Welcome to Ask Eater, a new column from Eater New York where the site’s editors, reporters, and critics answer specific or baffling restaurant requests from readers and friends. A new question and answer will run every Thursday. Have a question for us? Email us at email@example.com — and give as many details as possible about what you’re looking for.
I need a good dinner place in Manhattan to take a Long Island-based mom who’s hard to impress. It’s her birthday, and she expects a lot from me regarding restaurant picks. She eats everything, LOVES sweets. She’s not a picky eater, but she IS particular: I took her to a French restaurant once, and she was not into how they threw a piece of meat over mashed potatoes, drizzled some sauce all over it, and had "the audacity to charge $30-something dollars" for it. She likes to try new things, and she prefers Asian cuisine. Oh, and she doesn’t want to be more than 15 minutes from Penn Station. Any suggestions?
Trying To Be A Good Daughter
Man, I’ve been there. My mom is a lot like this, and since I’ve literally spent my whole life trying to impress her, the stakes always feel high for something as simple as dinner. Luckily, New York is packed with nice, birthday-worthy restaurants that serve food that will feel and taste unique enough for mom.
Try taking her to Cafe China in Midtown, a cozy restaurant with beautiful dish-ware and a long menu of Sichuan classics. Sichuan crowd-pleasers like dan dan noodles and mapo tofu are well-executed, and the menu also offers bigger items like a lobster or steamed whole fish that will make the meal feel like a celebration. You’ll want to go for some spicy dishes while you’re here, but if mom is hesitant to go too crazy, the milder and non-spicy dishes will hit the spot here as well. The cumin lamb dish in particular does not pack a particularly sharp heat. Plus, it’s always a good idea to balance out with some vegetables or cool cucumbers, anyway.
Cafe China is also perfect for another tactic I use when I have failed my mother: diverting the blame. The restaurant has a Michelin star, so if she ends up not liking it, just shrug your shoulders and say “Sorry mom, I only listened to the world’s most popular food rating system. Not my fault!” You are also welcome to blame me, of course.
Oh, and for sweets, pick up a beautiful slice of crepe cake from the nearby Lady M to eat after dinner. They are lightly sweet, unique, and a lovely way to commemorate another year with the woman who has it all.