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Anniversary in 10 days, on $150. Where's the most EXCITING place we can go?

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AmyMarie12 Aug 8, 2010 03:05 PM

My husband and I are celebrating our FIRST wedding anniversary in 10 days. I know, I know - hold your applause. We're a relatively young couple at 25, so even though we want to celebrate a special occasion, we're not really into the overly luxurious, crystal chandelier type of atmosphere. Put it this way - if we had $175/person (and a huge amount of "reservation karma" for that lottery system I keep hearing about) we'd splurge on Ko.

In the absence of that kind of money, we're looking for alternative suggestions. Something exciting and special that we'll never forget. We don't spend this kind of money often, so we want to make it good. We're open to anything, so all suggestions are welcome.

Additionally, since our anniversary IS in 10 days (Tuesday, August 17th) we need a place that will take a reservation on this kind of short notice.

I've been prowling the boards a bit, and early favorites are the tasting menus at Degustation and Babbo. If I'm told EMP is the only place to be, we might up our budget.

Thanks, all!

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    fm1963 RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 8, 2010 04:05 PM

    Babbo would be a great choice. You could also look into Convivio and Scarpetta but IMO Babbo is more of a special occasion venue than the other two. If you can't get a reservation, you'd still have a good chance of being seated in the bar area without much of a wait if you arrive before 6:30 pm.

    You can do a tasting menu at EMP during lunch and still be within your budget range (before drinks, tax & tip). Dinner will be more expensive. I haven't been to Degustation, but have heard good things and I'm sure others will chime in.

    For culinary excitement, Corton would be my choice (albeit a bit pricier at $85 for a three-course prix fixe), but may not be suitable if you prefer familiar, comforting flavors over unexpected ones. Cafe Boulud is another possiblilty, with options that range from traditional French to fusiony "world cuisine."

    Congrats on your milestone & wishing you lots of reservation karma.

    -----
    Babbo
    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

    22 Replies
    1. re: fm1963
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      AmyMarie12 RE: fm1963 Aug 8, 2010 05:28 PM

      I just read on another thread that EMP is closed through September. Can anyone else confirm?

      If it's not closed, I think that lunch idea sounds fabulous. But if it is, I think I'm tied between Babbo and Degustation...

      Also, how does Perilla hold up amongst the other options?

      1. re: AmyMarie12
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        chow_gal RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 8, 2010 05:51 PM

        "...please call 212.889.0905..."
        EMP

        1. re: AmyMarie12
          r
          RGR RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 8, 2010 07:26 PM

          That info re: EMP is not true. They are currently open and will be on the day of your anniversary. A quick check of OpenTable shows lots of availalibity for lunch on 8/17.

          We have had countless Lunch Gourmands at EMP, and they are always outstanding. Photos of our most recent one can be viewed here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

          As far as the closure goes, it will not happen until the end of this month and, I believe, will last just one week.

          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

          1. re: RGR
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            AmyMarie12 RE: RGR Aug 9, 2010 09:08 AM

            Thanks!!

            I was all ready to switch our Degustation reservation to lunch at EMP, but turns out I can't get the day off after all. Unfortunately EMP is out this time around, but as someone else mentioned, there are plenty of other anniversaries ahead of us where we can splurge on dinner there. :)

          2. re: AmyMarie12
            k
            kathryn RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 8, 2010 09:28 PM

            Foodwise, Babbo, EMP, and Degustation are more impressive than Perilla.

            However, Babbo's soundtrack and atmosphere may not lead itself to be particularly romantic, especially if you are seated on the first floor. But the portions are generous and if you order wisely, you can stay near your budget of $150 for two.

            EMP is really grandiose in terms of decor given the high ceilings, large windows, and layout. I love the food and service there but hey, it's only one of many anniversaries, you don't necessarily have to have your blow out dinner at EMP right now. Of course, the price is much higher than the other options you've thrown out there but if you dine during lunch you'll have the advantage of the lovely light streaming through though gorgeous giant windows.

