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fine dining EXPERIENCE for son's 13th birthday

  • c

Coming to NYC from PA to celebrate my 50th and my son's 13th birthday. Son is a foodie and all three of us enjoy TV shows like Master Chef. I'd like to have a weekend fine dining experience, emphasis on the experience, for less than $100 per person, to show my son what fine dining is all about. (my husband and son do not drink alcohol, so that is not a factor in the bill other than my 1 or 2 drinks/glasses of wine). Pluses would include a view of the kitchen or availability of kitchen tours, excellent service, extras like amuse bouche or petit fours after the meal. Could do Saturday lunch or dinner, or Sunday dinner if we had to (trip is from Sat a.m. to Sun p.m.) Any and all advice is very welcome. My back up plan is dinner at Nougatine with requests for a view of the kitchen for my son and perhaps a dessert from Jean George served in the Nougatine dining room (if they will do it). Many thanks!

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  1. might as well get this one out of the way early - 100/head before or after tax/tip? (thanks for answering the alcohol question up front, though)

    2 Replies
    1. re: tex.s.toast

      $100 per person before tax and tip is fine. And I love the fact that chowhounders really believe you when you state a budget. Many thanks!

      1. re: tex.s.toast

        to simplify, $100 tasting menu would be ok (without drinks, tip, tax)

      2. Quite a few of the top restaurants will be around $100 before tax/tip/drinks for prix-fixe, but not tasting menus, though you will get canapes, amuses, and mignardises.

        I'm not a big fan of tasting menus. I prefer to pick and choose and then share dishes. That way you get the variety without spending as much.

        My top choice would be the Dining Room at the Modern. If you want to go a little lower in price and still have a great experience, try Tocqueville. Picholine also may be interesting. They will be serving game birds on the fall menu, so you might be able to catch that depending on when you will be here.

        1. When is your trip / how far in advance are you planning?

          1. "..show my son what fine dining is all about."

            What do you think it's about?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Chinon00

              Two things that I would like him to experience are excellence in taste and the feeling of being in a restaurant where every detail is handled with a sense of excellence and professionalism. We eat some great food in PA, but fabulous service is very hard to come by.

              1. re: cgh

                If your budget is about $100 per person and both service and food are important, I strongly suggest you guys try lunch at Jean Georges.
                I've had lunch at Bouley but I far prefer lunch at Jean Georges especially for their amazing service!

                1. re: Monica

                  And for the OP, note that they do send an amuse bouche at lunch.
                  The service is flawless.

            2. You should consider the $55 five course tasting menu at Bouley for Saturday lunch.

              2 Replies
                1. Try Lincoln in the heart of Lincoln Center. Wonderful open kitchen and a great 3 course dinner for $65. Interesting wines for you. Had a great meal about 3 weeks ago.

                  1. While not at the same level as some of the other restaurants mentioned, I thought of the chef's counter at Hearth. I find the staff there incredibly friendly and the last couple times I've been there, the food has been better than I remember it being in the beginning. Enjoy!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: JeremyEG

                      I love Hearth. It's become a top notch Italian restaurant.

                    2. I honestly don't think very highly of Nougatine at all, definitely avoid even if it's cheaper than JG. Getting out of JG during dinner for $100pp may be tough though...

                      If you're willing to travel a little bit further uptown, I'd recommend Dovetail that's well within your price range. They even have a Sunday supper special that's right around $50, though I prefer their regular 4-course menu. Dovetail also does a classy Sunday brunch for around $36 the last time I checked.

                      If you're willing to travel downtown - I'd highly recommend Jungsik for refined cooking with a Korean flair. Of course if your family is into more "showy" food and celebrity chefs - maybe consider Gramercy Tavern, Annisa, Marea. All of those restaurants are within your price range, for many courses or a small tasting menu.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: zeeEats

                        I was dissapointed with Jungsik. We did the tasting menu and the flavors were muted and I was not impressed with the preparation or creativity. The plating was very impressive. I thought the tasting at EMP blew it away.

                        1. re: princeofpork3

                          Is it fair to compare tastings with wildly different price points (especially since EMP is multiples of too expensive for the OP)?

                          1. re: princeofpork3

                            Funny because I went to Jungsik and EMP in the same week, and while I loved the overall dining experience at EMP - more of the dishes I had at Jungsik blew me away. I didn't order the tasting menu at Jungsik however, just about 10-12 items a la carte.

