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Apr 5, 2012 06:54 PM

15th Anniversary Dining Trip?

My wife and I are traveling from Portland, Maine to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in early september and will spend three days and nights kid free to enjoy the town and dine on wonderful food. Planning on staying around the Park...but willing to travel for food.

Current thought would be Le Benardin for our anniversary...and I'd love to also hit Babbo another night. Maybe WD50 for something offbeat the third night?

Any and all suggestions are welcome...especially for lunch.

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  1. What days of the week are you going to be here? A lot of fine dining establishments are closed on Sundays and many don't serve weekend lunch, only weekday lunch.

    What kind of budget are we taking about? Can you give an estimate as to what you'd like to spend per person before tax, tip, and wine/drinks? Say $125ishpp for dinner? Less for lunch?

    Are you thinking mostly fine dining for this trip? Or more casual for lunch?

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Sorry...that would be helpful information...

      Arriving Wednesday at 2pm at JFK...
      Anniversary is on Thursday..leaning strongly toward Le Bernadin...
      Departing on 5pm flight Saturday...

      Easier Babbo table on Wednesday obviously...although open to other suggestions...

      While leaning toward fine dinning for two of the nights I'm not married to that...simply want great food and wonderful experience...not putting a price limit on the weekend.

      Would like to do at least two great lunches....whether a bargain prix fixe at a top restaurant or a more casual gem.

      Last several years we've either visited with kids and haven't focused on dining...or in for an event like my roommate's 40th birthday dinner or NYE at this will be the first "adult" solo trip in years....

      1. re: Lawshark

        You can get alot of bang for your buck at lunch time in alot of the fine dining restaurants. I would suggest looking into Jean George and Eleven Madison Park (EMP is a must).

        Are you leaning towards Le Bernardin because you are fish fanatics? If so, then it's an excellent choice but not the best if you are looking for a more varied dining experience.

        1. re: Lawshark

          Some good alternatives to Babbo if you can't get in:

          My current favorite restaurant in New York, Ai Fiori, serves great Ligurian food, and if you go there, make sure to get a cocktail - the one with bourbon is magnificent.

          Scarpetta is also excellent, and a very pleasant experience.

          For the record, I have been to Babbo once, sat upstairs, and liked it very much.

      2. If you are looking for white-tablecloth, money-no-object, fine dining for your anniversary, I think Le Bernardin is a good choice if (1) you are really into seafood and (2) you don't mind a somewhat stuffy atmosphere that some, though not me, find snooty. The other two place worth considering are Per Se and Eleven Madison Park. The former is more formal than the latter, though both are certainly worth considering. All of the five best meals that I had during my 4-year stint in New York were at those three restaurants.

        I wouldn't risk such an important day on the uneven service often provided at Daniel (and I think the food there is often overly-busy and not very good) and think those three places are pretty regularly a step above Jean Georges.

        For lunches, you really should consider going cheap/casual, as there are great options in nyc that I think balance a white tablecloth dinner. Katz's for pastrami or duck at ssam bar or bagels at Absolute Bagels are all good choices, and you are countless others.

        1. Le Bernardin and Babbo are great choices.

          For lunch, try Jean Georges (which is open for lunch on Thursday and Friday) or Per Se (which is open for lunch on Friday and Saturday).

          For your third night, in addition to WD-50 also consider Momofuku Ko or Ssam Bar, Junoon, or 15 East.

          1. I'll second the suggestions for EMP. While I admit I'm not the HUGEST fan of Le Bernardin, that's partially because I'm just burnt out on Haute French - if you're coming from an area without much in that style, it might be a bit more exciting for you. Also, I'm not a fan of the "white tablecloth" / "jacket required" ambience - I'm one of those who find it (as well as Daniel and Jean Georges) a bit stuffy. That said, Ripert does it better than most, and with a lighter / subtler hand, so you could do a lot worse. It's not like you'll have a BAD meal or anything.

            Babbo is magnificent. If you can get a reservation... lucky you. Make sure you call on the right day, or be willing to eat an early dinner by going for a walk-in at the right time. If you try doing a later walk-in, there are somepretty good other options in the neighborhood if they're packed. You could do Blue Hill for a locavore fix (I'd compare it to Primo up by you guys) or Soto for some seriously excellent higher end Japanese, especially if you like uni - Chef Soto is considered an uni master, incorporating it into multiple dishes. An "uni tasting" I did there (basically ordering everything with uni on the menu) was one of my more memorable meals of the last few years. Both within a short walk from Babbo, both often having openings on weeknights.

