THE TOP TEN Romantic Restaurants in New York City
Sometimes we all need a little help when it comes time to impress a date. Certain restaurants may please the tongue and fill the belly but don't tug on our emotions. The selections we have gathered here have that certain something—perhaps a light-speckled patio, or a roving musician, or inspirational garden—that can wow a date, and put them in the mood to satisfy other appetites. Presented in alphabetical order, here are the top ten romantic restaurants in New York.
Sometimes we all need a little help when it comes time to impress a date. Certain restaurants may please the tongue and fill the belly but don't tug on our e... more
34 E. 61st St., New York, NY 10021 / 212-319-1660
Charlie Palmer's Aureole formula---modern and elegant food with a smartly appointed Adam Tihany designed room to match---has been copied by countless other restaurateurs. But this all-American original has not lost its magnificence or magic. The historic brownstone (once home to Orson Welles) is cozy and attractive without taking too much attention away from the dining experience. Executive chef Tony Aiazzi, who took the reigns from Dante Boccuzzi, has worked under the Palmer empire for a decade, now overseeing the progressive American cuisine. The seasonal menu might include game meats (a favorite of Palmer's) in artful compositions. Aiazzi's menu includes a luscious three-cheese ravioli with country ham, sage and toasted pine nuts and Swiss chard. The tuna tartare Arabesque takes a spicy tact with a muse of charred eggplant purée, preserved lemon and spicy mint oil. Butter roasted Maine lobster and a savory corn and chanterelle pudding make perfect partners. The list of can't-miss dishes is long, right down to Rachel Lansang-Hidalgo's classic desserts that have the Palmer stamp on them---milk chocolate mousse and peanut butter crunch, sticky toffee pudding and a Honeycrisp apple tarte Tatin with brown sugar ice cream. The distinguished wine list mixes American and European vintages in all price ranges. Come on a Monday and it's no coincidence the restaurant is flooded with foodies; it's industry night and $45 buys five courses that give waiters, winemakers and those in the food world a taste of the original Aureole before it moves to a new location in 2009.
110 Waverly Pl., New York, NY 10011 / 212-777-0303
Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich transformed the Old Coach House, a New York restaurant landmark from the '60s, into a modern Roman-style trattoria. Everything, from the tiny bar where Italian wines are poured to the upstairs dining room with yellow walls and pretty flowers, is altogether inviting. For the adventurous, try the special pasta tasting menu---five pastas followed by two desserts (talk about a winning formula)---which might include black tagliatelle with parsnips and pancetta or grilled venison with acorn squash caponata and mint pesto. Other creative items are the warm lamb’s tongue vinaigrette with chanterelles and a three-minute egg or the barbecued squab with roasted beet “farrotto” and porcini mustard. Finish with a savory saffron panna cotta accompanied by quince, pink peppercorn and quince sorbetto.
2 Harrison St., New York, NY 10013 / 212-966-6960
Chef David Waltuck and his wife, Karen, who runs the dining room at Chanterelle, make the most welcoming hosts, just as they did when Chanterelle first opened in 1979. And Waltuck is still at the top of his game. Much ado has been made about the room over the years, and for good reason. It's a study in taste and simplicty. The design may indicate old world, but it's anything but staid inside the high-ceilinged dining room adorned with grand flower arrangements. The prix-fixe menus, influenced by French contemporary and Far East leanings, change monthly and might include Waltuck's signature grilled seafood sausage, poached halibut with mussels and saffron, loin of lamb or grilled foie gras with portobellos. For a little extra, you'll be seduced by a fine assortment of French, Italian and American cheeses selected by the fromager. The wine list compels a visit with longtime sommelier, Roger Dagorn, just one of the dedicated professionals who have made this place so special for so many years.
