Boyfriend's Birthday Dinner - Gotham, Bouley, Mas Farmhouse
Boyfriend's birthday dinner is scheduled for next Sat, 4/21. It's just the two of us, I'm looking to spend $400 or less (all in wine/drinks, gratuity/tax).
I have reservations at Gotham Bar & Grill, Bouley & Mas Farmhouse.
We typically go to restaurants in the west village and soho (our regular spots are Raoul's, Little Owl, Bianca, Lupa, Mercer Kitchen, Blue Ribbon Bakery/Sushi, Locanda Verde, La Sierene)....
I am looking for something special, somewhere we wouldn't normally go, but still feels intimate and trendy (not too stuffy). We like to try new restaurants/we are semi-adventurous, but we both love a quentisentially NY restaurant.
I have also tried to get reservations at Babbo and Del Posto in case we are feeling Italian, but had no luck with either.
Please weigh in and help my indecision!
Thanks so much CH's!!!
I adore Bouley, not a big fan of Gotham (although I haven't been there in years), and haven't been to Mas Farmhouse (even though the Chef used to work at Bouley). Bouley is not "trendy"; it is delicious food in a beautiful setting with very attentive service.
As you will soon find out, double-booking reservations is pretty frowned on here. You've essentially taken a table off the books on a prime night for a restaurant while you make up your mind. Someone may try to book in the meantime, be denied, and book somewhere else - then you go and cancel two of your three reservations and those restaurants are stuck with empty tables. You've denied both the potential diners the restaurant they wanted, AND the restaurant the money they'd have potentially made.
That aside... Bouley can be a bit stuffy, but less so than the Midtown haute French places. I don't find it stiflingly so, though, and the service is very friendly and not "stiff" the way it can be further North. However, they'll be the most expensive of the options. Whether you can come in under $400 is really dependent on how much / what kind of wine you drink.
To break it down... $400 before tax/tip = about $310, or $155 per person menu price. Bouley, annoyingly, has no menus on their website, so it's hard to judge how much it'll cost in advance, though I'd estimate about $90 to maybe $100 for app/entree/dessert, leaving you some decent wiggle room for wine, as long as you're not ordering $100 bottles. Their by-the-glass prices are fairly high as I recall, though, so it might come very close to your budget. The other two would easily work.
Del Posto you couldn't have done for $400, unless you stuck with the cheapest wine option for each course. Even then I'm not sure you could have. Three other Italian options could be nice: Marea, Ai Fiori, or Scarpetta.
A couple other options in your neighborhood, that based on your usuals you might like:
Recette - 5 or 7 course chef's tasting would be doable on your budget - or do a "make-your-own" tasting from the small plates menu for around the same price.
Morimoto - don't do the tasting/omakase - you can make your own multi-course meal, say two apps + entree + dessert each, and stay near your budget. (Skip the sushi - they're better for composed, creative dishes...) Also try to get seats at the sushi bar. You actually have more room there, for a two-top they're better than the tables, and for some reason I've always found the service friendlier when at the bar.
I had heard very good things about Mas and was not disappointed... with the service, which was lovely, attentive and professional. The food however was underwhelming. As a food addict, I remember delicious foods, meals and replay them in my head. I'd be hard pressed to remember what I ate at Mas. Luckily the menu changes constantly and I may have attended on an off night.
The rustic feel is much appreciated and tasteful, very comfortable and a welcome change from overly stuffy or chic surroundings.
Gotham has gone down hill if my last meal was not a fluke. Prior to this recent year, I had not dined at Gotham in 7-8 years. It was lovely in its hey day, but now sloppy, with food preparation and service that just lacks a spirit of effort. Everything I ordered had issues with it from congealed sauce that had become cold, grease that someone had attempted to wipe for presentation and instead smeared a light film with towel or napkin texture hologrammed on the plate, improperly butchered foie with tough vein, fishy sashimi, etc. etc. The waiter disappeared the entire night after a brusque grab of the wine list, his face unconsciously? scowled when we declined alcohol.
Have you considered Annisa?
Obviously, you're fine with any of these choices; all three are refined, elegant choices (even if Mas Farmhouse may like to think it's pulling off the rustic chic vibe, it's still errs more to chic than rustic). So that said, and considering your budget, would definitely recommend Mas (frankly, the budget thing really wouldn't matter; either way I'd recommend Mas).
I can assure you Gotham has not gone downhill. I have been eating there every few weeks for years. Going there tonight in fact. The Times gave it 3 Stars just a few months back. The food is perfectly executed every time. It is by far this most consistent restaurant I have ever eaten at. They change part of the menu regularly with seasonal dishes that I love. The pastas are great, as are the risottos. I can't speak to the service in the dining room as I always eat at he bar, which has one of the friendliest and most professional bar staffs in NYC. The cocktails are great, as is the wine selection. Atmosphere is definitely a bit dated, but I find it a very comfortable place to eat. I have never been to Mas Farmhouse, and never been a fan of Bouley.