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Recs for a special birthday lunch (that isn't EMP)

Last week, my boyfriend treated me to a great birthday lunch at Eleven Madison Park. (Separate review post coming later.) The food and overall experience were both wonderful, and since his birthday is this month, I'd love to return the favor with a similar experience.

I've checked out the menus for SHO, Perry St, and Jean Georges, and they all seem like what I want - a more "special" restaurant than we usually go to with a good lunch special. In the interest of my grad student budget, I'd like to keep the meal to around/under $100 total if possible. We most likely won't have anything to drink, so that would be for food/tax/tip only. In terms of food, we're up for pretty much anything (although I do have a gluten allergy) but I'm specifically looking for a place that'll provide a great experience. He set the bar pretty high with our trip to EMP, so I'd love to match/top that if it's even possible.

Thanks!

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

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

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  1. Jean Georges is your best bet. If you order carefully, you'll be able to construct a meal that's better than EMP's prix fixe lunch, IMO.

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

    7 Replies
    1. re: hcbk0702

      What would you suggest ordering at Jean Georges?

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

      1. re: whitneybee

        Tuna ribbons, avocado, spicy radish, ginger marinade
        Slivers of Japanese madai, muscat grapes, buttermilk emulsion
        Broiled shrimp with mousseron mushrooms, herbal infusion and lime
        Sweet pea soup, croutons and parmesan
        Red snapper crusted with nuts and seeds, sweet and sour jus
        Parmesan crusted confit leg of chicken, artichoke, basil and lemon butter

        The madai dish featured strawberries just a little while ago, so I'm not sure why the muscat grapes are back. The skate with Château Chalon sauce is normally a knockout, but it wasn't quite on point the last time I had it; the red snapper is another signature dish, and I like it even more than the skate preparation. The chicken confit is really memorable, even though chicken dishes rarely are in most restaurants.

        FWIW, I wasn't impressed with SHO. The food might have been cutting edge about 15 years ago and the presentations trend towards architectural contrivance. The ultra-generic, "could be anywhere" upscale hotel vibe is sort of off-putting as well. It may belong in the same genre of Asian-accented French as Jean Georges, but it doesn't come close to the seamless fluency in incorporating Asian flavors and ingredients that its much-better rated competitor has.

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

        1. re: hcbk0702

          This all sounds great. I showed the boyfriend the menus for JG, Bouley, and SHO, and he was least impressed with SHO. While it looks like he's leaning towards Bouley for his birthday, I'm definitely going to save JG as an option for future special occasion meals if we don't go there this month.

          1. re: whitneybee

            FWIW, I did not enjoy SHO.

            Lunch at J-G is a real treat.

            1. re: whitneybee

              In addition to hcbk's list, try the foie gras brulee.

            2. re: hcbk0702

              I'm going to Jean Georges for lunch soon.

              This will be my first time there, and I was thinking of ordering the foie gras brulee, either the tuna ribbons or the scallops with caramelized cauliflower, the parmesan crusted confit leg of chicken, and the caramel dessert. But I'd also love to hear about other any suggestions on the current menu.

              I do understand that jackets are now required for lunch. Thanks.

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

              1. re: Tommy D.

                To be honest, the menu at JG is fairly static. You've chosen well, as the tuna ribbons and the confit leg of chicken are among the strongest dishes on the current menu. I'd skip the scallops with caramelized cauliflower; it's a fine dish and a JG signature, but I wouldn't pick it even if it didn't carry a supplement charge. The foie gras brûlée is certainly more interesting.

                The desserts change more often (aside from the signature JG chocolate cake), so pick whatever strikes your fancy. But I wouldn't expect Iuzzini to match Laiskonis.

        2. SHO would be my top pick. Might be my 2nd favorite restaurant in the city after EMP.

          2 Replies
          1. re: seal

            I immediately thought of SHO when I started looking for restaurant ideas. We'd be able to take advantage of the restaurant week deal. Would you suggest ordering off of that menu?

            1. re: whitneybee

              For lunch, the RW deal at SHO is the best I've had this year. Both the pork belly and the pasta were wonderful. I have yet to taste anything there that wasn't delicious. Since they are to be closed the last two weeks in August I would run there while the deal is available.

              That said, JG has always been and continues to be great and the lunch at Nougatine is a deal in the same league as SHO.

              If you like to drink with your meal, either deal will allow you a nice glass of wine making your sub $100 lunch all the more special.

              Nice when either choice is a good one. Enjoy.

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              Nougatine
              1 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023

          2. Bouley has two lunch tasting menus priced at $36 and $48 per person. I have always had great meals at Bouley, and am returning to celebrate my birthday in three weeks.