            If you'd rather have reservations for all nights, as a replacement for Babbo you might consider something else hearty but refined & decidedly un-stuffy. Keeping the Italian theme, Locanda Verde could be a good option, Scarpetta is solid (though they've grown to be a bit more expensive than Babbo - entrees are starting to break the $40 barrier of late), and even Batali's casual Lupa is always excellent and significantly cheaper - they're a great lunch option, actually - usually not too busy during the day. Marea is excellent for Italian seafood, though I've found their secondi a bit lacking - I usually stick to antipasti & pastas there. That said, it's been awhile since I've even ordered a secondi there, so maybe they've upped their game a bit.

            Stretching away from Italy, but sticking with hearty/refined fare in a more casual "neighborhood joint" vibe, Marc Forgione has been excellent of late. Also The Dutch is always fun, even if I'm not so high on their "famous" fried chicken. Also a good lunch option. Public has been great lately, too, for funky creative fusion (Asian by way of Australia/New Zealand by way of New American locavore)

            I'm a big fan of WD-50, and it'd be sufficiently different than the other two that you wouldn't feel as though you were treading the same ground again. Actually, WD-50 is sufficiently different than anything. There's really no other place like it. Wylie Dufresne has his own unique palate. It's playful and adventurous. Also some of the best cocktails of any restaurant in the city. I'd call it a must-try for any "foodie" visitor who hasn't been before.

            8 Replies
            1. re: sgordon

              Thank you for all the replies...everyone seems to be confirming impressions of both Le Bernardin and Babbo.

              My wife and I do love seafood and won't feel that we are missing out on options...definitely going in knowing that it will be an all seasfood night.

              There is no haute French here in a more formal presentation would actually be a nice change of pace. it's a very active restaurant scene here but very heavy on farm to table/creative/casual. Even the more "formal" restaurants such as Hugo's and Fore Street are not formal at all. When we first moved here I was surprised to find myself extremely overdressed for dinner with a dress shirt and blazer.

              In regard to Le Bernardin...reading some other threads leads me to think that obtaining a reservation should not be excessively difficult...especially for a Thursday. Correct?

              If I don't succeed in my speed dialing for Babbo...then I think I'll reasses for a different reservation. On the 30 day window...I've seen some posts saying to call on the same date the month before...but that isn't necessarily 30 days. For a September 5th that an August 5th call...or August 6th at 30 days? Since the 5th is a Sunday...I suppose it is a moot point...

              1. re: Lawshark

                In regard to the 3rd night...WD50 does sound like it is well worth trying...totally unique and a bit off the wall. I'm assuming that this would be the easiest table of the 3 to get on a Friday night...

                For lunch I'll definitely need to look into Ssam...sounds intriguing. Casual would probably be better for our luches...although a more upscale lunch one day at a Per Se or EMP may be worth planning on.

                1. re: Lawshark

                  If you can't get into Babbo, just keep in mind the restaurant tweets same day cancellations almost daily around mid-afternoon.


                2. re: Lawshark

                  Babbo reservations are to the calendar date... i.e. for September 5th, call August 5th. Start calling at 9:55 to be safe... and just keep calling until you get through.

                  Why is it moot because it's a Sunday?

                  WD-50 isn't an easy table on a Friday night. I'd recommend doing the same for them (though you can use for WD...)

                  1. re: sgordon

                    Why is it moot because it is a Sunday? Because I posted on an empty stomach :)
                    For some reason I had it in my head that they were closed Sunday...

                    While I don't think that any of the 3 restaurants I'm contemplating for dinner will be an easy table to grab...I'm hoping that WD50 on a Friday will be comparatively easier than either Le Bernardin and Babbo...and that a Wed/Thurs for the other two will be comparatively easier than Fri/Sat.

                    No matter what...I see plenty of re-dialing in my future...

                  2. re: Lawshark

                    Le Bernardin opens its books on the FIRST of the month for the following month. For example, you'd need to call on May 1st for a June booking.

                    Babbo is a bit of an oddball for reservations. You must call one month in advance to the NUMERICAL date. For example, today on April 6th, at 10am, they started taking bookings for May 6.

                    It's always the NUMERICAL date. NOT a 30 day window.

                    Babbo is the hardest to get into, but Le Bernardin and WD-50 are not "easy" tables, especially for a weekend night, and if you don't want to dine at 5:30pm or 10:30pm. These restaurants are busy every night of the week.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      I'm curious then as to when you call for a reservation at Babbo on the 31st of a month that is not August then. For May 31, when do you call as there is no April 31? April 30 or May 1?

                      1. re: Bkeats

                        When there is a discrepancy in the calendar month, the reservations are taken on the next available date. So in your scenario, it would be May 1st.