60 E. 65th St., New York, NY 10021 / 212-288-0033
Daniel Boulud, born in Lyon, is very comfortable in the garb of Lord of the manor at this Venetian palace. Daniel is as majestic as modest in this aristocratic role, ruling this grand and elegant space with Byzantine and Moorish flair. The main dining room is a courtyard of graceful arches and stately columns. Light levels are romantically low. The staff layers on pinpoint service, discreet but always there, anticipating every need. Sparkling crystal and silver, fresh flowers and china (designed for the restaurant by Bernardaud) complement the Daniel experience. Dinner is preceded by three amuse-bouches. The cuisine of Daniel and executive chef Jean-François Bruel is a beguiling blend of informed hominess and truffle-steeped excess. There's no getting around Daniel's signature sea bass in potato shell with Syrah sauce. Carnivores can't resist the beefy double feature: short ribs braised in red wine paired with young carrot fricassée and a seared rib-eye teamed with allumette potatoes. Sommelier Philippe Marchal will help you choose from the wine list which boasts more than 1,000 selections. After dessert, perhaps a bittersweet chocolate praline crémeux with dark chocolate ice cream, the intricate petits fours are always delightful, but they are overshadowed by the exceptional buttery madeleines that are brought to the table warm from the oven. Forget Proust, the memory of these cookies is positively Pavlovian.
The Four Seasons Restaurant
99 E. 52nd St., New York, NY 10022 / 212-754-9494
The Four Seasons Restaurant is the only restaurant in New York that has been designated a landmark. The Philip Johnson-designed interior---with metal curtains that undulate seductively and the famous pool flanked by seasonal trees---itself merits a trip to the restaurant. The food is good and refreshingly simple, but not as good as in years gone by; ditto the service, which a decade ago ruled as the finest in the city. The prices, though, remain among the highest anywhere. Of the restaurant's two dining areas, the famed Grill Room is still a major power lunch spot, but somehow excitement and innovation seem missing to us. But the soothing Pool Room remains a romantic throwback. The menu is comprised of familiar items such as foie gras with Champagne and strawberries, hazelnut-crusted halibut, spicy rabbit sausage, and the like. Food trends have left the seminal Four Seasons behind, which is somehow sad and somehow so wonderfully fitting.
105 Reade St., New York, NY 10013 / 212-406-1900
Fresh opened with a big splash in a 120-year-old cast-iron building, when former chef-owner Martin Burge turned our notion of seafood on its head with halibut baby-back ribs and prime rib of swordfish. Despite Burge's departure, different chefs, now Michael Ferraro, continue his playful mix of high (pine nut-crusted halibut) and low (fish 'n' chips). The lobster roll (a $21 appetizer) proves that you can't improve upon a classic---the mild mayo lets the steamed meat speak for itself. One of the successful compositions in subtlety is a Burge holdover: the Kobe big eye tuna. The fish wasn't massaged and raised with beer, but like a good piece of beef, it is charred to form a rough exterior crust that hides a red interior, its meltingly fatty texture complemented by garlic-and-cardamom-dotted rice. The wine list, studded with light reds (there are six Côtes de Beaunes), makes for interesting pairings. While the walls' blue-gray shades evoke a chilly aquarium, the desserts---like the banana nut bread and caramel ice cream sandwich---will comfort you as well as a nice, warm bath.
42 E. 20th St., New York, NY 10003 / 212-477-0777
At the entrance, a display filled with fruit, vegetables and flowers sets the tone: cuisine based on sincerity. The rustic décor provides a welcome break from the asphalt jungle's techno tune-filled minimalist eateries. Chef Michael Anthony, formerly of Daniel, and successor to Tom Colicchio, has entered Manhattan chefs aristocracy. In the first, informal room, simpler dishes are served from noon to closing. Anthony presents his full-fledged menus in the more sophisticated back room, where the nonchalant service fits in with the rural look. Impressive are the span and the variety---based on his finds in the market---of his offerings, whether they are fish or meat. Consider his five-course tasting menu ($55 at lunch) with a warm salad of root vegetables, or the arctic char tartare pickled with Swiss chard and almonds, so light and tasty; followed by a black grouper perfectly cooked with leeks and flavorful, miniscule Japanese mushrooms; or the sweetbread tortellini with beef ragù and ramp sauce. In all Anthony's dishes, the emphasis is placed on the vegetable component. Not a surprise there’s a vegetable tasting menu that reminds us of the illustrious Alain Passard of L’Arpège fame in Paris, in which the highlight is the ravioli of chanterelles in aged balsamic. Pastry chef Nancy Olson prepares her own sorbets and ice creams as well as a traditional apple tart and gingerbread cheesecake. There is also a well-stocked cheese cart. Uncommon white wines are proposed such as a Chasselas from Alsace as well as Viogniers and Mourvédre. Among the reds, there is an interesting Pinotage, while a Côte de Castillon for $30 is a good deal.
