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First visit to NYC - Birthday dinner recommendation?

DeeMe Feb 4, 2011 05:32 AM

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,

  1. DeeMe Feb 4, 2011 07:07 AM

    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
      invinotheresverde Feb 4, 2011 07:24 AM

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

      1. re: invinotheresverde
        DeeMe Feb 4, 2011 02:35 PM

        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
          yebo Feb 4, 2011 03:16 PM

          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
            edible n Feb 4, 2011 03:19 PM

            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
              RGR Feb 4, 2011 04:03 PM

              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
              RGR Feb 4, 2011 03:31 PM

              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: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391@N03/sets/72157623804646010/


        2. daffyduck Feb 4, 2011 09:59 PM

          Craft maybe

          1. DeeMe Feb 5, 2011 03:26 AM

            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. DeeMe Feb 5, 2011 03:37 AM

              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
                mla19 Feb 5, 2011 05:40 AM

                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
                  boredough Feb 5, 2011 06:46 AM

                  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
                    DeeMe Feb 5, 2011 08:07 AM

                    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
                      boredough Feb 5, 2011 08:41 AM

                      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
                    DeeMe Feb 5, 2011 07:54 AM

                    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
                      RGR Feb 5, 2011 08:08 AM

                      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: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391@N03/sets/72157617284703785/

                      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
                        DeeMe Feb 5, 2011 08:39 AM

                        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
                          RGR Feb 5, 2011 09:00 AM

                          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. k
                    kathryn Feb 5, 2011 12:21 PM

                    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

                    1. p
                      pace Feb 5, 2011 04:05 PM

                      Love Le Grenouille's food, service, and the place is gorgeous. For more casual, and more private if you can get a booth, consider Ouest.

                      2315 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: pace
                        DeeMe Feb 6, 2011 05:09 AM

                        I do like the look of Quest ... thank you pace. A nice menu also. I especially like the booths.

                        But I like the look and menu of LeGrenouilles so much, that Quest might be second choice.

                        1. re: DeeMe
                          gutsofsteel Feb 6, 2011 05:19 AM

                          It's La Grenouille, and Ouest.

                          La Grenouille is a very good choice.

                          2315 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

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

                          1. re: gutsofsteel
                            DeeMe Feb 7, 2011 12:08 PM

                            Yup, got the names wrong, that looked like a Q to me at first glance. :)

                            1. re: DeeMe
                              DeeMe Mar 15, 2011 11:19 AM

                              So have decided on La Grenouille for my birthday dinner. I'm ordering the cheese souffle and the chocolate souffle for dessert. I have a small appetite, so the small cheese should be fine, that way I'll have room for the dessert.

                              Thank you all! :) Only 16 more days before I leave!

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

                              1. re: DeeMe
                                west34 Mar 15, 2011 01:09 PM

                                Considering that this appears to be essentially a blind date, maybe we could give you recommendations in advance on good places:
                                - with communal tables?
                                - for dining at the bar alone?
                                - where the bartenders have a sympathetic ear?
                                sorry, I couldnt resist. you just never know..... ;-)

                                1. re: west34
                                  DeeMe Mar 19, 2011 07:03 AM

                                  LOL West ... it's a 'blind' date in the sense that we've not met in person yet, but we've been talking on the phone for months, and have traded many recent photos, also have seen each other on cam ... so no surprise as to what we look like. :)

                                  All we have to hope for, is that we enjoy each other's company, and go from there. My hotel is paid for, my train ticket is round trip, my son will be in NYC at the same time, so even if it doesn't work out, I could stay and enjoy myself.

                                  Will report back, on all food places I went, and a bit of how it went with us. :)


                      2. DeeMe Apr 6, 2011 04:44 AM

                        So, I'm back ... and thought I'd let you all know how it went. Cross posted in 'what to wear to La Grenouille, since I wasn't sure where this should go.

                        First night was Shula's Steak House in the Westin Hotel I was staying at, since I was tired from the train ride. I ordered the Filet Mignon, my date ordered the Salmon. We also had a side dish of creamed spinach.

                        First time around, my steak was too rare, but second time was perfect, and melt in your mouth. My date's Salmon was delicious, I had a taste. The spinach was also very good, a bit of onion, lots of creamy sauce and cheese. Nice crusty bread, but the butter was hard. All around, a very good meal.

