Dear Grub Street,
My interior-decorator friend is visiting soon, and I'd like to take her to see some interesting places. We can't really afford to eat at Per Se et al, but maybe we could get a drink at some of the super fancy places. My concern is not to sacrifice taste with décor. Where would be good places to be wowed visually and orally? Where would be good for dessert or a drink just for their interiors? Thanks!!
It's a good question. Rare is the restaurant that doesn't have a bar, and you can often soak in the scene and setting there without the whole rigmarole of getting a reservation, ordering a three-hour dinner, and so on. In fact, you're more likely to have a good time just cherry-picking drinks, desserts, or a shared appetizer. Even when there isn't a bar in the dining room, you can still stop in late and get a table for a drink or dessert.
For spectacular rooms, we suggest Asiate, recently crowned by Zagat as best décor. Personally, we like sitting in the Terrace Room at River Café, with the greatest of all New York views, and explosion of fresh flowers; the view from Spice Market, which happens to specialize in the kind of small plates and snazzy desserts you're after; the soaring ceilings of Eleven Madison Park; and of course, the classic, the bar in the Grill Room at The Four Seasons. All these places will wow you visually. And the food's pretty great, too.