Pescetarian Birthday Dinner
Hello everyone, I'm going to be in Manhattan at the end of September and I'd lake to make a reservation at a great pescetarian friendly restaurant. I'm willing to spend $300-$400. I would prefer a place that's more fun and laid back than stuffy. Think Schwa over Alinea in style, but I'm open to all cuisines. Thanks for any and all ideas.
I'm willing to spend $300-$400.
Is that per person? For everyone? Before or after tax/tip? Does it include alcohol?
How many in your party?
I mean if it's per person you could do a place like Le Bernardin and try one of the tasting menus, or sushi at places like Kuruma Zushi.
The initial thought is Le Bernardin, of course, but the atmosphere is far from "fun and laid back"
Any of the higher end places are going to be pescetarian-friendly, though. Marea and Esca are both solid for Italian seafood.
Aquavit has fantastic seafood options - they're Nordic, they know their fish. In fact, the Summer Tasting Menu - 5 courses, the shorter of the two tasting menus - is already pescetarian and could be done for just a -smidge- over your budget if you include wine pairings. It'd be $413 total with the pairings, or $245 without the pairings and you could pick own cheaper bottles / glasses. Or, a la carte, even if you picked the most expensive seafood apps and entrees, it'd be around $210 for the food portion before drinks. It's fancy, but not as fancy-shmancy as Le Bern (no jacket requirement, etc)
If you can get a rez at Babbo, it's MUCH more casual a vibe and the seafood options (especially the octopus) are great. You could do a full Italian four course feast - say, two antipasti, then split one pasta as a mid-course, two apps and two desserts (after which you'd be in a food coma, but whatever...) and keep the food part of the bill under $200.
Pampano is quite focused on seafood -- 9 of 12 dinner entress are seafood, and there's a nice selection of ceviches as well. You would be well within your price range.
Look into the brand new ZZ's Clam Bar, perhaps? They're certainly charging price in your range....
Now I'm really torn. I definitely want to start off at ZZ's if I can get in. They only take reservations one month in advance. Then I'm thinking either Babbo or Marea for dinner, but I can't decide between the two.
Should I go somewhere else for dessert too and make it a triumvirate?
Thanks for the great advice guys.
I wouldn't do two, let alone three places in one night - maybe dinner somewhere & dessert elsewhere, but not apps at ZZ and then entrees at Babbo. Most places won't say anything, but if you make a rez for a table and then only have apps, you're probably going to be "red flagged" in their system if you ever go again. Reserved tables - especially at VERY busy places like ZZ or Babbo - are expected to have a whole meal. Otherwise they would have rather given the table to someone who would have, since you're only spending half as much, and then the table sits empty until the next rez arrives.
Thanks for the sound advice. We would still spend a fair amount and I'll definitely let ZZ know we'll be an hour-hour and a half tops. This is my first trip to NY since there was a porn shop on every corner and FAO Schwarz was the highlight of my visit. I probably won't be back for awhile, so I'd like to visit a lot of places. I realize this isn't optimal. ZZ seems to have the setting and personality I'm looking for but I don't know if I'd like to make an entire meal from their menu. I'm leaning toward Marea for dinner, but their dessert wine by the glass is a short list and I was really hoping for a nice Marsala or Oloroso. I realize how nitpicky I'm being, but it's New York, I'm on vacation for the first time in a year and a half and I'm getting old.
Damien -- ZZ's isn't a restaurant but a bar with tapas-style small plates. From the icy welcome by a suited guy standing on the sidewalk outside a closed door, to the vertiginous prices ($112 for a premier cru, not even grand cru, Chablis that retails for under $30), to the "wine list" with its choice of six bottles, to the food ($100 for the Italian beef carpaccio), to the hefty dudes and loud babes at the bar, the ZZ's experience starts on a high (the décor! the coconut drink! the absence of waitstaff! the over-the-top bar display!). Alas, it ends when the bill thuds onto the table, a modest meal clocked in at $316, tip not included, or $187.50 an hour. The two toasts pictured below cost $80. You can do a lot better, and have a real experience, with the tasting menu at Annisa, lots of fish selections there.
Surprised to see Marea missing on this list. Maybe because it is more upscale -- but then so is the fish!
Atlantic Grill would be more down-to-earth in atmosphere but....
I had reservations at ZZs, but I had to cancel a few days beforehand due to a meeting, so I only ended up eating at Marea.
The meal started off with the sommelier bringing a white wine based on our preferences. It was nice, but perhaps a bit sweet for what I was in the mood for. We started off with three crudos. They were all fine. Very fresh and light, but nothing stood out. Next was the Astice - burrata with lobster, eggplant, and basil. It was well prepared, but lacked salt and I think it needed a little acid. The dish, like most we tried that night, was kind of flat. We chose the Malloreddus for our pasta course, which is served with jumbo lump crab, sea urchin and basil. The pasta itself was slightly coarser and had a richer wheatiness than house made pastas I've had previous. Not unpleasant, but not as good as I've had. The dish overall was again lacking in flavor. The grilled sepia livornese was our last savory dish. I thought it was solid, but the tomatoes used to make the sauce were a bit bland. I'm not sure if it's a question of quality or a need for reduction to concentrate the flavor. The dish needed a bit more oregano or olive oil to make it pop.
For dessert we had the Strati di cioccolato with salted caramel and pistachio gelato. It was fantastic. We drank a sicillian amaro with our dessert and it paired wondefully.
Service was friendly, but a bit slow. Our server seemed to have a very large section. The sommelier had opened our wine and left it to decant somewhere, but we sat for 5-10 minutes with our first course in front of us before our server brought the wine to the table. Overall I was disappointed with the preparation of the food. If our bill had been half the price I still would have been displeased. Next time I'll give Babbo a try.
Based on your desire for a "more fun and laid back" environment, I suggest you try Aquagrill. It's polished without being stuffy and suitable for a special event without being fussy. The oyster selection is fantastic and their specials are quite strong.