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THREE nights of dining in NYC - suggestions for both budget and NON-BUDGET restaurants desperately needed!

Jadore Jul 5, 2010 06:06 PM

I am grinning like a maniac as I type this, and I just poured myself an iced cup of this morning's coffee, so forgive the hyperness of this post in advance!

SHORT VERSION

I need two types of suggestions for dining in September:

1) At least two restaurants where my husband and I can spend no more than $50 each ($200 for two nights total). We will not be drinking any alcohol. We'd like to get the most bang for our buck as possible, obviously.

2) At least one restaurant where we can have a memorable meal worth every single penny. This will be the one night where we'll spare no expense, and we WILL be having at least a few drinks!

LONG VERSION

My husband just called me thirty minutes ago and told me that not ONLY is he getting a substantial raise (!!!) but ALSO, he's being sent to Manhattan for four days and three nights in September, and I'm coming with him! I can hardly stand my excitement right now - I'm 29 and all I've wanted to do since I was an embryo with eyelashes is go to New York, and now I'm going in two short months! He went once 12 long years ago, when he was 18, and all he remembers is a 'really good street vendor hot dog'.

Because we'll be paying for my ticket, and because I'm dying to shop at the holy trinity of 'B' department stores in NYC - Bloomy's, Barney's, and Bergdorf's - we've decided that we need to stick to a moderate budget for Night 1 and Night 2. We're thinking $100 maximum between the two of us each night should be enough to enjoy a few really good dinners. We won't be drinking any wine, because each morning after, my poor husband has to wake up at 5:30 AM, and he can't really handle his alcohol. (Which is weird, since the man is 6'2 and 215 pounds. I make fun of him about this often.) He told me that I should go ahead and have a glass of wine or a cocktail anyway, but I'd rather wait for when he can join me at our last meal.

Unlike the first two nights, we want to have the best meal at one of the finest restaurants in New York, and basically we don't care what the cost is. (Unless you're trying to sell us a $1000 sundae made with gold leaf or something ridiculous like that.) And yes, we'll finally break open the champagne and the wine, and nurse our hangovers on the plane the morning after. :D

My husband and I live in California, and we've dined at some pretty amazing places in San Francisco, Napa, and Beverly Hills. We really want to leave New York feeling impressed with what we had each night (especially the last one), and with zero regrets in terms of money spent. We both love seafood and sushi, as well as French bistro fare, but there's nothing we won't try - seriously, suggest anything and EVERYTHING, nothing is too out of the box! Tell me stories of your favorite meals, give me suggestions as to what I have to try, let me know where the best _____ (fill in the blank) in the city is.

Thank you so, so much Chow! I'm off to go call my best friend and freak out once more! (Oh, and maybe attempt to get some sort of a dinner on the table.)

ETA: His company is putting us up at a place called Hotel Thirty Thirty, which is in midtown Manhattan. But I don't think we'll mind hopping in a cab and going anywhere to dine!

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  1. hcbk0702 RE: Jadore Jul 5, 2010 06:25 PM

    For your "no holds barred" meal:

    If you and your husband really, really love seafood (and desserts), Le Bernardin is it.

    If you'd prefer to go with sushi, 15 East and Sushi Yasuda are both great choices (make sure to sit at the bar and go all out).

    If you're looking for more non-seafood variety, Per Se, Jean Georges, and Eleven Madison Park are all very strong. Also, both Jean Georges and Eleven Madison Park have incredible lunch deals (JG is two courses for $29, Mon-Sat and EMP is two courses for $28, Mon-Fri), so take advantage of them if you can.

    -----
    Per Se
    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

    15 East
    15 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

    Eleven Madison Park
    11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

    Jean Georges
    1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

    Sushi Yasuda
    204 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

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

    1 Reply
    1. re: hcbk0702
      k
      kathryn RE: hcbk0702 Jul 5, 2010 08:10 PM

      Seconding JG and EMP. While I liked my meal at Le Bernardin very much, it didn't blow me away like dishes at JG and EMP have -- the style is much more subtle.

      I believe that Sushi Yasuda also has a very reasonable lunch prix fixe on weekdays.

