I wanted to post and thank everyone on the Manhattan board--I've been reading posts in preparation for our 10th anniversary trip this past weekend, and my husband was very impressed with the chowhound culinary recommendations and tips. We stayed at the W Hotel Times Square and really enjoyed it, so many of our choices were in the Times Square area, but happily not too touristy. Here's where we ate, thanks to the recs here:
Federico's: Friday night, pre-theater. It was right around the corner from the Gershwin, on W 50th st, where we were trying to get tickets for Wicked. A perfectly acceptable prix fixe, I think it was $23 per person. My husband recommends the calamari, which was very lightly battered and not greasy at all. I had the gnocchi, which was fine. Service was very friendly.
Chikalicious: Friday night, about 8pm. I should say that I want to be a pastry chef in my next life, so this was like nirvana for me. We sat at the bar (next to the heater, fortunately, so we could warm up) and had a "pre-amuse" spoonful of Adult Chocolate Pudding (their words) which was like a mousse and excellent. I can't remember what the official amuse was, but I believe it was some kind of ice cream on a bubbly chocolate tea (?). We then had the Fromage Blanc island and the Warm Chocolate Tart with Red Peppercorn ice cream, with the wine pairings, and both were excellent. The petit fours were also delicious--included poppy seed mini cream puffs, coconut marshmallows and mini chocolate chip cinnamon cookies. Chika had heard us tell Don how happy we were to be visiting from Baltimore, and that we were celebrating our anniversary, and as a very nice touch, Chika inscribed a beautiful "Happy Anniversary" in chocolate on our petit fours plate. Service was very friendly. We will be back...
Mr. Chocolate/Jacques Torres: Saturday morning, 4 degrees F, A/C train construction...We finally arrived, after a 45 minute trip from Times Square due to the track construction. We had to take the F and walk a bit further, so we were icicles when we arrived, but we both agreed it was worth it. Wicked hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows, and a pithivier which was incredible. If I lived in NYC I would be there every saturday.
Mandoo Bar: Saturday lunch, around noon. We went to the location on 32nd street at 5th ave. We ordered way too much food, but it was excellent. Fried tofu was very light, the spicy beef Yook-Gae-Jang Soup was just what we needed to warm up, combination mandoo was good a filling, sweet potato jopchae was very good also, but we were so full at that point we didn't eat much of the noodles. About $20 for what would have been enough food for three people (at least) and so much roasted barley tea that we nearly floated back to the hotel.
Firebird Russian Restaurant: Saturday night, 8pm reservations. This was our most underwhelming dining experience for the weekend. But I guess something had to be less than perfect...Of course, this was also the one that did not have excellent mention on the board here. My husband had the lobster bisque, which was good. I had a baby arugula salad with goad cheese and beets which was nice, if nothing special. The dressing was very light. Entrees were a mushroom ravioli with white truffles shaved on top (a special for the evening) and chicken kiev. Both were good, we were more impressed with the ravioli than the chicken. We did not have dessert, but they did deliver complimentary honey vodka after coffee, which was a nice touch. But overall, the service and ambiance were not on a level with what they charge for a meal there.
Le Madeleine: Sunday brunch, 12 noon. We went here without a reservation, and sat at a table for two in the bar area. This place was hopping by 12:30, and completely full by 1pm. I will definitely return, and with a reservation next time. Excellent Moroccan Lentil soup special and Warm Autumn Mushroom Salad, with pine nuts and stilton. Eggs Benedict and Hamburger as main courses were excellent. Friendly service and great location, and although they were very busy, we never felt either ignored or rushed to finish.
All in all, a great culinary weekend. Thanks again for the great advice--visiting NYC is so much easier when you know where to go!