The Equitable Building, 155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019 / 212-489-1515
The verdict is in. After more than 20 years of beguiling boulevardiers and becs fins with things that swim, Le Bernardin can claim to be the best fish restaurant in New York, America and arguably, even the world. The high-ceilinged teak-toned dining room with marine-themed paintings feels like a luxury liner, with Eric Ripert at the culinary helm. The acclaimed chef has a light, fastidious touch. If you've never eaten skate prepared at Le Bernardin or even fried calamari there, you have no benchmark or frame of reference to judge all the other pretenders to Le Bernardin's crown. To experience Ripert's repertoire at its best, order one of his tasting menus, which start at $135. A minimalist dinner might offer among other refinements thinly sliced conch marinated Peruvian style and barely cooked wild Alaskan salmon. A mousse-like sea urchin “custard” plays up the lushness of the spiny sea creature. Ripert even works his Neptune-like charms with beef in a pairing of buttery Kobe with a citrus and kimchi-shocked escolar. A milk chocolate pot de crème with caramel foam, maple syrup and sea salt offers a sensual ending. Since the talented brother-and-sister team of the late Gilbert and Maguy Le Coze opened the restaurant in 1986, Le Bernardin has been a highlight of the New York dining scene---both enlightening and seducing diners with what was then a revolutionary approach to seafood. Service is proper and reserved. Co-owner Maguy has insured smooth sailing at the front-of-the-house for the last two decades. This is not a place for the faint-of-wallet. The attention to detail, the stability and the quest for perfection for almost a quarter of a century have made this a restaurant that is as good as it gets.
630 Ninth Ave., New York, NY 10036 / 212-333-2323
It used to be that Hell's Kitchen wasn't such a far cry from the seedy port city that is this restaurant's namesake. Times change though as meals at Marseille indicate---swanky affairs that see plenty of the Armani-clad and pashmina-wearing set. The sexy, sultry dining room is done up in red and orange tones, and bathed in blue light. A menu of exotically spiced, fiery dishes takes inspiration from Morocco and France. For lunch, try the spiced seafood burger, made with salmon, shrimp and scallops. The Moroccan tuna, seared and flavored with mustard seed and fennel, is a popular dinner item. Also sample such Eastern specialties as brochettes, tapenade and stewed meat with fruit. Order the seven-course tasting menu and make a night of it.
182 W. 58th St., New York, NY 10019 / 212-245-2214
Etched Erté mirrors, Lalique crystal, Limoges china and sparkling chandeliers create an appropriate setting for indulging in one of life's most pleasurable delicacies---caviar. True aficionados of those fragile fish eggs enjoy them as is without chopped onions, eggs or sour cream. The same goes for the butter-smoked salmon and the foie gras. You can order a three-course menu or splurge on a tasting that can keep two people happy with not only caviar, but such Petrossian delicacies as caviar-crusted sea scallops with seared foie gras with parsnip purée, crispy asparagus and lobster sauce. Many choose to skip dinner altogether and spend their dollars on beluga and icy vodka at the bar. Those with a sweet tooth also visit the Petrossian Café & Boutique, which is adjacent to Petrossian and serves lunch all day.
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