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Non-Fish Focused Fine Dining with Ambience?

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Non-Fish Focused Fine Dining with Ambience?

sanangel | Mar 14, 2008 06:06 PM

A Question About High-End Dining in NYC

Dearest Big Apple Hounds,

First off, I would like to ask for your forgivness in advance if the
question I'm about to ask is stupid and the answer obvious -- though
I'm a great lover of food, I'm by no means a refined epicurean
gastronomist (..yet). I'm simply a fledgling foodie and junior
chowhound, pursuing gustatory delights on a part-time basis, and doing
my best to eat as well as possible within my means. That said,
there's still a lot to learn, and today's question is indeed part of
the learning process.

So, here's the thing: about a month ago, I decided to look into
making a dinner reservation for my girlfriend's birthday at one of the
city's more celebrated fine-dining establishments. As the two of us
are recent arrivals to this grand mass of concrete and steel (having
moved from L.A. in August of 07), we were only partially familiar with
some of the more famous local culinary destinations -- we hadn't heard
of Per Se, per se. And so we took it upon ourselves to do a bit of
online research, consulting the usual guides for guidance -- Gayot,
Zagat, Citysearch, OpenTable, this website, etc. -- and we came away
with a list of over 20 contenders for the coveted birthday reservation.

If interested, restaurants on the list included such places as Daniel,
Bouley, Danube, Gramercy Tavern, One If By Land, Cafe Boulud, Le
Bernardine, Le Cirque, Petrossian, Picholine, Del Posto, Kittichai,
etc..

Once compiled, we decided it would be a good bet to take a peek at
each restaurant's dinner menu (ah, the glories of the digital age!) to
narrow down the competition, and to further excite ourselves for the
wonderful dinner ahead. What we discovered by doing this took us a
little by surprise: fancy NY restaurants are all fish-happy! They're
essentially "seafood restaurants." Now, to be clear, I don't mean to
say these fine establishments are glorified "Red Lobsters." Not at
all. But it must be said that, in most every case, fish and shellfish
dominate the menu.

These, it seems, are the stars of high-end dining in the city:

Fluke
Grouper
Sea Urchin
Snapper
Chilean Sea Bass
Skate
Cod
Monkfish
Scallops
Clams
Lobster
Kampachi

..and of course, Salmon.

My question then, is: why is this? And, as a bonus question: where's the beef?!

Why are there so few land animal offerings, and so many from the sea?
A menu may boast 8 preparations of various fish, and only 1 beef (or
veal) entree, 1 chicken entree (often there's no chicken at all), and
perhaps 1 pork or wild game dish. I had originally thought my girlfriend
and I would do the tasting menu at Bouley, until I saw just how promenintely
fish featured -- my girlfriend is not seafood friendly in the least, so that killed
it for us. At most any of these restaurants, she'd have but a few choices.

I know there are a number of good steakhouses in the city where we could satisfy any red meat cravings we might have, but I'm curious as to why many of the city's best restaurants have a much greater selection of fish.

My guess? The proximity of the ocean.

Is the answer really that simple? That NYC fishmongers pull in too many delectable sea creatures to focus on anything else? Seems likely, but perhaps there's more to it.

The majority of the restaurants I looked into were French, so perhaps that's the other part of the equation -- although I guess I never realized French cuisine was sooo fish-intensive.

If anyone can recommend a non fish-centric fine dining restaurant (money no object) that's NOT a steakhouse (prefer something French or Mediterranean) -- and with charm and ambience -- please let me know. We still have a birthday dinner to schedule!

So, this post is way too long for such a silly question, but perhaps it will yield some interesting answers... Thanks in advance for any and all thoughts on the subject.

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