Quiet and Excellent - but not Super Pricy - [Midtown Manhattan] Dining Location

We have a friend we meet up with every couple of months either near her home in Westchester or in Midtown near GCT. Looking for a relatively quiet restaurant with very good cuisine where we will be undisturbed sitting and talking for a couple of hours. An alternative to the Harvard Club which she would pay for! She enjoyed Sipsak and I understand it is still good post Orhan Yegen but we havent personally verified. We are not talking spicy here. We also enjoyed a visit to Bjork Cafe and Bistro at Scandinavia House a few years ago, and its still in operation. Any alternative suggestions?

Excellent food, but reasonably priced. Quiet too. In midtown. As I ponder that two come to mind. Her Name is Han for updated Korean and Sakagura for izakaya with amazing sake list if you’re into that.

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Thanks bkeats, we are, but I think our friend isnt. European style cuisine is more her thing. White wine, and control of the salt shaker.

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Well if it’s European then my favorite sort of not expensive French place would be Benoit. For Italian Fresco by Scotto is popular with my work crowd. For something different but not too unfamiliar Taam Tov for Uzbek. If it’s an early dinner Lodi in Rock Center is great for Italian. That area is totally dead in the evening so it’s usually quiet. If there’s some room in the budget, Le Rock is great. Busy and buzzy in there but the tables are spaced far enough that you can have a conversation. But it’s not cheap.

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info about Lodi indicates that there really isnt any sit down space indoors. Looks really good but I wonder if it would be physically comfortable for a long confab. The reviews of Scotto seem to indicate its a heavy party place. Taam Tov is a great idea for a visit (we love Uzbek) but I am not sure about my friend. And Benoit - I say ouch at the wine prices! But the menu looks great. MANY years ago I was taken to Lutece for an interview lunch and I had quenelles with crayfish , Pretty cool to see these on a menu these days. Thanks for the ideas l

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Would Ai Fiori be out of your price range?

If Ai Fiori is not a good fit price-wise, try maybe Reading Room which is more wallet friendly

For European and not super pricey in midtown, I think it’s going to have to be about menu choices, because there isn’t much that qualifies as not pricey and also not super casual around there. Or somewhere that has a pre-theatre menu (or a good food-inclusive happy hour).

Kellari has both pre theatre and happy hour, as-expected Greek fare. Fig & Olive has both as well.

Soccarat is decent (and may have happy hour with food on it, but the food is reasonably priced even if not).

Ravagh is good if the mid 30s isn’t too far.

The Harvard Club is quiet and you can definitely linger as long as you want, but you won’t be writing home about the food. The many Brazilian places in the same vicinity might be a better option — steak and sides plus other more interesting things should you choose to add them.

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I’ve enjoyed Scotto by Fresco and Benoit, when I arranged several days of group meals with some relatives , including some fussy ones, during a visit several years ago.

We also dined at Molyvos that week.

I also like Bar Room at The Modern. Might not be quiet enough depending on the day . It was quiet the last time I went, but that was in May 2018, as soon as it opened.

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The challenge is seeing what fits within the venn diagram when the criteria is midtown Manhattan, excellent food and not super pricey. Like in many things, you get 2 of the 3 very readily. Intersection of those 3 circles is tiny. I have not even added in the quiet part. The problem is that mid-town despite the pandemic is still the office center of the City and most places that serve excellent food are part of the T&E circuit. If the patrons are not the expense account crowd, then more likely than not its tourists as very few people actually live in midtown as its not really zoned for residential. Those of us still in the office in midtown generally get out of the area as soon as we can unless we’re meeting clients or colleagues for drinks/dinner. So the excellent dinner places serve a relatively price insensitive group and the rest service people who are unlikely to be repeat customers so I find the food to be generally blah if you’re looking for cheaper American/European options. Ethnic food is the exception.

Lodi doesn’t have a lot of seating but there are tables right up front. I have not been yet but Pete Wells gave a decent review to the new Jupiter in the Rock Center concourse. If you stick with apps and pasta the prices seem pretty reasonable, at least to me.

Molyvos is no longer in the location when you ate there several years ago. They’ve moved to the space that was formerly Esca, on the corner of 9th Ave. & 43rd St. So, walkable from Grand Central. Although we ate many times at the original location, haven’t been to this one yet. No doubt, the food remains excellent. We consider prices to be moderate though others may feel they’re expensive.

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As long as you don’t order a whole fish. I recall one time doing that and when I got the check choked a little on the $100+ cost for the dish.

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I’ve found servers often upsell the whole fish at places like Molyvos and Milos.

I had a disappointing meal at Milos in Montreal, when a server enthusiastically recommended a fish that too much fish for our table of 2. I suspect the same server also did the bait and switch, choosing a slightly larger fish than the one he showed us while we were ordering. I don’t know how pushy or persuasive the servers at Molyvos are these days. I haven’t really had that experience at Molyvos in the past, but I usually have ordered Mezes or lamb, and I don’t believe I’ve ordered whole fish on any of my visits. I dined at the old location at least 3 times.

I will order a whole fish in Greece, but I don’t do it in North America anymore.

My typical order for 2 at Milos in Montreal the last 10 years or so, is the tomato salad, fried eggplant and zucchini, sometimes the grilled vegetables, the fried calamari , the grilled octopus, occasionally kakavia (fish stew) when it’s offered.

The upsell with the fish in Montréal happened around 2019, and the fish cost around $100.

I don’t enjoy the grilled sea bream/ dorado, sea bass or red mullet enough to pay Market Price at an upscale Greek or Portuguese restaurant. I generally prefer shellfish to fin fish, if I have a choice, regardless of the price, so my strategy is biased towards shellfish!

@RGR I suspect whether one considers Molyvos expensive depends not only on the restaurants that person generally frequent, but also how that person orders in a Greek restaurant. I have been using more of a Meze approach for years, and 4 or 5 Mezes are usually the right amount of food for 2 people, and much more affordable than 2 appetizers and 2 mains, which are often a little too much food for 2 people at most upscale Greek restaurants in North America in my experience. The interesting thing is, the upscale Greek restaurants that offer less food in their portions are criticized for being stingy. Easier to be generous and keep more customers happy, but that also leads me to my Meze approach!

Friends, there are a lot of great suggestions here for me to chew on for other occasions. hanks for the suggesgions, and I hope the conversation continues. But our friend wants the Harvard Club this time. Food is quite good, no surprises and ambiance is very comfortable, well aged.


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not quiet, not excellent (but good enough) but not super pricey, on a nice spring day I’d look for an excuse to take a client to the grill at bryant park, the outdoor seating is lovely and after our meal we’d walk the park or sit on a bench and talk a little business.



today for example :slightly_smiling_face:

indeed, I’m sure that’s what made think of it :slight_smile: