Recs for Upper West Side
Actually, Nice Matin is in the Lucerne and is generally a place where you do need to shout (though I've only been inside for brunch and sat outside for dinner.)
I think Recipe (82nd and Amsterdam) is a locavore type of place. Would also look into Dovetail for something more high end (but still low key), or Telepan. The West Branch is also fairly low-key but it can get loud.
72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023
201 West 79th Street, New York, NY 10024
103 West 77th Street, New York, NY 10024
2178 Broadway, New York, NY 10024
452 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024
I would choose Dovetail, very close to the Lucerne, on 77th, just off the northwest corner of Columbus. Delicious food, excellent service and pleasant ambiance.
Dovetail photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...
P.S. While I loved the understated elegance of Telepan, I thought the food was just o.k.
the best restaurant in that area, in my opinion, is Dovetail. Especially if cost is no object, get the tasting menu, it is sublime. The website states that local ingredients are used when possible.
In terms of locavore, Receipe is an excellent recommendation. It is small, so call for reservations. I have been there twice and have enjoyed it very much.