                            re: Elisa515 - the tasting menu at Jungsik goes for $155 and EMP's is $195. Not a terribly big difference really... but you're right about both tasting menus being outside of the price range OP specified. However, you can probably get away with a la carte at Jungsik for $100pp depending on what you order.

                            1. re: zeeEats

                              Ah, thanks.

                              When my kids were younger, I used to relish the rare occasions we could go to really nice restaurants with them. They'd always step up their behavior and were very appreciative.

                        2. Fond memories of Four Seasons when i was a kid for special occasions.

                          1. what about David Burke Townhouse? the room and food are a bit more fun than the average fine dining experience. i've only ever been for lunch, which is far less expensive than your stated price. can't say how dinner is.

                            1. EMP for the whole ball of wax (fine service, amuse bouche, after-dinner little gift/superlative food). It's all about professionalism.
                              A request to see the kitchen may meet you with a positive response too.
                              A one time experience and worth it even if it dips a wee bit over your budget.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: arepo

                                $195pp x 3 is more than a "wee bit" over $100pp x 3.

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  Oops. It sure has accelerated in 2 and 1/2 years (last time I was there). Too bad. it is a winner.
                                  Okay, then I will vote along with the others who suggested Lincoln.
                                  I would also include Marea in a minute but the service doesn't seem anything extra special to me.

                              2. FYI, Nougatine did not respond to my email request to order a Jean George dessert. When they called to confirm my reservation, I asked but they said no. So, plans are still up in the air. Thanks for all of the advice. We're still looking but EMP is too expensive and we do not want to do Italian.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: cgh

                                  Picholine's 3 course prix fixe is $98.

                                  Juni's 4 course prix fixe is $90.

                                  Daniel's 3 course prix fixe is $116 (slightly over your budget), but its 3 course early supper with wine pairings is offered at $133 (available Mon – Thurs, from 5:30 – 6:00 PM

                                  The Modern Dining Room's 4 course prix fixe is $108.

                                  1. re: kosmose7

                                    I should think a child would go nuts over the Modern's dessert trolley.


                                    1. re: kosmose7

                                      you and thegforceny read my mind. I switched to The Modern and am planning on the 4 course meal. Dessert trolley was a factor. Can't wait to see my son's face. That will be MY birthday present.

                                  2. Thanks so much for the advice. We did got to The Modern and it was out of this world. All I did was make an open table reservation and mention in the notes section that we were celebrating my son's 13th birthday, that he is a foodie, and would love to see the kitchen OR meet any chef. The staff could not have been any more skilled in their service. I use the word skilled and not "nicer" because lots of wait staff are nice but very few perform at the level of The Modern staff. Our intention was to wow my son, but in the end my husband and I were wowed as well. (We recently dined at Bouley and loved the food and service, but The Modern service was a level above that. Professionalism reminded us of dining in Europe.) Each person we encountered was friendly, professional, and truly cared about their job from the bar tender who discussed artisanal soda choices with my son as we waited for our table (we were early) to the hostess who sent us on our way with a Modern umbrella due to a rain storm. No movement was hurried, and everything was done with precision. They anticipated any need or question yet never hovered. Several staff members made relevant conversation with us but no one got close to overstepping. In fact, these conversations added to the evening.

                                    On to the food...
                                    We ordered the four course (not tasting) menu and received many extras from the chef including canapés, amuse bouche, an extra second course for each of us so we could "taste more of the chef's special dishes," an extra dessert for the table (which included mango ravioli that turned out to be my son's favorite bite of the night), the awesome chocolate cart (and yes, we all swooned over that), the mini sorbet cones, and some coconut ganache cakes to take home.

                                    We loved everything, and we ate so many dishes that I will not describe them here, but suffice it to say the food was beautiful, delicious and original--just what we wanted. My son ordered decisively, tried many things for the first time (rabbit and caviar come to mind), and loved it all.

                                    We were invited to tour the dining room kitchen and the bar kitchen, and the sous chef explained how the dining room line is organized (face to face for maximum coordination between chefs). My son loved seeing behind the scenes and was impressed by how many people it takes to create an evening like the one we enjoyed.

                                    The whole family is still talking about the event, and our only regret is that we do not remember the names of the very talented people who made the night possible. I do believe that my son will always remember this night.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: cgh

                                      Thank you for reporting. You made a great choice. Glad I recommended it.

                                      1. re: cgh

                                        Thank you for reporting back. I'm sure your son was thrilled; sounds like an excellent experience.