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One Great NYC Dinner

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Hello Lovely NYC Chowers,

My Grandpa is coming to visit me around Christmas time. He has not been in over 5 years, and is relying on me to set the entire itinerary given an overall budget. I believe said budget will allow for two expensive dinners. For one, I want to do a steakhouse and have narrowed it down to Peter Luger (please don't comment on this choice). For the other I'd like him to experience a grand New York City dinner that combines atmosphere, service, and, of course, delicious food.

Considerations:

1) My Grandpa is an older gentleman and I do not think he would enjoy something like WD-50 or anything too experimental. That said, he enjoys ethnic food and is not at all fussy so the dinner doesn't necessarily have to be old fashioned.

2) Along the same lines, I don't think my Grandpa would enjoy a 4 hour meal. It's just not that comfortable for him. So mention of the relative speed of the various tasting menus is most appreciated as are recommendations of great a la carte or prix fixe options.

3) While we are willing to spend a pretty penny, there are limits. Thus, Per Se or any place where we would pay much more than $150 for food alone is a bit out of reach. Value is a factor, and any place with reasonable prices (for drinks as well) will get added consideration.

4) My Grandpa enjoys seafood so any place that excels in fresh fish certainly merits mention.

5) What I'm looking for is a special experience. Not necessarily over-the-top or ostentatious,
but a place chowhounds have had memorable experiences and would expect others to have the same.

At this point I am considering the following given the above parameters:

- Le Bernardin (the less expensive tasting menu representing the upper reaches of our price range)

- Gramercy Tavern (a place I personally have always wanted to try)

- Babbo

- Daniel (over $100 for 3 courses seems a bit much, is it worth it?)

- Jean-Georges (tough to tell from the website as there are various menus listed, but this one may be too pricey for us)

- The Modern (one thing I notice is that wine prices are high even for this caliber of restaurant)

- 21 Club (perhaps old fashioned but he might get a kick out of eating here)

Please let me know if any of these stand out to you or if there are any missing places you highly recommend.

Thanks!

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  1. Craft
    Blue HIll

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chuck Lawrence

      Blue Hill looks great. Have you had any experience with their tasting menu (Farmer's Feast)? Does anyone have any details on it (price, number of courses, etc.)?

      1. re: ndukka562

        I believe it's 5-courses for $95, although that could have changed. I haven't been in a couple years and haven't ever done the tasting—it is a nice place though and fits in well with your parameters.

    2. I'd add Marea to Le Bernardin and Gramercy.
      Daniel is fine but fussy and pricey
      Also consider La Silhouette

      4 Replies
      1. re: arepo

        Based solely on food, how does Marea compare with Bernardin? What exactly makes Daniel more "fussy" than the other options?

        1. re: ndukka562

          Le Bernardin is exquisite when it comes to seafood prep.
          Marea is too but is considered more of an Italian seafood restaurant.
          I have found Daniel's menu to be one that your Grandpapa might consider a trifle over-the-top and sophisticated but certainly in the top 5 restaurants in the city if you go for that kind of thing (I thought you said he didn't)

          1. re: arepo

            >>> Le Bernardin is exquisite when it comes to seafood prep.
            Marea is too but is considered more of an Italian seafood restaurant. <<<

            That's a great description of the two. Living in the SF Bay Area, my wife and I look forward to my dinners at Le Bernadin (though when I come in December, we are actually skipping it this trip). We *loved* our dinner at Marea, but -- FWIW -- haven't thought about returning. This is NOT a knock on Marea, but rather that there are so many restaurants in Manhattan (let alone other boroughs) and so little time. But, that said, Le Bernadin IS truly something special, and we do go back (relatively) often.

          2. re: ndukka562

            You asked about Gramercy v Blue Hill. I've only had a drink at Blue Hill so my response is scanty but I do want to say that Gramercy Tavern excels on all levels, food, atmosphere, service. I am a big fan.

