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

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. 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

      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. 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

        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. Where are you staying? That helps. Thanks.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Littleman

          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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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. 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

                  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

                    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: thew

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                        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

                        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

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

                          1. re: hcbk0702

                            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

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

                              1. re: Jadore

                                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

                                  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

                              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

                                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

                                  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

                                    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. 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

                                  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