Tasting menu in Manhattan with wine pairings
My coworker, who is 24, wants to take his girlfriend out for dinner for her birthday. He is interested in a tasting menu with wine pairing, total cost $500, including tax and tip. Where do you recommend? (I would recommend Del Posto, but that is out of his price range).
Just so we all got the math:
$500 before tax & 20% tip = $388
So we're looking at a total of $194/pp menu price for tasting menu + wine pairing.
I (as I have before, and as mulden & alepenazzi above do) highly recommend Aquavit. Chef Jernmark has been knocking it out of the park lately. The current Chef's Tasting is doable for the budget, if booked via Savored. It's important for them to remember to calculate the tip based on the pre-discounted amount (so the tip would be around $90) but it would come to about $433 for two, given that. If the OP's friend isn't comfortable doing a discount site for a special occasion, the shorter "Summer" tasting is doable even without Savored. I normally don't use Savored, personally, because we don't need to - but I have once (my mother was buying, and she loves a deal...) and they didn't treat us a lick different than anyone else. So OP's friend shouldn't worry about that...
I would consider Del Posto as well. They wouldn't be able to the tasting menu, but the regular menu is pretty long - 5 courses (antipasti, 2 pastas, entrees, dessert) for $115, plus with the extra amuses and mignardaises and such it comes off more like seven or eight courses. And assuming they order different apps and entrees, that's as many different dishes hitting the table as there would be on most tasting menus. That would leave about $80/pp for wine, and the somm could easily select, say, three nice glasses for each of them to pair with the savory courses.
Some other places coming to mind:
Hearth: a "seven course tour" of the menu for $78. Easily leaves room for wine pairings. Maybe not the fanciest ambiance, though.
Aldea: currently doing a 9 course menu ($145/pp including wine) inspired by Brazil
Manzo: 5 course Liguria Tasting ($114 including wine)
Dovetail: the normal tasting for two would be too high, once you include the wine pairings - but if one person got the chef's tasting ($132) and the other got the vegetarian tasting ($85) it'd be doable. And hey, you wind up with fourteen different dishes instead of seven. (Wine pairings are $85 regardless of menu)
Public: Sundays only, the "Sunday Supper" - let the kitchen experiment new dishes on you, 5 courses for $50, $98 with pairings (which can include cocktails as well as wine, if you like) - great deal for more adventurous diners.
Esca: if they like seafood, a great deal - $125/pp including wine, or $150/pp with an extra crudo tasting (5 different kinds)
Craft: -almost- doable, would be just under $530 for tastings + pairings for two.
A lot of restaurants put their tasting menu prices online but don't put their wine pairing prices online as well, but I would look into the following:
Annisa - 5 courses for 78, 7 courses for 98
Mas Farmhouse - 7 courses for 115
Tocqueville - signature tasting for 90, 5 courses for 110, 7 for 125
Hearth - 7 courses for 78
Scarpetta - 5 courses for 89, 55 more for the pairing
Craft - 7 courses for 130, 75 for the pairing - a little over budget
I love aquavit and I'd strongly recommend it to anyone.
Both the tasting and the regular menu are amazing, the amouses they bring before and after the meal are always interesting and delicious, and the service is top notch.
I went three times in the past two months and every time I had a great experience (and yes, the 30% savored deal makes it one of the best deal in town for fine-dining).
Babbo would be a great choice, except the pasta tasting is a ton of pasta and their regular tasting menu doesn't have a lot of the famous dishes on it.
Pasta tasting menu: $80 PER PERSON (Accompanying wines $60 per person)
Traditional tasting menu: $90 PER PERSON (Accompanying Wines $60 per person)
Ko's pairing is now $95pp, which means going quite a bit over the $500 total budget.