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NYC Romantic Restaurants Downtown

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New York City boasts more fine restaurants than anywhere else in the world, and many are located downtown. Romantic neighborhood locations — SoHo, Greenwich Village, TriBeCa -- reveal a sense of the old city and make dining downtown a great New York pleasure. What’s even more impressive than downtown New York restaurants’ quantity is their fine quality. Strong competition challenges chefs to be at the top of their game. On your NYC visit, plan on dining at one of these fine romantic restaurants.

Buddakan

© Starr Restaurants.
This modern Asian restaurant in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood features five stylish rooms and a bounty of tasty dishes to lure lovers. Food is served family style, which means you get to share savories. Creamy edamame dumplings and taro-puff lollipops filled with minced pork are two of the many dim sum delights. Can't decide? Ask your waiter for recommendations. Memorable entrees include glazed Alaskan black cod that melts like butter in the mouth, and a whole Peking duck perfectly prepared, with crispy skin and an absence of fat. Complete the feast with vanilla tea doughnuts, warm from the oven. If the restaurant looks familiar, it's where Carrie and Big celebrated their wedding rehearsal dinner in the Sex and the City movie.

Eleven Madison Park

© Banjaxx/Creative Commons.
Inventive cuisine seduces diners in this high-ceilinged Art Deco space where well-spaced tables overlook leafy Madison Park. You may well start with an amuse bouche at this Relais & Chateaux restaurant that truly amuses: Frozen-tomato lollipops the size of a quarter studded with black olives were followed by beet-flavored marshmallows. This playful show of chefly legerdermain turned serious with the arrival of a well-constructed salad and light and summer-bountiful dish of lobster lasagna, as pleasing to the palate as it was to the eye. The restaurant menu changes with the seasons, providing romantic couples with added incentive to visit again. Note to first-time visitors: The restaurant's entrance is located on Madison, not Park, avenue.

Gotham Bar and Grill

Gotham Bar and Grill features consistently fine new American cuisine and refreshingly original vertical presentations. "I work to offer dishes that are intensely flavored and accessible," chef Alfred Portale says. "Each plate should have a clarity that gives the customer the satisfaction of readily identifiable flavors." His signature dish, a skyscraper of a seafood salad, reflects his concerns for taste, elegance, and nutrition.

Mesa Grill

Chef Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill demonstrates how imaginative fine Southwestern dining can be. “Our goal has always been to create an atmosphere of what I call serious fun,” he says of the restaurant where waiters don cowboy gear and loud music and energetic crowds prevail. (So it's not the most romantic of NYC restaurants, but it is lively.) “Each mouthful packs a punch.” Zesty dishes include shrimp and roasted garlic corn tamale, grilled Yucatan tuna, red chile rubbed salmon, and fire roasted ancho chicken. A selection of 20 different tequilas helps stoke the fire.

One if By Land, Two if By Sea

This Greenwich Village restaurant is where romantics come to celebrate. Lavish floral arrangements, lilting piano music, and the view of the rose garden in bloom — illuminated at night with twinkling lights — are all part of the seduction. The kitchen adds a fine continental touch to American staples. Start with warm lobster medallions tossed with crabmeat, or share an order of herb-roasted oysters with chanterelles. The restaurant’s signature entrees include beef Wellington and fine rack of lamb.

Spice Market

© Spice Market.

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Spice Market transports couples to a reimagined Asia where they can indulge in small dishes inspired by the cuisines of Thailand, India, and Viet Nam. Start with a house signature cocktail, perhaps a piquant ginger margarita or seductive passion fruit sangria. Appetizers and entrees are meant to be shared, which adds to the experience.  The room itself is romantic, with tall ceilings, low lighting, and comfortable seating. We entrusted our selections to our waiter and began with crunchy squid salad on a bed of ginger, papaya, and cashews and graduated to halibut bathed in a spicy peanut sauce. Since intimacy has its limits, you can savor dessert yourself. But you won't want to; they're all good.

Tribeca Grill

Once a warehouse in an industrial part of New York City, Tribeca Grill has aided the cobblestoned area's transformation into cultural hub. (The exclusive Greenwich Hotel is next door.) A long mahogany bar takes center stage in the high-ceilinged room. Investors Robert De Niro Jr., Bill Murray, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and others drop by to check on their asset. The restaurant’s grilled and sautéed selections are influenced by Italian, French, Asian, and West Coast cuisine, well worth the cabfare to this fine, informal dining spot.

I Trulli

I Trulli Italian restaurant serves authentic tastes of Apulia in southern Italy at the “heel of the boot.” Two rustic-style dining areas are separated by a glass-enclosed fireplace. The front cantina is made even cozier thanks to a wood-burning oven, which yields crisp, tasty roasted game, meat, and whole fish entrées. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and roasted almonds and ricotta dumplings are among the pasta choices. In May, the sun-dappled courtyard garden — among the city’s loveliest and most romantic — opens.

Capsouto Frères

This romantic and unpretentious downtown restaurant in a landmark TriBeCa building charms guests with its red-brick walls, fresh flowers, and dependably good food and service. The kitchen turns out French cuisine with a modern flair. Classic entrées include steak au poivre, soft-shell crabs almondine, and tender roast duckling. To avoid the wait, order your chocolate, raspberry, or praline dessert soufflé with the meal. Saturday brunch fortifies those dining for a day of SoHo shopping.

Periyali

To recall — or inspire — that romantic trip to the Greek isles, pay a visit to Periyali restaurant. Its white stucco walls, dark beams, and billowing tented ceiling transport those dining here from NYC to a place as restorative as an Aegean beach. The kitchen serves well-seasoned and generously portioned fine contemporary Greek cuisine, including a variety of dishes from the charcoal grill such as grilled octopus marinated in red wine, and grilled chicken and tuna entrées.

Il Cantinori

On a romantic tree-lined street in Greenwich Village, cozy Italian restaurant Il Cantinori resembles a Tuscan farmhouse that serves simple, robust fare. Begin dining with an order of bruschetta or grilled calimari with chopped tomatoes. This restaurant's pasta specialties include creamy papardelle with pesto and beans. For an uncommon taste, try a cuttlefish dish: Enjoy the imported mollusk either in risotto or as an accompaniment to ricotta-and-spinach-filled ravioli.
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