Ask the Critic: Restaurants Good for a Second Date


[Illustration: Robyn Lee]

Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is senior managing editor, former SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email [email protected] with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!

Where Should I Take Her On Our Second Date?

Dear Critic, After a somewhat overextended dating hiatus, I found myself meeting a young woman I'm very much interested in. We had a successful first date and I've asked her on a second, to which she agreed. I'm looking for a perfect restaurant for dinner.

She is definitely interested in food and wine, so I'm looking for somewhere that delivers on those fronts, but I'm at least as concerned with atmosphere. I'd like somewhere not too stuffy, but still somewhat nice, and not too silent but quiet enough that we can hear each other. Reservations are a must. I have my favorites, like say the Spotted Pig, but I want somewhere a little more sedate for the occasion. Any suggestions? I'm willing to spend a bit but don't want a tasting menu or anything like that. Extra credit for a nearby bar for drinks afterward if the night is going well.

The first time I walked into The Musket Room, I thought, "This would be a fabulous date spot." The location, on a quiet stretch of Elizabeth Street. The space, minimalist but elegant, all washed brick and rich wood, with a functional garden in back, strings of lights hanging overhead. The vibe, which gets a fun bar crowd up front but stays more sedate in back. And the food, of course. Chef Matt Lambert is a talented guy hailing from New Zealand, until recently at Saxon + Parole; his menu draws inspiration from his homeland and from New York both, with a resolute focus on what's local (much of it coming from that back garden). His dishes are inventive enough to surprise, but not so crazy as to overwhelm—and wow, does this guy have an eye for plating. (Scroll through the website and you'll see what I mean.) Afterwards, you might take a stroll just a block north to Madam Geneva, a low-lit lounge that's as sexy as they come.

Or perhaps Aldea in the Flatiron? While he doesn't get the attention that some do, George Mendes is a consistently creative chef whose Portuguese-inspired dishes I've always found impressive and beautifully composed. You might want to start at Raines Law Room, just across the street—call ahead for a reservation, then find your way down their staircase to a sumptuous living room, ideal (in the early hours, at least) for a civilized conversation before dinner.

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