      -----
      Sushi Yasuda
      204 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

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

    2. l
      Littleman RE: Jadore Jul 5, 2010 06:30 PM

      At least one restaurant where we can have a memorable meal worth every single penny. This will be the one night where we'll spare no expense, and we WILL be having at least a few drinks!

      Make your reservations now for dinner. EMP is the best restaurant in NYC.

      Eleven Madison Park @ 11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 212 - 889 - 0905.
      http://www.elevenmadisonpark.com/

      -----
      Eleven Madison Park
      11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

      1 Reply
      1. re: Littleman
        Jadore RE: Littleman Jul 6, 2010 08:58 AM

        Eleven Madison Park is seriously becoming my first choice! I think my husband is currently enamored with the idea of Le Bernardin, on account of all the seafood, but I wonder if I can't convince him to see how amazing EMP sounds instead. ;D

        -----
        Eleven Madison Park
        11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

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

      2. l
        Littleman RE: Jadore Jul 5, 2010 06:30 PM

        Where are you staying? That helps. Thanks.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Littleman
          Jadore RE: Littleman Jul 5, 2010 06:39 PM

          Ahh, right, the hotel would probably help. We're staying at a place called Hotel Thirty Thirty (30 30?). I guess it's in midtown. Never heard of it, but it doesn't really matter since we're hardly going to be in the room as it is!

          1. re: Littleman
            Jadore RE: Littleman Jul 5, 2010 06:43 PM

            I just looked up the hotel. Um, yikes, it's not very appealing. The outside is beautiful, but the rooms don't like that nice, eek. Oh well!

            1. re: Jadore
              Glam Foodie RE: Jadore Jul 5, 2010 06:49 PM

              Don't stress! Unless you're staying at the Four Seasons or the Plaza, most NYC hotels are tiny and some are badly decorated. (Kind of like every single NYC apartment!) Like you said, you're hardly going to stay in the room as it is. :)

              1. re: Glam Foodie
                r
                RCC RE: Glam Foodie Jul 5, 2010 07:28 PM

                Totally ot true! I don't know what hotels or apartments you've stayed at, but there are many nicely-decorated hotels here in NYC outside of the Plaza and the Four Seasons.

                1. re: Glam Foodie
                  k
                  kathryn RE: Glam Foodie Jul 5, 2010 08:04 PM

                  Precisely! You're going to be out on the town eating, drinking, and shopping most of the time; the hotel is just a place to sleep. Bring earplugs and perhaps some melatonin, and you'll be fine, especially since you're willing to go far and wide for delicious meals all over Manhattan.

                  1. re: Glam Foodie
                    Jadore RE: Glam Foodie Jul 6, 2010 08:55 AM

                    Haha, this made me laugh! Actually, my husband 'has a feeling' his corp is going to switch him to the Four Seasons, due to some craziness that happened last year... I still don't get it, but if he says so, more power to us both! You're right though, it really doesn't matter because I intend to stay in the room long enough to sleep and groom myself before heading out to explore, shop, and eat!

              2. Glam Foodie RE: Jadore Jul 5, 2010 07:02 PM

                Congratulations to your husband on the raise, and on this fantastic opportunity! New York in the fall is a magical place. If I could arrange to spend every September and October there, I so would.

                For cheaper dinners, you might like Balthazar (they have a great roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and vegetables for two people @ $58!), Pastis, Le Chat Noir... those are the best little French bistro type places I can think of for your budget. (I miss Florent something fierce!)

                I think Le Bernardin is exquisite. I went there once and it rivaled my experience at The French Laundry in Napa, and that was a meal that stays close to my heart, for so many reasons.

                If you don't go with Le Bernardin, consider Aureole, Per Se, or Alto.

                -----
                Per Se
                10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

                18 Replies
                1. re: Glam Foodie
                  thew RE: Glam Foodie Jul 5, 2010 07:16 PM

                  the $50 tasting menu at degustation would fit your bill for one night.

                  some blow-out possibilities

                  wd-50, great innovate and capricious - gourmet with a sense of humor
                  marea - top tier italian (do not miss the fusilli or the sea urchin app)
                  sushi yasuda
                  emp
                  the modern
                  per se

                  for another lower cost meal there are so so so so many options maybe a hint of cuisines you like or are curious about would help....

