Just got back from my week in New York, and wanted to give a brief review of the lunches I had since people were so kind as to give me their recommendations previously.
In my quest to cram a year's worth of theatre, ballet and restaurants into a week, I had the prix fixe lunch at the following restaurants: Bouley, Jean-Georges, Gotham Bar and Grill, Aureole, Montrachet and Picholine.
Best overall dining experience goes to Aureole. Food was wonderful and enough to feel well-fed without being overstuffed. The glass of wine recommended by the waistaff was an excellent accompaniement, and after the first 10 minutes, the staff seemed absolutely enchanted by the idea of a woman dining alone and enjoying their lunch. ($35 before tax, wine or tip).
Closest runner-up is Jean-Georges. Loved the food, space and service. It would tie Aureole except for the fact that at $4/very small cup of coffee, it could get a little pricey. ($28/two courses, $8 for dessert).
Best (and most) food: Bouley. I really thought the food was never going to stop going and it was all excellent. To give you an idea how excellent, I'm allergic to scallops, when the complementary scallop course came, I ATE IT (and it was excellent by the way). The whole experience was only marred by the vaguely pitying air of the waitstaff. ($48).
Best Bargain: Montrachet. At $20 for a three courses of high-end lunch, it's hard to go wrong, but the food was high-quality and the experience is lovely. And yes... $20 for a good quality arugula salad, fish and dessert is hard to beat.
Most dissappointing: Picholine. I had very fond memories of Picholine (I lived in the Lincoln Center area for more than 7 years), so I was really looking forward to having lunch there before the ballet, but it was very disappointing. The dandelion green salad was overdressed and the only flavors that could break through the overwhelming lemon dressing was very unpleasant. And I was very unimpressed with the both the salmon and the funnel cake dessert. Not going back again.
Didn't have lunch, but I still love it: Gramercy Tavern. I made it over twice to have my favorite grilled baby octopus with a salad as a light dinner, and was very pleased that it was as lovely an experience as I remembered.