            Degustation is also delicious if you are not a picky eater and don't mind the counter seating and open kitchen which is not particularly romantic either. It is a very different experience than sitting at a table. You can of course stay very close to your budget of $150 for two if you order two 5 course tasting menus but some have complained that the portion sizes are too small. If you both do the 10 course tasting that will take you over your budget but you won't have that issue.

            -----
            Perilla
            9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

            Babbo
            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

            1. re: kathryn
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              gutsofsteel RE: kathryn Aug 9, 2010 01:45 AM

              Kathryn do you really mean "grandiose?" That has a negative connotation. I think you probably just meant "grand."

              I am not a big Degustation fan - it's fine, but I don't find it all that special. I also cannot stand the vibe at Babbo.

              AmyMarie, you could consider SD26, Aldea, Casa Mono...

              -----
              Babbo
              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

              Casa Mono
              52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

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

              SD26
              19 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010

              1. re: gutsofsteel
                r
                RGR RE: gutsofsteel Aug 9, 2010 06:58 AM

                When thinking special occasion, Casa Mono does not immediately leap to mine -- at least, not to me. While the food is very good, the sardine-tight seating is very uncomfortable.

                http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                1. re: RGR
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                  gutsofsteel RE: RGR Aug 9, 2010 07:11 AM

                  Not all the seating is tight. I like sitting up front next to the window. The food is very good and it has a nice buzz.

                  1. re: gutsofsteel
                    r
                    RGR RE: gutsofsteel Aug 9, 2010 08:10 AM

                    That's exactly where we've sat both times we've been to Casa Mono -- in front of the windows facing Irving Pl. at a table in the middle -- and we were practically in our neighbors' laps on both sides. If that's your idea of special occasion ambiance, then I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

                    1. re: RGR
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                      gutsofsteel RE: RGR Aug 9, 2010 08:24 AM

                      I think the food is exciting (which they want), it's in their budget, it has a fun atmosphere...these folks are 25 years old...

                2. re: gutsofsteel
                  k
                  kathryn RE: gutsofsteel Aug 9, 2010 08:48 AM

                  You're correct - grand, not pretentious.

                  I actually find the artwork at SD26 to be an eyesore, unless they've removed the tie-dyed yarn balls hanging from the ceiling? I also had a really salty and overly cheesy cacio e pepe from them the other day -- unfinishable. :(

                  -----
                  SD26
                  19 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010

                  1. re: gutsofsteel
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                    AmyMarie12 RE: gutsofsteel Aug 9, 2010 09:19 AM

                    I haven't come across SD26, Aldea, or Casa Mono before. They all look great. If you had to pick one, which would you go with?

                    Has anyone else been there? Any opinions?

                    And to answer later comments too, yeah, atmosphere isn't as much of a concern. As someone said, "these folks are 25"...we're fine with a smaller and more laid back atmosphere (in fact, we kind of prefer it). We're just after the best, most exciting and "cutting edge," "talk of the town" cuisine we can get for our $150-180.

                    1. re: AmyMarie12
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                      gutsofsteel RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 9, 2010 09:36 AM

                      I like Casa Mono the best of all of those. I really like the food, the wine, the sherry, the vibe.

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                      Casa Mono
                      52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

                      1. re: AmyMarie12
                        r
                        RGR RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 9, 2010 09:37 AM

                        When Casa Mono is full, which it will surely be at dinner, it's noisy. However, in mid-afternoon, it's much quieter and laid back. As I said, it wouldn't be my choice for a celebration dinner.

                        We've had excellent meals at both SD26 and Aldea. However, given that you are looking for "cutting edge" and "talk of the town," I think Aldea's Portuguese-influenced cuisine is a far, far better fit than SD26. The food's delicious, service is pleasant and efficient, the contemporary decor is very attractive, and the overall ambiance has a youthful feel. I think it would be an excellent choice for your celebration dinner.

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

                        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                        1. re: RGR
                          c
                          Cpalms RE: RGR Aug 9, 2010 10:17 AM

                          avoid SD26 like the plague!

                          not only does it not meet your price parameters (its abserdly expensive) the room is huge and awful and has zero vibe. have fun fighting off the staff trying to up sell u!!