                  1. re: thew
                    k
                    kathryn RE: thew Jul 5, 2010 08:05 PM

                    Degustation's 5 course tasting is now $55, and the 10 course tasting is nore $80, according to the menu they have in the window.

                    1. re: kathryn
                      financialdistrictresident RE: kathryn Jul 11, 2010 03:40 PM

                      Ditto Degustation.

                    2. re: thew
                      Jadore RE: thew Jul 6, 2010 09:02 AM

                      Thank you for all these fabulous suggestions! Degustation sounds brilliant, even if it ends up being a bit over budget; we can make up for it by being extra frugal on night one.

                      Actually, my husband found out that his biological mother was a full-blooded Russian, so he's started reading up on the culture and history, as well as the food. Is there anywhere we can try some authentic, affordable Russian cuisine? I think he would really love that.

                      Also, I'd love to eat at an Indian restaurant. I've made quite a few curries, but I know there's a whole world of Indian eats that I've yet to try, and maybe this trip would be a great way to dive in head first. Any suggestions?

                      1. re: Jadore
                        j
                        JCManuel RE: Jadore Jul 6, 2010 09:42 AM

                        Jadore: If you're looking for good, cheap Indian food, venture to the Upper East Side. There's a chain of Indian restaurants in NYC called Baluchi's - each one is independently owned & operated, and my hands-down favorite is at 2nd Ave between 89th & 90th Streets. Sure, it's off the beaten path, but you get to get a small taste of residential life in NYC (families, babies, dogs, etc.) If you dine-in for lunch, the entire menu is 50% off. I recommend the chicken tikka masala or the korma. A cab from your hotel's about $15, and tell Michael that Jennifer from California sent ya ;)

                        Also, a true foodie's delight is Murray's Cheese on Bleeker in Greenwich Village. Throw down $20-40 on the counter and tell them to give you enough of your favorites and a few experimental items to make it suitable for lunch. Grab a crusty baguette and enjoy!

                        -----
                        Murray's Cheese
                        254 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

                        1. re: JCManuel
                          k
                          kiworan79 RE: JCManuel Jul 6, 2010 02:08 PM

                          I would avoid Baluchi's if you are looking for good Indian. IMHO, there are many better Indian restaurants in NYC, including:

                          Chola (right by Bloomingdales);
                          Dhaba;
                          Tamarind; and
                          Tabla, to name a few.

                          Tamarind and Tabla are more upscale than the first two, and offer a more modern take on Indian cuisine than your usual Indian restaurants. Depending on what you order, you can get in and out of any of these restaurants for under $50/person.

                          For another inexpensive option, I would recommend Momofuku Noodle Bar. Very much a NY experience, although it is often quite loud. Hounds on this board are quite polarized, but I am in the "love it" camp. Definitely get the pork buns and the rice cakes. Despite its' name, I would avoid the ramen/noodle soup -- the best ramen in NYC is at Ippudo. There is also an affordable prix fixe option that you could opt for.

                          Happy eating!

                          -----
                          Chola
                          232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                          Momofuku Noodle Bar
                          171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

                          Ippudo
                          65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

                          1. re: kiworan79
                            Jadore RE: kiworan79 Jul 7, 2010 08:33 AM

                            OMG, I can't pick just one of these! I think on one of the days where I have lunch on my own, I'll have to eat at Chola or Momofuku and see where my husband wants to go at night. Tamarind and Tabla both sound wonderful, as does Ippudo (I love any place that offers a great prix fixe, thank you so much!)

                            -----
                            Chola
                            232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                            Ippudo
                            65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

                      2. re: thew
                        n
                        NYCTechy RE: thew Jul 7, 2010 04:00 PM

                        I second this for VFM, with the proviso that if you are big eaters, plan on going for a burger afterwards. In this case, I would say do the larger tasting which with tax and tip and no drinks will come in just over $200.

                        This is based on our first trip to the restaurant a week or two ago. Hard to match the variety of flavors in that 5 course tasting, for the price.

                      3. re: Glam Foodie
                        hcbk0702 RE: Glam Foodie Jul 5, 2010 07:19 PM

                        For classic French bistro fare, I agree with Balthazar (I think it's much better than its sister restaurant, Pastis, though it's a bit more expensive). Also consider Benoit in Midtown, even if the Alain Ducasse association is rather loose.

