Saturday, October 27, 2007

Anniversary Dinner

One of my friends recently asked me for advice on where to go for her anniversary dinner:

“Hi Juree, You've been a constant source of never fail restaurant suggestions for me - most recently your pick of Home restaurant in the village was superb! We devoured the salami and cheese appetizer and very nearly ordered a second one. We figured we should give the entrees a fair shot too. An all around good pick.
So here's my new challenge for you: my boyfriend and I have a one-year anniversary coming up. What's a good romantic place to celebrate a big occasion, but that won't leave us broke for the next year to come?”

I have the added benefit of knowing what Meredith’s general tastes and predispositions are (like not being willing to go to Brooklyn!), but for anyone else interested in a recommendation, please write a few more details about what you are looking to spend, what atmosphere you want, etc.

That being said, I have a couple of places that I thought Meredith would love.

First, I do have to mention The Little Owl again—A romantic restaurant if there ever was one. Tiny, wonderful lighting, and the food is incredible and nuanced American Mediterranean. You should definitely start with the Meatball Sliders appetizer—they are sweet, savory and a great starter for meat lovers. The last time I went I ordered the pork chop with parmesan butter beans and wild dandelion and it was one of the most delicious pieces of pork I have had this year!

Be sure to make reservations as soon as possible—because it is so small, it can be hard to get in.

90 Bedford St at Grove St, 212-741-4695

Gramercy Tavern—I just went here for the first time in many years and I will definitely be posting on it soon. It is a stellar restaurant and certainly deserves all of the accolades it receives year after year. The key to not breaking the bank is to make reservations at the tavern, not in the dining room. Nothing on the tavern’s menu is over $22, with the majority of the entrees under $20. The corn soup with oyster mushrooms and bacon is simply amazing—you may want to bathe in it, it is that good. The stuffed meatball with Fontina cheese, potato purée and onion marmalade is also delicious, but you really can’t go wrong here. It is elegant and cozy at the same time and represents what is best about classic New York restaurants.

42 E 20th St, between Bway & Park Ave S, 212-477-0777

Knowing that Meredith and her boyfriend are big meat eaters, I was tempted to recommend one of the old-school NYC steakhouses, like Sparks or Keens, for them to try, but I think something a little more unique is in order here. Now I have not actually been to this restaurant, but it has been on my list for months now. Resto is a classic Belgian bistro and it looks fantastic. It is all about meat (and perhaps some beer for Steve and wine for Meredith)—and fun. You should definitely check out Frank Bruni’s review here and know that if you do go, this will be much more on the “fun, raucous” side than a classically romantic restaurant like the previous two suggestions. They don’t take reservations, but it should not be a problem if you arrive by 6 -7 pm.

111 E 29th St, At Park & Lexington Ave, 212-685-5585

I can’t wait to hear what Meredith decides upon !


Meredith said...

Thank you Juree for your thoughtful suggestions on where my boyfriend and I should go for our anniversary dinner. We ended up going to Sparks Steakhouse in Midtown east. A little background on the reasoning behind why we chose Sparks: we couldn’t get a reservation for the date we wanted at either the Little Owl or Gramercy Tavern (despite calling a month ahead!) and after some discussion we decided we didn’t want to risk not getting a table or having to wait an ungodly long time to get a table at Resto or the tavern at Gramercy Tavern. We needed a sure thing.

We began with a tomato mozzarella salad that was beyond excellent. A real showstopper! Steve had the tuna steak and I had the steak fromage. Yummmm, cheese! There were some mushroom caps to serve as our token vegetable. I had a glass of the house cabernet to drink, and it was a really good match with my steak. Steve’s tuna steak was a bit on the dry side, but otherwise good. My steak topped with Roquefort cheese was excellent – juicy, cooked the way I ordered it, and well slathered with beautiful melting cheese. Neither of us wasted much time or thought on the mushroom caps, which were undistinguished. Both entrees featured far too much food, we ate half and took the other half home. But, we did save room for dessert! Steve had fresh raspberries topped with homemade whipped cream. We only wished there was more whipped cream, I could have eaten a bowl of nothing but that. I choose the vanilla ice cream with peach liqueur. We staggered home full, happy we tried Sparks, but not sufficiently impressed enough to give it our wholehearted endorsement.

A couple of other things that influenced our impression of Sparks: Their website listed the dress code as business casual, but the dining room was full of people in jeans and chunky sweaters, hardly what I would define as business casual. Also, the bathrooms were just lousy for the level of food and service they provided, On the other hand, our waiter looked to be barely out of high school and we got fabulous service. And lastly, those leftovers we took home? The tuna steak made some of the best tuna salad we’d ever had, the steak was delicious reheated because it had infused with the cheese while sitting for a day, and the mushrooms made a kick ass salad with some arugula and truffle oil. So like many timeless classics, Sparks actually was a better experience with the rosy patina of time bestowed upon it.

Juree said...

Thanks for the detailed review of Sparks. I have been meaning to go for a special occasion, but think that now I will hold off. I am happy to hear that you made the best out of your leftovers! And with Thanksgiving around the corner, there are sure to be more of those....