        2. Several places do outstanding lunch menus at 'much reduced' prices (Jean-Georges in particular, and also Bouley).
          So perhaps you can do a 'fine lunch' plus a dinner.
          I actually prefer Jean-Georges at lunch as the room is so much lighter then.

          3 Replies
          1. re: estufarian

            This is a great idea, especially since my Grandpa is no night owl. I'm actually thinking that The Modern would be a great lunch spot in tandem with a MoMA visit. Bouley's lunch menu also looks great.

            I am having trouble deciphering the Jean-Georges online menu. Is there a big difference between lunch and dinner?

            1. re: ndukka562

              Yes do consider coupling MOMA with a lovely Modern lunch. Perfect for him!

              1. re: ndukka562

                Since I discovered lunch, I haven't been back for dinner!
                I think it's currently a 'start point ' (minimum) of 2 courses for $38 plus $19 for any additional courses (plus a few with supplements). It used to be about 30% less, but that's what it is now.
                Portion sizes are good - last time I went (6 of us), only 2 of us had 4 courses, 1 had 3 courses and the remainder were quite happy with 2 courses. Portions were large enough to share between up to 3 people with more than a mouthful.
                Bouley is a bit more expensive - but has a lot more 'extras', and is more formal. Both are exceptional value (compared to dinner).

                I haven't tried Modern at lunch - but in the evening it's VERY loud and bustling. So certainly don't think it works for your requirements at night.

            2. Annisa for dinner. One of the best meals I've had in town.

              1. I love Annisa. The food is wonderful, it is low-key, not too loud, and the wine prices are reasonable. The Modern is also wonderful, and not ridiculously expensive considering what you get. Don't be intimidated by the wine list. I've had perfectly decent wines there for under $50 a bottle. I you are not a wine snob, you will be just fine. If you are seated by the windows, it should not be too noisy, even at dinner, but lunch is also a good idea.

                1 Reply
                1. re: rrems

                  I went to annissa recently for a special occasion.
                  I'd been looking forward to trying them for years.

                  Very disappointing.
                  Really quirky slow weird service. (fully an hour to get a first cocktail and order)
                  Food ranged from meh to very good but no course was great.
                  And for dessert, they brought 5 different ones for the table (repeaing one because we were 6 people) and I swear I did not like any of them.

                  IMO they need to fire their dessert chef and completely retrain the front of the house.
                  The rest of the meal, I'm thinking maybe it was an off night because there were glimmers of hope.

                  But I shall not return.

                2. By way of update, I am now considering either Gramercy Tavern or Blue Hill for this dinner (the others being just a bit too expensive I fear). What I would love are comments on the offerings of these two places. Specifically:

                  - What are the details/logistics of the Farmer's Feast at Blue Hill. What is the price? How many courses? Is it always offered or does it have to be requested in advance?

                  - Do people prefer/recommend the tasting menu or prix fixe at Gramercy Tavern? I am assuming the prix fixe is three courses (at $88 it'd better be more than just the two courses listed!). Is the tasting menu worth the step up in price ($116)? About how long would you estimate the 6 courses take to complete?

                  - Any comments on the relative wine selection and pricing at either restaurant is also very appreciated. From their websites, it appears that Gramercy's list is more extensive but Blue Hill's is more economical. Is that fair?

                  - Lastly, which one offers more comfortable seating? Noise level is not as important as my Grandpa having space to sit down and stretch his legs a bit.

                  Thanks a bunch!

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: ndukka562

                    I like GT a lot. Most of the times, I just go with the prix fixe. Its plenty of food for me and I'm not a small eater. Starts with the amuse, first, main and dessert with the petite fours at the end. Wine list is great. Make sure to talk about what you like with the sommelier. You will get a much better bottle that way. Plenty of wines in the $75 area that are very nice. I've never though of the noise level there as high and there's plenty of space between the tables. Very comfortable place.

                    1. re: ndukka562

                      The Farmer's Feast currently varies in price from $108 - $208 depending on how many courses you want (5-12). That said, it's only offered at the upstate Blue Hill, not the one in NYC, so the price may be moot.