                          read all about it here....
                          http://ny.eater.com/archives/2010/08/...

                          I would consider Aldea, (the new ) Annisa, Recette, Scarpetta, Ma Peche, Peasant, Little Owl

                          -----
                          Little Owl
                          90 Bedford Street, New York, NY 10014

                          Annisa
                          13 Barrow Street, New York, NY 10014

                          Scarpetta
                          355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

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

                          Ma Peche
                          15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

                          SD26
                          19 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010

                          Recette
                          328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014

                          1. re: RGR
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                            AmyMarie12 RE: RGR Aug 9, 2010 10:31 AM

                            Sounds like Aldea is starting to win. :) Those "little dreams" look ridiculous (in the best way possible).

                            1. re: AmyMarie12
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                              gutsofsteel RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 9, 2010 10:33 AM

                              I prefer the food at Casa Mono, but you really can't go wrong at either Aldea or Casa Mono.

                              -----
                              Casa Mono
                              52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

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

                              1. re: gutsofsteel
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                                AmyMarie12 RE: gutsofsteel Aug 9, 2010 11:27 AM

                                I liked the look of Mono, too. I was starting to warm up to the idea of doing a tasting menu though; neither my husband nor I have ever had the experience. Is it something really worth doing? Mono didn't happen to list one, so I felt pulled a little more towards Aldea. Plus the great recommendations from everyone else. But we're not settled on any one thing yet, if people have other suggestions!

                                1. re: AmyMarie12
                                  r
                                  RGR RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 9, 2010 04:57 PM

                                  A tasting menu is definitely worth doing, especially if you only have one opportunity to visit a restaurant since it allows you to experience a wider range of dishes.

                                  We had a sensational tasting menu at Aldea in May . Here are the photos taken by one of our dining companions: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulterior...

                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                  1. re: AmyMarie12
                                    r
                                    rrems RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 11, 2010 06:43 PM

                                    I've never been to Casa Mono, but Degustation, Aldea and SD26 are among my top restaurant choices in the high-moderate range. I think Aldea has the most "special" feeling, Degustation has the most unusual dishes, and SD26 is just delicious, and almost every dish there is offered as a small or large plate, so you can try multiple dishes, and it is really not all that expensive. Any of these would be a great choice, so just pick the one whose menu looks most appealing to you. Just to throw another possibility into the mix, if you don't mind sitting at the bar (with comfortable stools) you can put together a wonderful dinner from the bar menus at Veritas or Picholine, and it will cost little more than half of the standard prix-fixe. It has a romantic feel in its own way.

                                2. re: AmyMarie12
                                  r
                                  RGR RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 9, 2010 10:36 AM

                                  They're one of Chef/Owner George Mendes' signatures. Definitely dreamy!

                                  If you go, the signature duck rice is a must!

                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                  1. re: AmyMarie12
                                    daffyduck RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 11, 2010 06:29 PM

                                    i think degustation is romantic and better foodwise than aldea. i went in may but i thought the 2 dessert courses were stronger than the little dreams at aldea especially the carmelized brioche!

                      2. sgordon RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 10, 2010 01:31 PM

                        Important question which we should clarify - how many drinks would you usually have with dinner? That can be a big chunk out of the $150 budget. Any of the restaurants above, with a couple glasses of wine each, could break it.

                        Let's also account for tax & tip. Assuming you leave a 20% tip, the total food/drink budget is $116.50. If you're having drinks with dinner, most of the suggestions above would break that budget quite easily - I just dined at Annisa (which I admittedly was a little disappointed by) the other night, for example, and dinner for two with one drink each and splitting one dessert came to $180 with t/t, give or take. Babbo, Scarpetta, and Aldea would put you in the same price range.

                        If you're talking about $150 pre-tax/tip and not including drinks, though, I'd vote for WD-50. Great casual vibe, no dress requirement, engaging staff, adventuresome food. Seems like the ambience might be your style, as well.

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                        WD-50
                        50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

                        1. daffyduck RE: AmyMarie12 Aug 11, 2010 06:54 PM

                          id also consider 15 east. it's doable in that budget and i think it's great.

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