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Tasting menus for someone with... a simple/young/pedestrian palate?

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Hi all,

I will be visiting your beautiful city in December with my two younger sisters (19 and 21). I would like to take them out somewhere really nice for dinner, as I've enjoyed NYC in the past and would like the same for them. They're both very excited about this and are really looking forward to trying new food and experiencing fine dining in NYC.

But the problem is, their tastes are a bit young and they are completely unadventurous in their food choices (the little one is also a bit picky), so I feel like most of the tasting menus I'd like to try just won't work for us. (If you'd like examples... foie gras, octopus, oysters, caviar, OH and... any type of meat that is cooked anything less than medium-well. So I can kiss tartare goodbye).

*sigh*

But I DO want them to have an extravagant experience. I feel like a vegetarian tasting menu would be the best loophole. Or just... a fancy restaurant that caters to non-fancy tastes, lol.

Thanks in advance for all suggestions!

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  1. Have they been to an upscale restaurant at all before? First time?

    Are they excited about doing a tasting menu? Are they prepared for how long the tasting menu might be, and that any of the flourishes that may contain items they don't want to eat (like an amuse)?

    Does it have to be a tasting menu? How about a prix fixe or a la carte? I'm thinking the latter will be an easier intro into the world of fine dining if they're never done it before. You might be better off at somewhere like Craft where a lot of the food is simply prepared. And you can order a la carte!

    Gramercy Tavern also lets people mix and match between dishes on the prix fixe and tasting, IIRC.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      No they haven't really, this would be their first time.

      And they are excited about it, but when I read them some items from some of the places I had in mind I could tell they're kind of hesitant.

      You might be right... at this point I don't have too many options, so I think to ensure that they have a very enjoyable experience I may decide to go a la carte after all.

      Thank you for the suggestions I'll check them out!

      1. re: IsoscelesJones

        I'd suggest going a la carte. My younger sister, who doesn't have the most adventurous palate, has struggled with prix fixe menus in the past. She did love Craft though.

    2. Rouge Tomate would fit the bill perfectly!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: UES Mayor

        Oh I haven't heard of this - thanks!

      2. Craft

        1. I'd put aside the idea of a tasting menu, since there's little choice involved - for a picky eater, that just won't work.

          That said, there are many nice places to have an extravagant meal where they can pick their courses. Gramercy and Del Posto come to mind as places that would appeal to both the adventurous and non-adventurous alike. DP will provide something closer to a "tasting" if only in length (since the prix fixe is four courses instead of three, plus all the amuses and other stuff) - both provide a level of service that would impress them.

          I'm not sure I'd do Craft - the simplicity of the menu makes it more a place that... well, that someone who wouldn't order a steak medium-well would appreciate more.

          Probably wouldn't do Le Bernardin since there is a raw course as part of the prix fixe. Jean Georges or Bouley could work, though, if you want to go French.

          6 Replies
          1. re: sgordon

            I agree with you that a tasting just doesn't seem plausible. I think it would be uncomfortable for all involved.

            Lunch at Del Posto would be a happy medium and also wouldn't break the bank for you.

            What about Tocqueville?

            1. re: loratliff

              I'd second Tocqueville. Their lunch tasting is very affordable, and they don't require the participation of entire table if you ask nicely. And if you ask really nicely, they're actually very accommodating about the ingredients/dishes included in the tasting in case everyone opts for the tasting menu anyway.

              1. re: zeeEats

                Good to know!

            2. re: sgordon

              I'd just note that Le Bernardin makes you choose four courses -- but they don't make you choose one from each category. So there's no requirement that you have anything from the raw list.

              1. re: Sneakeater

                Ohh alright, so maybe I won't scratch it off the list after all.

              2. re: sgordon

                Thanks so much! Really appreciate the suggestions - they're so helpful since I haven't been to most of these places.

              3. I'd agree on forgoing the tasting menu format, which usually does include somewhat decadent ingredients such as foie, oysters, raw seafood, etc.

                Many upscale restaurants in the city offer tremendous prix-fixe menus, anywhere from 3-5 courses which you can easily pick and choose. I'd easily recommend Dovetail as their 4 course menu is a tremendous value, and the chef really caters to vegetarian diners as well as utilizing some more luxurious ingredients. The restaurant is also right off Central Park, in case you guys plan to take a stroll around there during the day. Other options to consider would be Marea, which offers a 4 course meal for $99, or you can order a la carte. The pastas are extraordinary, as are the seafood dishes (think a long menu of crudo, incredible ricci/uni) and more tame dishes like beef.

                Gramercy Tavern is a great choice, as kathryn suggested. Solid American cuisine with amazing ingredients in a classic New York setting. Torrisi Italian Specialties is also quite an experience, fitting more in line with your original tasting menu requests; the cuisine is more Italian American. Blue Hill and Mas (farmhouse) also come to mind when thinking about less adventurous cooking but with seasonal ingredients, though the atmosphere is less grandiose.

                1 Reply
                1. re: zeeEats

                  Oh these are fantastic suggestions... thank you. And yeah I think I'm starting to see how a prix-fixe menu will be a way better option.

                2. I'd take my 2 sisters to a fancy restaurant and eat all the foie gras, octopus, oysters and caviars myself. They can eat bread and butter.