                      As far as tastings menus at GT go... go with what your gramps wants. See what's on each menu before you decide. Keep in mind that if you go the tasting route, everyone has to get the tasting, so everyone's eating the same menu (they might have two tastings - one vegetable one regular, in which case they'd let some order one and some the other.)

                      I guess it depends on if you'd rather more input into your food or letting the kitchen have their way with you. Either way you'll get a good meal, I'm sure, though with a group - if everyone's sharing - you might actually get more total dishes going prix fixe vs. tastings.

                      You get a decent amount for your $$ with the PF, certainly.

                      1. re: sgordon

                        Are you sure? The Blue Hill site for New York mentions it: http://www.bluehillfarm.com/food/blue...

                        1. re: loratliff

                          Huh, didn't think they called their tasting menu that in the city - though it appears the really extensive ones (8 and 12 courses, IIRC) are only upstate. Five courses I wouldn't quite call a "feast" personally...

                      2. re: ndukka562

                        IIRC, Gramercy Tavern is flexible about mixing up the tasting menu. In the past I've done the vegetable tasting whereas my husband has done the chef's tasting. (Also the vegetable tasting is meant to showcase vegetables but is not strictly vegetarian, unless you want it to be.)

                        They also allow you to substitute in anything from a prix fixe into the tasting, and vice versa. I'd set aside 3-4 hours to do the tasting menu.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Thanks for the feedback all. It looks like the tasting menu at both places (based on availability and duration) is a no-go. I'm going to have to take a serious look at each place's a la carte/prix fixe offerings to come up with a final decision.

                          1. re: ndukka562

                            Not tried but Grammercy Tavern but our a la carte dinner at Blue Hill was absolutely superb a couple of nights ago. If you ordered snacks, appetizer, main, cheese and dessert you could have a pretty indulgent a la carte dinner there.

                            We were offered the farmer's feast menu as well though at 5 courses for $85 which didn't seem like bad value at all.

                      3. I like all your choices. Gramercy Tavern would be great and he would love 21 - my 80 plus year old father adores it. Picholine is very nice and comfortable. I think the Modern is too frenetic for your grandpa. La Grenouille is very nice too. All memorable spots!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: bronwen

                          I don't think The Modern Dining Room is too frenetic, at least not during lunch. I'd recommend requesting the two-top by the window in the center. Tell the restaurant that your grandpa would appreciate a quieter spot.

                          The Modern Bar Room, however, is a different story and I agree the Bar Room is quite loud and bustling.

                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                            Yes I am definitely planning on requesting the window table for our lunch at The Modern. Much thanks to everyone suggesting this path.

                            Any opinion on Blue Hill vs. Gramercy Tavern?

                            1. re: ndukka562

                              I've not gone to the Blue Hill in the city (only Stone Barns), but I've always heard that the BH in the city is cramped.

                        2. OK I'm now having commitment issues. Reading this board it appears that Tocqueville is very well-regarded. Based on all the above criteria (food, comfort, value) would this be a better option than Blue Hill or Gramercy Tavern?

                          Ack! There are too many great restaurants in this city.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: ndukka562

                            I always have the same issue. 2 w/end nights just aren't ever enough....

                            1. re: ndukka562

                              Tocqueville is excellent and meets your criteria. Haven't been to Blue Hill, and haven't been to Gramercy Tavern since Tom left.

                              1. re: ellenost

                                Tocqueville would be a great choice - my parents (early 70s) loved it the last time they were here. I would also recommend Del Posto over Babbo - the food at Babbo is great but it's extremely cramped, frenetic and SO LOUD. The lunch prix fixe at Del Posto is a great deal and the restaurant itself is gorgeous and impressive - it's definitely an "experience" meal.

                            2. Surprised no has mentioned La Grenouille. Seems to be a perfect match for all criteria.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bobbyh

                                I was there for lunch today. as usual - beautiful space,magnificent flowers and sensational food. After 1/2 hour there, I am drunk with joy ( no alcohol necessary)

                              2. Also consider La Silhouette