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Stumped! I’m trying to find a traditional French restaurant but…

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I am planning a special birthday dinner for an octogenarian who loves French cuisine. There will be eight diners. The fantasy: La Grenouille. The reality: I need to keep the check under a thousand dollars. We are light drinkers – maybe one or two bottles of wine for the meal. Two of our diners are teenage boys and the cuisine of a Grenouille or a Per Se would be a waste on them (another reason why La G wouldn’t work. If we could find a restaurant where the chef could prepare a simple grilled fish or steak for them, that much better.) Someplace quiet, elegant, memorable. Any suggests are greatly appreciated. This one's a toughie, no?

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  1. The former chef at La Grenouille just moved to La Silhouette, where you can get 30% off food and wine if you book through Savored.com. The food at La Silhouette is very good.

    If you're willing to consider modern French, try SHO Shaun Hergatt which is also on Savored.

    As for the teenage boys, well, I think it's a tradeoff between the celebrant's wishes and trying to please everyone (I had the same dilemma for an elder relative's birthday).

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

    SHO Shaun Hergatt
    40 Broad St, New York, NY 10004

    La Silhouette
    362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

    1. I know you said La Grenouille is out of your budget, but just to note that when it comes to a "simple grilled fish," you can't do much better than La Grenouille's fantastic grilled Dover sole.
      Also, there is beef on the menu, and I'm sure the kitchen would prepare it sans any sauce upon request.

      That said, it occurs to me that if you could make the birthday celebration lunch instead of dinner, La Grenouille might be doable for you as lunch is less expensive.

      Photos of our recent lunch at La Grenouille: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

      The only other restaurant still serving classic French cuisine is Le Périgord, and I wouldn't recommend it for a special occasion.

      The food at La Silhouette is, indeed, wonderful. However, it is contemporary French, not traditional. Also, while the ambiance is very pleasant, it does not say "special occasion" to me.

      Instead, I would suggest Tocqueville. The cuisine, which is superb, is much closer to traditional French than SHO Shaun Hergatt's (suggested by H Manning). There is a sirloin on the menu as well as roasted chicken. And I'm sure the kitchen would grill a plain piece of fish if requested. Service is friendly and attentive, and the elegant dining room is one of the most beautiful in the city. Tocqueville is, imo, a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion.

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

      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

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      Tocqueville
      1 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003

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

      Le Perigord
      405 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022

      La Silhouette
      362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

      7 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        Capsouto Freres, Balthazar

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        Balthazar
        80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

        Capsouto Freres
        451 Washington St, New York, NY 10013

        1. re: bronwen

          Thanks for these excellent suggestions. They all seem like wonderful restaurants. Balthazar indeed has great food but is too noisy and hectic for this occasion. Tocqueville seems like it could be the winner. If anyone else has a word to say about it, I'd love to hear it. Thanks again.

          1. re: GoCris

            It's probably not fancy enough but how about Le Veau d'Or for very old school french?

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            Le Veau d'Or
            129 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022

            1. re: GoCris

              I'm hardly the only fan of Tocqueville. There have been lots of very positive reviews and discussion about Tocqueville by others on this board. Here are several threads:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/773839

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/794795

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/780919

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/780919

              Re: Le Veau d'Or. While it may be old school, from what I've heard, the food is mediocre.

              http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

              1. re: RGR

                I've got reservations for Le Veau d'Or on the 5th of December. I'll let you know. My wife and I are in town and wanted an old-school NYC (it's her first visit), romantic place within a budget as I'm on business. Obviously, Per Se or Le Bernardin would have been ideal for us, but food had to take a backseat here to $$ and this restaurant (along with the Bar Room at the MOM on the 4th) fit perfectly. I'll post a review after being as objective as I can.

                1. re: Db Cooper

                  Did you happen to find this review from Eater's "Who Goes There Series"?

                  http://ny.eater.com/archives/2009/01/...

                  1. re: thegforceny

                    I read it and we're going to be a little under the "age requirement", but c'est la vie. If anything, we'll keep to ourselves and just watch the show. We'll see how it goes and I'll do my best to be objective about it. We both love traditional French cooking so I think we'll do just fine.

        2. As noted, Silhouette is very good, though not nearly as traditional. Also, while less than La Grenouille, you should still check pricing, it is expensive.

          There are some smaller French spots downtown but none have the "oomph" of La Grenouille.

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

          La Silhouette
          362 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019

          1 Reply
          1. re: comiendosiempre

            Dinner for four at La Grenouille was $1500.

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

          2. I've always enjoyed meals at Chez Napoleon. Even my relatives from Denmark (who think French food is the best) thought it was great and very reasonable.
            http://cheznapoleon.com/index2.html

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            Chez Napoleon
            365 W 50th St, New York, NY 10019

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sloth

              While I do like Chez Napoleon, particularly for organ meats, and it is about as traditional as can be, I think it is way too casual for what the OP is looking for. I vote for Tocqueville.

            2. I've never been, but how about La Mangeoire on 2nd Ave and 53rd St? The exec chef used to be exec chef at Alain Ducasse at the Essex House before it closed in the mid 2000's.

              http://lamangeoire.com/lunch-dinner.htm

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              La Mangeoire
              1008 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10022

              3 Replies
              1. re: deepfry7

                The request was for something quiet, elegant and memorable. La Mangeoire is none of these.

                1. re: rrems

                  I'll take it off my list of places to try. Thanks for the feedback.

                  1. re: deepfry7

                    Some CH's have reported better experiences than mine. If you happen to be in that neighborhood and are looking for a casual bistro, it may be worth a try. I just didn't find it to be the exciting food that I thought the chef would be capable of.

              2. Another vote for Tocqueville, our best diner of the year.

                1. Millsime sounds like a good place for you. Their signature dishes are to die for and under rated in my opinion.

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                  Millesime
                  92 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016