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8 special-occasion worthy restaurants in New York City

A photo of Red logo
by Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner and Tanay Warerkar
Updated December 15, 2023

Celebratory meals in the culinary capital of the world are as varied as they come, naturally. There are riverside stunners, rooftop beauties, and everything in between in this nonstop party town.

That’s what makes a celebration meal in New York so special. Sure, there are places fit for birthdays, graduations, promotions, and more. But these eight special occasion restaurants show you that the meal and the experience is the occasion itself—you don’t really need a reason to go out for one of these phenomenal meals.

A photo of Sushi on Me - Jackson Heights restaurant
5 (531)
$50 and over
Jackson Heights
About the restaurant

For when only the rowdiest of dinners will do, Sushi on Me, in both Queens and Brooklyn, is the spot. This high-energy sushi bar is the opposite of a traditional omakase in all ways—except, happily, the top-notch fish—featuring bottomless sake, lots of cursing, and occasional live jazz. Everyone here is ready to party, and the 18-course omakase led by entertaining chefs who will do shots with you is a beautiful excuse to do so.

Top review
Dined 4 days ago
Fun and memorable time. The entire team were super friendly, creating a great atmosphere. While I enjoyed all the appetizers and rolls, for some reason my favorite was the scallop. Will have to come here again with more friends.
A photo of Gotham restaurant
4.7 (9661)
$50 and over
Contemporary American
Greenwich Village
About the restaurant

Few restaurants have captured New York’s imagination (and as many star-studded New York Times reviews) the way Gotham has since it opened in 1984. The kitchen is now led by chef Ron Paprocki, who puts out special-occasion feasts that are a mix of menu icons (yellowfin tuna tartar for the win) but also include new kids on the block like a crispy celery root dish with portobello mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. Level up your old-new celebration with cocktails like the deep amber Black Forest manhattan and toast to this updated NYC legend.

Top review
Dined 5 days ago
Finest food in the village. Always on point. Service great too
A photo of Indian Accent restaurant
4.7 (3197)
$50 and over
Midtown West
About the restaurant

Indian Accent is where you go for a choose-your-own adventure Indian meal. The creative spot is an ideal place to toast over a festive spread that feels more playful than its other fine-dining friends in Midtown. It’s all thanks to one of New Delhi’s most acclaimed chefs, Manish Mehrotra, who brings remixed takes on South Asian staples like sweet pickle ribs with sun-dried mango and kulchas stuffed with butter chicken or hoisin duck. Don’t skip the ghee roast lamb—there’s a reason it’s been on the menu since the restaurant’s 2016 opening.

Top review
Dined 2 days ago
Amazing experience and great sommelier and excellent food
A photo of The River Cafe restaurant
4.8 (8893)
$50 and over
About the restaurant

Before DUMBO’s trendy boutiques, scenic parks, and rooftop bars, there was The River Café. It’s been around since 1977, but the MICHELIN-starred restaurant is anything but out of place, even as its surroundings have evolved. The River Café has always been ahead of its time, sourcing farm-to-table ingredients long before that was the norm, launching the careers of celeb chefs such as David Burke and Charlie Palmer along the way. With its unmatched Manhattan skyline, it’s also hosted more engagements, weddings, and business dinners than anyone could count. Book a table in the elegant waterside dining room up to 30 days in advance. The time-tested prix-fixe menu includes seasonal hits like duck breast with a spiced lavender honey crust and cherry sauce.

Top review
Dined 2 days ago
River Cafe is a very special experience. We had a great dinner, food, service and ambience. Certainly all well worth the drive to Brooklyn!
A photo of Ai Fiori restaurant
4.7 (4183)
$31 to $50
Contemporary European
Midtown West
About the restaurant

If you can’t imagine a special night out without show-stopping pasta, Ai Fiori in the Langham hotel is your spot. Artistic plates like the squid ink pasta with crustacean ragu and spaghetti with blue crab are reason enough to celebrate (and can be ordered as part of a four-course prix-fixe or a chef’s tasting menu). Take the festivities further with a bottle of wine from a 1,000-plus list that reps Italy’s lesser-known regions and grapes. Then soak it all in via white tablecloths and brown leather chairs in a space filled with flowers—Ai Fiori is peak elegant dining.

Top review
Dined 4 days ago
I stopped in at Ai Fiori for lunch, and my experience was nothing short of phenomenal. The restaurant is spacious and beautiful, with such a serene ambience. The roasted beets were so flavorful and delicious. The scallops were cooked to perfection. And the tiramisu was simply out of this world. My server Krystal was just amazing, and made sure that I was taken care of at all times. There are few places left in NYC like Ai Fiori. I look forward to returning.
A photo of Tempura Matsui restaurant
5 (594)
$50 and over
Midtown East
About the restaurant

As the name suggests, it’s all about battered and fried delicacies at Tempura Matsui. The restaurant’s late chef Masao Matsui introduced tempura tasting menus to the city, and his namesake spot celebrates him with a multi-course extravaganza that earned it a seventh consecutive MICHELIN star in 2022. Matsui’s wooden chef’s counter is the place to watch all the deep-fried action unfold. Rounds of sashimi and chawanmushi are the ultimate palate cleansers, as is a strong sake menu. The tranquil Japanese-style interiors make it a go-to for more low-key celebrations.

Top review
Dined on Apr 2, 2024
A symphony of flavors! Words cannot describe. It was perfection.
A photo of Aquavit restaurant
4.7 (1918)
$50 and over
Midtown East
About the restaurant

With three stars from The New York Times, two MICHELIN stars, and a history that stretches back to 1987, Aquavit is one of NYC’s most prized dining rooms—and an ideal place to mark anything exceptional. In recent years, the Scandinavian restaurant has expanded to include lunch, plus à la carte and tasting menu options for dinner. Across all its menus, you’ll find fine-dining twists on classic Nordic ingredients like three types of herring with cheese and potato and Norwegian king crab with corn. Reservations open on the first of the month and tend to fill up quickly, but bar tables for two are easier to score.

Top review
Dined on Mar 29, 2024
This was planned to be a landmark, special occasion meal. It’s surpassed anything we expected. The atmosphere is calm without being cold and service allowed you to focus on the person you were dining with. We had the Chef’s tasting menu. Every dish was beyond what was expected. Yes, on some items the dish may have a look small, but it was a perfect fit within the overall meal and menu. It was a satisfying meal that was ended with an amazing dessert. It is easy to see why the waiter said the Arctic birds nest played a big part in earning those Michelin stars. 
A photo of Zou Zou's restaurant
4.6 (1181)
$31 to $50
Hell's Kitchen
About the restaurant

Zou Zou’s stands out for its theatrical and super-modern Middle Eastern food. It’s a massive, vibrant restaurant, ideal for large celebrations. Bring a group to share the housemade dips and breads, then dig into fire-roasted lamb leg shaved tableside. There’s also fresh fish, huge salads, and spectacular desserts—the OTT kataifi cheesecake is five inches wide. Chez Zou, the restaurant’s second-story cocktail bar, is a great place for a toast before or after your reservation.

Top review
Dined 1 day ago
Love this place 10/10 every time, and Marty is the sweetest
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