                        Le Bernardin and Per Se are exemplary restaurants and Alto is very good; unfortunately, Aureole has really declined since their move (and probably before that as well), so I may suggest avoiding it.

                        Degustation is a great suggestion, though it pushes your $50 budget.

                        -----
                        Per Se
                        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

                        1. re: hcbk0702
                          k
                          kathryn RE: hcbk0702 Jul 5, 2010 08:11 PM

                          Agree that Balthazar is better and more ambitious than its sister restaurants.

                          1. re: hcbk0702
                            Jadore RE: hcbk0702 Jul 6, 2010 08:50 AM

                            Degustation certainly sounds worth stretching our budget! I wish they had a menu I could look at; I feel like just booking a reservation for our second night there and going for it. Thank you for your help and input!

                            1. re: Jadore
                              thew RE: Jadore Jul 6, 2010 08:53 AM

                              their menu is often in flux as the market changes, so it's hard to just have an online menu

                              1. re: Jadore
                                k
                                kathryn RE: Jadore Jul 6, 2010 09:19 AM

                                I just checked their web site and they FINALLY have a REAL site up, after years of no web presence at all! They only recently put up a site but when I last looked a few weeks ago it was a single page without even a phone number. The real menu and drink list are now online though the prices seem a bit off:

                                http://www.degustationnyc.com/

                                1. re: kathryn
                                  Jadore RE: kathryn Jul 7, 2010 08:37 AM

                                  Thank you once again, kathryn! I really appreciate your help - it's truly golden. I'm about 90% sure now we'll wind up at Degustation on night 2. That menu looks amazing, and even just the small plates sound wonderful.

                            2. re: Glam Foodie
                              daffyduck RE: Glam Foodie Jul 6, 2010 01:11 AM

                              i think these are two different items on the menu, but i wasnt impressed by the roasted chicken at balthazar, but it wasnt for two. i also agree with everyone that recommended degustation, i would splurge for the 10 course!

                              1. re: Glam Foodie
                                Jadore RE: Glam Foodie Jul 6, 2010 08:54 AM

                                Thank you so much! I know, I cannot wait to go - I may not ever leave!

                                Thanks for reminding me of Balthazar and Pastis. I've heard of both many, many times online and in books and films (I remember Anne Hathaway booking a dinner for Meryl Streep at Pastis in The Devil Wears Prada, lol). I can't believe neither crossed my mind before!

                                Alas, my husband is REALLY picky about roasted chicken. I can't even get him to eat it with me at Zuni's, save for our first time there when he knew I was dying to try it. He eats plenty of it when I make it for him, but he doesn't seem to go for it anywhere else. But I'm looking at the menus of all three French places you mentioned, and I'm sure Mr. Jadore can find something equally as wonderful at any of them. :)

                                1. re: Jadore
                                  daffyduck RE: Jadore Jul 6, 2010 10:57 AM

                                  if your husband is really picky about roasted chicken i really wouldnt recommend it at balthazar at least not the roasted chicken for one (28$). i also thought their duck shepard pie was mediocre. i think their seafood entrees in general are better (skate, trout, or halibut (Weds). i've never tried their steak, so if u dine at balthazar that maybe the the way to go. my favorite things that i've tried there balthazar are the french onion soup and desserts (profiteroles are my favorite)
                                  if your husband is picky with roasted chicken but wants to try some during your trip, my favorite places are locanda verde, craft, and piopio.

                                  1. re: daffyduck
                                    Jadore RE: daffyduck Jul 7, 2010 08:35 AM

                                    Thank you for mentioning craft! I've heard of that one too. I'm going to check out the sites all three places you mentioned. :)

                              2. k
                                kathryn RE: Jadore Jul 5, 2010 08:06 PM

                                Have you dined at French Laundry before, since you mention you're from California? If so, you may want to take that into account especially since a lot of posters are recommending Per Se.

                                If you do wish to dine at Per Se, note that their reservations book opens 60 days in advance, IIRC.

                                -----
                                Per Se
                                10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: kathryn
                                  Jadore RE: kathryn Jul 6, 2010 08:49 AM

                                  Yes, I have dined at French Laundry twice before, and it was beyond amazing. However, that's sort of why we're deciding to go with Per Se only as a back-up if EMP and Le Bernardin are booked. We realize Thomas Keller's NYC restaurant probably has a totally different feel than his Napa location, but we'd like to try food on this level from another perspective, if that makes any sense.

