121608knifefork02.jpgThe best place to dine on amateur night is obviously in the comfort of your own home, with the doors locked, windows sealed, a six pack of Drank by your side, and BetaMaXmas flickering on ye olde laptop. But you'll inevitably get dragged out by someone who can't resist the Gregorian calendar's charms, and you'll have to eat something to pad your stomach. Assuming that someone is "someone special," here are a number of dining options to make the best of it (and we also stand by last year's index). Time to start making reservations!

  • Gothamist favorite Knife + Fork, that romantic little nook in the East Village, is doing a five course tasting menu with wine pairing. Chef Damien Brassel's menu that night will begin with Pacific Coast oysters with sweet and sour fennel, tarragon oil and peppercorn apple salad with wasabi fish roe. $85 later it culminates with warm chocolate, fondant five spice creme brulee and dried lemon panna cotta.
  • L'Absinthe Brasserie: Don a blue blazer and khakis and go old school at this dramatic, ornate brasserie. L'Absinthe has a sexy website but an ancient, old money clientele that makes for fun people-watching. Chef-owner Jean Michel Bergougnoux's menu skews classic French with a bit of an edge, and it's not cheap. But judging by the NYE menu [PDF], you'll be getting your money's worth with his $84 three course prix-fixe. It's got a wide range of haute options, from his signature Dover Sole Meuniere, to a light poached Halibut, to the hearty Venison and Foie Gras Pie. Also, eight different varieties of absinthe.
  • Or if you're in the neighborhood and want to go in the complete opposite direction, Slice organic pizza is offering a 5% discount on all take-out and delivery on December 31st.

  • French chef Alain Allegretti (friend of Gothamist) is really going for it at his critically acclaimed eponymous restaurant in Chelsea, with a seven-course tasting menu ($150). It begins with Fried Oysters topped with crème fraiche and caviar; moves on to Grilled Sea Scallops with Black Truffles; and ultimately finishes with Zuccotto au Café, passion fruit crème brulee and Petit Fours.
  • At Bar Q in the West Village, Chef Anita Lo (friend of Gothamist) is doing a $65 four course prix fixe that comes with a glass of sparkling sake. The four course meal starts with Fried Oysters with Buckwheat and Caviar, proceeds to Poached Egg with Tea Smoked Salmon on Roesti Potato, charges ahead with Braised Shortrib with Lotus Root and Lotus Seeds, and comes to a dizzy rest with Cheesecake with Candied Grapefruit and Champagne Gelee.
  • Williamsburg's Aurora does a stellar five course prix fixe on New Year's Eve for $70 before 9 p.m. and $100 between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. This year's menu is not online yet, but we can personally vouch for the New Year's Eve experience at this romantic Italian oasis: Last year friends made reservations at PT, another terrific Italian spot in the 'hood, only to arrive at the appointed time to find the place closed without explanation. Crisis was averted when the fine folks at Aurora made room for them. (FYI; cash only.)
  • Less expensively, the triple-headed Mercadito empire in downtown Manhattan has some good deals for Mexican dining and drinking. Mercadito (Avenue B between 11th and 12th Streets) and Mercadito Grove (Seventh Avenue South at Grove Street) are each doing a 4-course menu [PDF, PDF] for $50 (food only) or $100 (food and open bar). That includes a guacamole tasting, a ceviche or botona tasting, a tasting of their renowned tacos, and dessert with party favors and mariachi music. At Mercadito Cantina (Avenue B between 10th and 11th Streets), you can get a three-course family style meal [PDF] featuring a guacamole and salsa tasting, a taco, taquiza and side dish tasting, and dessert for $40 (food only) or $80 (food and open bar) per person.
  • DUMBO's restaurant/lounge rebar is doing a pretty damn reasonable $45 prix fixe, which includes salad, appetizer, main course, dessert, and one drink. But the sweetener here is the live jazz by The Brett Thompson Trio from 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. For $100, high rollers get six hours of premium open bar from 9 p.m. - 3 a.m., champagne toast at midnight, buffet, party favors, and dancing all night.
  • Stuck in Murray Hill for some unspeakable reason? You could do a lot worse than Icon, the dark and sleek restaurant and lounge in the lobby of W the Court. Chef Michael Wurster (Le Cirque, The French Laundry) has created both five and seven course menus, $65 and $85 respectively, featuring such delicacies as Wild Mushroom Fricassée, Mishima Wagyu Beef Short Rib, and Maine Lobster.
  • Back on the LES, Rayuela is all about "Freestyle Latino" cuisine, which riffs on culinary traditions of over a dozen Latin American countries. Go all loco on their "elegant" four course prix fixe menu for $110; it comes with an unlimited premium sangria open bar, as well as a cava toast at midnight. There will be a DJ, dancing, and such tasty items as Langosta Y Txangurro: oven roasted lobster gratinee with txangurro (creamy crab meat), served over squid ink rice with calamari and wasabi aioli. (Here's the menu.)
  • $60 gets you the three course dinner at haute-barnyard restaurant Back Forty in the East Village. Your meal begins properly with a celebratory cocktail (either the classic Back Forty or the Cecconi Bussoni- Rhum, blood orange juice, allspice dram and soda) and moves on to options like the pork jowel nuggets or the pan seared red maine lobster cakes in sparkling apple cider sabayon. Check back later for the full menu on their website; there's a lot to choose from.
  • In midtown east, chef David Burke's new restaurant Fishtail will be doing a five course prix fixe for $110. As the name of the place suggests, the menu is centered around the sea, starting with Warm Kumamoto Oysters with black truffle and lobster glacage. The second course is Blue Fin Tuna Toro with caviar, apple and foie gras; followed by Seared Daybout Scallop; then Braised Oxtail and Lobster "Surf & Turf" with caramelized salsify and sunchoke puree. And for dessert, Burke's serving a "Club" Sandwich with (deep breath) almond crest, dulche de leche ice cream, saigon cinnamon warm chocolate mousse and candied popcorn. Here's the website.