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Feb 4, 2011 05:32 AM

First visit to NYC - Birthday dinner recommendation?

Hi all,

I've never been to NYC (I live in central, NY), and am going to spend 6 days in Manhattan, to meet the man I've been conversing with for quite some time. This is our first time meeting in person, and he'll be taking me out for dinner on my birthday. He's given me the choice of where to go.

Since I don't know Manhattan, I'd love recommendations. He WILL choose for me, if I'm unable to decide, since he does know the area, but he wants to give me that choice first.

My preferences: romantic, somewhat dark, good service (but not overly attentive), very clean, upscale, and would like to sit across from each other with lots of privacy.

Food choices: A good tender steak & potato, authentic sweet & sour chicken, anything that's not shellfish or pork actually, and freshly made. Prefer small portions for me, I have a small appetite.

Dessert is very important, a good chocolate souffle perhaps, or thick hot chocolate, maybe even a delicious slice of key lime pie.

Price is not a problem.

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. :-)

Thank you ahead of time,

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  1. Hope you guys don't mind me bringing this up to the top. Hoping someone will have a recommendation soon. :-)


    6 Replies
    1. re: DeeMe

      Have you done a board search? They're tremendously useful for situations exactly like this. ;)

      1. re: invinotheresverde

        What would be the best way to do that ... to get the best results?

        I was also hoping to get some personal recommendations. I'm disappointed, I haven't even had one. :(

        1. re: DeeMe

          Your initial post is too open -1) leaving CH-er's flummoxed to think what is the one best restaurant of all the zillions they know and 2) that you haven't done any homework yourself.

          This site has the main prupose of learning and trading opinions about chowish places. We like helping people partly to do so and partly b/c we learn from the things each other say.

          Starting w/ the search function e.g., "times square" (note the "") or "birthday dinner" "modern". search will lead you to personl opiinons people have previously expressed on the matter at hand. If you then can specify your location, willingness to travel, kinds of food or especially restaurants you are deciding between, I bet you'll get responses.

          1. re: DeeMe

            This is a tough one, especially without any budget considerations, since if you are thinking dark, romantic with lots of privacy you rule out most of Manhattan since tables aren't exactly spread out. I think Red Cat fits a lot of what you want and if you get a corner table it helps. They have a good pistachio semifreddo as a dessert, I believe they have a hanger steak entree. Eleven Madison Park obviously fits exactly what you are looking for, but for the first time meeting someone I'm not sure a $600 dinner makes sense. Telepan is a great restaurant that has wonderful food, service, but it may not be the "dark, romantic" place you are looking for.

            Those are some ideas, but price point often helps. In this case it will definitely make you think about some of your requirements and which are most important.

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

            72 W. 69th Street, New York, NY 10023

            Red Cat
            227 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

            1. re: edible n

              edible n, The main reason I didn't suggest EMP is her desire for privacy. While tables are better spaced there than in many restaurants, they still don't provide much privacy. Also, there are those who feel that "romantic" = small and intimate. If that's what she has in mind, obviously, EMP would not work. As far as the high cost goes, she did say, "Price is not a problem."


            2. re: DeeMe

              Coming up with a restaurant that fits all the specifications you've outlined isn't very easy. The one I think comes closest is Jean Georges. It is upscale, the food is delicious, portions are not exceedingly large, service is polished, and while there is no chocolate soufflé, there is Jean-Georges Vongerichten's signature warm chocolaate cake. You could request one of the two small alcoves on either side of the dining room, each of which holds a table for two. Very private, cozy and romantic, but you will have to sit side-by-side.

              Jean Georges photos:


          1. Thank you all so much .... sorry I didn't take time to research here first. I did however, search the web, it's just that there are so many, I'm confused. :-)

            I did search here on CH, and like the menu of a few, but it does seem, they don't provide too much privacy. Veritas looks really good, menu-wise, but not very private.

            As for price, well .. no, I don't think $600 is a good idea for first meeting, but the gentleman does have money, and yet ... I'm not familiar with the pricing in NYC, so perhaps an average pricing would be good, whatever that may be.

            I do like steak, but I also enjoy varied vegetarian dishes, also Chinese and French. The dessert can be varied also, not stuck on mousse or key lime pie. he he

            But private is really important ... so is a bit darkly lit. As for travel, I'll be staying in Manhattan at a hotel, and that's where he lives, so it's best to stay within that area. He lives at the Peter Cooper Village, if that helps with location. Cab is fine.

            The restaurants that have been suggested all look great for menu, but I'm still not seeing much privacy. And some aren't showing the seating, so I can't tell if it's intimate or not.

            I know it's not easy to find just the right one ... and I'm still searching on my own. Thank you all for the suggestions so far. I do like the menu on all of them, but I never realized how busy it is in NYC and how crowded the restaurants are.