                                  Thank you for letting me know about Per Se though! We'd still be happy to eat there if our other choices don't work out, so I appreciate this so much.

                                  -----
                                  Per Se
                                  10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

                                2. k
                                  kathryn RE: Jadore Jul 5, 2010 08:15 PM

                                  > Bloomy's, Barney's, and Bergdorf's

                                  Note that if you are doing a lot of shopping and find yourself hungry, it can be a bit difficult to find something not supertouristy and reasonably priced in that general vicinity of 59th and 5th.

                                  > Tell me stories of your favorite meals, give me suggestions as to what I have to try, let me know where the best _____ (fill in the blank) in the city is.

                                  For "budget" meals (especially breakfast and lunch), check out the following threads....

                                  Please help me eat during a month in new york
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/716238

                                  Don't leave NY without eating these foods
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/610739

                                  Pizza in NYC
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6928...

                                  BTW, I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour:
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/493333
                                  NB: Guss' has closed. The substitution is the Pickle Guy, on Essex St.

                                  Best breakfast and brunch:
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/707772

                                  Budget friendly, with lots of links to Chinatown places. I believe that Sichuan Chinese cuisine is stronger in NYC than in SF.
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/717105

                                  Cool, cheap eats in Manhattan. .
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/696914

                                  Looking for Best Cheap Eats in Manhattan
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/694218

                                  Angeleno in NYC looking for cheap eats
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/635360

                                  Top 3 cheap eats that are NOT street food
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/700760

                                  Time Out New York's cheap eats list for 2010 just came out
                                  http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/r...

                                  -----
                                  Pickle Guys
                                  49 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: kathryn
                                    Jadore RE: kathryn Jul 6, 2010 08:46 AM

                                    I love you so much right now. THANK YOU! This is so helpful, honestly. I can't wait to start reading.

                                    1. re: kathryn
                                      financialdistrictresident RE: kathryn Jul 11, 2010 03:42 PM

                                      Kathryn, this is a great thread. I just sent it to friends. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

                                      1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                        k
                                        kathryn RE: financialdistrictresident Jul 11, 2010 05:59 PM

                                        You're welcome!

                                    2. m
                                      mlc66 RE: Jadore Jul 5, 2010 08:49 PM

                                      I'm from Chicago, not NYC, but spent several days in NYC last September and have also spent a lot of time in France, Italy, London, etc on "eating" vacations. My husband and I had dinner at Eleven Madison Park last September and would classify it as one of the best ever experiences in dining. My husband is a wine expert and former restaurant manager, so he has really high expectations and he would say that EMP had the best service of any restaurant in the US. Well worth every penny! Have a great time.

                                      -----
                                      Eleven Madison Park
                                      11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

                                      1. Jadore RE: Jadore Jul 6, 2010 08:44 AM

                                        Update: THANK YOU to all of you who have made suggestions thus far. I think we already know that EMP or Le Bernardin will be the setting for our finale meal! It's just a matter of deciding which one we want more.

                                        Please give me more suggestions for nighta 1 and 2, thank you!

                                        ALSO, I actually think we'll end up at the Four Seasons after all. Last year, the men who went to this conference stayed there, but the reservations came sort of last minute. My husband thinks that's what's going to happen this time, though I'm still puzzled as to why his company would do such a thing... maybe they have to make sure FS can accommodate them within a certain budget? Go figure!

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

                                        1. u
                                          uwsister RE: Jadore Jul 6, 2010 12:20 PM

                                          I would have to second EMP as your blow-out meal. I'd only been to Le Bernadin once, and while it was very good, I wasn't as satisfied as I almost always am after a meal at EMP.

                                          While I'm not familiar w/ San Francisco, I am with L.A. & I wouldn't make sushi your blow-out meal, not that you are seriously considering it, with so many good sushi places in L.A. High-end French or Italian all the way.

                                          1. p
                                            Pookipichu RE: Jadore Jul 6, 2010 08:33 PM

                                            The best chocolate is in NYC, Kee's Chocolate shop. You can't come to NYC without sampling some of the sweets.

