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Low to Mid-priced birthday dinner

Pan | Feb 14, 201103:40 PM

Hi, everyone. For the last couple of years, I've taken my girlfriend out for quite expensive dinners for her birthday: First Degustation, then Kyo Ya. They were both fantastic, but I'd rather not spend so much this year. I was thinking of Locanda Verde, but when I looked through the menu, it struck me as quite an expense. Including up to 2 glasses of wine apiece, tax, and tip, I'd like to get out of wherever we go for no more than about $160 for 2 people. I could go below that easily at Lupa, but no way will I get a reservation at a reasonable time there. Plus, I know Lupa and would like to go somewhere that at least my girlfriend doesn't know, and perhaps that neither of us have been to. I thought of La Sirene, but it really is pretty expensive, though good. I also thought of Red Rooster but am pretty concerned at its 3 1/2-star Yelp rating. I've found so far that restaurants with less than 4 Yelp stars may have some clear weaknesses. I guess another thought is Zoma, which some of you consider the best Ethiopian restaurant in New York. I don't see any prices on the menu on either their website or, but I'm guessing it's not expensive. How's the ambiance there? What about Taboon? I've read lots of raves here. Is it worth the expense for dinner? You can see that I'm really all over the map here. What I'd really like is something a little outside the box, because that's probably how I'll be able to find something that's interesting but costs significantly less than $100/person.

So what do you say? My criteria are great and perhaps interesting food, including dessert, something good to drink (in the case of an Ethiopian restaurant, that can be tej), at least decent service, $80/person or so including one or two glasses of wine apiece, tax, and tip, and a bonus for halfway-decent ambiance, but that's least important. My girlfriend and I like a wide variety of types of food. I eat more Chinese food than any other kind, so that's probably out for this dinner. No Korean barbecue, either, as we had a great blowout meal at Don's Bogam the other day, so I'd like to do something different for her birthday. I'd be open to cuisines including but not limited to the following:

New American/eclectic
Middle Eastern
Indian, if there's a really great place we haven't been to

I don't really have a lot of restrictions in terms of location, other than figuring on staying in Manhattan, north of the Financial District and up to and including Harlem.

I realize my criteria aren't crystal clear, but I am open to your suggestions. Thanks a lot. :-)

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