            14 Replies
            1. re: ellenost

              I showed the boyfriend the menus for JG, SHO, and Bouley, and he seemed to like the look of Bouley the best. What would you recommend ordering?

              1. re: whitneybee

                For lunch at Bouley, skip the skate and the salmon. Nearly everything else on the lunch tasting menu is delicious, particularly the asparagus, tuna sashimi, porcini flan, roast duck, chocolate frivolous, and caramelized pear. The venue is very appropriate for a birthday celebration, and you'll be showered with gifts from the kitchen, I'm sure you'll enjoy lunch there.

                1. re: whitneybee

                  To be honest, I've never had anything at Bouley that I haven't loved. It's a shame that Bouley doesn't get much love from this board. When I lived dowtown I used to go to Bouley more often (even though it's pretty quick on the #2/3 subway lines).

                  1. re: ellenost

                    I wish I could say that I loved Bouley. The food during the one lunch we had there was fine overall, but nothing I had wowed me. I didn't care at all for the porcini flan. I found service to be remote. The room is gorgeous! I will probably give it another try.

                    http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                    1. re: RGR

                      Sorry RGR, I have to disagree with you for the first time. The porcini flan is one of my most favorite dishes at Bouley, and I order it every time I'm there. I do hope you give Bouley another try.

                      1. re: ellenost

                        No need to be sorry, ellenost. It's a classic case of "chacun a son goût." I realize that most people feel as you do about that flan. So, I'm the outlyer.

                        Another case where I differ with the majority is Jean-Georges' signature foie brulée. Though I'm a major foie gras addict and have rarely have a foie in any form that I didn't like, J-G's didn't send me.

                        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                        1. re: RGR

                          RGR, that's disappointing to hear about the foie gras brulee at Jean Georges (especially since you love most things foie gras).

                            1. re: RGR

                              Not yet, but if you weren't crazy about it, I might skip it when I return to J-G (if it's even still on the menu when I return).

                              1. re: ellenost

                                The brulée is always on the lunch menu in the dining room and in Nougatine (also on the dinner menu) as it's one of his signatures. I actually think you should try it and make up your own mind. :)

                                http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                1. re: ellenost

                                  The JG foie gras brûlée is an interesting dish. The brûlée idea attains overall flavor balance by introducing a blow-torched sugar crust to complement the richness of the liver, which I think is a clever way of bridging savory and sweet without relying on more traditional accompaniments. Even the brioche is integrated into the dish, acting as a little pedestal for the brûlée.

                                  The current foie gras brûlée prep features rhubarb juice, pineapple raisins and Sichuan peppercorns. It's the classic and effortlessly tiered JGV interplay between sweetness, acid and heat, but it definitely won't appeal to everybody.

                                  1. re: hcbk0702

                                    Thanks hcbk0702! The current foie gras brulee at J-G sounds very interesting. I enjoy the sweet/savory combinations of foods. Do you recall how often foie gras preparation changes at J-G?

                                    1. re: ellenost

                                      It generally changes with the seasons, but for the last couple of years it's always been a variation on the brûlée theme. I guess JGV is reluctant to move away from that idea!

                                      My favorite version of the foie gras brûlée appeared a couple summers ago: macerated strawberries and aged balsamic.

                                      1. re: hcbk0702

                                        When I had the brulée last year in the spring, the side accompaniment (it wasn't incorporated into the brulée) was pineapple. There was something about it that didn't work for me, which I found surprising since I like pineapple.

                                        I'm sure I would not care for the current version since I detest raisins.

                                        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                2. Haven't been to SHO, but I second Jean-Georges for lunch since it's in the same "league."

                  1. I prefer SHO over J-G. I have only had dinner so cannot comment on lunch menus.

                    1. Tocqueville, one of our favorites, is an excellent option. It tends not to get the attention re: lunch that EMP and Jean Georges do. However, the cuisine is of very high caliber, which makes the $24 3-course lunch prix fixe (served year round) a true bargain. We have had many, and they are always first-rate. Wine pairing are available for $15. Service is professional, and the understated elegant space is one of the most beautiful in the city.

                      Tocqueville photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                      Our lunch at Jean Georges a few months ago was lovely. Many of the dishes we had are regularly on the menu, and I would recommend all of them. They can be viewed here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: RGR

                        Just wanted to add another choice - Del Posto, I took a friend for lunch on Friday, I was extremely impressed, not only was the food amazing, the service, ambiance, etc were outstanding. I actually had changed my res from Gotham Bar & Grill to Del Posto based on a fellow CH's report. It definitely did not dissapoint!

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                        Del Posto
                        85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011