                                            Secondly with regard to your husband's Russian heritage, the Russian Tea Room is worth visiting, it's a beautiful space, and while the food is less than stellar, it's about the whole experience. It is uniquely Russian, uniquely New York and you cannot go wrong with their caviar.

                                            -----
                                            Kee's Chocolates
                                            80 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012

                                            Russian Tea Room
                                            150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

                                            13 Replies
                                            1. re: Pookipichu
                                              Jadore RE: Pookipichu Jul 7, 2010 08:34 AM

                                              Thank you so much for the great suggestions! My best friend is a chocolate addict; I may have to stop by Kee's for her. And I forgot about the Russian Tea Room! I've heard of it before, it just slipped my mind. Because the food isn't that great, maybe we'll stop there for breakfast/brunch before our flight home - does that sound worthwhile?

                                              -----
                                              Russian Tea Room
                                              150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

                                              1. re: Jadore
                                                p
                                                Pookipichu RE: Jadore Jul 7, 2010 10:25 AM

                                                Sometimes dining is more than just food, it is the ambiance... and vice versa. I am not a food snob, I've been to Tavern on the Green, Windows on the World. Restaurants that transport you with their environment but were scathingly reviewed. Windows on the World and Tavern on the Green are both gone and I am glad that I was able to experience them. With that in mind, if you are here for food and simply food, you can do better (although not for Russian fare).

                                                Kee's creme brulee chocolate is really a star. She doesn't deliver and it definitely would be a treat for any chocoholic. Her chocolates are better than Christopher Elbow. Although they lose a little in translation when not eaten fresh.

                                                1. re: Jadore
                                                  k
                                                  kathryn RE: Jadore Jul 7, 2010 10:27 AM

                                                  Kee's chocolates are quite delicate so be careful in transporting them! They make them fresh on site and it's a small operation. Also I believe the creme brulee chocolate she advises eating within 24 hours.

                                                  1. re: kathryn
                                                    daffyduck RE: kathryn Jul 7, 2010 12:39 PM

                                                    Yes she does suggest that eating the creme brulee within 24 hours. She also doesnt make them everyday and the creme brulee along with a few others that sell out fast. You should call and reserve the flavors you want.
                                                    http://www.keeschocolates.com/cho.html
                                                    if you enjoy oysters\clams you might want to stop by aquagrill which very close by.

                                                2. re: Pookipichu
                                                  a
                                                  Ann900 RE: Pookipichu Jul 7, 2010 04:24 PM

                                                  The present Russian Tea Room is neither uniquely Russian or uniquely New York, unless what you have in mind is a hyper tourist version of both Russian food and New York. The old Russian Tea Room of long ago (1960's -70's), that was another matter.
                                                  For real Russian food take the subway (B or Q train) to Brightion Beach, Brooklyn - home to NY's largest population of Russians.
                                                  The trip will take 45 minutes or so, and when you get off the train you'll hear far more Russian spoken than English. Brighton Beach Ave is filled with Russian food stores, restaurants and night clubs. The best known is probably The National. I went several years ago with Russian friends- when I went it was all one price- which inckluded a bottle of vodka for the table and more food than any human could reasonably consume. A band and a floor show- all Russian entertainers, of course. Not a gourtet experience, by any means, but lots of fun. Not a tourist version of Russia- it's the real thing.
                                                  You can check out menupages.com for NYC restaurants- click on the Brooklyn section and lok for Russian restaurants.
                                                  You might also consider walking ddown to the actual beach- just a few short blocks from the subway. The boardwalk along the beach has a number of Russian restaurants- , probably the best of the bunch is Tatiana. Like The National, it too is filled with Russians.

                                                  -----
                                                  Russian Tea Room
                                                  150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

                                                  1. re: Ann900
                                                    p
                                                    Pookipichu RE: Ann900 Jul 7, 2010 08:44 PM

                                                    There is nothing wrong with it being "touristy". In other words, it's a place that's worth experiencing once. If you are asserting that it is not unique, then please do share the Russian restaurants in California with equally opulent ambiance and service.

                                                    I have had a wonderful experience at Russian Tea Room, perhaps the gaudiness is not your idea of Russian, but it is as much Russian as the more humble stores and restaurants in Brighton Beach.

