doesnt know about any of this!) we could always swap. Very excited!!

                                          -----
                                          Kyo Ya
                                          94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                                          1. re: OliverB

                                            Have a great time and please report back about your meal!

                                        2. re: OliverB

                                          Oliver,

                                          I'm pleased that you found my post helpful, BUT credit where credit belongs. Though I do take photos, post them on my Flickr, regularly link to them here, and also have a blog (See personal info page), in the case of Kyo Ya, I did NOT take those photos, nor is that my blog post. As I noted above, the photos were taken by one of our dining companions with skills far superior to mine, and the wonderfully written review you read was on HIS blog. :)

                                  2. id second (or third) degustation

                                    1. I'm making a reservation for Kyo Ya today based on this thread.

                                      -----
                                      Kyo Ya
                                      94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009