                        Friday, my birthday ... I met my son and girlfriend, we had breakfast at a small little hidden place, but forgot name, it wasn't far from hotel in Times Square. I had eggs, hash browns and croissant. Another good meal.

                        My son and I went to Little Italy and Chinatown. We wanted some vegetable egg rolls, which I thought would be easy to find, but took awhile. Finally found them at Old Sichuan. Nice little place, but we ordered to go. The egg rolls were small, greasy and delicious. I dripped the grease all over my blouse, but enjoyed them nonetheless. They were $1.00 each ... great price!

                        Stopped at a street vendor selling tiny cannolis (3 for $5.00). We got one of each ... very very good.

                        Friday night was my birthday dinner at La Grenouille. My date made a mistake on the street address, and the cab dropped us off 2 blocks away, I had to walk in my heels, and they were new, that was interesting. The entrance was very small, much smaller than I pictured, in one door, to the next door, very tiny space in between. LOL

                        Once inside though, you were treated royally. Coats were checked and not sure if the gentleman was the owner, but he spoke only French, welcomed us,. and never left us for long, once seated. He did not wait on us, but was always stopping to ask if I was fine, satisfied, happy, etc. etc. The other waiters were very efficient, attending to our every need, and some we never thought we needed. :)

                        Fresh flowers as noted, fresh bouquet on table, silverware was replaced and interchanged constantly. The small cookies that were brought in before order were very good. The asparagus soup was oh so tiny, but oh so good. Water was replenished constantly.

                        One note here, before I continue: I was looking for celebrities, and did spot one, but can't remember his name now ... but strangely, everyone was looking at me. Several couples never took their eyes off me, smiled at me many times, one man with his wife, stared at me, more than talk to her, it was quite strange. I either looked really good or really bad. LOL .. or perhaps I looked like someone famous. I couldn't figure it out.

                        Back to the food: The cheese souffle wasn't on the menu, my date thought I was mistaken about them having it, and I said .. absolutely they have it. The gentleman that stayed with us, said that indeed he would make sure I had the souffle. He asked if I wanted a dessert one also, so they could prepare it early. I ordered the chocolate and my date ordered the Grande Marnier. The cheese souffle was DELICIOUS ... to die for! I have a small appetite, and wanted room for dessert, so halfway through, I asked if I could take the rest with me, but they said no, they didn't do that. I thought I've read here, where others have taken food home.? Perhaps because it was a souffle? Eggs? Not sure .. but was disappointed in that, so I ate as much as I could.

                        The chocolate souffle was amazing! Oh my! I really really tried to eat it all, but just couldn't. Couldn't take that either. Darn!

                        When I got up to leave, everyone watched me leave ... the couple that was sitting in front of us, smiled and waved. I really wish I knew what that was all about!

                        All in all, I LOVED the experience there, an would love to go again.

                        I had a slice of NY style pizza, but can't remember the name ... just stopped somewhere to get a piece in a small bakery/pizza shop and ate it on the go. Very good! Bought a pretzel at Battery Park, and a bag of roasted candied cashews. They were really tasty! And of course, a hot dog, from a vendor outside my hotel.

                        After the Broadway play on Saturday night, stopped in a small restaurant across the street, again, forgot name, but had pie with meringue that reached the sky. LOL ... ok, maybe not that high. Ordered hot dog pieces in biscuit with HOT mustard ... too hot for me. Last meal was in a local pub, potato skins and apple pie ala mode.

                        I did find Momofuku and bought: slice of crack pie, slice of candy bar pie, cornflake and compost cookie. I loved the cornflake cookie and the pie .. but not the compost.

                        Had THICK hot chocolate at City Bakery ... used spoon near end and ate like pudding. Excellent and a wonderful chocolate treat, but a bit too much.

                        I may have forgotten some, if I remember I'll add later. ... but all in all .. everything was great. Had a really good time, busy, crazy, fast paced, stressful at times,. emotional at times,. but a really good trip. The Westin hotel has GREAT beds and showers ... and i slept wonderfully every night.


                        City Bakery
                        3 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011

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

                        270 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036

                        Old Sichuan
                        65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                        Momofuku Milk Bar
                        15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

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