                                                    As for Brighton Beach, it is a fun excursion, but I have a feeling that it is not exactly what they are looking for.

                                                    To the original poster: As an alternative, there is Firebird (I have not been to it), a restaurant that chowhounders might be slightly less derisive of... Do your research and make your decision based on whether such an experience is what you are looking for.

                                                    -----
                                                    Russian Tea Room
                                                    150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

                                                    1. re: Pookipichu
                                                      a
                                                      Ann900 RE: Pookipichu Jul 7, 2010 09:38 PM

                                                      The OP asked for authentic, affordable Russian food - which is exactly what they will find in Brighton Beach - as well as come as close to spending a day in Moscow as is possible while still being in North America. I'd compare it to a poster who asked where they could have an authentic Chinese experience - they could get recs for good Chinese restaurants in Manhattan, or be sent to Flushing-where, when they step off the train, they're immersed in all things Chinese.
                                                      Although I agree that a place frequented mainly by tourists doesn't necessarily mean it should be avoided, neither does it necessarily mean it's.a place worth experiencing. FYI not all the restaurants in Brighton Beach are humble.

                                                      1. re: Pookipichu
                                                        c
                                                        City Kid RE: Pookipichu Jul 8, 2010 07:48 AM

                                                        I may be missing it, but I saw no reference to "Russian heritage" in the OP's query. In any case, IMO, both the Russian Tea Room and Firebird are over-the-top and not in a good or tasteful way, the food is sub-par, and the prices high. So many better place to go in NYC for the money! I don't mind touristy if the experience is worthwhile. Keen's, for example, gets a lot of tourists and is also a fabulous and unique NY experience in every way. Tavern on the Green, RIP, was not. We were invited there for brunch several years ago and they even managed to mess up eggs benedict, the service was awful, and the decor shmaltzy and ugly.

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                                                        Russian Tea Room
                                                        150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

                                                        1. re: City Kid
                                                          Jadore RE: City Kid Jul 8, 2010 06:35 PM

                                                          I wrote in a later comment that my husband recently found out he is of Russian heritage, so I thought it might be nice to find some authentic Russian fare while in NYC. :)

                                                          I feel bad, I didn't mean for a bit of a debate to break out over this!

                                                          1. re: Jadore
                                                            a
                                                            Ann900 RE: Jadore Jul 8, 2010 06:41 PM

                                                            Jadore- don't feel bad. This kind of "debate," as you called it, is really an every day thing for New Yorkers- particularly when it comes to food.

                                                            1. re: Ann900
                                                              Glam Foodie RE: Ann900 Jul 9, 2010 02:23 AM

                                                              Restaurant debates are a beloved New York passtime!

                                                      2. re: Ann900
                                                        s
                                                        sugartoof RE: Ann900 Jul 8, 2010 02:03 AM

                                                        Brighton Beach is a great experience, but not exactly practical with only 4 days to visit.
                                                        In this case the OP isn't really looking for authentic ethnic eats specifically, and a trip to a touristy upscale version of "Russian food" is perfectly fine. I wouldn't pick brunch as the prime time to try the Russian Tea Room, and there are much, much better options, but there are certainly far worse choices.

                                                        On the other hand, I wouldn't bother with Kee's unless you were in the area already.

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                                                        Russian Tea Room
                                                        150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

                                                      3. re: Pookipichu
                                                        financialdistrictresident RE: Pookipichu Jul 11, 2010 03:42 PM

                                                        Ditto Kee's.

                                                      4. m
                                                        morningsidelisa RE: Jadore Jul 8, 2010 06:44 AM

                                                        For one of the budget dinners: Consider Gennaro, on Amsterdam Ave. and about 93rd St. (This is on the Upper West Side, a residential neighborhood). Wonderful Mediterranean/Italian: Octopus salad, homemade pastas, lamb shank, lots more. Very casual, no reservations. Go early on weekends.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: morningsidelisa
                                                          Jadore RE: morningsidelisa Jul 8, 2010 06:37 PM

                                                          Sounds lovely! I'll definitely check it out and see if my husband likes the sound of it, thank you!

                                                        2. financialdistrictresident RE: Jadore Jul 11, 2010 03:45 PM

                                                          I really enjoyed my meal at Aldea last month.

                                                          One of my favorite NYC restaurants.

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

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