anniversary lunch in a fun walking neighborhood?
45th anniversary -- don't want to spend it sitting eating rich elaborate food but would like to have a tasty weekday meal in restaurant in or near any lively neighborhood. Could be spicy ethnic food. We've never been to Queens to eat -- that might work if we had some guidance. Downtown might feel like a vacation from our usual neighborhood. Budget not particularly an issue, given that we are not heading to Per Se or EMP. Table cloths and good service might be a nice plus. Oh...I almost forgot. Noisy is not okay at this stage.
For Queens recommendations, post to the Outer Boroughs board. I'm kind of at sea about what to recommend in Manhattan, though. You say spicy food. So, one possibility is Korean barbecue at Madangsui or barbecue (particularly the chili-sauce-marinated galbi) and perhaps other things at Don's Bogam. Another is Sichuan or Hunan food; there are several Sichuan restaurants in Manhattan. Szechuan Gourmet's locations are usually judged the best, as long as you stick to Sichuan food only, but they use so much hot oil, it upsets my stomach (I still like their 56th St. location, though, anyway - the food is delicious). A third possibility is Thai food, and Zabb Elee would most fit your request - ask for #5 on their spiciness index, if you really want the full treatment. Finally, there are South Indian vegetarian restaurants in Curry Hill, of which Chennai Garden, which also has interesting Gujarati dishes, is probably my favorite (though based on kind of old information, from before their renovation). If you want to go really downscale and informal, you could have Xian food at any of the Xian Famous Food locations, but I can't imagine that for an anniversary.
If you want tablecloths and good service, I'm not sure if any of the restaurants I mentioned qualify. I honestly don't remember whether either Szechuan Gourmet location has tablecloths, but their service is neither better nor worse than an average Chinese restaurant's. Zabb Elee has tablecloths, I believe, but their service is nothing special at all. Does Don's Bogam have tablecloths? Of all the restaurants I mentioned, they're probably the least informal.
Perhaps what you really want to do is go to an upscale Indian restaurant. I didn't mention any names, because I haven't been to them (except Amma, many moons ago), but some hounds have mentioned and reviewed some, such as Tulsi. Try reading up on that place, or give some more thought about how much you want to pay and what kind of atmosphere you want.
Babbo is pretty quiet and low key during lunch according to the bartender last night. You can walk around the West Village afterwards.
Junoon in Chelsea is fairly spicy and should be quiet during lunch as well.
Thanks Pan for the suggestions. I'll check the outer borough site and maybe even the Chennai Garden. As for Riverman's suggestion of Babbo...hmm. haven't been there. Sounds rich and heavy but it is a thought. Of course the responses make me focus on the throwaway "could be spicy ethnic". That is probably best done in a group to taste lots of different things if food were the super main point. (How is this for a mixed message: I want a super restaurant experience without eating too much.) But upscale indian or upscale chinese is probably what I mean -- just somewhere I've never been in a neighborhood that is mostly unfamiliar. ( Shun Lee Palace Palace in Tribeca?) Meanwhile I reserved at a pretty space run by a young chef I know -- which could make it a bit special – but I'm still looking for an imaginative alternative.
OK, this is making more sense to me now. Please disregard almost all the places I mentioned. They are not upscale and not at all places I could imagine for an anniversary meal (maybe Chennai Garden almost least of all), but since I don't know you and thought maybe you actually wanted something really casual and downscale but spicy, I mentioned them to you. The only place I mentioned going to that I'd consider at all (but probably not, given what you're saying now) would be Madangsui, where I took my girlfriend for Valentine's Day, but now that I see what you really want and that "spicy ethnic" was a throwaway remark:
As I mentioned, look into Junoon and other high-end Indian places.
Jungsik, variously described as a modern Korean restaurant or a restaurant using some Korean ingredients and flavors with French techniques, is one of the favorite restaurants of this board.
If you want upscale Chinese, do not go to any of the Shun Lee places, but consider places that some knowledgeable hounds recommend. For example, you could go for dim sum (and cocktails, if you like) at Chinatown Brasserie (I went there a couple of times several years ago and loved their dim sum and cocktails). Some hounds also recommend Red Farm for dim sum.
I think you won't go wrong if you search through some of kathryn's recommendations.
Oh, here's another idea: What about David Chang's places? You could try to get reservations at Momofuku Ko, or you could go to Ma Peche (full disclosure: I've been only to Ssam Bar and Milk Bar).
And finally, would you consider a Japanese meal? It won't be spicy, but a kaiseki dinner my girlfriend and I had at Kyo Ya was one of the best meals I've had in New York in at least a decade.
What's the place you've reserved?
Very helpful, Pan. Tx. Just began to follow the Hakkasan debate. Part of me thinks that is where I want to go -- somewhere so expensive I can only eat a few things. But I can easily forgo the music and disneyland vibe. Plus my loving DH doesn't eat any fish and resists odd ingredients. Excludes Hakkasan and probably Jungsik and Madangsui. (I may have to go solo to one of those -- which is the secret of 45 years.)
Hard to beat our wedding 45 years ago at Lutece when all that rich French food was a treat.
So - and this will further confuse you - reservation is for the pretty roof garden at Gramercy Park Hotel. Menu is simple lunch -- but we've known the new chef since he was a toddler.
I also realize (an insight from writing this post) is that I've gotten over the need to celebrate at "the most expensive restaurant in the world" as Lutece was billed 45 years ago (causing my father to question "lunatic prices" just like Pete Wells et. al.). This lunch is meant to be a low key break in the routine to mark the day and do something fun together.
Hi, Elizabeth. I just realize I "misspoke" above. It was Don's Bogam that I took my girlfriend to for Valentine's Day. Madangsui has even better Korean BBQ, but it's glary.
Neither of them would be typical anniversary places, in terms of ambiance. Jungsik is something else. I'm not sure how strange your husband would find the ingredients there. If you haven't already, look through some threads about the place. People who love high-end French and New American food have loved it.