Welcome to Ask Eater, a 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? Submit your question in this form.
I'm looking for a restaurant for my birthday that is preferably a chef’s tasting menu, that has at minimum five courses, and is going to be $125 or less. I'm flexible with cuisine! For my previous birthday, I attended Indian Accent. I loved that there were so many courses because you got to try so many different flavors, and everything was a little sampling. I don't necessarily want Indian food again, but I'm just looking for a similar experience. All my research has led me to restaurants with higher prices per person or smaller tasting menus. Even a family-style meal would be fun and out of the ordinary. Also, note, I don't care about beverage pairings.
Birthday, With a Little Splurge
Hi Little Splurge,
Whenever someone asks me where they should go for dinner in New York my first answer is, without hesitation, Contra. The five- to six-course tasting menu is under $80 and consistently delightful. Chefs Fabian Von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone are to thank for the food; sommelier Jorge Riera’s wine list hits all the funky notes with natural wines from all over the world. So, if you haven’t been to Contra you should go.
Don’t whine to me about how it’s hard to get in or how you can’t get a reservation at 7 p.m. or how it’s all the way down in the Lower East Side. Go at 9:45 p.m. if you have to, and if you plan far enough ahead you won’t have to do that.
Now, if what you want is an affordable and creative tasting menu that offers more than five or six courses, consider Atoboy. Chef Junghyun Park is putting out creative takes on Korean dishes that are gorgeously plated and surprisingly substantial.
Though the menu says diners are to pick three courses, one from each of three sections, for $36, anyone can order additional courses. Supplement the original three-course menu with, say, an additional five courses — two from the first section ($10 each), two from the second ($13 each), and one from the third ($16 each) — and the final eight-course menu will cost less than $100 per person.
Do note, however, that this will be a lot of food. Park doesn’t skimp on portions, so depending on how hungry you are, consider tacking on just a couple of additional courses plus a bowl of rice ($2). It’s plenty of food for most people, and it gives diners a chance to see Park’s range.
But also, do please go to Contra. You probably won’t regret it (and if you do you’re wrong).