            43 East 20th St., New York, NY 10003

            1. The more I think of it, the more I think I'd like something such as Cheese Souffle ... and French.

              Not sure I want to order steak, since I'm fussy about how it's cooked, and don't want to be sending it back. I'm actually use to pretty simple food, wouldn't like allot of mixed textures and seasonings, I'm not use to.

              Just thinking out loud here ... and maybe this can narrow it down more.

              Whatever I do ... I'm going to be SURE and visit The City Bakery ... for that delicious Hot Chocolate!


              8 Replies
              1. re: DeeMe

                La Grenouille comes to mind because it's French, romantic and known for its (dessert) souffles. The room is relatively bright (think: fresh flowers and reds everywhere) and the tables are very close together, but it's certainly upscale and romantic. Men wear suits and ladies were a nice skirt, dress or pant suit. Note also that it tends to attract an older, mature crowd.

                Also, as other posters said it's difficult to find real privacy in NYC restaurants. 9 times out of 10 the tables are on top of one another as the dining spaces are small. That said, people keep to themselves so you can still feel private even with others nearby.


                1. re: mla19

                  I agree with mia19 - about La Grenouille & the privacy issue in NYC. More important is whether you & your date can hear each other without shouting - so I would put more emphasis on noise level than lighting or seating arrangements. La Grenouille or Picholine would work. So would River Café (& I consider the spectacular view there to be romantic) - don't let the fact that it is across the river in Brooklyn dissuade you. It's easy to get to by cab.

                  35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

                  La Grenouille
                  3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                  1. re: boredough

                    boredough, I didn't see any souffles listed on Picholine, unless I missed them. It also looks very romantic, but I think I like the look of La Grenouille better.

                    I'll look at the River Cafe now... thank you.


                    35 West 64th St., New York, NY 10023

                    La Grenouille
                    3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                    1. re: DeeMe

                      Sorry I was not focusing on the specific menu requirements, since I thought atmosphere was more important. "Food for thought" (pun intended)

                  2. re: mla19

                    NOW we're talking! Oh My! I love the look of La Grenouille, and the menu looks very good, I see cheese souffle. :-)

                    Also, without going into much, reading on the history, it seems I share much with the family, and my maiden name is Mason, in which comes from my mother's side, which were very French. My mother always told me, that Mason in French, is Masson.

                    I LOVE the flowers, the colors ...everything. I'm a bit worried about the noise, glad someone brought that up, because I don't hear very well, I've lost allot of hearing in one ear, so have trouble making out certain sounds. How's the noise in La Grenouille?

                    Thank you mla19, for this suggestion.


                    La Grenouille
                    3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                    1. re: mla19

                      Diana says she wants "a bit darkly lit' and that "privacy is really important." You admit that La Grenouille fails miserably with respect to those two criteria, so why recommend it? I love La Grenouille, but if these two things are really important ot her, I think it's a very poor fit.

                      That said, perhaps the photos of La Grenouille's interior in this set can help Diana judge for herself:

                      And, btw, for those who felt that EMP would be too expensive, La Grenouille's 3-course prix fixe is $98, which is only $27pp less than EMP's 4-course prix-fixe @ $125. And portions sizes at La Grenouille are quite large (which Diana says she doesn't want). The photos i've linked to will attest to that.


                      1. re: RGR

                        Awwww but RGR .. I love the look of La Grenouilles. I think the ambiance, makes up for the dark lighting and privacy. :-)

                        The pictures you showed, are very nice.


                        La Grenouille
                        3 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

                        1. re: DeeMe

                          Diana ,

                          Exactly what we need -- knowing how *you* feel about the atmospherics. Glad the photos helped.

                          If you and your companion decide to go to La Grenouille, I suggest you request the rear dining room and a table at the far end of one of the banquettes. That will give you the most privacy when the room is full. Also, if you make a late reservation, as other diners finish up and leave, the room will empty our, and eventually, you will have much more privacy.

                          If you like "plainer" food, I highly recommend the divine Dover sole. You can see photos of it in this set taken by one of our dining companions the last time we were there:


                          La Grenouille is not in the neighborhood of Peter Cooper Village (which is in the East Village), but it's an easy cab ride to the restaurant's midtown location.


                  3. Do you eat Japanese food? You could probably get a very simply prepared fish dish at, say, Kyo Ya and sit in the tatami room in back (not that dark but there will be a physical barrier between you and the other diners). Or research Zenkichi in Brooklyn (each table gets its own booth).

                    Maialino just announced it's chef's table which does parties of 2-4 in a separate wine room if you're OK with Italian and a $150 price tag.

                    Kyo Ya
                    94 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                    2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010